Monthly Archives: September 2005

On the Superiority of Pandas over all Felines … and um … ninjas of course

Still and quiet feline form,
In the sun, asleep and warm.
His tail is limp his
Whiskers drooped.
Man, what could make
This cat so pooped?

Bill Waterson

Gentle Panda, e’er so great,
Could you please elucidate,
That tiger which now looks all dead,
Why you hit him on the head?



La Trama

Thanks to the friendly folks at zbb and google, I recently put together this translation of Borges’s story La Trama.

The original story is available here.

The translation:

The Plot
To his complete horror, Caesar, harassed at the foot of the statue by the daggers of his impatient friends, discovers among the blades and faces, that of Brutus, his protégé, perhaps his son, and no longer defends himself, exclaiming, “You too, my son!” Shakespeare and Quevedo record the pathetic shout.
Destiny is pleased by repetitions, variations, symmetries; nineteen centuries later, in the south of the province of Buenos Aires, a gaucho is attacked by other gauchos; whilst falling, he recognizes a godson of his, and says with vague recollection and mild surprise (these words must be heard, not read): “Pero, che!*” They kill him, and he does not realise that he dies so that a scene may be repeated.


* ¡Pero, che! -> ‘What the..? Hey!’

Still not sure what to make of it.


Creolisation or Code switching?

“Tuné book padichi kar liya?”
X-SAMPA [tu:ne buk p@d`ici: k@r lIja]

A typical sentence, I’d use with my sister or some of my cousins, much to the chagrin of my parents, who had long given up on trying to persuade not to mix languages (basing this on their perhaps, true claim that the usage of such a mixture would render us incapable of mastering any one of them). To us this weird pidgin mixture of Hindi, Tamil & English was the closest, thing we had to a mother tongue, being Tamilians growing up in the Hindi belt. All communication with friends at home and school, was obviously in Hindi, yet somehow we always fell back on this creole for all communication among ourselves.


Now, what amazes me is how quickly, unintentionally, this language developed a sort of unwritten grammar of it’s own far more comprehensive than what I had expected. Some examples are:

  • Pronouns are almost always from Hindi
  • Case markers also from Hindi except for the Dative where we often used the Tamil -əkku
  • Verbs almost always from Tamil though often inflected as in Hindi (or Hindi auxiliary verbs used alongwith them)

There are several more interesting features such as the strange usage of the English suffix -ify applied to Tamil verbs which were followed by a Hindi verb as in Tuné tani kudichi-fy kar liya?(tu:ne t@n`:i kud`icif@i: k@r lIja) to mean have you drunk water?


I’m not sure whether such a pidgin can be thought to have undergone a certain ammount of creolisation, considering that we started using this language at quite an early age. I think it would be highly unwise to try to linguistically analyse it any further purely from my memory, without hard data. Next time I go home, I’ll try to record some conversational data with my sister, to subject it to further analysis.