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Indian English is the regional variant of the English language spoken in the Republic of India, and among the Indian diaspora elsewhere in the world. The Constitution of India has mandated Hindi in the Devanagari script to be the official language of the Indian union; English is an additional official language for government work along with Hindi. English is also the sole official language of the Judiciary of India, unless a state Governor or legislature has mandated the use of regional language, or Presidential approval has been given for the use of regional languages in courts. For Jaydeep Sarangi, "The language has been, in many ways, adapted to the needs of Indian characters and contexts." He further says, "Language reflects and constructs identity."
|Native to||Republic of India|
|~260,000 first language, or native, speakers. (2011 Census of India)|
~83 million second language speakers
~46 million third language speakers
rarely in local scripts
- 1 Status
- 2 Names
- 3 Features
- 4 History
- 5 Phonology
- 6 Numbering system
- 7 Vocabulary
- 8 Dictionaries
- 9 Spelling and national differences
- 10 See also
- 11 References
- 12 Further reading
- 13 References
- 14 External links
After independence from Great Britain in 1947, English remained an official language of the new Dominion of India, and later, the Republic of India. Only a few hundred thousand Indians, or less than 0.1% of the total population, have English as their first language.
According to the 2001 Census, 12.6% of Indians knew English.[failed verification] An analysis of the 2001 Census of India concluded that approximately 86 million Indians reported English as their second language, and another 39 million reported it as their third language.
According to the 2005 India Human Development Survey, of the 41,554 surveyed, households reported that 72% of men (29,918) did not speak any English, 28% (11,635) spoke at least some English, and 5% (2,077, roughly 17.9% of those who spoke at least some English) spoke fluent English. Among women, the corresponding percentages were 83% (34,489) speaking no English, 17% (7,064) speaking at least some English, and 3% (1,246, roughly 17.6% of those who spoke at least some English) speaking English fluently. According to statistics of District Information System for Education (DISE) of National University of Educational Planning and Administration under Ministry of Human Resource Development, Government of India, enrollment in English-medium schools increased by 50% between 2008–09 and 2013–14. The number of English-medium school students in India increased from over 15 million in 2008–09 to 29 million by 2013–14.
According to the 2011 Census, 129 million (10.6%) Indians spoke English. 259,678 (0.02%) Indians spoke English as their first language. It concluded that approximately 83 million Indians (6.8%) reported English as their second language, and 46 million (3.8%) reported it as their third language, making English the second-most spoken language in India.
India ranks 22 out of 72 countries in the 2016 EF English Proficiency Index published by the EF Education First. The index gives the country a score of 57.30 indicating "moderate proficiency". India ranks 4th out of 19 Asian countries included in the index. Among Asian countries, Singapore (63.52), Malaysia (60.70) and the Philippines (60.33) received higher scores than India.
English, according to the Indian Constitution, is the language of the Supreme Court and all the High Courts of India. However, in Bihar, Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, and Rajasthan there is use of Hindi in courts because of Presidential approval. In 2018, the Punjab and Haryana High Court also await Presidential approval for Hindi use as well.
The first occurrence of the term Indian English dates from 1696, though the term did not become common until the 19th century. In the colonial era the most common terms in use were Anglo-Indian English, or simply Anglo-Indian, both dating from 1860. Other less common terms in use were Indo-Anglian (dating from 1897) and Indo-English (1912). An item of Anglo-Indian English was known as an Anglo-Indianism from 1851.
In the modern era, a range of colloquial portmanteau words for Indian English have been used. The earliest of these is Indlish (recorded from 1962), and others include Indiglish (1974), Indenglish (1979), Indglish (1984), Indish (1984), Inglish (1985) and Indianlish (2007).
Indian English generally uses the Indian numbering system. Idiomatic forms derived from Indian literary languages and vernaculars have been absorbed into Indian English. Nevertheless, there remains general homogeneity in phonetics, vocabulary, and phraseology between various dialects of Indian English.
The English language set foot in India with the granting of the East India Company charter by Queen Elizabeth I in 1600 and the subsequent establishment of trading ports in coastal cities such as Surat, Bombay, Madras, and Calcutta.
English language public instruction began in India in the 1830s during the rule of the East India Company (India was then, and is today, one of the most linguistically diverse regions of the world). In 1835, English replaced Persian as the official language of the Company. Lord Macaulay played a major role in introducing English and western concepts to education in India. He supported the replacement of Persian by English as the official language, the use of English as the medium of instruction in all schools, and the training of English-speaking Indians as teachers. Throughout the 1840s and 1850s, primary, middle, and high-schools were opened in many districts of British India, with most high-schools offering English language instruction in some subjects. In 1857, just before the end of Company rule, universities modeled on the University of London and using English as the medium of instruction were established in Bombay, Calcutta and Madras. During the British Raj, lasting from 1858 to 1947, English language penetration increased throughout India. This was driven in part by the gradually increasing hiring of Indians in the civil services. At the time of India's independence in 1947, English was the only functional lingua franca in the country.
After Indian Independence in 1947, Hindi was declared the first official language, and attempts were made to declare Hindi the sole national language of India. Due to protests from Tamil Nadu and other non-Hindi-speaking states, it was decided to temporarily retain English for official purposes until at least 1965. By the end of this period, however, opposition from non-Hindi states was still too strong to have Hindi declared the sole language. With this in mind, the English Language Amendment Bill declared English to be an associate language "until such time as all non-Hindi States had agreed to its being dropped." This has not yet occurred, and it is still widely used. For instance, it is the only reliable means of day-to-day communication between the central government and the non-Hindi states.
The view of the English language among many Indians has gone from associating it with colonialism to associating it with economic progress, and English continues to be an official language of India.
While there is an assumption that English is readily available in India, available studies show that its usage is actually restricted to the elite, because of inadequate education to large parts of the Indian population. The use of outdated teaching methods and the poor grasp of English exhibited by the authors of many guidebooks disadvantage students who rely on these books, giving India a moderate proficiency in English.
Hinglish and other hybrid languagesEdit
The term Hinglish is a portmanteau of the languages English and Hindi. This typically refers to the macaronic hybrid use of Hindi and English. It is often the growing preferred language of the urban and semi-urban educated Indian youth, as well as the Indian diaspora abroad. The Hindi film industry, more popularly known as Bollywood, incorporates considerable amounts of Hinglish as well. Many internet platforms and voice commands on Google also recognize Hinglish.
In general, Indian English has fewer peculiarities in its vowel sounds than the consonants, especially as spoken by native speakers of languages like Hindi, the vowel phoneme system having some similarities with that of English. Among the distinctive features of the vowel-sounds employed by some Indian English speakers:
- Modern Indians, especially a minority of English students and teachers along with some people in various professions like telephone customer service agents, often speak with a non-rhotic accent. Examples of this include flower pronounced as /flaʊ.ə/, never as /nevə/, water as /wɔːtə/, etc.
- Many North Indians have a sing-song quality as they speak English, which perhaps results from a similar tone used while speaking Hindi.
- Indian English speakers do not make a clear distinction between /ɒ/ and /ɔː/ unlike RP, i.e. they have the cot-caught merger
- Diphthong /eɪ/ is pronounced as /eː/
- Diphthong /əʊ/ is pronounced as /oː/
- /ɑː/ may be more front /a/
- Most Indians have the trap–bath split of Received Pronunciation, affecting words such as class, staff and last (/klɑːs/, /stɑːf/ and /lɑːst/ respectively). Though the trap-bath split is prevalent in Indian English, it varies greatly. Many younger Indians who read and listen to American English do not have this split. The distribution is somewhat similar to Australian English in Regional Indian English varieties, but it has a complete split in Cultivated Indian English and Standard Indian English varieties.
- Most Indians do not have the hoarse-horse merger.
The following are some variations in Indian English resulting from not distinguishing a few vowels:
The following are the characteristics of dialect of Indian English most similar to RP:
- The voiceless plosives /p/, /t/, /k/ are always unaspirated in Indian English, (aspirated in cultivated form) whereas in RP, General American and most other English accents they are aspirated in word-initial or stressed syllables. Thus "pin" is pronounced [pɪn] in Indian English but [pʰɪn] in most other dialects. In native Indian languages (except in Dravidian languages such as Tamil), the distinction between aspirated and unaspirated plosives is phonemic, and the English stops are equated with the unaspirated rather than the aspirated phonemes of the local languages. The same is true of the voiceless postalveolar afficate /tʃ/.
- The alveolar stops English /d/, /t/ are often retroflex [ɖ], [ʈ], especially in the South of India. In Indian languages there are two entirely distinct sets of coronal plosives: one dental and the other retroflex. Native speakers of Indian languages prefer to pronounce the English alveolar plosives sound as more retroflex than dental, and the use of retroflex consonants is a common feature of Indian English. In the Devanagari script of Hindi, all alveolar plosives of English are transcribed as their retroflex counterparts. One good reason for this is that unlike most other native Indian languages, Hindi does not have true retroflex plosives (Tiwari,  2001). The so-called retroflexes in Hindi are actually articulated as apical post-alveolar plosives, sometimes even with a tendency to come down to the alveolar region. So a Hindi speaker normally cannot distinguish the difference between their own apical post-alveolar plosives and English's alveolar plosives. Languages such as Tamil have true retroflex plosives, however, wherein the articulation is done with the tongue curved upwards and backwards at the roof of the mouth. This also causes (in parts of Uttar Pradesh and Bihar) the /s/ preceding alveolar /t/ to allophonically change to [ʃ] (⟨stop⟩ /stɒp/ → /ʃʈap/). Mostly in south India, some speakers allophonically further change the voiced retroflex plosives to voiced retroflex flap [ɽ], and the nasal /n/ to a nasalised retroflex flap.
- Most major native languages of India lack the dental fricatives /θ/ and /ð/ (spelled with th), although [ð] occurs variably in languages like Gujarati and Tamil. Usually, the aspirated voiceless dental plosive [t̪ʰ] is substituted for /θ/ in the north (it would be unaspirated in the south) and the unaspirated voiced dental plosive [d̪], or possibly the aspirated version [d̪ʱ], is substituted for /ð/. For example, "thin" would be realised as [t̪ʰɪn] instead of /θɪn/ for North Indian speakers, whereas it would be pronounced unaspirated in the south.
The following are the variations in Indian English:
- The rhotic consonant /r/ is pronounced in most accents either as an alveolar approximant [ɹ] or more commonly as a retroflex flap [ɽ], alveolar tap [ɾ] or alveolar trill [r] based on the influence by the native phonology.
- Pronunciations vary between rhotic and non-rhotic; with pronunciations leaning towards native phonology being generally rhotic, and others being non-rhotic.
- Most Indian languages (except Assamese, Bengali, Marathi and Punjabi) including Standard Hindi, do not differentiate between /v/ (voiced labiodental fricative) and /w/ (voiced labiovelar approximant). Instead, many Indians use a frictionless labiodental approximant [ʋ] for words with either sound, possibly in free variation with [v] and/or [w] depending upon region. Thus, wet and vet are often homophones.
- Related to the previous characteristic, many Indians prefer to pronounce words such as ⟨flower⟩ as [flaː(r)], as opposed to [flaʊə(r)], and ⟨our⟩ as [aː(r)] as opposed to [aʊə(r)].
- South Indians tend to curl the tongue (retroflex accentuation) more for /l/ and /n/.
- Sometimes, Indian speakers interchange /s/ and /z/, especially when plurals are being formed, unlike speakers of other varieties of English, who use [s] for the pluralisation of words ending in a voiceless consonant, [z] for words ending in a voiced consonant or vowel, and [ɨz] for words ending in a sibilant.
- In case of the postalveolar affricates /tʃ/ /dʒ/, native languages like Hindi have corresponding affricates articulated from the palatal region, rather than postalveolar, and they have more of a stop component than fricative; this is reflected in their English.
- Whilst retaining /ŋ/ in the final position, many Indian speakers add the [ɡ] sound after it when it occurs in the middle of a word. Hence /ˈriŋiŋ/ → /ˈriŋɡiŋ/ (ringing).
- Syllabic /l/, /m/ and /n/ are usually replaced by the VC clusters [əl], [əm] and [ən] (as in button /ˈbuʈʈən/), or if a high vowel precedes, by [il] (as in little /ˈliʈʈil/). Syllable nuclei in words with the spelling er/re (a schwa in RP and an r-coloured schwa in GA) are also replaced by VC clusters. e.g., metre, /ˈmiːtər/ → /ˈmiːʈər/.
- Indian English uses clear [l] in all instances like Irish English whereas other varieties use clear [l] in syllable-initial positions and dark l [ɫ] (velarised-L) in coda and syllabic positions.
The following are the variations in Indian English that are often discouraged:[by whom?]
- Most Indian languages (except Hindustani varieties and Assamese) lack the voiced alveolar fricative /z/. A significant portion of Indians thus, even though their native languages do have its nearest equivalent: the unvoiced /s/, often use the voiced palatal affricate (or postalveolar) /dʒ/, just as with a Korean accent. This makes words such as ⟨zero⟩ and ⟨rosy⟩ sound as [ˈdʒiːro] and [ˈroːdʒiː] (the latter, especially in the North). This replacement is equally true for Persian and Arabic loanwords into Hindi. The probable reason is the confusion created by the use of the Devanagari grapheme ⟨ज⟩ (for /dʒ/) with a dot beneath it to represent /z/ (as ⟨ज़⟩). This is common among people without formal English education.
- In Assamese, /tʃ/ and /ʃ/ are pronounced as /s/; and /dʒ/ and /ʒ/ are pronounced as /z/. Retroflex and dental consonants are not present and only alveolar consonants are used unlike other Indian languages. Similar to Bengali, /v/ is pronounced as /bʱ/ and /β/ in Assamese. For example; change is pronounced as [sɛɪnz], vote is pronounced as [bʱʊt] and English is pronounced as [iŋlis].
- Again, in Assamese and Bhojpuri, all instances of /ʃ/ are spoken like [s], a phenomenon that is also apparent in their English. Exactly the opposite is seen for many Bengalis.
- Inability to pronounce certain (especially word-initial) consonant clusters by people of rural backgrounds, as with some Spanish-speakers. This is usually dealt with by epenthesis. e.g., ⟨school⟩ /isˈkuːl/.
- Many Indians with lower exposure to English also may pronounce /f/ as an aspirated voiceless bilabial plosive [pʰ]. Again note that in Hindi Devanagari the loaned /f/ from Persian and Arabic is written by putting a dot beneath the grapheme for native [pʰ] ⟨फ⟩: ⟨फ़⟩. This substitution is rarer than that for [z], and in fact in many Hindi /f/ is used by native speakers instead of /pʰ/, or the two are used interchangeably.
- Many speakers of Indian English do not use the voiced postalveolar fricative (/ʒ/). Some Indians use /z/ or /dʒ/ instead, e.g. ⟨treasure⟩ /ˈtrɛzəːr/, and in the south Indian variants, with /ʃ/ as in ⟨shore⟩, e.g. ⟨treasure⟩ /ˈtrɛʃər/.
A number of distinctive features of Indian English are due to "the vagaries of English spelling". Most Indian languages, unlike English, have a nearly phonetic spelling, so the spelling of a word is a highly reliable guide to its modern pronunciation. Indians' tendency to pronounce English phonetically as well can cause divergence from Western English. This phenomenon is known as spelling pronunciation.
- In words where the digraph ⟨gh⟩ represents a voiced velar plosive (/ɡ/) in other accents, some Indian English speakers supply a murmured version [ɡʱ], for example ⟨ghost⟩ [ɡʱoːst]. No other accent of English admits this voiced aspiration.
- Similarly, the digraph ⟨wh⟩ may be aspirated as [ʋʱ] or [wʱ], resulting in realisations such as ⟨which⟩ [ʋʱɪtʃ], found in no other English accent. This is somewhat similar to the traditional distinction between ⟨wh⟩ and ⟨w⟩ present in English, however, wherein the former is /ʍ/, whilst the latter is /w/.
- In unstressed syllables, which speakers of American English would realise as a schwa, speakers of Indian English would use the spelling vowel, making ⟨sanity⟩ sound as [ˈsæniti] instead of [ˈsænəti]. This trait is also present in other South Asian dialects (Pakistani and Sri Lankan English).
- The word "of" is usually pronounced with a /f/ instead of a /v/ as in most other accents.
- Use of [d] instead of [t] for the "-ed" ending of the past tense after voiceless consonants, for example "developed" may be [ˈdɛʋləpd] instead of RP /dɪˈvɛləpt/.
- Use of [s] instead of [z] for the ⟨-s⟩ ending of the plural after voiced consonants, for example ⟨dogs⟩ may be [daɡs] instead of [dɒɡz].
- Pronunciation of ⟨house⟩ as [haʊz] in both the noun and the verb, instead of [haʊs] as a noun and [haʊz] as a verb.
- Silent letters may be pronounced. For example, 'salmon' is usually pronounced with a distinct /l/.
English is a stress-timed language. Both syllable stress and word stress—where only certain words in a sentence or phrase are stressed—are important features of received pronunciation. Indian native languages are actually syllable-timed languages, like French. Indian-English speakers usually speak with a syllabic rhythm. Further, in some Indian languages, stress is associated with a low pitch, whereas in most English dialects, stressed syllables are generally pronounced with a higher pitch. Thus, when some Indian speakers speak, they appear to put the stress accents at the wrong syllables, or accentuate all the syllables of a long English word. Certain Indian accents possess a "sing-song" quality, a feature seen in a few English dialects of Britain, such as Scouse and Welsh English.
The Indian numbering system is preferred for digit grouping. When written in words, or when spoken, numbers less than 100,000/100 000 are expressed just as they are in Standard English. Numbers including and beyond 100,000/100 000 are expressed in a subset of the Indian numbering system. Thus, the following scale is used:
|In digits (International system)||In digits (Indian system)||In words (long and short scales)||In words (Indian system)|
|100,000||1,00,000||one hundred thousand||one lakh (from lākh लाख)|
|1,000,000||10,00,000||one million||ten lakh (from lākh लाख)|
|10,000,000||1,00,00,000||ten million||one crore (from karoṛ करोड़)|
|100,000,000||10,00,00,000||hundred million||ten crore|
|1,000,000,000||1,00,00,00,000||one billion||one hundred crore||one Arab|
|10,000,000,000||10,00,00,00,000||ten billion||one thousand crore||ten Arab|
|100,000,000,000||1,00,00,00,00,000||hundred billion||ten thousand crore||one kharab|
Indian English has political, sociological, and administrative terms of modern India: dharna, hartal, eve-teasing, vote bank, swaraj, swadeshi, scheduled caste, scheduled tribe, NRI. It includes Anglo-Indian words such as tiffin, hill station, gymkhana. Indian English also has slang.
Some examples of lexis unique to, or chiefly used in, standard written Indian English include:
- academic (noun) (also Canadian and U.S. English): In pl.: Academic pursuits in contrast to technical or practical work.
- Example: 1991 Hindu (Madras) 6 Dec. 27/2 For 14 years he immersed himself in academics and was a fine achiever.
- Cinema hall (noun) a cinema or movie theater/theatre.
- Example: 2018 Times of India (India) 03 Jan., Cinema halls in Uttar Pradesh will soon display the newly-unveiled logo for Kumbh Mela, right after the national anthem is played, to make youths understand the importance of the religious festival, a senior official said on Wednesday.
- Do the needful: To do that which is necessary or required, with the respectful implication that the other party is trusted to understand what needs doing without being given detailed instruction.
- Example: 2018 The Pioneer. When asked if the UP government could reduce Value Added Tax (VAT) on petro-products to bring down prices, the CM said that the state government was aware of the situation and will do the needful.
- English-knowing (adjective) originally and chiefly Indian English (of a person or group of people) that uses or speaks English.
- Example: 1941 J. Nehru Toward Freedom vii. 40 The official and Service atmosphere... set the tone for almost all Indian middle-class life, especially the English-knowing intelligentsia.
- freeship, Indian English. A studentship or scholarship that offers full payment of a student's fees.
- Example: 1893 Med. Reporter (Calcutta) 1 Feb. 57/1 Two permanent freeships, each tenable for one year and one of which is for the second and the other for the third year class.
- Example: 2006 Economic Times (India) (Nexis) 12 Oct., Private institutions can only develop if they are allowed to charge reasonable fees, while also providing need based freeships and scholarships for a certain percentage of students.
- matrimonial (noun) B. 3b. Chiefly Indian English. Advertisements in a newspaper for the purpose of finding a marriageable partner.
- Example: 1999 Statesman (Calcutta) 10 Feb., (Midweek section) 4/3 When I have a job I'll have to begin a whole new search for my better half... Back to the newspaper matrimonials on Sundays.
- press person n. (chiefly Indian English, frequently as a single word) a newspaper journalist, a reporter, a member of the press.
- Example: 2001 Hindu (Nexis) 20 June, The Prime Minister greeted the presspersons with a 'namaskar' and a broad smile.
- redressal (noun) now chiefly Indian English. = redress (noun)
- Example: 1998 Statesman (India) (Nexis) 2 Apr., There is an urgent need for setting up an independent authority for redressal of telecom consumer complaints.
- Example: 2002 Sunday Times of India 15 Sept. 8/4 Where does he go for the redressal of his genuine grievances?
- upgradation (noun) Indian English, the enhancement or upgrading of status, value or level of something
- Example: 1986 Business India 8 Sept. 153/1 (advt.) Our Company lays great stress on technical training and knowledge upgradation.
- revert (verb) Indian English, to report back with information.
- Example: Please revert with the required documentation.
- chain-snatching (verb) Indian English, to repeatedly pickpocket and escape.
- Example: Please close the train windows to prevent chain-snatching.
- prepone (verb) Indian English, to bring (something) forward to an earlier date or time.
- Example: The meeting has been preponed due to a change in the schedule.
The most famous dictionary of Indian English is Yule and Brunell's Hobson-Jobson, originally published in 1886 with an expanded edition edited by William Crooke in 1903, widely available in reprint since the 1960s.
Numerous other dictionaries ostensibly covering Indian English, though for the most part being merely collections of administratively-useful words from local languages, include (chronologically): Rousseau A Dictionary of Words used in the East Indies (1804), Wilkins Glossary to the Fifth Report (1813), Stocqueler The Oriental Interpreter and Treasury of East Indian Knowledge (1844), Elliot A Supplement to the Glossary of Indian Terms: A-J (1845), Brown The Zillah Dictionary in the Roman Character (1852), Carnegy Kutcherry Technicalities (1853) and its second edition Kachahri Technicalities (1877), Wilson Glossary of Judicial and Revenue Terms (1855), Giles A Glossary of Reference, on Subjects connected with the Far East (1878), Whitworth Anglo-Indian Dictionary (1885), Temple A Glossary of Indian Terms relating to Religion, Customs, Government, Land (1897), and Crooke Things India: Being Discursive Notes on Various Subjects connected with India (1906).
The first dictionary of Indian English to be published after independence was Hawkins Common Indian Words in English (1984). Other efforts include (chronologically): Lewis Sahibs, Nabobs and Boxwallahs (1991), Muthiah Words in Indian English (1991), Sengupta's Indian English supplement to the Oxford Advanced Learner’s Dictionary (1996) and Hankin Hanklyn-Janklin (2003). Nihalani et al. Indian and British English: A Handbook of Usage and Pronunciation (2004) delineates how Indian English differs from British English for a large number of specific lexical items. The Macmillan publishing company also produced a range of synchronic general dictionaries for the Indian market, such as the Macmillan Comprehensive Dictionary (2006).
The most recent and comprehensive dictionary is Carls A Dictionary of Indian English, with a Supplement on Word-formation Patterns (2017).
Spelling and national differencesEdit
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“ Wikipedia's India estimate of 350 million includes two categories – 'English Speakers' and 'English Users'. The distinction between the Speakers and Users is that Users only know how to read English words while Speakers know how to read English, understand spoken English as well as form their own sentences to converse in English. The distinction becomes clear when you consider China's numbers. China has over 200 million that can read English words but, as anyone can see on the streets of China, only a few million are English speakers. ”
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