Skip to comments.Searching for the Welsh-Hindi link
Posted on 03/15/2005 2:58:17 AM PST by CarrotAndStick
A BBC journalist is urging helpful linguists to come forward to help solve a mystery - why the Hindi (India's official language, along with English) accent has so much in common with Welsh. Sonia Mathur, a native Hindi speaker, had her interest sparked when she moved from India to work for the BBC in Wales - and found that two accents from countries 5,000 miles apart seemed to have something in common.
It has long been known that the two languages stem from Indo-European, the "mother of all languages" - but the peculiar similarities between the two accents when spoken in English are striking.
Remarkably, no-one has yet done a direct proper comparative study between the two languages to found out why this is so, says Ms Mathur.
"What I'm hoping is that if amateurs like myself - who have indulged in doing a little bit of research here and there - come forward, we can actually do proper research with professional linguists," she told BBC World Service's Everywoman programme.
Ms Mathur explained that when she moved to Wales, everyone instantly assumed she was Welsh from her accent.
"I would just answer the phone, and they would say 'oh hello, which part of Wales are you from?'," she said.
We tend to pronounce everything - all the consonants, all the vowels
Sonia Mathur "I would explain that I'm not from Wales at all - I'm from India.
"It was just hilarious each time this conversation happened."
Her interest aroused, Ms Mathur spoke to a number of other people whose first language is Hindi.
One Hindi doctor in north Wales told her that when he answered the phone, people hearing his accent would begin talking to him in Welsh.
"I thought maybe it isn't a coincidence, and if I dig deeper I might find something more," Ms Mathur said.
Particular similarities between the accents are the way that both place emphasis on the last part of word, and an elongated way of speaking that pronounces all the letters of a word.
"We tend to pronounce everything - all the consonants, all the vowels," Ms Mathur said.
"For example, if you were to pronounce 'predominantly', it would sound really similar in both because the 'r' is rolled, there is an emphasis on the 'd', and all the letters that are used to make the word can be heard.
"It's just fascinating that these things happen between people who come from such varied backgrounds."
The similarities have sometimes proved particularly tricky for actors - Pete Postlethwaite, playing an Asian criminal in the 1995 film The Usual Suspects, had his accent described by Empire magazine as "Apu from the Simpsons holidaying in Swansea".
But not only the two languages' accents share notable common features - their vocabularies do too.
'Apu from the Simpsons holidaying in Swansea' or Pete Postlethwaite? Ms Mathur's own research on basic words, such as the numbers one to 10, found that many were similar - "seven", for example, is "saith" in Welsh, "saat" in Hindi.
"These kind of things really struck me," she said.
"When I reached number nine they were exactly the same - it's 'naw' - and I thought there had to be more to it than sheer coincidence."
She later spoke to professor Colin Williams of Cardiff University's School Of Welsh, who specialises in comparative languages.
He suggested that the similarities are because they come from the same mother language - the proto-European language.
"It was basically the mother language to Celtic, Latin, and Sanskrit," Ms Mathur added.
"So basically that's where this link originates from."
Ms Mathur noticed the similarities after moving to BBC Radio Wales
"We tend to pronounce everything - all the consonants, all the vowels."
'Apu from the Simpsons holidaying in Swansea' or Pete Postlethwaite?
Maybe Welsh-origin Freepers could help her solve the mystery.
?......so called ancient Indo-European 'Gypsy' spoken cuneiform?
I am just reading Peter Beresford Ellis's book, the Druids, and he details direct linguistic ties between various Celtic languages and Sanskrit or Hindi e.g., Druid ==> Dru (Oak) id (Vid) Hindi for wisdom or knowledge. However, the puzzle is the accent. Is the same true for Irish and Scottish Gaelic?
The other, and perhaps simpler, alternative explanantion is that the Indian individuals in question learned their English in an area where Welsh expatriates had taught English to the local population. If true, there are undoubtedly Indians who speak with a Scottish or Irish "lilt". The influence of local accents can certainly survive 300 or 400 years. For example, in parts of Maine, they speak with a distinctly East Anglian or West Country accent reflecting the geographic origins of 17th Century settlers - the famous comedy duo "Bert and I" have accent reminiscent of Cornish or West Country accents.
I know that the Romani (AKA "Gypsys") descend from India and have similar parts of their language.
If I remember my studies, the Gaelic has two main branches Cymric (welsh and breton), and Scots/Irish. There are quite a few disimilarities between the accents etc. I am not sure about where similarities between Irish Gaelic and Sanskrit may lie.
There are some Welsh that claim Prince Madog was the first European to travel to the Americas in the tenth century (I think) so it might be feasible that they had travelled to India too.
Since you are reading a book on druids, there has long been speculation that the early Indo Europeans who moved into India were closely related to the Celts. I have read from several sources that linguistically there was some evidence for this. The druid priest caste had many similarities to the Brahmin's priest caste. The functions of these priests in both Celtic and Indian life were somewhat similar. The druids wrote nothing down but the vague hints about their beliefs even echo some Hindu beliefs. Since Wales was a seat of power for the druids there may indeed be a very distant link between the peoples. The more Germanic European culture groups tended to have a shamanistic approach to religion without any evolution of a special caste of priests. I read that same book, that you are now reading, and believe that there is a link.
Would you happen to know of any books on that subject? I remember reading about a Welsh/North American link years ago and could never find out more about it.
The Forgotten People, published by Gomer Press in 1996. Another source of the legend is Madog: The Making of a Myth by Gwyn A. Williams, Oxford University Press, 1979 (ISBN 019 285 1780).
Thanks for the link!
It is a very interesting subject. I read in a Clive Cussler book that vikings may have visited the Americas too, although it was a fictional book so I cannot say how true it is.
Eepsy, blam has put up a good link about Madoc/Madog.
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You forgot Iberian (Spanish) Galatian (French to middle-east) and I can't recall the Russo-Celts, but them as well.
Many of the words are pronounced similarly. My book on Celts is currently at my girlfriends house so I don't have all the info on hand, but words for common things sound ALOT alike.
I'll get back to you on some examples if you remind me later this week. (tomorrow should be fine)
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Actually, remaining Celtic languages are divided into two categories, Gaelic and Brythonic. Irish, Max and Scots Gaelic are in the Gaelic category; Welsh, Cornish and the language spoken in Brittany are in the Brythonic. Gaelic is thought to be the more ancient of the two divisions.
The IE language, if it was a single language, is lost to history. It is a reconstructed language. Those linguists who are on the Internet have found the Internet to be a most powerful tool for linguistics research since graphics and sound files can be shared instantly and throughout the community. Progress is coming quickly. If Blam posts an image of an ancient starchart or inscription just discovered in China or Egypt, the whole linguistics industry has it immediately, so that if one scholar recognizes something, he can pass the knowledge on to everyone right away. So now the attention of all linguists on the Internet, which is nearly all linguists, have their attention drawn to Welsh-Hindi right now.
If after paying I walk out of a pub in Cardiff and say 'dyanevaadh' and they all know what I mean, I'll be quite interested!
If you read about any 'break-throughs', let us know.
Wouldn't be me. I never got past the first month of Linguistics 101. Terminal boredom, like in Econ 101. I read an article by an actual linguist that said the Internet is now and suddenly one of their most powerful tools. It is good that the Internet is getting some productive use.
I found your old thread on the genetic tests quite interesting. Male members of my mother's family have been participating in DNA testing to determine whether there is any relationship between two branches of a family here that bear the same name -- one family originally from Sweden and one family originally from Switzerland. Apparently there is no relationship -- both families happened to Anglicize their original name to the same name, which sounds English, if you don't know the story behind it.
But the DNA testing was very clear about the relationships, and it was amazing all the different nationalities that were included in the various subjects, even though the original Swedish genes (my family) were quite clear.
I am glad they got to Celtic, even if it is at the end. Celtic was the mother language of Latin, therefor that should make their digging a little easier >). I was surprised with the gals looks - send her to the US.
No, she does't look Indian, but why run her over?
She is not from the state of Assam, India.
I am told that Basque is unlike all other languages with a few possible connections to Japanese and that may be mere coincidence. Basque is thought to be the indiginous language of Europe going back to the neolithic.
Here you go.
The Jomon - Ainu were the original Japanese.
This chart might help. According to it, Cornish, Breton and Welsh all derive from 'Brittonic', whereas Gaelic (Scottish, Irish, Manx) derives from Goidelic:
Language origins are fascinating. I need to do more reading to catch up on recent ideas.
Maybe that chart I linked to in post 36 is a little out of date. It is a neat way to show the language explosion though, and the relationships between modern, ancient, and inferred languages.
I can't speak to the matter of accent but presumably if the dialects are similar the accents would be also. Berresford Ellis in his book "The Celts" points to a direct link between Vedic Sanskrit and Old Irish. He writes:
"When scholars seriously began to examine the Indo-European connections...they were amazed at how old Irish and Sanskrit had apparently maintained close links with their Indo-European parent. This applies not only in the field of linguistics but in law and social custom, in mythology, in folk custom and in traditional musical form."
To illustrate similarities in language of the Vedic Laws of Manu and that of Irish legal texts, the Laws of the Fenechus aka the Brehon Laws, he cites (the first in Sansrit, the second in Old Irish): arya (freeman), aire (noble); naib (good), noeib (holy); badhira (deaf), bodhar (deaf); minda (physical defect), menda (a stammerer); names (respect), nemed (respect/privilege); raja (king), ri (king); vid (knowledge), uid (knowledge), etc.
Here's a clue to the ancient location of the Indo-Europeans. Danu, sometimes anu in old Irish and Don in Welsh (also surviving with the Continental Celts) was the 'divine waters' which gushed to the earth in the time of primal chaos and nurtured Bile the sacred oak, from whom the gods and goddesses sprang. Her waters formed the course of the Danuvius (Danube). Of course there's the pesky problem of the River Don in Russa: which was named first? There's also a Don River in Scotland and probably elsewhere too, derived from the original root name.
Wales, as usual, was busy having a really serious economic recession in that period. This resulted in far more than their fair share of young Welsh men and women departing for India to teach English.
The Scots were right behind them!
Educated, English speaking Indian people ever since have spoken with a brogue (for one thing), and I suspect the Welsh provided an "accent" useful in Hindi to indicate "far higher than you're ever gonna' believe social status".
It probably took less than half a century for the Welsh intonations to spread throughout the entire Hindi speaking population.
Note that this happened to the English language itself in the 15th and 16th Centuries. It's called "The Great Vowel Shift". Here a major language change started out with the budding capitalist class in London. You had to talk like them to demonstrate sufficient juju to be a player, FUR SHUR.
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Thanks James C. Bennett for the link back here.
What is strange is that Celtic is from the Centum/Western branch of Indo-European (along with Germanic, Italic) and Hindi is from the Satem/Eastern branch of Indo-European (along with Iranic, Slavic, Greek, Persian, Tocharian languages)
Stephen Oppenheimer mentions the same thing in his book Origins Of The British, I can't remember what he said though.
This is one of those “hey, neat topic”, and I was in here four months ago, the last time it was revived. :’) Thanks Cronos.
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