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AUTHOR: Pingali, Sailaja TITLE: Indian English SERIES TITLE: Dialects of English PUBLISHER: Edinburgh University Press YEAR: 2009
Somdev Kar, Indian Institute of Technology, Ropar, India
This book treats linguistic and socio-cultural aspects of English as it is used in India. It is an important contribution to the Edinburgh University Press series 'Dialects of English', which documents varieties of English worldwide. In India's multilingual setting, English plays a significant role in communication, literature, business and elsewhere. Though English first came to India with the Britons, in the last four hundred years it has become an indispensable part of Indian society. This volume contextualizes research on Indian English by using a good selection of sample texts, from conversational to literary. The book is organized into seven interesting, well-illustrated chapters, discussing phonetics, phonology, morphosyntax, lexis, discourse and other issues related to English used in India. It also contains a survey of previous research and an annotated bibliography on Indian English.
The first chapter introduces the topic, outlines the status of English in this pluralistic nation, and provides a comparison to British and American varieties. The chapter starts with the description of Indian geography and demographics, and India's cultural setting with its many languages and strong regional differences. English, as an official language of the Union of India, bridges the diverse nation and also plays vital roles in government, business and education beyond communication in general. But scholars are always divided on whether it is 'Indian English' or 'English in India'. The debate goes on, but 'Indian English' is taken in this work.
Chapter 2, ''Phonetics and Phonology'', describes the accent, intonation, rhythm, suprasegmental features of Indian English. Some specific vowels and consonants are discussed in this chapter, along with rhotic usage. Particularly those common features of Indian English are contrasted phonetically with Received Pronunciation. The influence of native languages on the English is also illustrated.
Chapter 3 discusses morphosyntax, including verbs, articles, prepositions, idioms and inflectional forms. One of the most striking features of Indian English is the tag question ''isn't it''. This is treated here along with other question formation processes such as wh-questions and yes-no questions. Some typical morphosyntactic operations in different varieties of Indian English include reduplication ('little-little', 'small-small'), reduced phrases ('three-four books' instead of 'three or four books') are richly illustrated. A small section on code switching is presented, setting up a larger discussion in a later chapter. This chapter also raises the question of the basis of English used in India, where one can find both American and British English inflectional forms in use.
In chapter 4, the author contrasts the lexis of Indian, American and British English and of their tendency to borrow words from each other -- mainly to Indian English from the latter two. An interesting section is given on compounding (''black money'', ''outstation cheque''), affixation (''Naxalite'', ''filmi''), abbreviation (''NRI'' for Non-Resident Indian, ''BSNL'' for Bharat Sanchar Nigam Limited), hybrid constructions (''lathi charge'', ''iftaar party''), redundancy (''tissue paper'', ''return back'') and so on. Discourse features such as linkers, address forms and politeness strategies by Indians using English are discussed with examples from literature and other sources. Some typical styles used in Indian English in both written and spoken form are also listed here (e.g. ''Respected sir'', ''Yours most obediently''). They are not generally used by native speakers of either British or American English. The chapter includes a more detailed discussion on code switching with Indian languages like Hindi, Urdu, Telugu and Bengali with good examples.
Chapter 5 offers a diachronic survey of English language in the Indian subcontinent, beginning with the dominance of the Portuguese before the British period (1498-1600) and the shift of importance to English in the pre-Macaulay period (1600-1835). The major penetration of the English language in Indian society, begun during the pre-Macaulay period, reached its peak during the period from 1835 to 1947, when India achieved independence from Britain. But, even in the post-independence period (1947-), English has continued to gain strength as a language in India. The chapter also covers some English-based pidgins, such as Babu English and Butler English.
Chapter 6 reviews some important works on 'English in India and Indian English' as the author puts it. It gives a compact yet informative set of publications in this domain, grouped into six sections: phonetics, phonology, morphosyntax, discourse, history, corpus. This list of works reviewed is not exhaustive, but gives the reader an idea of research in the area. It also indicates the relative proportion of attention to different subareas of Indian English, e.g. more works on phonology and a lesser number on syntax.
Chapter 7 provides sample texts in Indian English, spoken and written, with brief comments. The samples are divided into seven main categories, namely, literature, official documents and other letters, newspaper articles and reports, letters to the editor, advertisements, lectures and miscellaneous, as well as a couple of transcriptions from audio recordings by two Indian women. These documents constitute an excellent overview of English as used in India.
This book presents a well-written description of English used in India. 'Indian English' is undoubtedly a must-have textbook for newcomers to this area of study. It is also accessible to people outside of linguistics due to its clear and basic approach to the topic and limited use of technical vocabulary. On the other hand, a limited use of IPA symbols makes it less useful to the advanced researchers in this area.
As noted above, the author favours the term 'Indian English', though it is a controversial name which many scholars are not ready to accept (see Dasgupta, 1993; Krishnaswamy & Burde, 1998). It is evident that the English used in India is different from British or American English in terms of phonetics, phonology, lexicon, etc. The author also advocates a 'standard Indian English' based on British English. But one should keep in mind that English is a second language for almost all Indians and so any standard variety is particularly unnatural. In my own view, it would be better to take British or American English as standard.
In the phonetics and phonology sections, the author correctly illustrates the influence of first languages on the English of L2 speakers, a widespread tendency across India. The more 'accurate' pronunciation of English depends on various factors in the home environment, medium of education in the Indian context. Here, 'accurate' means standard British English (RP). And people with higher education tend to speak English with less influence of their first language. In the non-standard, rhotic pronunciation of /r/ is mainly influenced by first language. The author gives an example of rhotic accent in 'dearth' /dart/ with an unaspirated dental /t/. (It is not clear from this example whether Indian English allows word-final deaspiration as seen in this case.)
If we widen the scope of sounds in Indian English beyond 'native' English words, we find many 'Indian' words in the lexicon of Indian English with limited phonetic and phonological integration. In this connection, the author makes an interesting observation on age-specific preference for British and American English among Indians. Traditionally British English is taught in India (not 'standard Indian English'), but the preference for American English is growing considerably. The tendency of redundancy is illustrated with perfect examples. This could also be compared to the feature called 'double negation' in African American and many other varieties of English. In address forms, the use of 'didi' (elder sister) in English is not exactly taken from Hindi. The same word is also used in Oriya and Bengali. Hence, the source of this term could chosen more carefully. Additionally, 'dada' (elder brother) is used, often as the short form '-da', by Bengali speakers in English conversations. In Telugu, '-garu' is commonly used for both men and women to give respect, as '-ji' in the Hindi-Urdu speaking areas.
One might expect a discussion on ''non-initial existential there'' with comparison to the ''adverbial there'' and ''post-verbal adverbial there'' (see Rogers, 2003; Trudgill & Hannah, 2002). This feature of Indian English is not present in other varieties of English, and Lange (2009) regards it as a pan-Indian.
The historical development of the linguistic scenario of India is a well-structured and informative chapter. The last chapter consists of a very useful collection of texts in Indian English. Though the book is not meant for advanced research in the field, IPA transcriptions of the audio recordings would have been helpful even for early researchers in linguistics.
This monograph is suitable for students, researchers and general readers with an interest in English as used in India. It will also be helpful to identify the the differences between major varieties of English spoken in the USA, UK and in India. It is an extremely useful book.
Dasgupta, P. (1993). The otherness of English: India's auntie tongue syndrome. New Delhi: Sage Publications.
Krishnaswamy, N. & Burde, A. S. (1998). The politics of Indians' English: Linguistic colonialism and the expanding English empire. Delhi: Oxford University Press.
Lange, C. (2009). Non-initial existential there in Indian English. Paper presented at the 9th All-India Conference of Linguists (AICL-9), University of Hyderabad, Hyderabad.
Rogers, C. (2003). Register variation in Indian English. Unpublished PhD dissertation, Northern Arizona University.
Trudgill, P. & Hannah, J. (2002). International English: A guide to varieties of standard English. London: Arnold.
ABOUT THE REVIEWER
ABOUT THE REVIEWER:
Somdev Kar is an assistant professor at the Indian Institute of Technology
Ropar (India) and earned a PhD in Linguistics from the University of
Tƒbingen, Germany. His teaching responsibilities are English Syntax,
Clinical Linguistics and English Morphology. His research interests include
Optimality Theoretic analysis of syllable structure and Distributed
Morphology. He is author of the forthcoming 'Syllable Structure of Bangla:
An Optimality-Theoretic Approach' (Cambridge Scholars Publishing).