Where the stress falls
- PM Narendra Modi calls meeting to review 'Most Favoured Nation' status to Pakistan
- BK Bansal, senior bureaucrat, commits suicide along with son at his Delhi residence
- US presidential debate: Trump, Hillary Clinton deny their own words
- Nine out of ten people in world breathing polluted air: WHO
- Behind the voices at Maratha rallies, an anti-Dalit tone
Even in a politically correct world, accents remain the one thing we feel free to mock.
In India, divided as we are by our one common language, mimicking accents is the cheapest route to a laugh. As Dharma Kumar once wrote in a great Seminar piece, every Indian language group finds the English pronunciation of other groups hilarious — "the Punjabi who goes to the 'satation' to meet a 'luyyer' and the Bengali who hears the 'bhard' 'shing' unite in roaring with laughter at yevery Tamil."
Nothing marks you more clearly as a product of your background as the way you talk. We snap-judge people without even meaning to — accents convey class and place, worldliness and authenticity. Some are high status (like 'pakh ya cah in Hahvahd Yahd', in the US), or charming, or sexy, others are embarrassing encumbrances. The adjectives tell you the value judgment — a Meditteranean lilt, a rustic Bihari accent, a cultivated Oxbridge accent. Of course, the prestige of various accents shifts, like hip-hop-loving kids trying to put on a streetwise African-American voice.
If an accent is a deviation from normal, "normal" is a mirage. There is no zero-degree way of speaking. Sure, there is an old upper-class Indian English accent concocted in elite schools, which sounds confidently itself, immaculate, to people who have passed through these institutions, leading them to think only other people have accents. Except even that fancy accent is unstable across places, flecked with regional idiosyncrasies — public school-types in Ooty and Darjeeling and Dehradun don't sound the same.
Few people naturally speak General American (the default news network dialect), it is a refined version of Walter Cronkite's Midwestern accent. England has come a long way from Henry Higgins and the BBC's Received Pronunciation with the spread of the levelling Estuary accent, and the less judgmental acceptance of regional variations.
- Power struggle within weakens Samajwadi Party already undergoing an identity crisis in UP
- Preventive detention is being routinised as an instrument of state repression
- The challenge of garbage is set to grow, solid waste management plans need to be implemented
- After Uri, a replay of a 2001 predicament
- Any response to Uri must factor in Pakistani state’s relationship with non-state actors
- It is assumed that Blacks will vote 93 per cent for Clinton, seven per cent for Trump