Standarization of Indian english

 

By Najibullah Adamji

 

In recent times, Indian English has acquired a definite status of its own. It has never been exactly British but remarkably Indian. So, English in India has taken place not only in the socio-political-economic and scientific arena but also as the medium of the creative and critical writings.

 

What is Standardization? In terminology, the process of implementing and nurturing technical standards that can be helpful in enhancing compatibility, reconcilability, protection, quality and settling coordination problems is called Standardization.

The technique by which traditional style of a language is manifested and preserved is defined as Language Standardization. It may occur as a natural development of language in a speech community to impose one dialect or variety as a standard.

Standard English is a controversial term for a form of the English Language that is written and spoken by educated users. According the Oxford Companion to the English Language (1992), the term Standard English “resists easy definition but is used as if most educated people nonetheless known precisely what it refers to.”

English is one of the 23 official languages recognized by the Constitution of India despite majority of Indians are non-English speakers. They are more comfortable in communicating in their own regional languages such as Hindi, Punjabi, Bengali, Tamil, Telugu etc. as their first language. The semi-literate masses do not speak English at all, and even educated people who know how to speak English generally have a faulty strong regional accent. Here, it becomes necessary and important to set Indian Standard in order to give institutional legitimacy to an originally derived regime of rules, principles, and words to lay down pragmatic guidelines for Indian English.

In recent times, Indian English has acquired a definite status of its own. It has never been exactly British but remarkably Indian. So, English in India has taken place not only in the socio-political-economic and scientific arena but also as the medium of the creative and critical writings.

The importance of English language in India could be well understood in the following lines from Kamala Das, Indian English poetess, and littérateur:

The language I speak becomes mine,

It’s distortions, it’s queerness all mine,

It is half English, half Indian, funny perhaps, but it is honest.

It is as human as I am human, Don’t you see?

It voices my joys, my longings, my hopes and it is as useful.

We need a Standard Indian English:-

To acknowledge the Indianness of Indian English which means to acknowledge it as an acculturated Indian language and to end its problematic status as a second or foreign language which derives its authenticity from foreign sources or for language that is standard varieties of British English and American English.

To acknowledge that nationalistically defined Standard British English and Standard American English as global standards- by privileging the general over the particular, the same and similar over the different, and the clichéd over the singular- hamper and stultify the creative evolution of Indian English.

To nurture the creative potential of Indian English which would humanize and democratize the language which is being primarily used by the institutions of state and corporation as a language of power to ensure the subordination and obedience of people.

English that displays the influence of the languages and culture of India in its speech and writing is described as Indian English. It is one of the oldest regional kinds of the English language. According to Professor Michale J. Toolan, University of Birmingham, “Soon 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.”

Indian English, or rather the forms of English used in India, have long been a topic of interest for laymen and scholars alike. For generations, the exotic nature of the transplanted language was commented on, often ridiculed as a matter of unintentional comic. It was only from the 1960s onwards that the local forms of English were recognized for what they are adaptations of the world language to local needs, and varying to an enormous degree, depending on the speakers and writers’ education and the uses they make of the language.

This acknowledgment came mainly from abroad; Indians are much less willing to admit to the variation and its communicative functions in the country. Therefore, Standard English (in its classical British form) is generally favoured together with formal written uses often based on the stylistic models provided by English Literature from Shakespeare to Dickens.

Various researchers have identified three early phases of the spread of English in India contributed to by three distinct groups of people: Christian missionaries, native enthusiasts of English education in the nineteenth century and nineteenth-century British administrators. The second phase of the spread of English was due to the efforts of a small group of Indians especially in Bengal who wanted to study English along with Persian and Bengali. This group existed before Raja Rammohan Roy but under his leadership became especially influential in shaping British educational policy.

The third phase of the spread of English is the political phase when English became the medium of public education in India following the English Education Act of 1835. T.B Macaulay’s Minute on Education (1835)- in which he, in a sense, reiterated many of the arguments for English education put forth by Raja Rammohan Roy in his famous letter of 1823 to Lord Amherst – established the importance of English as a medium of education by noting the European superiority in producing “works in which facts are recorded and general principles investigated” as opposed to “works of imagination” like Sanskrit and Arabic poetry.

R.R Mehrotra of Indian Institute of Advanced Study, who is author of Sociology Of Secret Languages, was one of the first to see the need for a proper sociolinguistic description of Indian situation and the forms and functions of English in this complex set-up. He has for a long time collected and analyzed the huge range of English around him. In his published book he states that in spite of the models set by the BBC, MTV, HBO and the Voice of America, Indian English could not but develop on lines of its own, independent of the mother tradition. For instance, in the Indian value system, common English words like teachers, mother, wife, guest, saint, family, home, marriage and kitchen are conceptualized very differently than in the Western value system.

The process of Indianization of the English language got a fresh boost after the departure of native speakers from the Indian scene in 1947. It is a truism that English tends to admit of greater variety and move in more diverse situations in a non- native multilingual setting than in its native surroundings. The number of second language speakers of English has constantly been on the increase and this has also contributed to its rich variation.

Mehrotra has further added various domains in which Indian English is more conspicuously and sometimes habitually employed. In the domain of literature, the genre of fiction has been most susceptible to the Indianness both thematically and linguistically as will be evident from the novels of Mulkh Raj Anand, R.K Narayan, Raja Rao, Khushwant Singh, Bhabani Bhattacharya, Kamala Markendeya, G.V. Desani, Amitabh Ghosh , Upamanyu Chaterji and several others. Another habitual domain of Indian English is the field of journalism, particularly the text types of advertisements, letters to the editor, public notices and announcements, market trends, obituaries and astrological forecasts. The editorials of big newspapers are generally free from traces of ‘Indianisms’, particularly in regard to language.

In the domain of education, the features of Indian English are particularly discernible in classroom lectures, private conversation among students and teachers, school textbooks, examination answer books, Ph.D. dissertations, notices, circulars, applications, and testimonials. In the domain of administration, Indian English is recognizably present in the official notings and orders, correspondence and circulars, applications and complaints. In the domain of trade and commerce; the signboards and publicity materials, letters and telegrams, reports and other documents are generally written in Indian English. According to Mehrotra’s analysis, Indian English has failed to make any significant inroads upon the domain of family except in the case of the small minority of Anglo-Indians and others speaking English as their first language.

However, it is spectacularly present in the printed greetings and invitations, particularly those for marriage and other ceremonies even in families whose members do not speak English as their first language. Some other domains and registers in which Indian English has not been able to make any significant encroachments are those of religion, songs and finally, sports and games of indigenous types.

The adoption and unification of Indian English as an Indian language catering to the descriptive and expressive needs of the Indian communities requires it to be turned into a Standard Language. The standardization procedure can be initiated by constituting an Expert Committee for purpose of Standardization of Indian English. The Committee can undertake research into the varieties of Indian English and evolve methodology to come up with a Standard Indian English.

 

Standard Indian English, while being accommodative of all the varieties of English spoken in the country, will provide the power of constancy of Indian English, transforming it into a democratic and vibrant major language in touch with, and responsive to, the life world of the people of India.”

Najibullah Adamji

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2 Responses

  1. Atiya says:

    Really its fruitfull

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