Tuesday September 17, 2019

Language of the Descendants

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.