LINGUIST List 16.824

Thu Mar 17 2005

Disc: Re:16.802, Disc: Media:BBC: Welsh-Hindi Link

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        1.    Robert Orr, Re:16.802, Disc: Media:BBC: Welsh-Hindi Link
        2.    Bernard Comrie, The supposed Welsh-Hindi link

Message 1: Re:16.802, Disc: Media:BBC: Welsh-Hindi Link

Date: 17-Mar-2005
From: Robert Orr <>
Subject: Re:16.802, Disc: Media:BBC: Welsh-Hindi Link

At a folk level, many people have always been aware that Welsh and East Indian
accents in English sound very similar.

This has sometimes provided fodder for comedy. The late Johnny Speight, the
creator of Alf Garnett (on whom Archie Bunker was modelled, and who made Archie
look like a wet liberal), put together Alf's musing in a selection called "The
Thoughts of Chairman Alf: Alf Garnett's Little Blue Book, or where England went
wrong). It included a wickedly funny chapter titled "The Welsh Wog", which
began "'Course, yer Welsh are yer first original coons, I mean, they all talk
like Pakistanis ....." and proceeded to base a whole "thesis" of the origins of
the Welsh on that single feature, and concluded by pointing out that Enoch
Powell himself was Welsh, and the implications, etc., etc.

The late Peter Sellars (who was very sensitive to the comic effects of accents
on audiences, cf. Inspector Clouseau) used the same accent for both Welsh people
and East Indians in movies. Apparently there is an urban legend that Welsh
missionaries and/or Welsh soldiers provided East Indians with their first
large-scale exposure to English, and that may have contributed, although as far
as I am aware, noone has traced the exact development, if indeed it happened
that way.

Robert Orr

For previous messages in this discussion, see:

Original article:

Linguistic Field(s): Phonology

Message 2: The supposed Welsh-Hindi link

Date: 17-Mar-2005
From: Bernard Comrie <>
Subject: The supposed Welsh-Hindi link

As a follow-up to Briony Williams' comment (Linguist List 16.802) on
the relevance of a word-final high pitch to the perceived phonetic
similarity of Welsh and Hindi etc. accents in English: A similar
phenomenon is found in accents of the north-east of England
(Tyneside, Wearside), and indeed before my own accent started
undergoing massive dialect contact I had such an accent (I'm from
Sunderland). On a number of occasions in those days I was asked by
Welsh people, including native speakers of Welsh, if I was Welsh.

[Some irrelevant, if not irreverent, additions: (1) Wales and
north-east England also share a strong Methodist religious tradition
and were regions dominated by coal-mining; since India and Pakistan
do not share these features, they are presumably independent of the
prosodic feature. (2) I doubt if any of the Welsh people were
affected by any similarity of the family name "Comrie" to the Welsh
words "Cymru" 'Wales', "Cymry" 'Welsh people', since I assume they
would recognize the name as not being familiar to them as a Welsh
name; the family name in fact comes from the name of the village
Comrie in Scotland (District of Perth and Kinross).]

Bernard Comrie

Prof. Dr. Bernard Comrie
Director, Department of Linguistics, Max Planck Institute for
Evolutionary Anthropology
Distinguished Professor of Linguistics, University of California Santa Barbara

For previous messages in this discussion, see:

Original article:

Linguistic Field(s): Phonetics

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