Indian Linguist @IndianLinguist Subcontinental socio-linguistics. Focused on Indian English, Hindi-Urdu and Bangla. Feb. 07, 2019 1 min read

This is both hilarious and deeply educative in that it actually points to a rule of English phonology: you can't have an [h] at the end of a syllable.

So when an English native speaker encounters "ah-med", she can't say it because of this rule. They might not know this rule exists but they now it. Language exists in your bones like that ;)

So, to compensate, it often become Akmed or I've even heard a more guttaral a[x]med.

Indian English, of course, does not have this rule since the speakers' native languages don't have this rule. But even then, every Indian has seen an outcome of this rule.

Have you ever wonder why it's "Delhi" in English if its dillī in Hindi-Urdu? Where tf did the h come from?

Here's how. So while it may be Dilli in local speech, the Persian word for it (also used in High Urdu) is dehlī.

Remember, when British first arrived here, Farsi was the lingua franca and elite language of the subcontinent. So that's the first language most Englishman learnt.

But then: problem. Remember that no-[h]-at-end-of-a-syllable rule in English? The sahibs stugggled to get the Farsi dehlī right. So they did some jugaaR. They took the h at the end of the first syllable of dehlī and shifted it just a bit to the beginning of the second syllable.

Nothing in English againt [h] at the beginning of a syllable, remember. You have horse, house and that crowd favourite, hibernaculum. So Englishmen in India "mispronounced" the Farsi dehlī as delhi.

And voila! you have the present-day name of India's capital.


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