Monday, September 7, 2009

Spanish Potatoes

My fascination for the connection between Spanish and Hindi continues (see here). At times the connection stuns me. I hope you also will be.

The word "ki" (कि) in Hindi is equivalent to the English "that". "He said that ..." is "woh bola ki..."
Guess what is equivalent of the Hindi "ki" in Spanish?
You guessed right! It is "Que" - pronounced "kay". "él dijo que ..."

Ok consider this now ... slightly complicated.

है (ha-ay), in Hindi, is difficult to explain and can mean "is" or "... is there". Example, "Is there anyone?" is " कोई है?" (Ko-ee ha-ay). The word for "is there" in Spanish is "hay", pronounced aa-ee.

I find such similarity amazing. It is easy to ascribe such similarities to Indo-European langauges (Sanskrit, Spanish, German, all belong to this group of languages.) However, Hindi did not evolve from Sanskrit. It evolved from Prakrit, like other dialects, such as Braj and Awadhi. But absorbed heavily from Sanskrit to become a standard version. So the basic structure still remains different from Sanskrit.

Thus, the word है does not have any equivalent in Sanskrit. But yet, has similar sounding word in Spanish. I wonder what the connection is?

The only other strange connection I can see is in an entirely different domain - culinary. There is hardly any day when potato does not form part of the North Indian meal. Potatoes were introduced to India by the Portuguese - who were, of course, once upon a time part of Spain. Spanish and Portuguese most definitely have got this from Peru and Chile. I do not know the exact mechanism of how Potato was made popular in India by the Portuguese but I find it very difficult to believe that it was merely a case of dumping a sackful of potatoes on an Indian door step.

So is there a connection? After all both - language and cuisine - are the subject of the tongue.

This post is merely a flight of imagination. I do not claim any scholarly knowledge on this subject. There are much more learned people than I in this domain. If you are one such and happen to read this blog, I will be obliged if you could throw some light on this.

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