Wednesday, August 31, 2005

we speak like this only

languages in contact often transform into other languages over centuries (prAkr.t becomes hindi or bengali or marathi) by adapting to the structures of other languages and by other organic changes such as simplification (e.g. dropping case markers from old english to modern english). today, most english users in india resist such change, preferring a "purer" form of the language, but who knows what language we may be speaking here in 2205? in spoken english, already, these intrusions proliferate. here are some of the changes we often use in indian english, as observed in the oxford companion to the english language.
  1. Interrogative constructions without subject/auxiliary inversion: What you would like to buy?
  2. Definite article often used as if the conventions have been reversed: It is the nature's way; Office is closed today.
  3. One used rather than the indefinite article: He gave me one book.
  4. Stative verbs given progressive forms: Lila is having two books; You must be knowing my cousin-brother Mohan.
  5. Reduplication used for emphasis and to indicate a distributive meaning: I bought some small small things; Why you don't give them one one piece of cake?
  6. Yes and no as question tags: He is coming, yes?; She was helping you, no?
  7. Isn't it? as a generalized question tag: They are coming tomorrow, isn't it?
  8. Reflexive pronouns and only used for emphasis: It was God's order itself It was God's own order, They live like that only That is how they live.
  9. Present perfect rather than simple past: I have bought the book yesterday.
These have different levels of acceptability among users of Indian English. While much more can be said if a formal study was available, one may venture to guess that alternations (I would rather not call them "errors" or "mistakes") as in 6, 8, and 9 have more wider usage and thereby possibly somewhat higher acceptability, than for example, 4.

It would be interesting to present this data to several user groups across the country and have them mark the sentences for the degree of acceptability etc.


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