Fiji Hindi, also known as Fijian Hindi or Fiji Hindustani, is a language which is spoken in Fiji by most Fijian citizens of Indian descent. It is derived mainly from the Awadhi and Bhojpuri language or dialects of Hindi and also contains words from other Indian languages. It has also borrowed a large number of words from Fijian and English. The relation between Fiji Hindi and Hindi is similar to the relation between Afrikaans and Dutch. A large number of words, unique to Fiji Hindi, have been created to cater for the new environment that Fiji Indians now live in. First generation Fiji Indians, who used the language as a lingua franca in Fiji, referred to the language as Fiji Baat (Fiji Talk). Recent studies by linguists have confirmed that Fiji Hindi "is a distinct dialect based on Hindi as spoken in India but with its own special grammar and vocabulary suited for Fiji."
Indian indentured labourers were initially brought to Fiji mainly from districts of eastern Uttar Pradesh and Bihar. They spoke numerous, mainly Hindi, dialects and languages depending on their district of origin. These have been grouped, into related dialects and summarised in the table below:
Dialects spoken by indentured labourers from North India
|Language/Dialect ||Number ||Percentage |
|Bihari ||17,868 ||39.3% |
|Eastern Hindi ||16,871 ||37.1% |
|Western Hindi ||6,903 ||15.2% |
|Rajasthani ||1,111 ||2.4% |
|Other Languages ||1,546 ||3.4% |
|Overseas Colonies ||640 ||1.4% |
|Unknown ||500 ||1.1% |
|TOTAL ||45,439 ||100% |
Note that Bhojpuri, spoken by 35.4% of north Indian migrants, has been included in the Bihari group and Awadhi, spoken by 32.9%, has been included in the Eastern Hindi group.
A language soon developed in Fiji that combined the common elements of the dialects of Hindi spoken in these areas as well as some Fijian and English words to form a unique language known as Fiji Hindi, which has diverged significantly from the varieties of Hindi and Urdu spoken on the Indian sub-continent. The development of Fiji Hindi was accelerated by the need for labourers speaking different dialects and sub-dialects of Hindi to work together and the practice of young children being left during working hours in early versions of day care centers. Percy Wright, who lived in Fiji during the indenture period wrote:
Indian children born in Fiji will have a mixed language; there are many different dialects amongst the Indian population, and of course much intercourse with the Fijians. The children pick up a little of each language, and do not know which is the one originally spoken by their parents.
Other writers, who included Burton (1914) and Lenwood (1917) made similar observations. By the late 1920s, Fiji Hindi was being learned by all Fiji Indian children born in Fiji becoming the common language of North and South Indians alike. Fijian= 59.4%
Later, approximately 15,000 Indian indentured labourers, who were mainly speakers of Tamil, Telugu and Malayalam languages, were brought from South India. By this time Fiji Hindi was well established as the lingua franca of Fiji Indians and the South Indian labourers had to learn it to communicate with the more numerous North Indians and European overseers. After the end of the indenture system, Indians who spoke Gujarati and Punjabi arrived in Fiji as free immigrants. At present a few Indians in Fiji speak Tamil, Telugu and Gujarati at home but all speak and communicate with each other in Fiji Hindi. The census reports of 1956 and 1966 shows the extent to which Fiji Hindi (named as Hindustani in the census) was being spoken in Fiji Indian households.
|Language ||Number of households in 1956 ||Number of households in 1966 |
|Hindustani ||17,164 ||30,726 |
|Hindi ||3,644 ||783 |
|Tamil ||1,498 ||999 |
|Urdu ||1,233 ||534 |
|Gujarati ||830 ||930 |
|Telugu ||797 ||301 |
|Punjabi ||468 ||175 |
|Malayalam ||134 ||47 |
|Other ||90 ||359 |
Fiji Hindi is also understood by native Fijians in areas of Fiji with large Indian majorities. Following the recent political upheaval in Fiji, a large number of Fiji Indians have migrated to Australia, New Zealand, United States and Canada. They have largely maintained their culture and language, Fiji Hindi.
Unlike Hindustani (an omnibus term covering both Hindi and Urdu), which is mandated in the Constitution of Fiji as one of three official languages, the others being English and Fijian, Fiji Hindi has no formal recognition, and is not used in the Fijian education system or in religious ceremonies or other formal contexts, but is the patois of the people of Indian origin in their day-to-day conversations.
Some writers have begun to use Fiji Hindi, which until recently was used as a spoken language only, as a literary language. The Bible has been translated into Fiji Hindi, and the University of the South Pacific has recently begun offering courses in the language. Fiji Hindi is written using both the Latin alphabet and the Devanagari script.
A Fiji Hindi movie has also been produced depicting Fiji Indian life style and is based on a play by a Fiji Indian writer, Raymond Pillai.
- See Hindi-Urdu phonology
The phonemes of Fiji Hindi are mostly the same as Indian Hindi but there are some important distinctions. As in Bhojpuri and Hindi spoken in rural Bihar and Eastern Uttar Pradesh, the consonant "sh" is replaced with "s" (for example, saadi instead of shaadi) and "v" replaced with "b" (for example, bides instead of videsh). There is also a tendency to ignore the difference between the consonants "ph" and "f" (In Fiji Hindi a fruit is fal instead of phal) and between "j" and "z" (In Fiji Hindi land is jamiin instead of zamiin). The consonant "n" is used in Fiji Hindi for the nasal sounds "ṅ", "˝" and "ṇ" in Indian Hindi. These features are common in the Eastern Hindi dialects.
In Fiji Hindi verb forms have been influenced by a number of Hindi dialects. First and second person forms of verbs in Fiji Hindi are the same, there is no gender distinction and number distinction is only in the third person past tense. The use of the first and second person imperfective suffixes -taa, -at are of Awadhi origin, while the third person imperfective suffix -e is of Bhojpuri origin. The third person perfective suffixes (for transitive verbs) -is and -in are also derived from Awadhi. The third person definite future suffix -ii is found in both Awadhi and Bhojpuri. The influence of Urdu, which was widely used in the urban areas of Eastern India in the late 19th century, is evident in the first and second person perfective suffix -aa and the first and second person future siffix -ega. The origin of the imperative suffix -o can be traced to the Magahi dialect, spoken in the Gaya and Patna districts, which provided a sizeable proportion of the first indentured labourers from Northern India to Fiji. Fiji Hindi has developed its own polite imperative suffix -naa. The suffix -be, from Bhojpuri, is used in Fiji Hindi in emphatic sentences. Another suffix originating from Awadhi is -it, but is at present going out of use.
Fijian loan words in Fiji Hindi
Main article: Fijian loan words in Fiji Hindi
Fiji Indians use the native Fijian word for those things not found in India but existing in Fiji. These include most fish names and root crops, for example, kanade for mullet (fish) and kumala for sweet potato. Other examples are:
|Fiji Hindi Word in Latin Script ||Fiji Hindi Word in Devanagari Script ||Fijian Origin ||Meaning |
|nangona ||नंगोना ||yaqona ||kava |
|tabale ||तबाले ||tavale ||wife's brother |
|bilo ||बिलो ||bilo ||cup made of coconut, used to drink kava |
Fiji Hindi words derived from English
Main article: Fiji Hindi words derived from English
Many English words have been borrowed into Fiji Hindi with sound changes to fit the Fiji Indian pronunciation. For example, hutel in Fiji Hindi is borrowed from hotel in English. Some words borrowed from English have a specialised meaning, for example, garaund in Fiji Hindi means a playing field, geng in Fiji Hindi means a "work gang", particularly a cane-cutting gang in the sugar cane growing districts and tichaa in Fiji Hindi specifically means a female teacher. There are also unique Fiji Hindi words created from English words, for example, kantaap means cane-top.
Semantic shift from Hindi to Fiji Hindi
Many words of Hindi/Urdu/Hindustani origin have shifted meaning in Fiji Hindi. These are due to either innovations in Fiji or continued use of the old meaning in Fiji Hindi when the word is either not used in Hindi any more or has a different meaning. Some examples are:
|Fiji Hindi word ||Fiji Hindi meaning ||Original Hindi/Urdu/Hindustani meaning |
|bigha ||acre ||1 bigha = 1600 square yards or 0.1338 hectare or 0.3306 acre |
|Bombaiyaa ||from city of bombay (mumbai) ||from city of bombay (mumbai) |
|fokatiyaa ||useless ||bankrupt |
|baade ||flood ||flooding |
|bakera ||crab ||Fiji crab (kekra) |
|jhaap ||shed ||temporarly built shed |
|jaati ||native Fijian ||race |
|juluum ||beautiful ||tyranny, difficulty, amazing |
|kal ||yesterday ||yesterday or tomorrow |
|kamaanii ||small spear (for prawns) ||wire, spring |
|Mandaraaji ||South Indian ||original word, Madraasi, meant "from Madras (or Tamil Nadu)" |
|palla ||door ||shutter |
|Punjabi ||Sikh ||native of Punjab, either Hindu, Muslim or Sikh |
|kaunchi ||what ||from kaun cheez literally meaning what thing or what stuff |
Even though this, Fiji Hindi from the point of Indo-Fijians is slang language of Hindi in the Fiji Islands.
Counting in Fiji Hindi
Though broadly based on standard Hindi, counting in Fiji Hindi reflects a number of cross-language and dialectal influences picked up in the past 125 years.
The pronunciation for numbers between one and ten show slight inflections, seemingly inspired by eastern Hindi dialects such as Bhojpuri. The number two, consequently, is do (दो) in standard Hindi, while in Fiji Hindi it is dui (दुइ), just as it is in Bhojpuri. Similarly, the number six in standard Hindi is chhe (छे) while in Fiji Hindi it is pronounced as chhah (छह).
Words for numbers between 10 and 99 present a significant difference between standard Hindi and Fiji Hindi. While, as in other north Indian languages, words for numbers in standard Hindustani are formed by mentioning digits first and then multiples of ten, Fiji Hindi reverses the order and mentions the tens multiple first and the digits next, as is the practice in many European languages and south Indian languages. That is to say, while 'twenty-one' in Standard Hindi is 'ikkiis' (इक्कीस), an internal sandhi of 'ek aur biis', or 'one-and-twenty', in Fiji Hindi it would reverse the order, and simply be 'biis aur ek' (बिस और एक), without any additional morphophonological alteration. Similarly, while the number thirty-seven in standard Hindi is 'saintiis' (सैंतीस), for 'saat aur tiis' or 'seven-and-thirty', the number would be तिस और सात, 'tiis aur saat', or 'thirty-and-seven' in Fiji Hindi.
Additionally, powers of ten beyond ten-thousand, lakh (100,000) and karor (10 million) are not used in Fiji Hindi.
|Number in English ||Number in Standard Hindi Devanagri Script ||Number in Standard Hindi Roman Script ||Number in Fiji Hindi Roman Script |
|twenty-one ||इक्कीस ||ikkiis ||bis aur ek |
|twenty-two ||बाईस ||baaiis ||bis aur dui |
|twenty-three ||तेईस ||teiis ||bis aur teen |
|thirty-one ||इकत्तीस ||ikatiis ||tiis aur ek |
|thirty-two ||बत्तीस ||battiis ||tiis aur dui |
|thirty-three ||तैंतीस ||taintiis ||tiis aur teen |
|forty-one ||इकतालीस ||ekatalis ||chaalis aur ek |
|forty-two ||बयालीस ||bayaalis ||chaalis aur dui |
|forty-three ||तैंतालीस ||taintaalis ||chaalis aur teen |
Spread of Fiji Hindi overseas
Main article: Fiji Indian diaspora
With political upheavals in Fiji beginning with the first coup in 1987, large numbers of Fiji Indians have migrated overseas and at present there are significant communities of these Fiji Hindi speaking people in Australia, New Zealand, United States and Canada. Smaller communities live on other Pacific islands and Britain.
Writers in Fiji Hindi
- Rodney F. Moag who had lived in India before joining the University of the South Pacific as a lecturer. He analysed Fiji Hindi and informed the nation that it was a language with its own grammar, rather than "broken Hindi", as it used to be known before. He documented his findings and wrote lessons in Fiji Hindi in the book, Fiji Hindi : a basic course and reference grammar (1977).
- Jeff Siegel, in his thesis on Plantation languages in Fiji (1985), his written a detailed account of the development of Fiji Hindi and its different forms as used by Fiji Indians and the native Fijians. Earlier Siegel had written a quick reference guide called Say it in Fiji Hindi (1976).
- Subramani, professor in literature at the University of the South Pacific, who wrote the first Fiji Hindi novel, Duaka Puraan (2001), which is the story of Fiji Lal (an old villager) as told by him to a visiting scholar to his village. The book is written in the style of the Puraans but in a humorous way (Puraan being a sacred text also known as Purana; 18 Puraans have come out of India). He received a Government of India award for his contribution to Hindi language and literature for this novel. In June 2003, in Suriname at the Seventh World Hindi Conference, Professor Subramani was presented with a special award for this novel.
- Raymond C. Pillai wrote the story for the first Fiji Hindi movie,Adhura Sapna (Incomplete Dream) produced in 2007.
- Urmila Prasad, who helped translate the Gospels of Mark, Luke, Matthew and John in Fiji Hindi , written in Roman script, known as Susamaachaar Aur Romiyo (2002)