English Around the World: Indian English Dialects

The long journey of English in Asia started in the 17th century when the British Empire expanded its influence throughout many Asian regions including India. Their political presence to secure their trading activities in this region made English become the means of communication used exclusively among the colonial ruler and indigenous people. 

Along with this western colony, Christian missionaries also attempted to get in, teaching their religion to the local people using English. The use of English was then increasing since the education system for higher-status people was established. Since then, English has been the part of Indian second language used by educated people and officials.

The birth of Indian English

India was the home of many indigenous languages used by several kingdoms that were often disputing with each other. The presence of British Kindom with their interests had changed the face of this region as they also bring their western civilization affecting every part of the lives of the people in India. 

English as a part of the culture seems the one that could give a significant impact. During the 1800s time period, East India Company decided to fully use English for all its trading and political activities while formerly it was the Persian language. 

After that, the western education systems were permitted in India marked by the establishment of public instructions with English medium. The presence of universities in major port cities namely Bombay, Madras, and Calcutta had given a significant impact on the spread of English in this country. In a relatively short time, as the impacts of political, educational, press, and religious systems, Indian English was born and become the only lingua franca in India.

After its independence from British colonialization in 1947, the Indian government was once to make Hindi as their official language until there was a massive protest from non-Hindi speakers in several regions. While there is still no agreement in deciding on a national language, English has become the only language that is widely accepted as their associate language since many Indian people are accustomed to using English instead of Hindi.

Indian English dialect is somehow unique and very notable in conversation. It has several characteristics that make it different from British or American English. Somehow, they are a strict British English user in writing and spelling.

Indian English as Another English Dialect

With the long history of English use in India and the influence of their local languages, Hinglish (Hindi and English) has become part of Indian culture. This spoken language dialect is having its special place among educated societies inside the country or abroad. Although, there are several sub-dialects that have different characteristics from some regions that could not be generalized to be a standard “Hinglish” dialect.

While in the past, English was popular in only official and scholarly communication context, today’s Hinglish are increasingly popular due to its excessive usage in the movie industry. Bollywood as the replica of Hollywood from India is continuously using the Indian English version in an attempt to reach wider national and international audiences. 

Pronunciation characteristic

There are several elements that make Indian English looks special with a characteristic of language acculturation with the local languages. The one that easily recognized is at first is their English pronunciation which is affected by their mother language’s phonology. 

Many Indian are uttering [th] without releasing the air through the tip of the tongue and sounds like [t] or [d] with a stop. They also use [v] and [w] alternately since many speakers consider these two consonants to sound the same. Their way of uttering the letter R is also always curling making this letter sound brief but clear. Another characteristic is the unaspirated [p] and [t] which make a stop or push sound on them while pronouncing every word with these consonants.

Grammar characteristic

Grammar and sentence construction are specific characteristics in spoken communication that differentiate Hinglish from the standard or other English dialects. High code-mixing and code-switching intensity in Hinglish is something that makes them unique. 

Unlike the US or UK English, the Indian English dialect loves giving emphasis to the words that they consider them as important. This unique syntactic feature often appears as reduplication like in ‘big-big problems’ to say something very serious is happening. Moreover, they also love the simplified form of construction with the omission of conjunctions, prepositions, or articles. Hinglish also loves putting important adverbs at the beginning of sentences, for example, ‘Yesterday I am meeting you, Sir’.

In daily conversation, the grammatical rule seems not very emphasized among Hinglish speakers though the sentences are very understandable. Some characteristics of these practices are using present progressive without respecting the context, using present tense with time explanation for telling past events, misusing plural and singular nouns, and subject-verb disagreement.

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