More on Welsh-Hindi "link"

Harold F. Schiffman haroldfs at CCAT.SAS.UPENN.EDU
Fri Mar 18 14:46:56 UTC 2005

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Forwarded from Linguist-List:

LINGUIST List 16.824
Thu Mar 17 2005

Message 1: Re:16.802, Disc: Media:BBC: Welsh-Hindi Link
Date: 17-Mar-2005
From: Robert Orr <>
Subject: Re:16.802, Disc: Media:BBC: Welsh-Hindi Link

At a folk level, many people have always been aware that Welsh and East
Indian accents in English sound very similar. This has sometimes provided
fodder for comedy. The late Johnny Speight, the creator of Alf Garnett (on
whom Archie Bunker was modelled, and who made Archie look like a wet
liberal), put together Alf's musing in a selection called "The Thoughts of
Chairman Alf: Alf Garnett's Little Blue Book, or where England went
wrong). It included a wickedly funny chapter titled "The Welsh Wog", which
began "'Course, yer Welsh are yer first original coons, I mean, they all
talk like Pakistanis ....." and proceeded to base a whole "thesis" of the
origins of the Welsh on that single feature, and concluded by pointing out
that Enoch Powell himself was Welsh, and the implications, etc., etc.

The late Peter Sellars (who was very sensitive to the comic effects of
accents on audiences, cf. Inspector Clouseau) used the same accent for
both Welsh people and East Indians in movies. Apparently there is an urban
legend that Welsh missionaries and/or Welsh soldiers provided East Indians
with their first large-scale exposure to English, and that may have
contributed, although as far as I am aware, noone has traced the exact
development, if indeed it happened that way.

Robert Orr

Message 2: The supposed Welsh-Hindi link
Date: 17-Mar-2005
From: Bernard Comrie <>
Subject: The supposed Welsh-Hindi link

As a follow-up to Briony Williams' comment (Linguist List 16.802) on
the relevance of a word-final high pitch to the perceived phonetic
similarity of Welsh and Hindi etc. accents in English: A similar
phenomenon is found in accents of the north-east of England
(Tyneside, Wearside), and indeed before my own accent started
undergoing massive dialect contact I had such an accent (I'm from
Sunderland). On a number of occasions in those days I was asked by
Welsh people, including native speakers of Welsh, if I was Welsh.

[Some irrelevant, if not irreverent, additions: (1) Wales and
north-east England also share a strong Methodist religious tradition
and were regions dominated by coal-mining; since India and Pakistan
do not share these features, they are presumably independent of the
prosodic feature. (2) I doubt if any of the Welsh people were
affected by any similarity of the family name "Comrie" to the Welsh
words "Cymru" 'Wales', "Cymry" 'Welsh people', since I assume they
would recognize the name as not being familiar to them as a Welsh
name; the family name in fact comes from the name of the village
Comrie in Scotland (District of Perth and Kinross).]

Bernard Comrie

Prof. Dr. Bernard Comrie
Director, Department of Linguistics, Max Planck Institute for
Evolutionary Anthropology
Distinguished Professor of Linguistics, University of California Santa

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