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Indian English has developed a number of dialects, distinct from the General/Standard Indian English that educators have attempted to establish and institutionalise, and it is possible to distinguish a person's sociolinguistic background from the dialect that they employ. These dialects are influenced by the different languages that different sections of the country also speak, side by side with English. The dialects can differ markedly in their phonology, to the point that two speakers using two different dialects can find each other's accents mutually unintelligible.[1][2][3]

Indian English is a "network of varieties", resulting from an extraordinarily complex linguistic situation in the country. (See Official languages of India.) This network comprises both regional and occupational dialects of English. The widely recognised dialects include Malayali English, Telugu English, Maharashtrian English, Punjabi English, Bengali English, Hindi English, alongside several more obscure dialects such as Butler English (a.k.a. Bearer English), Babu English, and Bazaar English and several code-mixed varieties of English.[3][4][5][6]

The formation of these regional/socio-economic dialects is the same form of language contact that has given rise to Scottish English.[7]

Babu English

Babu English (a.k.a. Baboo English), the name originally coming from the Bengali word for a gentleman, is a dialect of English that first developed as an occupational dialect, amongst clerks in the Bengali-speaking areas of pre-Partition India. Originally characterised as a markedly ornate form of administrative English, it is now no longer confined solely to clerks, and can be found in Nepal, north India, and in some social circles in south India.[8][9]

The distinguishing characteristics of Babu English are the florid, excessively polite, and indirect manner of expression, which have been reported for amusement value, in works such as Cecil Hunt's Honoured Sir collections (see Further reading), and lampooned, in works such as F. Antesey's Baboo Jabberjee, B.A., for over a century.[8][10]

Butler English

Main article: Butler English

Butler English, also known as Bearer English or Kitchen English, is a dialect of English that first developed as an occupational dialect in the years of the Madras Presidency,[11] but that has developed over time and is now associated mainly with social class rather than occupation. It is still spoken in major metropolitan cities.

The dialect of Butler English is singular. Therefore, the present participle is used for the future indicative, and the preterite. For example, for the preterite indicative "done", "I telling" translates to "I will tell", "I done tell" to "I have told", and "done come" to "actually arrived". This form of Indian English was used both by masters for speaking to their servants as well as by servants to speak to their masters.[12]

Hindi English

Main article: Hinglish

Hinglish (the name is a combination of the words "Hindi" and "English") is a macaronic language, a hybrid of British English and South Asian languages – it is a code-switching variety of these languages whereby they are freely interchanged within a sentence or between sentences. While the name is based on the Hindi language, it does not refer exclusively to Hindi, but "is used in India, with English words blending with Punjabi, and Hindi, and also within British Asian families to enliven standard English." It is predominantly spoken in Northern India and some parts of Mumbai and Bangalore.[citation needed]

Modern phonologists often divide Indian English into five major varieties.

Assamese English

Assamese English refers to the English spoken by Assamese speakers. Some major difference between Assamese English and British English are mostly seen in some consonants. In Assamese English all vowels are usually short.

Words Pronunciation in Assamese English
apple ɛpʊl
cold kol(d)
ball bɔl
cool kul
mango mɛŋɡɔ
father ɸadaɹ
cat kɛt
she si
China saɪna
verification bʱɛɹiɸikɛsɔn
intelligent intɛlizɛn
telephone telɪɸʊn
jewellery zʊɛlaɹi
think tʰiŋ
desk dɛks
road ɹʊd, ɹod
guardian ɡaɹzɛn
fish ɸis, pʰis
but bat
number nambaɹ
university iʊnibʱaɹsiti
ghost ɡʱos(t)
college kɔlɛz
pressure p(ɹ)saɹ
torch tɔ(ɹ)s
checkpoint sɛkpɔɪn
halfpant ɦappɛn

Bengali English

Bengali English (or eastern Indian English) here refers collectively to the varieties of the West Bengal state and neighbouring country of Bangladesh, which has been greatly influenced by Bengali. Its main subdivisions are Calcutta English as well as Dhaka English. It is similar or even identical to Bangladeshi English, also known as Banglish or Benglish.

West Indian English

West Indian English here refers to a traditional variety spoken in the western part of India.

Cultivated Indian English

Cultivated Indian English here refers collectively to non-localised, non-working class, and more recent varieties of India and the surrounding region of India. It includes mainstream Indian English, a widely common, upper-class variety that preserves a few local Indian features while setting the basis for an otherwise General Indian English accent as well as new Cultivated Indian English, a youthful variety beginning in the 2000s. However, both are found rarely in India.

Southern Indian English

See also: Tenglish, Tanglish, and Kanglish

Southern Indian English here refers to broad varieties of Southern India.

In addition to these, the alveolar stops [t] and [d] in words like water and door are often pronounced as their retroflex equivalents [ʈ] and [ɖ] respectively.

General Indian English

Main article: Indian English

General Indian English here refers to a variety originating outside of the eastern regions and southern regions, crossing regional boundaries throughout the Republic of India. As mentioned earlier, Cultivated Indian English is almost entirely this General Indian dialect but with a few additional features derived from Received Pronunciation.

See also


  1. ^ J. Sethi; Dhamija Sethi & P. V. Dhamija (2004). A Course in Phonetics and Spoken English. PHI Learning Pvt. Ltd. p. 59. ISBN 9788120314955.
  2. ^ Jaydeep Sarangi (2004). "Indian Variety of English: A Socio-Linguistic Study". In Mohit Kumar Ray (ed.). Studies in ELT, Linguistics and Applied Linguistics. Atlantic Publishers & Distributors. p. 50. ISBN 9788126903504.
  3. ^ a b Edgar W. Schneider (2007). Postcolonial English. Cambridge University Press. p. 168. ISBN 9780521831406.
  4. ^ N. Krishnaswamy & Lalitha Krishnaswamy (2006). the story of english in india. Foundation Books. ISBN 9788175963122.
  5. ^ Andy Kirkpatrick (2007). World Englishes. Cambridge University Press. p. 89. ISBN 9780521851473.
  6. ^ Ravinder Gargesh (2006). "South Asian Englishes". In Braj B. Kachru; Yamuna Kachru; Cecil L. Nelson (eds.). The Handbook of World Englishes. Blackwell Publishing. p. 92. ISBN 9781405111850.
  7. ^ Raymond Hickey (2004). "South Asian Englishes". In Raymond Hickey (ed.). Legacies of Colonial English. Cambridge University Press. p. 543. ISBN 9780521830201.
  8. ^ a b Braj B. Kachru (2006). "English in South Asia". In Kingsley Bolton; Braj B. Kachru (eds.). World Englishes. Taylor & Francis UK. pp. 267–269. ISBN 9780415315074.
    also printed as Braj B. Kachru (1994). "English in South Asia". In Robert Burchfield (ed.). The Cambridge History of the English Language. Vol. V. English in Britain and Overseas: Origins and Development. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. pp. 497–553. ISBN 9780521264785.
  9. ^ Melvyn Bragg (2006). The Adventure of English. Arcade Publishing. p. 243. ISBN 9781559707848.
  10. ^ Srinivas Aravamudan (2006). Guru English: South Asian religion in a cosmopolitan language. Princeton University Press. p. 133. ISBN 978-0-691-11828-4.
  11. ^ Kachru, Braj B. (1 December 1965). "The Indianness in Indian English". WORD. 21 (3): 391–410. doi:10.1080/00437956.1965.11435436. ISSN 0043-7956.
  12. ^ Yule, Henry, Sir (2015). Hobson-Jobson : the definitive glossary of British India. Burnell, A. C. (Arthur Coke), 1840-1882., Teltscher, Kate,, Teltscher, Kate, 1963-. [Oxford]. ISBN 978-0198718000. OCLC 913732430.((cite book)): CS1 maint: location missing publisher (link) CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)

Further reading

Babu English

Malayali English

Tamilian English

Punjabi English

Rajasthani English

Telugu English