It should be useful. I think, to bring together for consideration both of the following:



a.                   Indian writing in English

b.                  Indian writing in English translation.


A reader may well ask this question: Isn’t the latter a special case of the former? Or isn’t the former a special case of the latter?


Our answer to this question will surely depend on what our conception of language happens to be. There are basically two alternate conceptions, namely—


d.        Language is a man-made means of communication that enables man to     understand the people around him.


e.           Language is a nature-given medium of understanding that enables man to see some order in the world around him.



In the West (d) has been the common sense view dating from the 18th century Enlightment and (e) has been the non-confirming view proposed by Humoldt, the anthropologists, and, lately, Noam choksy. It appears that (e) may come to be the common sense view in the 21st century West.


            Be that as it may, let us now examine the link between (d) and (e) on the one hand and the two alternate ways of bringing together (a) and (b), namely –


f.        Indian writing in English translation is a special case of Indian writing in English.

g.       Indian writing in English is a special case of Indian writing in English translation.


If  one accepts that (d) is the case, then surely Indian writing in English casts Indian content directly into an English-language form, while Indian writing in English translation casts Indian content made available in an Indian-language form .Therefore both (a) and (b) consist in Indian content being cast into an English-language form. Therefore (f) is a correct representation of the situation. On the other hand , if one accepts that (e) is the case , then surely Indian writing in English translation presents an English understanding of Indian reality while Indian writing in English also presents an English understanding  of Indian reality. Therefore (g) is a correct representation of the situation.



            Whichever view, (f) based on (d) or (g) based on (e), one accepts, one can see the usefulness of bringing (a) and (b) together for consideration. I happen to hold the view that both (d) (and therefore (f)) and (e) (and therefore (g)) are correct provided that (d) and (e) are taken in their more moderate versions.          






            In the interest of rendering any further discussion more down to earth, let us substitute ‘Marathi’ for Indian and so examine the interface between English and Marathi in respect of syntax, vocabulary, and overall stylistic register in discourse.


            Marathi syntax and English syntax differ in two respects:


   1.        Relative balance between constituency and dependency relations.


   2.        Placement of the nucleus relative to the margin. If we examine the structure of the sentence in any language, we find basically two kinds of relations between the constituents: constituency relations and dependency relations. Let us consider the following two sentences in English  which are paraphrases of each other.



1.      I gave the wrong books to my friend.

2.      I gave my friend the wrong book.

 In going from (1) to (2) we are maintaining the dependency relations intact—

            1.   ’wrong‘ depends on book,

2.    ‘the book’ depends on ‘gave’,

3     ‘my friend’/ to my friend’ depends on ‘gave’.

4     ‘gave’ and ‘I’ depend on each other.


But the constituency relations undergo a major shift as one moves from the first to the second sentence. Making use of parentheses we could indicate this in some such fashion.


1.      (I) ((gave the wrong book)) (to my friend)


2.      (I) ((gave  (my friend) (the wrong book)


Thus, in the first sentence, one could place a pause-like break after ‘the wrong book’ without placing such a break after ‘gave’, but one could not place a break after ‘gave’ without placing a break after ‘the wrong book’. Analogous observations could be made about the second sentence.

Now consider the following two sentences in Marathi that roughly translate English examples.


1.                  mī mitrā-lā bhlte-pustak dile.

2.                  mī bhlte-pustak mitrā-lā dile.


The dependency relations are about the same as in English. But the constituency are quite different.


1.                  (I) (to the friend) (the wrong book) (gave)

2.                  (I) (the wrong book) ((to the friend) gave)


Broadly speaking, the difference between the two languages could be described as follows:


1.                  In English constituency is more salient than dependency.

2.                  In Marathi dependency is more salient than dependency.


An Interesting consequence of this difference is that it is easier to say things like the following in English in which constituency wrenches the dependency relations than in Marathi.


1.                  English accords more saliency to constituency than to dependency.

2.                  Dependency yields to constituency in saliency in English.


Marathi achieves comparable effects by simply playing with the word order or the pause-like breaks.


1.                  (I) (to the friend) | (the wrong book) (gave) ||

2.                  (I) | (to the friend) (the wrong book) (gave) ||

3.                  ((to the friend) gave) | (I) (the wrong book) ||


These are some of examples of the changes one could ring on the first Marathi example.


            If we focus on dependency relationships we notice the relationship between the nucleus and the margin; Very broadly speaking, one could say the following:


1.                  In English the nucleus comes first, the margin if any follows.

2.                  In Marathi the nucleus comes last, the margin if any precedes.


Thus, English places the qualifiers after the nouns, the adverbials or the like after the verbs, the complements after the adjectives or adverbs. Marathi does things the other way round. Just one pair of examples:


1.                    Within a line of poetry.

2.                    Kavite- čā eka-oļī madhe.


If English places the subject and finite verb first sentence, Marathi sandwiches the rest of the sentence between the subject and the finite verb.


Examples have already been given. Thus difference in the relative placement of the nucleus and the margin applies even to stretches longer than the sentence. In English one tends to start off with the nuclear thrust of the argument with supporting marginal elements trailing behind. In Marathi one tends to gradually build up from the margins to the main nucleus of the argument. If the English listener may find the Marathi speaker too slow in coming to the point, the Marathi listener may find the English speaker too brash in thrusting the main point without due preparation.


Moving on to vocabulary, we find that both the languages offer a historical layering of the vocabulary. Of course this is folk history, and not scholarly history of the language.


1.                  English vocabulary


The Native Germanic layer: cow, friendly

The Norman Romance layer: beef, amiable

The Renascence Classical layer: bovine, amicable

The Imperial Exotic layer: yak, holy cow|


2.                  Marathi vocabulary


The Native dešī  layer: gāy, bhalā

The Learned Sanakrit layer: maitrī, durbal

The yāvanī layer: dostī, garīb

The Exotic layer: rikšā , kabū

The sāhebī layer: race, fee, (res, phī)


As one might expect, there are many parallels in the handling of the layers-thus, the classical and the Sanskrit layers are both associated with learning, ceremonial, and pompousness. But there are differences too-thus, the classical layer remains a borrowal in English while the Sanskrit layer is felt to be ancestral property; again Marathi is much more reluctant than English to mix layers unless it is being done for some special poetic or humorous or tactical effect.


When it comes to word-building, English is more productive on compounding and suffix-derivation, but Marathi is more productive on suffix-derivation, reduplication, and sound symbolism. When it comes to sense-building, English is strong on metaphor, Under-statement, slang-like playfulness, but Marathi is strong on metonymy, sarcasm, and socio-cultural ambience.


Finally, we come to style register in discourse. It is a question selecting a version of the language appropriate to a particular genre of discourse. A legal document , a political harangue a friendly leisure –time conversion , an intellectual debate, a scientific paper , a lyric outburst, a spicy story, a serious play—all these and others will each demand one or two out  of a whole gamut of style registers. These registers could be looked upon as so many departures from ‘neutral’, genre-less discourse of ordinary talk – the zero point, as it were, of language use.



   1.     English style registers


-3  Impersonal


                 -2   Consultative


                -1            Casual                           0  Ordinary    +1   Casual  Prose

                        Exchange                                            +2   Literary prose

                                                                                   +3   Rhetorical prose/poetry

                                                                                   +4   Literary  poetry

                                                                                   +5   Musical poetry



3.                  Marathi style registers are analogous to English style registers but with two important differences. First, there is a certain sliding of scales. What may sound adequately Impersonal (-3) or literary prose (+2) in Marathi will respectively sound consultative (-2) or Rhetorical (+3) to the English listener, and analogously with other registers. Secondly , Marathi offers a further choice for the artistic registers (+1 to +5) between the following :



a.                   Greater formality , decorum , overstatement , ornamentation, and involution

b.                  Greater informality, casualness, understatement, sparseness, and resolution


Note:  (a) is associated with a more traditional, ceremonial or cultivated ambience and the latter with a more modern, businesslike, or rustic ambience.





            It will be interesting to test out the implications of this interface between English and Marathi with reference to Marathi –speakers writing in English and Marathi in English translations. This should especially revealing in the case of writers like B.S. Mardhekar or Arun kolatkar. Both have written poetry in English and Marathi; Mardhekar’s Marathi poem have been tranalated to English; and so also kolatkar’s Marathi poems—quite often the poem being his own translator. Such a close examination of language and style could be related to Indian content/reality on the one hand and of the English–speaking reader’s and the Marathi speaking reader’s response to the poetry. (for example , Marathi-speaking readers tend to be less enthusiastic about Kolatkar’s Jejuri poems than English speaking readers.). The response of English –knowing Indians other than Marathi- speakers is something else again.



            Any critical response to the creative writing in English by Indians would stand to gain by considerations of the kind presented in the last two sections of this study.