Monday, November 16, 2009

Yaks In The Jungle With Gastric

No language is an island, and every language is constantly borrowing words and constructions from it's neighbours. Well, that is the speakers borrow them, and then they become part of the language.

This is something I have been reminded of time and time again while here. I've had Nepali people ask me what the English words were for 'load shedding'(ie enforced blackouts) and 'gastric'(stomach upset) - they were rather confused when I said they were the English words.

It's happened the other way as well - during sessions one of the words for forest was 'jungle'- a word that, like us, they have borrowed from their Indian neighbours, and, of course, the word for 'yak' is 'yak' - in this case we're the ones that did the borrowing from Tibetan.

Word borrowing can be a useful record of how languages interact and share. It's also fun to see what words get borrowed.

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