Some actual data on native Georgians producing English

So I managed to collect a few spoken and written examples of what I was talking about in this post.  I’ll start with “somehow.”

I caught an example of this as our training director was explaining why some people were being sent to Adjara province.  She said that they were initially going to be sent to Imereti, but “somehow families refused to host guys.”

For the native English speaker, “somehow” can have a range of slightly different meanings suggesting that the manner in which something occurs is unknown or unspecified.  This can range from “somehow we will get through this” to “you look somehow different” – in the first sense, “somehow” expresses a hope for an outcome that the speaker does not know he or she will achieve; in the second sense, “somehow” just means “in some way” with a suggesting of uncertainty as to what exactly that way might be.

In the case of “somehow families refused to host guys,” “somehow” could be read in a number of ways.  At first I understood it to mean “for some reason” – that is, there is some reason but the speaker is not certain of what that reason is.  This fits in with the general suggestion of uncertainty or of something being unknown, although it refers to a reason, rather than a method or aspect as in the other examples.  The “somehow” could also be read as suggesting that the speaker cannot see how these host families could have been so audacious as to refuse to host guys – as in, “somehow they got over the shame and embarrassment of letting down their children and their country as a whole and refused to host these guys.”

But overall, I’d say that the use of “somehow” by Georgian speakers of English follows this pattern – it works just like regular English somehow in that it suggests that the speaker does not know the specific details of what he or she is describing, but it deviates from English in that it is applied to uncertainty about types of details that native English speakers to not apply it to, like motivation.

On to “will.”  I have said before that Georgians seem to use “will” a lot.  Now, since this is anecdotal it may be confined to a particular accent or group of people, so don’t expect every Georgian to talk this way – just a reminder – but anyway, I found some examples in spoken and printed text.  The printed text is on its way to me by email, in theory, although I may have to prompt some people for it.  The spoken ones, though, are as follows:

“Later on, as other teachers will arrive…”
“…which I’ll give them before I will send them off to the schools.”

Now, in both of these cases, it seems that what is going on is that the speaker is talking about an event that will happen in the future, and therefore uses the future tense.  For some reason, though, we don’t actually do this in English.  Most native speakers would say “Later on, as other teachers arrive” and “which I’ll give them before I send them off to the schools.”  And the reason for this, as far as I can tell, is that in English, conjunctions of time – like “as” and “before,” as well as “while,” “after,” and any others – don’t introduce future tense clauses.  Which is weird.  Did the “will” just get shortened out at some point?  Or is there some other syntactic trickery going on?  Look at these three sentences:

1.”I did it before I left.”
2.”I do it before I leave.”
3.”I will do it before I leave.”

Why should 3 not follow the pattern of 1 and 2? Shouldn’t it sound like this:

3′. “I will do it before I will leave.”

And yet no native speaker that I know of would produce 3′ and most would think it sounded a little off. Yet Georgians regularly seem to produce sentences like 3′. I wonder if native speakers of other languages do the same thing – if 3′ is the result of a speaker who does not know how to form the sentence following a logical pattern – or if this is due to something specific to the Georgian language.

And one final subject: Georgian phonology. The obvious one is that Georgians have some trouble pronouncing “th,” both the voiced and unvoiced versions (think vs the), because those phonemes do not occur in Georgian. The weird and interesting one is that many – not all, but many – Georgians have trouble pronouncing the “v” sound. I find this odd because “v” appears in the name of Georgia itself in Georgian – Sakartvelo. Some speakers pronounce the word “Sakartwelo” instead.

Now, Russian speakers are famously prone to pronouncing “w” instead of “v” – Just think of Pavel Chekhov asking random Californians where they keep the “nuclear wessels” – although in that scene it seems Chekhov has no problem pronouncing the “v” in “naval base” or “government.” So I wonder if perhaps Georgian v-lessness has anything to do with the prevalence of the Russian language during Soviet times. The trouble is, it’s not only Russian speakers who seem to be dropping vs, and some Russian speakers have vs intermittently or all the time. So I really can’t figure the “v” thing out, and I don’t know if I’ll have time to do any kind of reasonable research on it… but we’ll see.

That’s it for now…

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2 Responses to Some actual data on native Georgians producing English

  1. Connie says:

    It’s very true about many Georgians not pronouncing “v” or saying it as “w”.
    My husband-who is Georgian-cannot seem to say the word Verb, it comes out Werb, to my great amusement. In fact, I torture him occasionally by trying to get him to say various ‘v’ words, just to hear his cute accent.
    Of course, he falls about laughing hearing me try to speak Georgian so I guess we are equal.
    Please keep the blogs coming: they are educational, insightful and entertaining.


  2. pogidaga says:

    Years ago when i was learning Spanish, the instructor was explaining how future tense was sometimes used to “soften” a phrase used in present tense. “That’s crazy”, i thought, until somebody gave an example in English.

    If your roomate is making breakfast, he (or she) might ask you a direct question:
    DO you want an egg?
    In a restaurant the waiter (or waitress) might use a conditional to sound less direct and more polite:
    WOULD you like an egg?
    In a bed and breakfast in Scotland the host may ask you cheerfully:
    WILL ye take an egg?

    In my experience, your chance of hearing future tense used in a breakfast order is much lower in the US than in Scotland. So regional differences in English usage can include even basic syntax as well as pronounciation and word choice.


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