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Badaga proverbs ♣♣♣...♥♥♥









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Chosen by Wg Cdr JP

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Dr. Alexei Kochetov on Badaga 'Baashe'- language


Recently I lamented that 'original and old' Badaga language is undergoing drastic changes [for the worse?] due to the influences of other languages as well as our own negligence and ignorance. In that respect, the following correspondence with Alexi Kochetov has me wondering - are some of these unique words like 'bae' and the way we pronounce them, remain the same atleast in the hattis [villages] and more importantly, how can we preserve the originality and uniqueness of our mother tongue?

  Dr. Alexei Kochetov who is an 'Assistant Professor in the Department of Linguistics at the University of Toronto, specializing in phonetics and phonology (studies of physical and cognitive aspects of speech)', wrote to me recently

"I came across your blog on the Badaga language - a great resource! I have a question: have you heard any Badagas pronounce the words 'mouth', 'bangle', and 'crop' differently, as Peter Ladefoged's transcription suggests? (that is, be, bE half-retroflexed, bE fully-retroflexed). As I understand this may be an old-fashioned pronunciation no longer used. I am interested in this as a linguist, and would be curious to hear your opinion. Thanks."

"Thanks for your email. The word 'be, bay' etc to mean mouth, bangle,lentil, crop and plaintain[banana]' is very much in use. I am not clear whether it is as per Peter Ladefoged's transcription as I am not a linguist. What I will do is, send you an audio/video recording soon"

"Hello JP,Thank you for your prompt reply! It's good to hear the words are in use, and it's nice of you to offer to send me an audio file.

I got really interested in Badaga and other Nilgiri languages on my recent trip to Ooty & Coonoor in December [2011], and since then have started reading up on the topic.

I asked the question about those words because Badaga has been described as having rather unusual vowels ("half- or full-retroflex"), first noted by M.B. Emeneau in his 1939 article, which you mention on your blog. Peter Ladefoged from UCLA, however, who made recordings of Badaga speech in 1990 and 1992, found that only a few Badaga speakers pronounced these vowels. They did it, for example, in the words for 'bangle' and 'plantain'. Other speakers seemed to say these words exactly the same as the word 'mouth'. I am attaching a sound file that would hopefully make this clear; it contains the words 'mouth', 'bangle' and 'plantain' pronounced by Mrs. Chellamma Mulley of Kotagiri, as they were originally described by Emeneau. The full recording is available here:

So my question is whether this way of pronouncing the last 2 words sounds familiar to you. Perhaps you have heard this pronunciation from older people or people from other parts of Badaga community? Or can you tell those words apart when you ehar them?

Interestingly, Paul Hockings and Christiane Pilot-Raichoor mention in their Badaga dictionary that they found no evidence of these retroflex vowels in the speech of their consultants. The vowels may have disappeared, perhaps under the influence of Tamil, which would be sad.Looking forward to hearing from you.

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