Hindi Syntax

In earlier Hindi the relative clause was placed either at the beginning or at the end of the main clause. For instance, one could render ‘the boy who came here yesterday is my friend’ in several ways: wo larka mera dosht hai jo kal yaha aya tha, literally ‘that boy my friend is who yesterday came here’; jo larka kal yaha aya tha, wo mera dosht hai, literally ‘which boy yesterday here came, he my friend is’; or wo larka jo kal yaha aya tha, mera dosht hai, literally ‘that boy who yesterday here came, my friend is.’ After colonization, Hindi syntax was influenced by English, though in a limited way. For instance, until the mid-19th century, Hindi had no form for indirect narration—one could formerly say Ram ne kaha, mein nahi aaoonga ‘Ram said, “I won’t come,”’ and now one can also say Ram ne kaha ki wo nahi ayega ‘Ram said that he won’t come.’

From the mid-20th century, the use of Hindi on national television increased the use of a linguistic device called code switching, in which the speaker creates sentences by combining a Hindi phrase with another in English, as in I told him that mai bimar hu ‘I told him that I am sick.’ This device differs from code mixing, in which words of different origins are mixed: usne sick leave ki application de hai ‘he has applied for sick leave.’

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