A language question

So, the laddie in the cornershop speaks Gurkhali. In conversation he implied that, of course, he also spoke Hindi. It’s the “of course” bit.

So, these varied Asian languages, how far apart are they? Obviously, Burmese is a different language group, Tibetan, Chinese etc etc. But Hindi, Gurkahli, Bengali…..are they just a bit more than dialects as with, say, Florentine and Milanese? More apart like Italian and Portuguese?

I know they’re not different language groups, like Basque and Bulgarian.

But how far apart are they? More a matter of accent and vocab or entirely different?

My test on this would be can you speak the one, slowly and clearly, but be largely understood by a speaker of another? Obviously, marked as some foreign git but understood?

20 thoughts on “A language question”

  1. Complex question. The Indo-Aryan languages are part of the Indo-European family and they are sub-classified into:

    North-West: Panjabi, Lahnda, Sindhi,Pahari and Dardic.

    West and South-West: Gujarati, Marathi, Konkani, Maldivian, Sinhalese.

    Midland: Rajastani, Bihari, Hindi/Urdu.

    Eastern: Assamese, Bengali, Oriya.

    I would expect a certain level of comprehension in these separate groups – similar to German and Dutch, or French and Italian – but you cannot really rely on that, think of Catalan and Spanish, for example.

    An example of “our father who art in Heaven”

    Hindi: he hamare svargbasi pita
    Bengali: he amader svargastha pita
    Sinhalese: svargayehi vadasitina apage piyaneni
    Nepali: he hamra svargavasi pita

    Gorkhali is a dialect of Nepali, I believe. There are certain similarities – the “svarg” syllable, the “hamare” word once you adjust for dropped vowels – but enough for mutual understanding? Hard to say

  2. We once got a postcard from a friend living in Sweden. We understood it. Speakers only of Southern English English might have toiled with it.

    On the ferry from Zeebrugge we once watched a Flemish quiz show on the telly. We understood most of it. The surrounding speakers of only (presumably) English English seemed rather surprised and impressed.

    As I said here once before, even Chaucer at school was relatively easy for anyone who had spoken Scots in the playground as a wee laddie or lassie.

    Mind you, understanding stuff is a million miles from being able to speak it. A youngster in our family, however, has found that she can get a long way in Italy by speaking Spanish.

  3. My test on this would be can you speak the one, slowly and clearly, but be largely understood by a speaker of another?
    Well, it works for English abroad.

  4. dearieme

    The Germanic language of Charlemagne (and before) was understandable nearly everywhere north of the Alps and west of the Oder. The Franks spoke this language but over time it merged with the local vulgate Latin of the Gaulish population and became French.
    Having learnt German, I can understand Flemish and read Swedish and Dutch. In a similiar way, mastering one of the Romance languages opens up at least comprehending the others. I guess the various Indian languages have had a lot longer to adapt and because they developed writing thousands of years ago they could share concepts more readily.

  5. Anything other than English is just some form of ewok gibberish that is best ignored, to encourage the users of such to learn to speak English, like what the rest of the civilised world does.

  6. In some areas of Italy the local dialect is closer to Spanish than it is to Florentine Italian. Village I used to live next door to was something closer to Catalan in fact.

  7. “but you cannot really rely on that, think of Catalan and Spanish, for example.”

    Interesting point that.
    I don’t think I’ve had my lousy french misunderstood in either France or Belgium. But the Spanish seem to require a higher level of accuracy or they don’t comprehend. Remember being up north & asking a question about Burgos to a blank look. It took several attempts to get correct sound for the “u” before it was recognised. Contrast with London where we can usual extract meaning from the most mangled english. Would you have trouble with Eepsweech?

  8. The Spanish used to watch quite a lot of RAI, which tells you all you need to know about the quality of TVE programmes. Catalans (as with Portuguese) will sometimes claim not to understand Castilian – they are almost invariably lying.

    Back on topic – Hindi and Urdu are, of course, the same language, but use different alphabets.

  9. @Chris Miller
    Having lived in a trilingual household, I’d say the port speakers handle spanish much better than the dagos portuguese. And they pick up english quicker. Personally, I’d rather be speaking port than spanish as far as learning’s concerned. Closer to french? And anything rather than andalus.

  10. As a very large number of Nepalis work in India either in winter or all the year round (Nepal, despite relatively few deaths and fewer infections than 90-odd% of countries, has been hit very hard by Covid-19 through Modi’s lockdown with an influx of unemployed Nepalis walking hundreds of miles home and a 10+% fall in national income) they are bi-lingual in Hindi and Gurkhali or whichever. Even those who do not now nor have in the past worked in India may have picked up some Hindi from Indian tourists or Nepali migrant workers.

  11. BiS reminds me of a time I was in Prague.

    I had to drive back to Austria and needed the motorway to Brno. I usually used the German name of Brunn, but thought that it wouldn’t go down to well, so I asked one of my Czech colleagues the way to the Brno motorway.

    “Where ?”
    “Brno” ( pronounced as in Frank )
    “No sorry.”
    “BRNO !”
    Thinks for a few seconds.
    “Oh you mean Brrrrrrrrrrrrrrnnnnnnnnnnnnnohhhhhhhhh! This road as far as you can etc etc …”

  12. Pozzuoli- where Sophia Loren comes from. Port, very closely connected to Barcelona over the centuries.

  13. Spain ruled over most of Southern Italy, including Sicily, for much of the 15th and 16th centuries…

  14. Hmm, sorta. House of Aragon, but it was normally a junior brother etc who went off to be King. So, sorta Spain, but not quite. That’s like saying when the Naples King was Angevin that the French ruled it. Again, sorta, but not quite.

  15. @bloke in spain
    I speak Spanish and Portuguese. Spanish was easier to learn some Portuguese words are much harder to pronounce than the Spanish equivalent for example eu – I is a real pain at first.
    While yo – Spanish for I is easy

  16. @BiS, Eepsweech maybe not, but it took me a while to twig who Pheel Colleens was the first time someone enthused about him (this dates me somewhat)

  17. Hmm, sorta. House of Aragon, but it was normally a junior brother etc who went off to be King. So, sorta Spain, but not quite.

    Actually Tim, you are totally wrong.

    From wiki:
    Pedro Téllez-Girón, 3rd Duke of Osuna (17 February 1574 – 20 September 1624) was a Spanish nobleman and politician. He was the 2nd Marquis of Peñafiel, 7th Count of Ureña, Spanish Viceroy of Sicily (1611–1616), Viceroy of Naples (1616–1620), a Knight of the Order of the Golden Fleece since 1608, Grandee of Spain, member of the Spanish Supreme Council of War.

    1611 was well after the crowns were unified. Nor was he related to the King. Nor do I think that anyone has claimed that the Angevins ruled France, although they fought a long war to try to achieve it. It’s rather like claiming that the British didn’t rule India

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