chapter  9
14 Pages

The development of the English language in India

ByJoybrato Mukherjee

Over the past 400 years, the English language – once transplanted to the Indian subcontinent as the language of the British colonizers – has developed into an integral part of the linguistic repertoire of India, with the pull towards English growing even stronger in the post-independence period. This process has been marked by the emergence of a distinctly Indian variety of English which fulfils a wide range of communicative functions in present-day India and which is a significant vehicle for Indian identity-construction for a relatively small but substantial and increasing part of the population. In fact, even according to conservative estimates the educated variety of Standard Indian English is used competently and regularly by c. 35 to 50 million Indians today – which makes Indian English the third largest variety of English world-wide in terms of numbers of speakers, outnumbered only by British and American English. The present chapter describes the development of English in India by (a) sketching out the various stages of the diachronic development of English in India from the early seventeenth century to the twenty-first century, (b) systematizing the characteristic features of present-day Indian English from a synchronic perspective, and (c) pointing out some prospects for future research.