Sunday, March 20, 2011

The evolution of Nenglish

It is often claimed that there are more non-native speakers of English than native speakers. With its worldwide use, today English is losing its ‘Englishness’ since people in many countries have begun speaking it in ways very different than native speakers. Their English has some special features not found in the English practiced by Brits, Americans, Canadians or Australians. And the differences among these emerging varieties of English can be observed not only in the level of vocabulary but also in the phonological, syntactic and semantic levels of language. Due to such a trend of moulding the English language, different versions, such as Hinglish (Indian English), Man-glish (the English used in Malaysia) and Chinglish (Chinese English), are evolving.

It is a fact that English in Nepal is not used as widely as it is used in Commonwealth countries. However, a reasonable number of people around the nation can speak and write English. With the growing trend of English-medium schools as well as radio and television stations here in Nepal, some people are beginning to show special features of Nepali English or Nenglish. For instance, the word dadu is now found to be used by some youngsters to affectionately address their father. Here, if we study its process of derivation, it can be found that ‘daddy/dad’ has become dadu. As many Nepali linguists have claimed that dadu is not found in English nor in Hinglish, the word dadu can be taken as an apparent example of nativised English in Nepal.

Another obvious example is that many school and college students in Nepal are today habituated with the use of na at the end of expressions. For example, it is not uncommon to hear people say “come na,” “tell me na,” “go na,” or “sit na.” The practice of adding na after the verb does not exist in English. Neither does it exist in Hinglish. It does so only in Nenglish. Similarly, many speakers are also found to be using the tag question ‘isn’t it?’ in all different kinds of structures—such as “Many things are bad in Nepal, isn’t it?” If such a trend continues to increase, the coming generations in Nepal will foster a distinct variety of English.

A British teacher once asked me what ‘weightage’ meant. I was stumped by his query since I had always thought that it was an English word. But after checking the Oxford Dictionary, I realised I was wrong when I found no such word. However, it exists as an examination term in Nenglish. Moreover, the adoption of the words such as loadshedding, banda, khalasi, and lathi, while speaking English rampant—leading to an increase in the hybridisation of English and Nepali.

Likewise, with the growth of English users in Nepal, some local words like himals, khukuri, dai, and didi are infiltrating English dictionaries. It is hard to claim that Nenglish has established itself like Hinglish or Manglish. However, if such practices continue to widen, a new variety of English in Nepal will emerge in the days to come.
source:Gopal Sijapati Magar, The Kathmandu Post,21 March 2011