an interested bystander (eigi) wrote in linguaphiles,

"The vernacular" of the 19th-century India?

I am reading Kim by Kipling now and Kipling regularly comments that the orphan Kim, whose parents were Irish in India and who grew up a street child there, speaks in the vernacular, thinks in the vernacular, has to mentally translate from the vernacular when speaking to British officials etc. I am wondering what the vernacular means in the context of the late 19th century India - is it one of the languages of India (which?) or some local version of English?
  • Post a new comment

    Error

    Anonymous comments are disabled in this journal

    default userpic

    Your reply will be screened

    Your IP address will be recorded 

  • 8 comments

whswhs

May 23 2014, 03:04:47 UTC 5 months ago

From having read a lot of Kipling, I'm pretty sure he means one of the Indian languages. He lives in Lahore, which is in the Punjab (now in the Pakistani district of that name), so "the vernacular" is very likely Punjabi (or Panjabi); less likely Urdu, the form of Hindustani that has Muslim influences, as opposed to Hindi, which has more indigenous cultural influences. Kim speaks "the vernacular" to a lot of people who aren't very likely to speak much English.

The Wikipedia article on Kipling quotes him as saying that we were sent into the dining-room after we had been dressed, with the caution 'Speak English now to Papa and Mamma.' So one spoke 'English', haltingly translated out of the vernacular idiom that one thought and dreamed in. Of course, Kipling spent his early childhood in Bombay (now Mumbai), whose main languages are Marathi and Hindi, apparently. But I have the impression that English children all over India were raised partly by "native" servants and spoke whatever indigenous language they spoke, as well as English.

sollersuk

May 23 2014, 04:45:25 UTC 5 months ago

More likely Urdu, given internal references an the fact that what English people calle d "Hindoostanee" and various spellings was in fact Urdu.

muckefuck

May 23 2014, 14:46:29 UTC 5 months ago

Was Panjabi widely recognised as a language distinct from Hindustani at that time? The two varieties are largely mutually intelligible.

whswhs

May 24 2014, 01:21:56 UTC 5 months ago

I have no information on that. It could very well not have been; I think Urdu and Hindi were both called "Hindustani."

embryomystic

May 24 2014, 11:32:02 UTC 5 months ago

I think Urdu and Hindi were both called "Hindustani."

At that point, yes. Even now, in certain contexts where the intent is to emphasise that they're two literary varieties of what is essentially the same language (and to use one or the other of Hindi or Urdu would imply that that variety is the 'real' one, and the other just a variant form). I hadn't realised that Panjabi was so close to them, though I guess it doesn't really surprise me.

eigi

June 4 2014, 23:16:02 UTC 4 months ago

Thank you for your addition.

eigi

June 4 2014, 23:15:41 UTC 4 months ago

Thank you for your clarification.

eigi

June 4 2014, 23:14:31 UTC 4 months ago

Thank you. I think it makes sense in the context of the book.