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Bhojpuri - A Dialect of Hindi

Bhojpuri - A Dialect of Hindi



Trinidad, being a former British colony, has its official language as, “Trinidadian Standard English.” Various other varieties of English are spoken and of these, Trinidad Creole English is the most prevalent. Descendants from the Colonial Indian Diaspora, like other citizens of the country, speak the various dialects of English but by now have completely forgotten the mother tongue of their immigrant ancestors. These ancestral languages were designated by its speakers as ‘Hindustani’ in Trinidad and the wider Caribbean. It consisted of various languages and dialects from North and South India. Only two of these languages persevered. These are Bhojpuri, a North Eastern language of India from the area between Uttar Pradesh and Bihar (areas from which the majority of Colonial Indian Immigrants hailed) and Tamil, a language from Madras.



The Hindustani language dominated during indentureship. Then, with the advent of primary education, and upward social mobility for Indians in Trinidad, a generation of Indian children shifted to English Creole (not one of the school languages!) as their new language of loyalty (or native language). Today, the Indian ancestral languages have flavoured the Trinidadian Creole English with words from Hindustani found in everyday use e.g. roti, saheena, chutney, bundle, Naani, Aajie etc. Internationally, this variety of Hindustani that used to be spoken by Trinidad Indians and Caribbean Indians at large, is called Bhojpuri as it originated in the northeastern state of Bhojpur in India. The designation of Bhojpuri as a language or simply a dialect of India’s standard Hindi, is a topic of debate.


The Northern Indian languages belong to the Indo-European language family; this family has a geography which corresponds to the expanse of land from Northern India all the way up to Europe. Thus, French, Spanish, German and our own English belong to this family. Northern Indian languages belong to the Indo-Aryan sub family of Indo-European (Fig. 1)





Fig. 1 (Above) Geographical distribution of the major Indo-Aryan languages




Popular languages belonging to this family are Hindi, Urdu, Punjabi, Rajasthani, Marathi, Bengali, Bhojpuri , Oriya and Gujarati. Hindi is an official language in India along with English. This language has vernacular varieties spread over what is known as the Hindi Belt (Fig.2)       





Fig.2 (Above) The Hindi Belt




Standard Hindi is derived from Khari Boli, the vernacular of Delhi, the capital from which the British Raj ruled its colony of Hindustan (today split into India and Pakistan). The most easterly dialects of Hindi are designated the Bihari dialects (Fig.2). These constitute the following dialects; in the west Bhojpuri and to the east Magahi and Maithili. The Bihari dialects are derived from Magadhi Prakrit ( Eastern vernacular of Sanskrit) whereas Hindi is derived from Shauraseni Prakrit (Western vernacular of Sanskrit), much like French and Spanish were derived from their respective Vulgar Latin varieties. So the argument exists that these Bihari dialects should be called languages in their own right, separate from Hindi. The majority of indentured labourers that came to Trinidad during 1845-1917, hailed from the eastern parts of Uttar Pradesh and western parts of Bihar. This region corresponds roughly to the Bhojpuri speaking region of India (Fig.3)







Fig.3 (Above) Bhojpuri linguistic region of India




This language variety was transplanted in Trinidad during indenturship. It interacted with the French Creole language and English of Trinidad, giving rise to the evolution of a new dialect of Bhojpuri, typical to Trinidad. This Bhojpuri vernacular is commonly known as Trinidad Hindustani or Trinidad Bhojpuri. Similar varieties evolved in other Caribbean territories where East Indian indentured labourers were brought e.g. Guyana and Suriname.