Impact of English language on Marathi


Article E14


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  1. English language is influenced by history and geography. Initially white men in the cold climate of England shaped the English language. Hence there are words such as blackmail, manpower, warm welcome. At time of the Norman regime, several French words entered and enriched the English language. Global spread of English meant contacts with many cultures, and many features of nature, resulting in addition of thousands of words.
  2. Marathi language too is influenced by history and geography. Periods of British rule and freedom era are considered here. English language opened new treasures of literature, science and philosophy. It spread in India, at some levels, for administration and education. Many English words entered Marathi with or without changes. Thus, janaral (= general) baatli (= bottle). Here a = both a (american) aa = a (art) (in Maraathi Devanaagari script).
  3. Many freedom fighters respected the English language which re-awakened India. On the other hand, there was a patriotic campaign to use Sanskrit words for English words in Marathi. Absurdities in English spellings and India's past great inventions (decimal numerals, Panini's grammar - only the linguistic area is referred here) were projected to get inspiration.
  4. English language lost some importance after freedom in 1947 and later formation of linguistic states, such as Maharashtra with prime language Marathi. All Indian languages have progressed. People understand and express any subject easily through their mother tongues. But English (with Indian accent) was required by multi-language, multi-script India for industrialization, which needed nation-wide banking operations, engineering drawings, scientific research, various laws, product labels etc. Industries gave purchasing power to people. They also gave printing machines, TV sets etc which supported all Indian languages.
  5. Geography and science have made new demands for words. Sanskrit is helpful to some extent. But how to denote thousands of words like shark and uranium? Marathi took English terms (in speech and Marathi script) with or without changes. Marathi has accepted the term jarmani (not Deutschland). Name (English) is changed as (ingraji) in Marathi.
  6. Initially Marathi script had no symbols for vowels in English words (law, cap). Two symbols were taken in course of time. Marathi took all punctuation marks from English. Word (dollars) is written in Marathi script with unofficial suffix (s) for plural. Several English words (such as juice, problem, garden) are optionally used (in speech and Marathi script) in place of Marathi words, ignoring objections of some critics. Proportion of English words in Marathi varies, typically from 2% (newspapers) to 10% (urban gossips). Grammatical genders of nouns can be tricky. Terms rashiyaa, amerikaa, ingland have masculine, feminine, neuter genders respectively. Short forms of technical words tally with sound of English initials. Thus, pisi (in Marathi script) = PC. Roman script is optionally usable for Marathi e-mails.
  7. English is widely used in India for higher business and higher education. It helps to give world contacts. But English alone will not suffice. Marathi is a well developed language rich in arts and literature. Very large masses do not know English. A mother tongue is very effective to convey knowledge, invoke creativity, connect people, enrich culture and induce social reforms. One should study well many languages, at least mother tongue and English. Many Marathi speakers learn English as a language, while many others use it as a medium for certain subjects. Present huge number of bilingual Marathi people will swell in future.

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Updated on : $ December 22, 2004 $
Author : Madhukar N Gogate