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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