17 March 2005

Intricacies of a language

I think it was during my 6th Standard. We had the usual school inspection. There was a flurry of activity a week before the inspection. The whole school was spic and span on the day of inspection. We were all instructed to be on our best behavior. We were all waiting eagerly for the inspector and were a bit apprehensive. The inspector turned out to be a very jolly person. He visited us during our Geographical classes. He asked us some general question and then suddenly asked this "How does Geography influence a language?"

We tried to outsmart each other and gave all sorts of replies. He patiently listened to all that we had to say and then gave a big explanation. What caught my attention was the example he gave.

Geographical conditions and climatic conditions have had a great impact on language. Apart from the general structure and usage, the expression is also greatly influenced by external factors. For example consider the expression -- "warm hearted". Well if you translate this to Tamil, it would be "soodana manasu". But do we have such a phrase in Tamil? We only have "koolirntha manasu" which would be "cold hearted" but actually meaning "happy heart". So in a cold country, "warm" is something nice and vice versa.

He gave many such examples and we ended up having a wonderful time. This was one inspection day which I would never forget in my life!! (Infact I remember the inspector vividly even today)

6 comments:

Chakra Sampath said...

this is quite interesting...

Nth Dimension said...

I guess this is why linguistic studies and etymology (word origins) are such interesting topics. Different phrases, contradictory meaning when translated, and yet, the same meaning at heart.

Indian Voter said...

I remember the school inspections for newly wrapped up brown covers and tidy classrooms. Never had such an inspector who made himself remembered after a long time.

saranyan said...

thats an interesting one. never thought about it.

Narayanan Venkitu said...

Interesting to read about 'Soodana Manasu'.

Umm...are there any other words like that....

You put my in Think Mode.!

PVS said...

Chakra: :)

daph: Yes, linguistic studies and etymology are pretty interesting and helps you understand the culture and the people. Thanks for visiting my blog.

IV: yea, the brown covers form an important aspect of the inspection day!!!

Saranyan :))

Narayanan: The inspector put us all into Thinking Mode and even now, when I hear about a word I wonder about its origins and meaning.