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"Buenos dias", "buenas noches" -- this was the first words in a foreign language I heard in my life, as a three-year old boy growing up in developing post-war Western Germany, where the first gastarbeiters had arrived from Spain. Fascinated by the strange sounds, I tried to get to know some more languages, the only opportunity being TV courses of English and French -- there was no foreign language education for pre-teen school children in Germany yet in those days. Read more

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Discussion Details

Title: Re:16.802, Disc: Media:BBC: Welsh-Hindi Link
Submitter: Robert Orr
Description: 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:
Date Posted: 17-Mar-2005
Linguistic Field(s): Phonology
LL Issue: 16.824
Posted: 17-Mar-2005

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