Intonations and the Bhutanese

I am no expert at language and my attempt at expressing and relating intonations to our society is one out of pure layman’s interest and curiosity.

Bhutanese story tellers have our own way of beginning story telling. I remember even as a child listening to stories from elders; the opening lines of almost any story would be the same but it always sparked interest and furthered the case for curious ears.

“Dangphu duephu” is a common locution in the art of Bhutan story telling however, it is not the words, where lies the case of my interest and curiosity. Stories from other cultures start with similar opening lines to take listeners back in time. English stories would begin with sentences like “once upon a time”. In our own context it is intonations that makes it different. The reason I say intonation is because no longer do we express how deep back in time we travel by the words alone but in how we pronounce these words. “Dangphu duephu” then becomes “dang..phu…due..phu…” where the spaces with dots represent a stretched pronunciation of the words in an almost yawn-like breathing. I noticed a lot times this has influenced us in the usage of everyday words, how intonations play a role in how we of express the length, breadth and depth of anything and everything. This has influenced, I would think like in other cultures too, in shaping a Bhutanese english or Bhutlish with unique ways of pronouncing english words in expressing, like I said, the length, breadth and depth of anything and everything.

And so before I end my thought here on intonations and language, I want to wish everyone a “verryyy” happy new year and may 2011 bring for all of us so much more to cherish.



About Sangay Khandu

Elected to Parliament of Bhutan twice. Previously worked with the Central Bank, the largest SoE (power utility) and international organization.
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