5.1 Introduction

The development of Indian English in a highly pluralistic and multi-cultural Indian subcontinent is the result of language acculturation, which led to the Indianization of a foreign language. In the geographical sense this would include what is now called India, Nepal, Bangladesh and Pakistan; and in the linguistic sense Indian English predominantly refers to the process that took place in order to Indianize English. According to Braj Kachru (2005), English in India is an institutionalized additional language that belongs to the 'Outer Circle' of the three concentric circles of Asian Englishes.

Fig 5.1: Concentric Circles of Asian Englishes

5.2 Language Situation in India

Sociolinguistically speaking, the position of Indian English is extremely complicated. Indian English is used as a second language, which is usually acquired after one has acquired one's mother tongue. This results in transfer/ interference from one's mother tongue in the second language (Kachru, B. B. 1983: 66), though it is pointed out earlier, a substantial part of 'interference' is largely phonological, and even in that case, in the case of fluent users, it could be explained either in terms of developmental perspectives or 'fosslization'. To complicate matters further the Census Report identifies 1,652 languages and dialects in India, out of which the VIIIth schedule of the Constitution lists 23 languages. The fact that in 1950, this schedule listed only 14 shows the kind of pressures the Indian linguistic groups can build on the legislature. It also shows that English has to survive in India in collaboration with these languages that are increasingly asserting their rights.

India consists of mainly four language families: Indo-European, Munda, Dravidian and Sino-Tibetan. Large majorities of the Indian population use the Indo-European and Dravidian languages. Whereas the Dravidian languages are spoken in the southern parts of India, the Indo-European languages are mainly used in northern and central India. Speakers of Indo-European family make up about three-quarters of India's population. The Dravidian languages are spoken by nearly a quarter of the Indian population. Sino-Tibetan is used near the Burmese border and in the northern Himalayan ranges and some speech communities in Assam and other parts of eastern India speak languages of the Munda group. Speakers of Munda languages and Sino-Tibetan languages together make up about 2 percent of the Indian population.

5.3 Indian English: Speech Community

Due to shared political history, culture, folk and literary traditions, geographical proximity and contact between typologically distinct languages, a fair amount of linguistic convergence can be witnessed in this linguistic area. As it is mentioned in the last chapter, these shared characteristics are reflected in the varieties of English spoken in the region. However an important aspect to note here is that the Constitution of India does not list English in the Eighth Schedule as an official language. It accords English the status of an associate official language. This arises the question of how does one define the Indian English Speech community.

English is used as a linguistic tool for the administrative cohesiveness of the country, and also acts as a language of wider communication. (Kachru 1986: 8). English functions to perform roles relevant to the social, educational and administrative network of India (Kachru 1986: 111). Indian speakers of English are primarily bi- or multilingual who use English as a second language in contexts in which English is used as an "official" language in the government, court of law, higher educational institutions, banks, commercial houses, publications etc. and also acts as a marker of prestige. According to Bansal (1969):

"English is the 'lingua franca' for educated people from different parts of India who do not share a common Indian language, and it is also the only foreign language studied by large number of people." (Bansal, 1969: 10)

However various scholars have different views about the status of English in India. On the one hand, scholars like Dasgupta (1993) and Gupta (1991), feel that English has failed to become a part of the multilingual ethos of India and that it does not generate the same feeling in an Indian's mind as Marathi or Malayalam do as an Indian language. This is the reason they feel that one don't have any significant music, films or theatre in English (Agnihotri & Khanna 1997). On the other hand scholars like Kachru (1983); Verma (1982) and Sridhar (1994) feel that Indian English is very much a part of the complex Indian linguistic scenario.

According to Khubchandani (1994):

"English has continued to be an important part of the communication matrix of urban India. There has been a glaring proliferation of English seeping through the upper crust of the society to the middle class and further down to the grass-root level, particularly in urban settings. It is estimated that over four percent of the total population (about 35 million speakers) know some kind of English, spread across the country- a virtual three fold increase from the number of English speakers when the British rule ended in 1947."

The CIA fact sheet reports that the population of India is 1,065,070,607 (July 2004 est.). According to Kachru (2005), the users of English between China and India are approximately 533 million, which is numerically speaking far more than the users of English in U.S.A., Canada and U.K. combined. The survey figures then imply that approximately 333 million Indians have different degrees of competence in English. According to a poll conducted by India Today (18th of August 1997), one in every three Indians claims to understand English, although 20 percent are confident of speaking it (Kachru 2005).

With globalization, setting in English has become an important means of communication. However, several studies (Sahgal 1983, Agnihotri 1988, Khanna 1983) have shown that Indian English users have some stereotypes associated with the English Language. These studies suggest that the English language is generally evaluated more highly than Indian languages and has often been associated with attributes such as literary, grammatical and prestige. (Khanna 1983).

English is also considered extremely important in keeping pace with the rest of the world. According to Mr. N. Diwakar (the then Secretary of Industries, Arunachal Pradesh):

"We missed the Industrial Revolution and are a hundred years behind the development world today. If we again miss the information and the computer world revolution we will lag behind by another hundred years. English is absolutely necessary to keep pace with the rapidly changing world." (In Agnihotri and Khanna 1997).

Generally a speech community is defined in terms of shared norms of socio-cultural behavior, territorial integrity and frequency of interaction in the primary domains of activity. Though English is making some inroads into the home domain of some people (Sahgal 1991), it is primarily the language of the formal domain. As Agnihotri and Khanna (1997) point out, it is difficult to think of a substantially large group in India whose primary interaction takes place in English. However, that there will be bilingual groups one of whose major language is English is almost a definite possibility in the near future. It is worth mentioning that over 60% states have now introduced English as a subject from Class 1 in all the government schools of the country. This is of course in addition to the so-called English-medium schools that have mushroomed all over the country in the past decade and the most prestigious English medium schools of the urban metropolitan cities like Delhi, Bombay, Calcutta and Chennai, among others.


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