View Full Version : Are Welsh and Hindi so close ?

15-03-05, 05:30
Searching for the Welsh-Hindi link (http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/south_asia/4328733.stm)

A BBC journalist is urging helpful linguists to come forward to help solve a mystery - why the Hindi accent has so much in common with Welsh.

Sonia Mathur, a native Hindi speaker, had her interest sparked when she moved from India to work for the BBC in Wales - and found that two accents from countries 5,000 miles apart seemed to have something in common.

It has long been known that the two languages stem from Indo-European, the "mother of all languages" - but the peculiar similarities between the two accents when spoken in English are striking.

Remarkably, no-one has yet done a direct proper comparative study between the two languages to found out why this is so, says Ms Mathur.

Ms Mathur explained that when she moved to Wales, everyone instantly assumed she was Welsh from her accent.

"I would just answer the phone, and they would say 'oh hello, which part of Wales are you from?'," she said.

"I would explain that I'm not from Wales at all - I'm from India.
Her interest aroused, Ms Mathur spoke to a number of other people whose first language is Hindi.

One Hindi doctor in north Wales told her that when he answered the phone, people hearing his accent would begin talking to him in Welsh.

But not only the two languages' accents share notable common features - their vocabularies do too.

Ms Mathur's own research on basic words, such as the numbers one to 10, found that many were similar - "seven", for example, is "saith" in Welsh, "saat" in Hindi.
"When I reached number nine they were exactly the same - it's 'naw' - and I thought there had to be more to it than sheer coincidence."
He suggested that the similarities are because they come from the same mother language - the proto-European language.

"It was basically the mother language to Celtic, Latin, and Sanskrit," Ms Mathur added.

You can add "sept" (p is silent) in French. I have already compared, and quite a few number in European languages are close to the Indian counterparts.

15-03-05, 07:59
It's not surprising that a good number of Welsh and Hindi words are very similar. It is established that they both belong to the same linguistic family, and descend from a common ancestor, proto-Indo-European, the ancestor of most of European and Indian languages.

Here is the affiliation of the two languages :
Welsh : Indo-European > Celtic > Insular Celtic > Brythonic
Hindi : Indo-European > Indo-Iranian > Indo-Aryan > Central zone > Western Hindi > Hindustani

But a close examination will reveal that Welsh is closer to other Celtic languages than to Hindi, and that Hindi is closer to other Indic languages than to Welsh :
Numbers : 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10
Welsh : un dau tri pedwar pump chwech saith wyth naw deg
Breton : eun daou tri pevar pemp c'houec'h seiz eiz nao dek
Hindi : ek do tiin chaar paanch chhaH saat aath nau das
Nepali : ek dui tin chaar paanch cha saat aat nau das

Now what we must keep in mind is that the article basically says that Welsh and Indian people sound similar when they speak English, not that Welsh and Hindi languages sound the same.
Indeed Welsh and Indi have some similar sounds that their speakers might use when speaking English in place of standard pronunciation. Still the differences between the 2 languages' sound systems are big (Hindi has aspirates, retroflexes, nasal vowels, etc). For the accent (stress), both have a non distinctive and predictable accent, but in Welsh the accent is fixed, while in Hindi it depends on the phonological structure of the word.

22-04-11, 01:22
I've read that Hindis speak English with a Welsh cadence because of the influence of mission schools staffed by Welsh missionaries.

Speaking of which, the Amish around Kitchener-Waterloo have a similar lilt. When I replicated their accent in German for some native German speakers they said it sounded like Schwäbisch. Since we're speculating, I wonder if that is due to a lingering Celtic influence?