It is difficult to explain
the concept of ‘Indian English’ or the more obvious; does this type of English
really exist? That’s a different part. But that’s for sure, that the English we
use to speak in India is bit different from the native one. The way the native
speakers use English language is considered as a standard way to use it. But as
we all are Indian by birth, and English is not our mother tongue or our first
language, we are unable to use it in that way. How can we? Because one can be
fluent in a language which he/she acquires and not learns. For example, we all
are fluent in our mother tongues. The reason behind is that we acquire the
language from our surrounding by the time. But this is not the case with
English, we learn it and so, we cannot be fluent in English or not suppose to
be. This statement is quite controversial but as we all know that the
Englishmen do not consider our English a pure one. Even they do not consider
the American English as a pure language.
Many scholars and thinkers
used to say that we follow the British pattern of English. Definitely it is
true but one can easily figure out the unique characteristics of English
language used by an Indian. Even R.K. Narayan, in his essay ‘Toasted English’, talks
about the Bharat brand of English. In that essay, his intension was to prove
that the English we, as Indians, use in our day to day life is different than
that of Standard English. It is obvious that English came in our country as the
language of the rulers but then after it get coloured with the colour of Indian
languages. Therefore we can figure out the essence of different Indian
languages in the Indian English. Here, in this paper we will discuss about the
Indian English as ‘Lingua franca’.
KEYWORDS: – Lingua
franca, Indianness, Native language, Standard English, Dialect.
‘Lingua franca’ is actually
a loan word. It’s a mixture of words ‘lingua’ and ‘franca’. Lingua has two
source languages, Portuguese and Italian, meaning ‘A Specific Language’. The
other word ‘Franca’ is related to Greek and Arabic languages. This word has
short equivalence with Italian language as well. Chirikba defines this concept
as, “A bridge language, common language, trade language or vehicular language,
systematically used to make communication possible between people who do not
share a native language or dialect, particularly when it is a third language
that is distinct from both native languages”. In simple words, Lingua franca is
a language that is used among people who speak different languages.
In history, the Eastern
Mediterranean people (the countries geographically to the east of the
Mediterranean Sea) use a particular language as the main language of commerce
and diplomacy from medieval periods. Especially the use of that language was
large in scale during the 14th to 18th century. At that
time, Italian speakers had dominance over the seaborne commerce. They were
dominant in the port cities of the ‘Ottoman Empire’ in terms of commerce. To
maintain the trade dominance there, these Italian speakers came up with a
simplified version of Italian language, which was understandable to the
clientele of Ottoman Empire. That simplified version of Italian includes
various loan words from various languages, like Greek, Old French, Portuguese,
Spanish and more. This version of language came to be widely used as the
‘Lingua Franca’ of the region.
the Douglas Harper Dictionary, the term ‘Lingua Franca’ was first recorded
during the year 1670 in English. But, an even earlier example of the use of
this word is attested in 1632, where it is referred to as ‘Bastard Spanish’.
Some scholars compare this language with the vernacular languages but
vernacular language is used as a native language in a particular group of
people or community but this is not the case with the ‘Lingua Franca’. Lingua
Franca is used beyond the limitations and borders of its source languages and
is used as second language (in some cases third) for communication between
groups. For example, Hindi language is used as a first language in India and
Bengali is in Bangladesh. While trading in Bangladesh, Indian traders use
simplified version of Hindi which includes some Bengali words. So, that
language works as a bridge to fill the gap between Bengali and Hindi languages.
Here, through this paper we will talk in detail about Indian English as ‘Lingua
To figure out the
‘Indianness’ of English through comparative study of standard English and
To study the use of
English language in Indian context.
To analyse the Indian
use of English in abroad countries.
To apply the
characteristics of ‘Lingua Franca’ to English language in India.
also known as the Indian use of English or English used in India is nothing but
English language coloured with the Indian features. Its existence is not clear
even now, there are various streams defining and opposing the use of the word
‘Indian English’. But that’s for sure that, the English we use is bit different
from the Standard English in terms of articulation, vocabulary and rules of
grammar as well. Despite all various opinions, streams of thoughts and
controversies of its use, English has retained its vital role in India after
the independence as well. Now, we will implement some characteristics of
‘Lingua Franca’ to Indian English.
Works as a ‘Bridge Language’-
to the census of India 2001, India has 122 major languages and 1599 other
languages. However, figures from other sources vary, primarily due to
differences in definitions of terms ‘language’ and ‘dialect’. Each state has
its own first language, like Bengali is the language of Bengal state,
Rajasthani is for Rajasthan and so on. Definitely, the majority of speakers use
Hindi language as a language of communication. But this is not the case with
regions like Southern part and seven sisters of India. As we all know, English
is not our (as being Indian by birth) first language but to communicate with
people of other state, who do not share Hindi, prefer English. Especially above
mentioned states, i.e. Southern part of India and seven sister states. Therefore,
to get communicated with the people others use English language. In this case,
English language works as a bridge language which bridges the gap and make the
transportation convenient to people of different languages. For various reasons
this sort of transportation of messages take place:-
i) For Trading Purpose:-
Commerce is the
reason behind creation of the term Lingua franca. It will be not wrong if I
say, ‘Commerce is the father of Lingua franca or a bridge language’. Only for
the trading purposes, the Italian merchants first of all came up with the new
version of Italian language which became foundation for further development of
this kind of commercial languages or bridge languages.
Same is the case
with Indian context as well. Here, when the Hindi speaking trader wants to
trade with Telugu or Malayalam speaking person, he uses English as the language
of communication. Same thing happen in transaction between North-East residents
and other part residents of India. So, we can say that English language works
as a bridge language while doing trade in various states of India.
ii) For Information
is blessed with natural beauties. From top to the bottom, every region, state
has something unique to visit and please. Therefore, every time, in every
season, we can see tourists visit places. At that time, it becomes very
difficult for the natives to explain the historical, geological or geographical
background of that particular place in his/her native language, because
tourists belong to other states or sometime from abroad as well. So, there
English becomes medium of communication. The natives use English language to
communicate with them. The information, concepts, ideas get transferred between
them. They exchange their views, experience with each other by using English
language becomes the medium for exchange of information between two different
language speaking groups. Through that exchange of information, one can enjoy
the beauty of nature in bit deep sense.
iii) For Communication Purpose:-
we have already mentioned above that there are hundreds of languages being used
in India. Every state has a language. As the nation have different verities of
languages then how literature will be exception for it? Every language is rich
with literary treasures. But because of different languages, their message,
ideas cannot be conveyed to the other language speakers. Therefore, many
literary writers use English language for writing or they translate the written
literature from their native language to English to communicate with their
compatriot. There are plenty of examples available from past to present era.
Like, Rabindranath Tagore, who initially starts writing in Bengali but then
forth translate his own collection into English so that readers of all over
India can read and his thoughts get expressed to them. Abburi Chayya devi’s
short story collections are also get translated into English to reach to the
readers all over the world. Very recent, famous poet Gulzarji’s poetry is
earning reputation on world stage only after he gets translated into English.
Before that his reputation was limited to the Hindi and Urdu knowing countries.
instinct of literature or basic purpose is to get communicated with its
readers, audience. Vast geographical area, different culture and different
languages were the barriers to get communicated with all Indians at a time
through literary writing. But
of this language, i.e. English, in some extent this mammoth task became
2) It includes various
words from various regional languages:-
speak English in our day to day life, we understand English, we teach English
and we learn English but we didn’t accept the English language as it is from
the native speakers of it. English, while getting planted in an Indian soil, went
through plenty of processes like mongrelisation, hybridisation and many more.
It means that English get coloured with Indian texture or flavour. To explain
in very simple words, it does not remain Standard English as it is use in
England or America. So many words get mixed in it, boundaries of vocabulary get
expand and new ways of articulation came in existence.
is the list of words below which were not there in Standard English and get added
in it after Indians use those in their use of English:
Bapu ( baapU)
A type of Food
A kind of hut
Indian Semi classical music
Jam ([email protected] jaama)
Blocking of a road
These are few words which get
accepted in English worldwide. Even some hybrid words also get implemented in
English, like ‘Mirch-masala’ where Mirch is Hindi word for chilli and Masala is
an Urdu word meaning spices, ‘Dadagiri’ where dada is a Hindi/Marathi word for
brother and –giri is an Urdu combining form which denotes certain activity.
So, one can easily figure out words
in Indian English which are originally Indian, still used in English, especially
in Indian continent. So, here fulfils the second characteristic of ‘Lingua
3) Works as second language:-
As we all
know that there were some controversies at the time of declaration of official
language of India after independence. Therefore, Hindi being most used language
and English were declared as the official languages of India. So, English,
despite being foreign language, became second language in India. Till date it
is on the same position even further it become more prominent all over India.
Day by day speakers of English language are increasing in numbers. So, the third
characteristic of Lingua franca is also get fulfil here.
Thus, English used in
India is a ‘Lingua Franca’, a bridge language, a language which is used for
trading, a common language for groups of people who do not share their native
or first language. But at present stage, English language is not just lingua
franca for the Indians but more than that. It not just bridges the gap between
people of different states or communities of India but opens new doors of
opportunities for them to express themselves, to gain new knowledge, to spread
their own knowledge in the whole world. In history, the concept of Lingua Franca was
only related to trading. But now days, the concept has turned upside down.
At present time, Indian
English is not just limited to Indian context but it gain reputation all over
the world. While watching news on different news channels, while reading
newspapers, especially English ones, while having a good chat with your
neighbours, we find that English became inevitable part of our life. While
using our mother tongue, we use hundreds of English words and vice-versa. Like
coffee, tea-time, dinner, lunch break, excuse me, sorry and many more words of
English we use while using our first language. While using English language for
communication we use words like Samosa, Thali, time-pass, Chutney, Pani-puri,
Kila which are regional words of India. Still we find these words suitable for
conversation. Even oxford dictionary of English has include these words in
English and stamped that one can use them while speaking.