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Guru English and Spiritual Enchantment Among Hare Krishnas


This study argues that the adoption of what Srivinas Aravamudan (2006) called "Guru English" by the first generation of Anglo-American Hare Krishna priests plays a key role in their ability to attract followers. Analysis of spontaneous uses of Indian English shows that Hare Krishna priests rely on a small number of morphosyntactic and phonetic features to constitute the canonical Guru English register of their Indian Guru, Srila Prabhupada. The study is based on four years of ethnographic research on patterns of languages use, religious ideologies, and conversion experiences in the Hare Krishna temple in Los Angeles, California. Data analysis focuses on 10.5 hours of scripture lectures delivered by three priests to the mostly Anglo-American congregation. The findings reveal that the priests' followers are sensitive to the accumulated effect of different combinations of such features. Data also suggest that linguistic appropriation of minority language varieties by Anglo-Americans is not always "mocking" (Hill 1998; 2006; 2008; Chun 2004; Barrett 2006; Ronkin and Karn 1999).

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