Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Do I look like a Mallu ? No … you sound like one.


I base my observations on a few people I know that I often can relate to as ‘quintessential mallus’ ( including me ) . Any semblance to any other ‘mallu’ alive shouldn’t be taken as marks of offense/insult. Garv se kaho hi tum mallu ho. ( apologies to BJP : Garv se kaho ki tum …. )

A scientific approach to finding some answers

Recent turn of events in my life, when some one notices the occasional nasal tones ‘in some particular vowels and syllables’, when I use English as a mode of verbal communication, has set me to (sit down and) think about why only Mallus are assaulted for their innate 'abilities' to talk from their nose and accentuate on certain vowels .

French and German accents are considered sexy. ( for that matter Eastern European accents too ) . British/Australian accent is a turn on. American is real. Chinese as natural. A north Indian accent is more likely to be dismissed as the “Indian norm”. Even the ‘horrible’ Bengali-English accent is not as suspiciously or menacingly looked (down?) upon as the Mallu-English accent.

What makes Malayalam as a language different ? And where does the difficult-not-to-miss Mallu accent originate from ?

The peculiar case of extra vowels .

English has 5 vowels and 21 consonants
Hindi : 11 vowels and 35 consonants.
Tamil : 12 vowels and 18 consonants
Bengali : 14 vowels and 29 consonants

While Malayalam stands out distinctly with
16 vowels and 37 consonants !!! ( Iam wondering if there are any other Indian language with this many vowels or consonants !)

Does the extra vowels hold a reason for their nasal influence ? ( More research needed before I come to a conclusion)

Or could it be that the two special vowels (/äu/ and /ai/) taken from Sanskrit hold the key ??

The English influence on Mallu “expats”

Any Mallu who is not brought up in Kerala has to have a non-mother tongue which invariably becomes his first language ( and which is often English ). On the other hand, for a quintessential mallu brought up in Kerala, it is definitely Malayalam . English features as a very distant second language. So they are trained to use those difficult vowels from age Zero. Probably the first few vowels did contain the genetic modifiers .

Adding to the general indifference shown by Mallus towards the knowledge of their own language, not knowing how to read and write in Malayalam is rather considered not as a sign of disgrace but an essential factor contributing to your “urban-ness”. ( I learnt these two soon-disappearing-art at a very later stage in my life … with very conscious effort by finding a teacher during spare saturdays and sundays and taking me over 3 years.)

Quick Linguistical Discrimination Test

1. A mallu will have trouble telling “Roam in Rome” ( essentially sounds the same for him) ( Ref : Plaint of a Mallu )
2. A mallu will be immediately stared upon when using these words - College , Lorry, Omelet, Orange, Onion.
3. A monkey is sometimes pronounced Mangi.
4. Queen ….. is sometimes Kyuun .
5. Gulf is Gelf. ( for anyone who has gone to Dubayi )

Future Plan

Some day I plan to write an intelligent software which asks you to dictate few words / phrases and then calculates the obliqueness from the normal accent and locates you geographically with the help of your accent. ( The software will ‘jemb’ into ‘conglusion’ if it’s a Mallu taking the test. )

Cross references

To attribute unique accents to Mallus is not just biased but criminal . It exists all through the Indian subcontinent.

- Bangalis say “God Shave the Queen”
- For 'Andhrites' and people from Orrissa/Bihar, there is no ‘z’ there is only ‘j’
( A compressed file is a JIP file not a zip file.)
- thirty is thirrtty for a north Indian .

and did you forget the Bangalore English ?? so soon ?

As I always write … a quick and dirty way to escape these nuances in accent is to
‘roll the ‘r’s and flatten the ‘t’s.

To end it all with a Mallu Joke …

Why did the Mallu cross the road ??
-Simbly .

Articles worth reading :
Spot the Mallu, anywhere by K. BALAKRISHNAN ( very essential research material ;) )

Wisdom Blocked and wisdom Blogged. ( references )

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

simbly superbbb

"Florentino is so in love with Fermina that he eats gardenias and drinks cologne so that he can know her taste. He becomes drunk on the cologne, and his mother finds him the next morning, in a puddle of his vomit, in a cove of the bay where drowning victims are known to wash ashore" - Love in the time of Cholera