LinguEast: Indian English

Indian English is my favourite variety of English. Eclectic, manifold, ridden with errors if observed from the point of view of “real” Englishes, passionately old-fashioned, full of exotic Indian influences on its grammar and vocabulary, English used in India and by Indians abroad is simply music to my eyes and ears.

English is one of the official languages in India and is spoken by approximately 100 million people. Speakers of non-standard deviations from British or nowadays also American English are often ridiculed, but some authors (like Salman Rushdie, Vikram Seth etc.) have given some of their Indian English (InE) speaking characters a very powerful presence in their works. According to Amrit Dhillon, the growing economic prosperity of India has changed the puritan attitude towards the more idiosyncratic uses of English, which are now experiencing some real acceptance in India.

I would like to present some of the main characteristics of Indian English in a series of posts, with a little help of Wikipedia. I did write a seminar paper on the topic a few years ago, but I cannot find its digitalised version and wouldn’t like to type my own old words once again.

Let me start with:

Casual References and Interjections

Speakers of InE may use Hindi and other native expressions like bhai (brother), bhaiyya (elder brother) and yaar (friend, buddy, dude, mate) in the same way speakers of American English (AmE) will casually address a person as man or dude.

Arey! (also: arre, arrai) and accha! are the most common interjections to express emotional content.

They even have their own form of OK, which is T-K and comes from the Hindi phrase theek hai, meaning something like alright then.

Another important exclamation is Wah! and is used to express admiration in some contexts.


a) Long time no see, bhai.

b) Accha, means what?!

c) T-K, see you later.

Next time, we will have a closer look at American and British English influences.

8 responses to “LinguEast: Indian English

  • camille

    Have you read Arundhati Roy’s – The God of Small Things? Ahh, such a beautiful book! I have chills just thinking about it.

  • Tina.

    Great post (especially ’cause it mentions my deity–Sir Salman Rushdie 😉 ). I have a student from India and another from Sri Lanka in one of my classes this year. Their verbal English skills are pretty much perfect, but they both have some serious problems when it comes to writing.

    Camille, The God of Small Things is one of my favorite books ever!

    Are either of you ladies on goodreads?

  • alcessa

    Tina: thank you. I’m a true follower of the Master 🙂 myself and I actually wanted to use the first few lines of the Verses as an example of InE, but then I changed my mind, after having seen some hate-sites out there.

    Now, as for the problems with English: I sincerely hope to show in the posts to come how beautiful such “language-mongrelling” actually is – while I am aware your professional point of view must be different, officially.

    And thank you very much: didn’t know about Goodreads but will chek it out first thing tomorrow.

  • Tina.

    Alcessa, I totally agree with you about the beauty of such language-mixing. I love it. However, I’m supposed to be teaching my students how to write a college paper in a so-called proper English. So, yes, some standards need to be followed. But I alway tell them that they can break the rules; they just have to learn them first.

    My friend who is getting her PhD in rhetoric and composition actually wrote a whole research paper on African-American English, and how it should not be looked on as less-worthy in a college environment. She is the director of the Writing Center at our University, and she completely redesigned their website to include multiple voices and multiple Englishes. Interesting stuff.

    Goodreads is great; it’s like myspace for book nerds. 🙂 I’d love to be your friend there, if you decide to join.

  • alcessa

    Tina: I joined goodreads (as Alcessa) today, but I don’t know how to make friends/find you there. 🙂

  • Tina.

    And I just sent you a friend-request. 😀

  • LinguEast: Indian English « moosings

    […] This post was first published on February 25, 2008. I am re-using it […]

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