4.0 Introduction

Since speech always changes at a rapid speed and the corresponding writing system fails to keep pace with it, one always finds serious discrepancies between the spoken and written language. Whatever gets written once also automatically becomes frozen in time. A variety of social, psychological, religious and educational factors guard its sanctity and resist changes in the spelling system. In most cases what originally starts as a unique correspondence between a phoneme and a grapheme breaks down over a period of time posing serious problems to language teachers and learners. The case of English or IE is no different. In the case of script and spelling, there are hardly any significant differences between IE and the standard British English.

4.1 IE Script and Spelling

Like other varieties of English, Indian English script is based on the Roman Script. The variation if any, exists at the other level, the phonological level, which distinguishes IE from other varieties of English.

Script of Indian English is more like British English than North American English. There are many words, which are spelled as in British English. For example: colour instead of color as in AE or programme instead of program in AE. IE speakers also show preference for some lexical terms which are common with BE. For example: IE speakers use the word petrol as in BE rather than gas as used in AE or the use of flat as in BE rather than apartment as in AE and lifts as in BE, instead of elevators as in AE.

Shackle (1987) proposed that Indians are over faithful to the written form and indulge in spelling pronunciation because Indian Scripts are for the most part phonetic. Many English words are pronounced as they are written, which makes them sound different from the way they are pronounced in BE. Indian English speakers typically articulate vowels that have been dropped by North American and British English speakers. For example, typically is generally pronounced ti-pick-lee, but Indian English speakers will often say ti-pick-ah-lee.

Krishnamurti (1978) who noticed the Indian speakers' atrocities in pronunciation, also holds spelling pronunciation responsible for deviations such as geminate consonant pronunciation in words like upper, rubber etc., pronouncing tense-markers s/-ed without their environment mentally conditioned variants, pronunciation of silent letters in words like bomb, lamb etc.

Most of these studies appear to share assumptions, which are questionable. RP seems to be considered a superior variety and worthy of emulation. The aim of these studies is to map out deplorable deviations from the accepted norm. Any speech variety shows socially significant variation at a given point of time, variation which is indicative of the past history and future aspiration of its speakers.

4.2 RP and the British Writing System

As Gorlach (1974/ 1997) points out, alphabets are 'based on the principle of an unambiguous correlation between phonemes and graphemes' (p. 38). The identity of graphemes is maintained by their contrasts and combinations and the correspondence of the two different sets of sounds with the result that most words get associated with a unique set of spellings. Languages tend to use a finite set of graphemes. Often their combinations are used to represent the sounds that don't get represented by single letters. For example, 'th', 'ch', 'sh' etc. Such combinations often become the basis for inter-variety variation. In IE the 'th' is pronounced like a stop, either as 'th' as in 'think' and 'thin' or as a dental 'd' as in 'this' and 'they'. The Old English alphabet is based on the Germanic 24 letters and the Middle English system shows the influence of Latin and French. The modern English conventions were established around 1400. 'The innovations of the seventeenth century produced more or less the modern system: graphemic distinction between u, v from former allographs, and of I: , and the fixing of one spelling per word. The use of apostrophes and of punctuation came to be regulated.' (Gorlach 1974/1997: 37). And yet, there is so little match between the British speech and writing system because as it is said above, the two cannot keep pace with each other. Imagine the different sounds that are associated with a letter like 'a' in words like ' apple', 'father', 'make', 'sofa' etc. Consider the following table:

Spellings:      		-oo-                        -u-                    -ou-                                  

  /u/                                        good                        full                 could
/uu/                                        fool                          rude                group
/è /                                         blood                       sun                  couple 

As one can see, each one of the sounds in the column can be represented by any alphabet or sequence of alphabets in the row; the sound /u/ may be represented by 'oo', 'u' or 'ou' and so on.

4.3 Changing Facets of Indian English Script

There has been an interesting phenomena appearing with respect to writing in English, in the techno savvy world. This is the language of SMS and e-mails


Look at some examples:

Standard BE script Techno script Today 2day Tomorrow 2tomorrow Help me 911 As far as afa Barbeque bbq Laughing out loud lol See you c u Later l8er Please plz Thanks thx On the other hand otoh No problem np

As it can be seen in the above examples, one common process of "clitic formation" is involved. It also appears that the focus here is primarily on phonetics and not on script. This phenomenon of changing both the script and the spelling reflects how techno facilities are affecting the language.

4.4 Conclusion

Even though in India both the American and the British spellings are accepted as 'correct' English, it is evident that Indian history has determined the fate of IE spellings and they conform more to the British than to the American system. However one of the exceptions to this is when words or names from Indian languages are incorporated in IE, these words are generally spelt phonetically.


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