Indian English, AKA IndE

Glossary of Grammatical and Rhetorical Terms

Indian English
Signs in English advertising tourism services in Varanasi, India. (Brent Winebrenner/Getty Images)

Indian English is speech or writing in English that shows the influence of the languages and culture of India. Also called English in India. Indian English (IndE) is one of the oldest regional varieties of the English language.

English is one of the 22 official languages recognized by the Constitution of India. "Soon," according to Michael J. Toolan, "there may be more native speakers of English in India than in the UK, a cohort speaking a new New English second in size only to the old New English spoken in America" (Language Teaching: Integrational Linguistic Approaches, 2009).

Examples and Observations

  • "In India, English has been in use for more than four centuries, first as the language of the early merchants, missionaries and settlers, later as the language of the British colonial power, and finally--after India's independence in 1947--as the so-called associate official language. . . .
    "The conceptualization of IndE as a linguistic entity has posed challenges, and its existence as a variety in its own right has repeatedly been questioned. Although linguists nowadays agree widely that IndE has established itself as an 'independent language tradition' (Gramley/Pätzold 1992:441) not to be mistaken for an impoverished version of the 'Queen's English,' the question of just how unique or different IndE is as compared to other varieties of English is open. Should IndE be treated as an autonomous language system (Verma 1978, 1982)? Should it be treated as 'normal English' with more or less learner-specific deviations' (Schmied 1994:217)? Or should it be treated as a 'modular' (Krishnaswamy/Burde 1998), 'national' (Carls 1994) or 'international' (Trugdill/Hannah 2002) variety? It is surprising to see that in spite of the plethora of publications from theoretical, historical and sociolinguistic perspectives (cf. Carls 1979; Leitner 1985; Ramaiah 1988), comparatively little empirical linguistic research has been conducted on the structure and use of IndE that would help us put the available hypotheses to test."
    (Andreas Sedlatschek, Contemporary Indian English: Variation and Change. John Benjamins, 2009)
  • English in India
    "[I]n India, those who consider their English to be good are outraged at being told that their English is Indian. Indians want to speak and use English like the British, or, more lately, like the Americans. This desire probably also springs from the fact that it is a second language for most Indians and to be able to speak a non-native language like native speakers is a matter of pride--more so in the case of English, given its higher status and the several material advantages it carries.
    "In academia, as a result of this anathema towards 'Indian English,' the preferred term has been 'English in India.' Another reason for this preference is also that 'Indian English' denotes linguistic features, whereas academics have been more interested in the historical, literary, and cultural aspects of English in India."
    (Pingali Sailaja, Indian English. Edinburgh University Press, 2009)
  • Studies of Indian English
    "Even though a wide range of studies on individual aspects of Indian English phonology, lexicon and syntax are available by now, this work has so far not culminated in a comprehensive grammar of Indian English. Moreover, the mismatch between the actual size of the Indian English speech community and the scholarly activity directed at the study of IndE is striking . . ..
    "Indian English remains quite literally conspicuous by its absence: the most accomplished achievement in the field to date, the massive Handbook of Varieties of English (Kortmann et al. 2004), contain a mere sketch of some IndE syntactic features that does not even follow the general format for the syntactic descriptions of varieties which otherwise appear in the Handbook. What is worse, IndE and IndE features are not included in the Handbook's 'Global Synopsis: morphological and syntactic variation in English' (Kortmann & Szmrecsanyi 2004)."
    (Claudia Lange, The Syntax of Spoken Indian English. John Benjamins, 2012)
  • Transitive Verbs Used Intransitively
    "All the studies reviewed on Indian English mentioned transitive verbs used intransitively as a characteristic feature. Jacob (1998) explains that in Indian English, 'inaccuracies relating to verb phrases are very common' (p. 19). To support this claim, he gives the example of transitive verbs being used intransitively. As an example, he gives us the following sentence:
    -- We would appreciate if you could send us the details soon.
    Sridhar (1992) states that since 'the discourse norm in Indian languages is to omit object noun phrases . . . when they are recoverable from context,' (p. 144), the omission of a direct object with some transitive verbs is common in Indian English. Hosali (1991) explains that strongly transitive verbs used intransitively is a feature which is used 'in a distinctive manner by large numbers of educated Indian speakers of English' (p. 65). To support this claim, however, she only provides one example:
    -- I would appreciate if you would reply quickly." (Chandrika Balasubramanian, Register Variation in Indian English. John Benjamins, 2009)

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Your Citation
Nordquist, Richard. "Indian English, AKA IndE." ThoughtCo, Apr. 5, 2023, Nordquist, Richard. (2023, April 5). Indian English, AKA IndE. Retrieved from Nordquist, Richard. "Indian English, AKA IndE." ThoughtCo. (accessed June 4, 2023).