Regional differences and dialects in Indian English: Wikis


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Indian English has developed a number of dialects, distinct from the General Indian English/Standard Indian English that educators have attempted to establish and institutionalize, 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 others' 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 recognized dialects include Malayali English, Tamilian 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.[4][5][6][3]

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 characterized 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. Anstey's Baboo Jabberjee, B.A., for over a century.[8]

Bazaar English

Boxwallah English

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, 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.[8][10]

The name derives from its origins with butlers, the head servants of British colonial households, and is the English that they used to communicate with their masters.[8][10]

Structurally, Butler English is akin to a pidgin, with a Subject Verb Object word order, deletion of verb inflections, and deletion of prepositions. It has been called a "marginal pidgin" and a "rudimentary pidgin", although Hosali and Aitchinson, listed in Further reading, point out several problems with these classifications. Its major syntactic characteristics are the deletion of auxiliary verbs, the frequent use of "-ing" forms for things other than participles, and the reporting of indirect speech directly. For examples:[8][10]

  • the use of the present participle for the future tense: I telling rather than the Standard English "I will tell"
  • the use of "done" as an auxiliary instead of "have": I done come rather than "I have come", and I done tell rather than "I have told"

The lexical characteristics of Butler English are that its vocabulary is limited and employs specialized jargon. family substitutes for "wife", for example.[8]

Butler English persisted into the second half of the 20th century, beyond the independence of India, and was subject to Dravidian influence in its phonology, in particular the substitution of [ye] for [e] and [eo] for [o], leading to distinctive pronunciations of words such as "exit" and "only".[8]

Here is an example of Butler English (a butler reporting his being invited to England):[8][10]

One master call for come India … eh England. I say not coming. That master very liking me. I not come. That is like for India — that hot and cold. That England for very cold.

—See Hosali and Aitchinson 1986 in Further reading.

Another example, now famous amongst Indian English linguists, is the one given by Schuchardt (see Further reading), which is a nurse, an ayah, describing the butler's practice of secretly taking for himself small amounts of milk from his master's household:[10]

Butler's yevery day taking one ollock for own-self, and giving servants all half half ollock; when I telling that shame for him, he is telling, Master's strictly order all servants for the little milk give it — what can I say mam, I poor ayah woman?

Mesthrie notes several "striking similarities" between Butler English and South African Indian English, raising for him the question of whether there was a historical relationship between the two. These include:[10]

  • use of "-ing" forms for things other than participles
  • the omission of "be"
  • the use of "got" as an auxiliary verb instead of "have" (Mesthrie questions the accuracy of the reports by Yule and Burnell that were the original source of the information that "done" was an auxiliary verb, observing that the 20th century reports by Hosali and others state that this is not a characteristic of 20th century Butler English.)
  • various lexical similarities including "died" being used instead of "dead"

He notes various dissimilarities, however:[10]

  • Butler English uses "been" as an auxiliary verb whereas SAIE does not.
  • Because of pronoun deletion, "is" can begin a sentence in Butler English, whereas such pronoun deletion is less common in SAIE.
  • Butler English has no clear examples of "-s" as a possessive, whereas in SAIE that have a 15/17 occurrence rate.
  • Butler English does not share SAIE's use of "only" as a focus marker
  • Butler English does not share SAIE's use of "got" as an existential
  • Butler English does not share SAIE's occasional Subject Object Verb word order (e.g. four children got for "I have four children.", after pronoun deletion), although he observes that the famous quotation reported by Schuchardt contains one Object-Verb example: little milk give it
  • Butler English does have various lexical forms found in SAIE, such as look-attering, no fadder, hawa, and dawa

Hindi English

General Indian English or Standard Indian English

See also


  1. ^ J. Sethi, Dhamija Sethi, and P. V. Dhamija (2004). A Course in Phonetics and Spoken English. PHI Learning Pvt. Ltd.. p. 59. ISBN 8120314956.  
  2. ^ Jaydeep Sarangi (2004). "Indian Variety of English: A Socio-Linguistic Study". in Mohit Kumar Ray. Studies in ELT, Linguistics and Applied Linguistics. Atlantic Publishers & Distributors. p. 50. ISBN 8126903503.  
  3. ^ a b Edgar W. Schneider (2007). Postcolonial English. Cambridge University Press. p. 168. ISBN 0521831407.  
  4. ^ N. Krishnaswamy and Lalitha Krishnaswamy (2006). the story of english in india. Foundation Books. ISBN 8175963123.  
  5. ^ Andy Kirkpatrick (2007). World Englishes. Cambridge University Press. p. 89. ISBN 0521851475.  
  6. ^ Ravinder Gargesh (2006). "South Asian Englishes". in Braj B. Kachru, Yamuna Kachru, and Cecil L. Nelson. The Handbook of World Englishes. Blackwell Publishing. p. 92. ISBN 1405111852.  
  7. ^ Raymond Hickey (2004). "South Asian Englishes". in Raymond Hickey. Legacies of Colonial English. Cambridge University Press. p. 543. ISBN 0521830206.  
  8. ^ a b c d e f g h Braj B. Kachru (2006). "English in South Asia". in Kingsley Bolton and Braj B. Kachru. World Englishes. Taylor & Francis UK. pp. 267–269. ISBN 0415315077.   (also printed as Braj B. Kachru (1994). "English in South Asia". in Robert Burchfield. The Cambridge History of the English Language. V. English in Britain and Overseas: Origins and Development. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. pp. 497–553. ISBN 0521264782.  )
  9. ^ Melvyn Bragg (2006). The Adventure of English. Arcade Publishing. p. 243. ISBN 1559707844.  
  10. ^ a b c d e f g Rajend Mesthrie (1992). English in Language Shift. Cambridge University Press. pp. 187–192. ISBN 0521415144.  

Further reading


Butler English

  • Hugo Schuchardt (1891). "Briträge zur Kenntnis des englischen Kroelisch III, Das Indo-Englishe". Englishe Studien 15: 286–305.  , which can be found translated and edited in:
    • Hugo Schuchardt (1980). "Briträge zur Kenntnis des englischen Kroelisch III, Das Indo-Englishe". in Glen G. Gilbert. Pidgin and Creole languages: selected essays by Hugo Schuchardt. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. pp. 38–64.  
  • H. Yule and A. C. Burnell (1886). Hobson Jobson: A Glossary of Colloquial Anglo-Indian Words and Phrases, and of Kindred terms, Etymological, Historical, Geographical, and Discursive. London: J. Murray. pp. 133–134.   (reprinted in 1903 by W. Crooke)
  • Priya Hosali (1982). Butler English: form and function. Hyderabad: Central Institute of English and Foreign Languages.  , also published as:
    • Priya Hosali (2000). Butler English: form and function. B.R. Pub. Corp.. ISBN 8176461334.  
  • Priya Hosali and J. Aitchinson (1986). "Butler English: A minimal pidgin?". Journal of Pidgin and Creole Languages 1 (11): 51–79.  
  • Priya Hosali (1997). English in India: What the Butler Really Said. Centre for Communication Studies, Indus Education Foundation.  
  • Priya Hosali (2004). "Butler English: morphology and syntax". in Bernd Kortmann and Edgar W. Schneider. A Handbook of Varieties of English. Walter de Gruyter. pp. 1031–1044. ISBN 3110175320.  

Babu English

  • Cecil Hunt (1931). Honoured Sir from Babujee. P. Allan & Co., Ltd.  
  • Cecil Hunt (1935). Babuji Writes Home: being a new edition of 'Honoured sir' with many additional letters.  
  • Baboo Jabberjee, B.A. at Project Gutenberg

Malayali English

  • Suchitra Sadanandan (1981). Stress in Malayalee English: A generative phonological approach. Hyderabad: Central Institute of English and Foreign Languages.  

Tamilian English

  • K. G. Vijayakrishnan (1978). Stress in Tamilian English: a study within the framework of generative phonology. Hyderabad: Central Institute of English and Foreign Languages.  
  • S. Upendran (1980). The intelligibility of English spoken by Tamilians.  

Punjabi English

  • J. Sethi (1976). English spoken by educated Punjabi speakers in India: A phonological study. Chandigarh: Punjabi University.  
  • J. Sethi (1978). "The vowel system in educated Punjabi speakers' English". Bulletin of the Central Institute of English 14 (2): 35–48.  
  • J. Sethi (1980). "Word accent in educated Punjabi speakers' English". Bulletin of the Central Institute of English 16 (2): 31–55.  

Rajasthani English

  • P. V. Dhamija (1976). A phonological analysis of Rajasthani English. Hyderabad: Central Institute of English and Foreign Languages.  

Telugu English

  • B. A. Prabhakar Babu (1974). A phonological study of English spoken by Telugu speakers in Andhra Pradesh. Hyderabad: Osmania University.  


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