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Tuesday, September 21, 2004

Article from the Hindu: Between two tongues

This articleThe Hindu : Between two tongues: Falling at the speed of light, in the online edition of India's national newspaper, was fascinating. H. Masud Taj writes about growing up with Urdu, his first language (written from right to left) and English, which he learned at boarding school (written from left to right). Urdu has no past tense while English no future.

"Both English and Urdu are symmetrical; two conditions of the same bipolar disorder. Both tongues are immigrants in alien grammars (Latin and Sanskrit respectively), both have a similar strategy for overcoming their weakness: a voracious appetite for foreign words. Like the monster software AutoCAD and indeed life itself (both versions at 2004) they make up as they go along, disguising their formal inelegance with awesome number-crunching, memory and vocabulary respectively. Both English and Urdu are tongue colonisers with their dictionaries metamorphosing into thesauruses (Webster and Roget face off as John Travolta and Nick Cage once did in an exciting Woo classic). Both languages also colonise lands, English the world and Urdu the Indian subcontinent and the Indian diasporas spread out in the world. They have an evangelical fervour that turns speakers into born-agains, again and again."

Once again - I'm struck by the fascinating dynamics of life and languageS.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ah yes! "the fascinating dynamics of life and languages"... glad you liked it. -

10/04/2004 05:03:00 AM  

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