On the Development of the English Language in India

Term Paper (Advanced seminar), 2012

9 Pages, Grade: 1,7


List of contents:

1. Introduction

2. Development of “Indian English“
Usage and cultural aspects

3. Linguistic aspects and their development

4. Conclusion

5. Bibliography

1. Introduction

“Indian English” is an umbrella term which is used to describe all dialects of the English language that are spoken in the Republic of India. But “Indian English” is not a native language. Like other variations of the English language, “Indian English” is the result of language contact, which means it is “a product of contact between English and Indian mother tongues” (Sumana 2010: 3), which contributed to the development of the present-day “Indian English” due to the mixture of the linguistic aspects and different social backgrounds.

According to Schneider, it is “natural to expect that differences in extralinguistic backgrounds have resulted in the far-reaching differences between the individual varieties that we find today in their respective forms and functions.” (Schneider 2007: 4).

To describe how the development of this language variation occurred, section 2 dwells on the history of “Indian English” (2.1.) and the usage and cultural aspects (2.2) by expanding on its functions. Its grammatical form is particularly illustrated in section 3, which deals with the most important linguistic features of phonology (3.1.), morphology (3.2.), syntax (3.3.) and semantics (3.4.). The issues contributing the development of “Indian English” are revisited in the conclusion.

2. Development of “Indian English“


The transmission of one language into another country usually happens as a result of contact and interference of two or more languages. In the case of “Indian English” the language contact based on the colonization of the British in India.

The first contact between the English and the Indian language took place in the beginning of the early 16th century, when the British started to establish their trading posts in India and brought English “to a new territory” (Schneider 2007: 33) Due to the massive influence of the English colonization in India, in the early 1800's a large number of Christian schools were founded by English missionaries.

Consequently India’s education policy culminated on February 2nd in 1835, when T.B. Macaulay framed in “Lord Macaulay's Minute” the aim to create „a class of persons, Indians in blood and colour, but English in taste, in opinion, in morals and in intellect” (Kachru 1983: 22). During the further development of the Indian educational system, English-teaching Universities were built in different parts of the country and “in the early twentieth century English was formally established as the official and academic language of India” (Kachru 1983: 22).

Usage and cultural aspects

Nowadays English is “the so-called associate official language of the Indian Union” (Sedlatschek 2009: 1) which is particularly used in the areas “education, administration, law, mass media, science and technology” (Sailaja 2009: 5).

The common usage of English in India’s governmental affairs clearly shows its important role/importance in the country. Even in the Indian Constitution it is defined “that all orders, rules and regulations and bye-laws etc., shall be in English” (Sailaja 2009: 5). Furthermore the knowledge in the sectors “medicine, engineering, technology and all the sciences” (Sailaja 2009: 5) is imparted in English and due to the reputable Anglophone school-learning and the fact that Indian Universities mostly teach their in English, the “English-medium education enjoys great prestige” (Sedlatschek 2009: 1).

Besides the judicial and educational usage, there still is the cultural aspect of the English language in India which includes, inter alia, mass media like English-language newspapers. In addition to the press, the English language affects the sectors film and theatre as well. Not only that “[m]odern Indian theatre is influenced by the London model, which came to India with the British in the late eighteen century” (Sailaja 2009: 9), also “generations of Indians have grown up on American fiction and Hollywood films” (Sailaja 2009: 6). Today Indian English films “are meant for an English-speaking Indian audience” (Sailaja 2009: 10) and also the characters in those films are “highly educated and have a westernised lifestyle” (Sailaja 2009: 10).

Based on these complex usages of the English language in India and due to India’s solid number of 1.2 billion inhabitants, there are round about 125 million English-speakers, which make India, right after the USA, one of the countries of the world with the highest number of English-speakers.

3. Linguistic aspects and their development


To describe the phonology of “Indian English” it is necessary to differentiate between the “Indian English” (IE) pronunciation and the Received Pronunciation (RP), “which is the standard British accent from southern Britain” (Sailaja 2009: 17). In order to illustrate the differences between IE and RP three examples will be presented:

A) Aspirated vs. unaspirated sounds

Whereas sounds like [p] in pin or put, which “occur in the initial position of stressed syllables” (Sailaja 2009: 23) are aspirated in RP, it is “not entirely predictable (Sailaja 2009: 23) if those will be aspirated in IE because “in IE, aspiration does not work the way it does in RP” (Sailaja 2009: 23). According to Hannah and Trudgill, the “consonants /t/ and /k/ tend to be unaspirated” (Hannah, Trudgill 1994: 128).

B) Fricatives vs. dental plosives

Another important example for the IE phonology is the use of the dental plosives /t/ or /th/ and /d/, which are used as a replacement for the fricatives /θ/ (as in theft) and /ð/ (as in there). While the “sound /θ/ is sometimes articulated in [Standard Indian English Pronunciation], /ð/ is almost completely missing.” (Sailaja 2009: 21). The explanation for this phenomenon is that the “dental sound is present in Indian languages and therefore it is easier in terms of articulation for speakers to replace the fricative.” (Sailaja 2009: 21).

C) Vowels

Besides the consonants, there are differences in the vowels, too. The most fundamental one is the use of the long vowels /e:/ and /o:/. These vowels “do not exist in RP which has diphthongs instead” (Sailaja 2009: 25). An example for that linguistic phenomenon is the use of “/e:/ […] in words like day, may, play. And /o:/ is heard in words like no, go, groan.” (Sailaja 2009: 25).


Compared to Standard British English [EngEng], Indian English remarkably differs in its morphology, i.e. the internal structure of words. The two most striking ones will be given in the following passage.

A) Pluralisation

Indians tend to pluralise “many EngEng mass nouns (especially abstract nouns)” (Hannah, Trudgill 1994: 129) like “furnitures: He bought many furnitures” (Hannah, Trudgill 1994: 129) and “woods: He gathered all the woods” (Hannah, Trudgill 1994: 129).

B) Compound formation

“Indian English” has an “extended use of compound formation” (Hannah, Trudgill 1994: 129). Whereas in Standard British English “noun + noun compounds such as facecloth, teacup [exists, which] can be made from the construction noun1 + for + noun2, becoming noun2 + noun1 (e.g. cup for tea becomes teacup)”, Indian English expands this process extensively with other prepositions, like “chalk piece: ‘piece of chalk’” (Hannah, Trudgill 1994: 129) or “fish tin: […] EngEng ‘tin for fish’” (Hannah, Trudgill 1994: 129). As a result to that extended compound formation, the pattern noun1 + preposition + noun2 becomes apparent and explains the phenomenon why Indians use noun2 + noun1 constructions more often.


After illuminating the morphology, it is recommendable to take a look at the next level of linguistics. Therefore this passage is about the syntax, which deals with the construction of verbs and smaller phrases within sentences, especially, the “Indian English” syntax and the syntactic differences between Standard British English and “Indian English”.

“Indian English syntax is influenced by the native language syntax in the formation of negatives and questions” (Sumana 2010: 11). In “Indian English” there is no subject – verb inversion in direct questions as there is in Standard British English resulting in questions such as “What this is made from?” (Hannah, Trudgill 1994: 132) instead of “EngEng: What is this made from?” (Hannah, Trudgill 1994: 132). Indirect questions are affected as well. This time Indian English speakers do use the subject – verb inversion, like in “I wonder where is he” (Hannah, Trudgill 1994: 133) “which is [also] exactly the opposite of EngEng usage” (Hannah, Trudgill 1994: 132).


Excerpt out of 9 pages


On the Development of the English Language in India
Free University of Berlin  (Institut für Englische Philologie)
Historical Linguistics – History of English
Catalog Number
ISBN (eBook)
ISBN (Book)
File size
426 KB
Indian English, Language contact, Linguistic development
Quote paper
Agnetha Hinz (Author), 2012, On the Development of the English Language in India, Munich, GRIN Verlag, https://www.grin.com/document/302890


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