Strength for Today and Bright Hope for Tomorrow

Volume 11 : 4 April 2011
ISSN 1930-2940

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Editors: B. Mallikarjun, Ph.D.
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         L. Ramamoorthy, Ph.D.



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Evaluation of the Supra-Segmental Phonemes
in the Novels of R. K. Narayan

Shakeba Jabeen Siddiqui, Ph.D. (Linguistics)


The supra-segmental phonemes in the novels of R.K. Narayan were evaluated. Narayan used pauses, breaks and jerks in the sentences to emphasize what he and his characters state. Slight deviation in the sentence produces long durations, emphasizing the emotional ups and downs of the characters. He occasionally varied the pitch using the same lexeme in different situations. The same notation of the lexeme has been used on different occasions, for example the words 'Oh' and 'Ah' have different expressions of surprise, happiness, irritation, indifference, agreement, disagreements, satire, etc. No change in accent was noticed.

It seems Narayan deliberately avoided language variation in the depiction of his characters. All his characters speak simple, fluent and lucid Indian variety of English with high usage of indigenous and regional words with no change in pronunciation. Although Narayan purposefully avoided the change of accent in his writing, he used repetition of words as a prominent feature of providing stress to his essential dialogues that are important for readers' understanding. The importance of dialogues is stressed by the repetition of words. In addition, repetition also provides a slight tonal quality to the sentences.

The author beautifully mixed the rising and falling intonations in the text generating the differences in the audibility. This conveys the emotional fluctuations of the characters.

In order to convey the real tone of the speaker, the author used adverbs reflecting the voice quality of the speaker. Narayan selected the normal mode of writing in some of the places of the text, starting the dialogue of speaker with H'm., expressing his thinking process, agreement or even disagreement. Similarly, he used many such non-lexemic items, such as, Ha! Ha! Ha!, Ah!, Oh, O, Aha, Alas, etc. to express the ups and downs in the emotions of the speaker. He also used rhyming words, to convey the patterns of sound, making the background in accordance with the situation.

To express hatred, anger, humiliation, criticism, frustration, irritation and emotional conflicts, Narayan adopted phonological deviation as a tool. He created jerks in the sentences with high usage of dash signs '____' , ALL CAPS, Bold, Italics as tools, overlapping of pronouns and half/ incomplete words. This deliberate deviation produced a significant effect in the minds of readers.

Keywords: Supra-segmental phoneme, R.K. Narayan, Accent, Pitch, duration, stress.


R.K. Narayan's art as a novelist was largely limited to story-telling, for the story is the distinguishing characteristic of his fiction. As a genial story-teller Narayan held his listeners simply spell-bound. The story really matters in all his writings. In his novels and short-stories, Narayan wrote a story of the middle or the lower middle class people, neither too well off nor too poor in the South Indian towns, which constitute his familiar fictional locale popularly known as Malgudi. An imaginary but loveable town, which exists nowhere in the map of India but it is considered to be the microcosm of India. There is a certain indefinable relationship between Malgudi and its people. The people make the town of Malgudi the way they like it, and the town, in turn, affects the traditional and modern society of South India.

R.K. Narayan's novels have attracted the attention and interest of many researchers. Trivedi and Soni (1973) discussed the problematic genre classification of Narayan's book Dateless Diary. Walsh (1979, 1982) reviewed Narayan's work chronologically focusing on Narayan's growing maturity and his embodiment of the spirit of Hinduism reflected in the tension between the one and the many. Woodcock (1985) compared R.K. Narayan and V.S. Naipaul and opposed Naipaul's view of Narayan's fiction as "essentially aimless and produced by profound doubt about the purpose and value of fiction." Young (1981) disagreed with Naipaul's dismissal of Narayan's "quietism" and argued that Narayan's work has a positive "transforming power". Ali (1986) examined Narayan's style of using English in The Guide, focusing on the combination of ironic comment and comic manner.

Although there are many studies of Narayan's fiction and short stories, the effect of sound (phonetics) in his novels is largely ignored. The present study is to investigate the effects of phonetics in the novels of R.K. Narayan with a special emphasis on the evaluation of the supra-segmental phonemes.

This is only the beginning part of the article. PLEASE CLICK HERE TO READ THE ARTICLE IN PRINTER-FRIENDLY VERSION.

Shakeba Jabeen Siddiqui, Ph.D. (Linguistics)
Department of English
M.P. Garg Degree College
Uttar Pradesh, India

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