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What’s the basic direction of changes in modern Indian English according to the speaker?
Presenter: Today in our World Englishes programme we are going to discuss Indian English. Professor Barry Smith is my guest and my first question is: What is the role of English in today’s India?
Professor: In India, where more than 18 different languages coexist, English serves as the connector between people speaking different mother tongues. So the number of Indians who wish to learn and use English is not only continuing but increasing. The number of English newspapers, journals and magazines is on the increase too. In fact, Indian English is a recognized dialect of English, just like British Received Pronunciation or Australian English or Standard American. It has a lot of distinctive pronunciations, some distinctive syntax and quite a bit of lexical variation.
Presenter: What about grammar?
Professor: Linguists observe the following anomalies in the grammar of Indian English. The Indians, for instance, use the progressive tense with stative verbs, which is an influence of traditional Hindi grammar. There’re also variations in noun, number and determiners, preposition use, building tag questions, word order. Another example’s that Indians often use the indefinite article a before words starting with vowels, though it must be mentioned that usually this is just a slip of the tongue.
Presenter: Are these anomalies kind of accidental or can you explain them in some way?
Professor: For those aware of the grammar of Indian tongues, the logic behind the quirks of Indian English is quite transparent and readily explicable. In ddition to what I’ve already mentioned, Indians use the past perfect tense in verbs where International English speakers would use the past simple. There are lexical points as well – like using the words but and only as intensifiers or adding English affixes to local words. There are some funny cases like use of the plural ladies for a single lady or a woman of respect, use of open and close instead of switch on and off. Some idioms and popular phrases include the question “Where are you put up?” instead of “Where do you live?” or the phrase “tell me” instead of “How can I help you?” Strange as it may seem sentences like “Hello, what do you want?” as a beginning of a business conversation aren’t perceived as rough by most Indians.
Presenter: Have local Indian languages contributed to Indian English?
Professor: Internet research shows that Indians frequently inject words from Indian languages. Some of the more common examples are jungle or bungalow; others were introduced via the transmission of Indian culture, examples of which are mantra, karma, avatar and guru. There’re colloquial and slang words used in Indian English as well. Teenagers take an active part in modernizing the language. What younger generations devise may not be used or even understood by older English speakers in India. For example, youngsters use the expression hi-fi for cool or stylish.
Presenter: Thank you, Professor, for a very interesting talk. What would you like to say in conclusion? What is your – mmm – final diagnosis?
Professor: Indian English is changing and trying to be more universal and simpler. The shifts in modern Indian English are well explained by the famous local proverb “There’s nothing noble in being superior to some other person. The true nobility is in being superior to your previous self”.
Indian English is changing and trying to be more universal and simpler.