«162 From Elision to Conversion: Guru English as Language of Enchantment Teruko Vida Mitsuhara University of California, Los Angeles 1. Introduction ...»
Speaking Guru English can be understood as constant modifications of the congregation’s attention to Guru English sounds (retroflexed consonants, article deletion, connected speech, Indian English prosody and so on) as “enacting the ethos” (Garro, 2011, p. 304) of spiritual truths and Krishna’s messages. As linguistic “forms encode allimportant temporal, epistemic, affective, modal, actional, stative, attributive, and locative meanings” (Ochs, 2012, p. 148), so too does the Hare Krishna Guru English register encode the spiritual affective meanings. Spirituality attributed to Prabhupada’s speech is projected onto the speech of the priests. Enacting this ethos transpires through the utterance of either Prabhupada’s speech or a speech variety that approximates Guru English. In other words, the iconicity of Prabhupada’s Guru English register enacts the emotion and personality of his speech and is then recursively applied to the Anglo-American priests when they speak in Guru English. Thus when Anglo-American Hare Krishna priests utter the religious doctrines and preach to their congregation in a register associated with their beloved guru, Prabhupada, then their speech, along with other semiotic resources, realizes the setting as a place of spirituality. This enactment of spirituality would of course not be efficacious if not for the ideological power undergirding Indian English and the guru figure in the Hare Krishna community.
In sum, for Anglo-American priests and audiences—who may never master the language of the spiritual world (Sanskrit) and who can never fully embody the authenticity and spirituality of Srila Prabhupada—Guru English functions as an intermediary step to Krishna’s paradise. It is so rhetorically attractive that devotees find themselves swept up in the sounds, spirit, and power. Devotees have cried while priests speak, because their words, as an informant said, “awakened [their] dormant spiritual consciousness.” Guru English enchanted them and syntactic elision is but one part to how these priests accomplish the rhetoric necessary to emotionally move their audience.
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Teruko Vida Mitsuhara, M.A.
University of California, Los Angles firstname.lastname@example.org