Most languages have a rich intermix of words - GulfToday

Most languages have a rich intermix of words

Birjees Hussain

She has more than 10 years of experience in writing articles on a range of topics including health, beauty, lifestyle, finance, management and Quality Management.

She has more than 10 years of experience in writing articles on a range of topics including health, beauty, lifestyle, finance, management and Quality Management.

Languages

For illustrative purposes only.

Is any language pure? By that I mean has it never been influenced by sources outsides of its borders? Not just in the last 100 years but even in the last two thousand years?

I recently discovered that many languages are an amalgamation of several other languages. This happened way back when one nation conquered, or we can even use the word invaded, other weaker nations, something that tended to happen a lot hundreds and even thousands of years ago. In addition to influencing the culture of the country they conquered they almost invariably left a lasting influence on the native language.  But it tended to work both ways. Today’s languages suggest that both countries influenced each other’s tongues.

When I thought about this I was immediately reminded of being told that the Urdu language was a mix of Arabic, Hindi, Farsi and indeed even English. In fact, everyday spoken Urdu and Hindi is dotted with English words. Granted that when spoken in this way neither language is in its purest form and I guarantee that if you’re not a native speaker of either language, when it is spoken in its purest form, you will have a hard time understanding what is being said. The language you thought you spoke will sound almost foreign apart from the odd colloquial words that may be spoken in its everyday form. You might find this more so if you do not recognise some of the words that originate from the Arabic or English language.

Speaking of the latter, I was surprised to learn that, according to a French language expert, a vast percentage of the English language actually originates from the French language. It has either retained its original form or has evolved into what now sounds very English. Apparently the language initially had Germanic and Latin origins that came from around the 6th or 7th Century. But it doesn’t stop there. The language has also been influenced by Scandinavian, Norwegian and, of course, French.

Examples of European influences include some commonly used words and phrases as hor d’oeuvres, déjà vu, ad nauseum, per se, faux pas, fait accompli, ipso facto, modus operandi, pro bono, abseil, angst, deli, kaput, rucksack, pretzel and poltergeist.

But there are Arabic influences too. For example coffee, saffron, average, alchemy, albatross, algebra, algorithm, caravan and checkmate are all derived from the Arabic language.

In fact, any native English speaker who hears French being spoken will immediately recognise so many words; the only difference being the pronunciation. I am sure the same applies to a native Arabic speaker too. Again, the only difference probably being the pronunciation.

But English is now a very colourful language compared to its Chaucerian and Shakespearean days. In England especially, because of the large subcontinent community, many Urdu and Hindi words are now part of the English vernacular. For example pariah, bandana, jungle, dinghy, chit, chai, pyjama, cummerbund, juggernaut, cashmere, chutney, bangle, bungalow and even shampoo and thug are derived from the original Urdu or Hindi word.

Even in the United Arab Emirates we find that expatriates, particularly those from western countries, begin adopting Arabic words into their everyday conversation. For example, many will say As salam walaikum, InshaAllah, ma salama, la, shukran and juma.

I don’t know which languages remain pure today but I do believe that there are some languages that are lacking in vocabulary and that is why they end up adopting foreign words as their own. For example, in the English language there is no word to distinguish a paternal relative from a maternal one. In the English language an uncle is an uncle and you don’t know if the uncle is your mother’s brother or your father’s brother, or if he’s your aunt’s husband, in which case which aunt is it? In Hindi and Urdu, there are clear distinctions. For example, in Urdu and Hindi, you might have a mamoo and a chacha and know exactly who is who. The same distinctions exist for an aunt on your mother’s side and on your father’s side.

But some languages don’t ever seem to borrow words from another language. For example, I’ve been watching a lot of Korean dramas and I barely hear a foreign word being spoken, presumably because their language has vocabulary to describe every situation.