Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Lands And Language

Read this interesting essay on the aesthetics and fluidity of East Asian English. The author Thorsten Botz-Bornstein explains the dream-like quality of this language thusly :

Another reason why EA English appears like a dream language is that it is often slightly out of context. As English fragments lacking a cultural frame, these elements stand out in any East-Asian environment. The words are there in front of our eyes, but we do not immediately recognize where they come from. It is as though they are spat out by a madman who does not really expect to be understood, who just says what he says, letting us more or less guess what he really means.

It is this disconnectedness that makes EA English fascinating for EA-readers. Often the words are there as if they had sprung out of the deepest layers of somebody's linguistic consciousness, layers in which words are not primarily items used in real life but rather intimate companions of our ruminating childlike fantasy. These words and sentences might have no sense in the real world but somewhere they certainly mean a lot to someone.

The quaintness of Indian English is not referred to specifically in this essay but Pico Iyer chronicles its abundant charms in this NYT article.He observes :

I came away feeling that Indian English is not just a savory stepmother tongue to hundreds of millions of Indians (more Indians, after all, speak English than Englishmen do), and not just an invaluable memento of a centuries-long mishmash, but also a grand and distinctive product of a culture as verbally supple and full of energy as any I know.

1 comment:

lekhni said...

Um,I think we are talking about two different things here. The article talks about Japan, Korea and China, where English is typically some form of literal translation of the local language, with amusing consequences.

In India, we don't do literal translations; we add our own words and improve on the original. An example that springs to mind is "prepone", which is so much more appropriate than "advance" as an antonym to "postpone".