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.

Later,
Shanth

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2 responses to “Creolisation or Code switching?

  1. I believe this internet site contains very wonderful composed written content articles.

  2. This is very interesting, thank you. I’m German, and I spent my childhood years in Kerala (my parents were medics working for dev aid), and my sister and I used to speak a mix of Malayalam (#1) and German (#2) and English (#3). ’Twas a great horror for our parents who never were really able to understand Malayalam 😀

    Greetings, Tom

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