Thursday, July 10, 2008

English Dialects

Having moved from state to state in India through my childhood, I am only too familiar with many flavors of English and how local languages add a distinct texture and tonal quality to it. As such, there is more that separates Tamlish, Binglish and Hinglish and Punjlish from each other than unites it. In this Wired article on the emergence of Chinglish as a distinct dialect of English, the analysis of how English came to take on so many different hues is spot on :

Any language is constantly evolving, so it's not surprising that English, transplanted to new soil, is bearing unusual fruit. Nor is it unique that a language, spread so far from its homelands, would begin to fracture. The obvious comparison is to Latin, which broke into mutually distinct languages over hundreds of years — French, Italian, Spanish, Portuguese, Romanian. A less familiar example is Arabic: The speakers of its myriad dialects are connected through the written language of the Koran and, more recently, through the homogenized Arabic of Al Jazeera. But what's happening to English may be its own thing: It's mingling with so many more local languages than Latin ever did, that it's on a path toward a global tongue — what's coming to be known as Panglish. Soon, when Americans travel abroad, one of the languages they'll have to learn may be their own.

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