Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Oh, those pesky pronouns

Namaste, slackers! Normally I would hang my head in shame and join your ranks (I am very much of the "What do we want? Procrastination! When do we want it? Later!" school of thought), but believe it or not, this summer I took my Hindi learning kit with me on my vacation and actually did some work. No one was more surprised than me, I can tell you that much. My enthusiasm waned somewhat when I got to oblique and direct cases, but still, I'm about halfway through Unit 3 now and able to tell you that मेरी किताबें मेज़ पर हैं and that मैं घर में हूँ and surely that is all that matters.

I do have a question, though. I understand about aap-tum-tu and the differences between them, but while my book tells me that main is I and hum is we, I've also seen hum used to mean I (eg. in Hum Tum), so ... what's up with that? Is hum-main kind of like aap-tum? Can anyone explain? बहुत शुक्रिया!


carla said...

Hi Maja,

It's common in certain dialects that "hum" is used to mean I - there's nothing more to it than that. I'm pretty sure that Snell mentions this somewhere. Such speakers might use "hum log" for "we" when the distinction isn't otherwise clear from context.

This usage is not entirely analogous to the "royal we" in English, because that is interpreted as pompous and self-important, whereas I have heard Hindi speakers say that people who use "hum" feel that it is humbling and less egotistical to refer to themselves in this way. Frankly I'm not sure that there's that much thought in it, though.

Maja said...

Hi Carla! I might've missed a mention of this in my book, or maybe it's explained further on somewhere. In any case, thanks for clearing it up for me :)

The Learn Hindi Podcast said...

Hi Beth and Maja, hallo Katrin,

I found your blog when looking for a translation of the song ek ladki ko dekha..(1942).
We started a Hindi podcast for Hindi beginners (I'm one myself pretty much, but I have friends and colleagues and an old Snell.) Check it out if you like and feel free to comment:


SomeOl'Guy said...

hi there,

'hum' can be used to denote the first-person singular too, although technically it is the plural. it does have a sort of very particular flavour though ... it's hard to summarize, but it's more commonly done by native urdu speakers, so often using 'hum' in the singular is considered a little ... pretentious, as if you're trying to demonstrate that you speak urdu, which is for most north indians considered somewhat more sophisticated than plai-vanilla hindi. it's sort of like if you kept saying 'we are not amused' in english, like the old queen. i feel like for a man, it comes across as slightly pompous, and for a woman, as slightly precious. but i know plenty of people who do it. it can also be done in a slightly wink-wink kind of way .. like 'hey, i know this sounds pretentious, but...' so i don't know about snell, but as a native hindi speaker my gloss on it is exactly the opposite of what carla above says.

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