Indianisation of English

Q) Discuss ‘Indianisation’ of English, citing examples of some major features of Indian English. Ans. Indianism can be defined simply as those features of English which are specific to Indian use but linguistically it can be defined in more than one way. In terms of lexical and grammatical structure the transfer of Indianism into English may result into grammatical deviations in English. The equivalence of formal items of L1 and L2 may result by the transfer of Indianism in Indian English in two ways: (a) It could be a translation of Indian item. (b) It could be a shift based on an under laying Indian source item.

1. Translation:

It is reasonable to define translation as an establishment of equivalent or partial equivalent forms in Indian English from the other forms in Indian languages. In the process of translation it is not necessary that there would be 1-2-1 correspondence between the items of L1 and L2.

2. Shift:

A shift differs from translation because it does not make any attempt to establish formal equivalence. Indianism is considered as shift might be an adaptation of a formal item of an Indian language which takes its source from the Indian language itself. Shift cannot be understood or explained if not considered in the context of Indian culture. The three major characteristics of Indian English which are strictly confined to the Indian uses are: (a) Grammatical deviation from American and British English formations,

(b) Involvement of loan shifts from Indian languages, and

(c) Formally non-deviant but contextually deviant. Thus we can categories deviation of Indianism in two different categorise Formal and Contextual. Formal deviation means the deviation in terms of lexical items which are the building blocks of structure of a collocation. This results in the lexical and contextually Indian collocations such as ‘Sister-Sleeper’, ‘Dining-Leaf’, ‘Rape-Sister’, ‘Flower-Bed’, etc. It often happens that in Indianism a syntactic unit of a higher rank in Standard English is reduced to a lower rank in Indian English. This process of reduction further involves two processes. The first process is deletion and the second process is permutation of lexical items. For example, the nominal groups of English ‘An address of welcome’, ‘A bunch of keys’ and ‘Love of God’, have been reduced to ‘Welcome address’, ‘Key-bunch’, and ‘God-love’ respectively in Indian English. Sometimes we take a step ahead in Indianism with the formations like ‘America returned’ or ‘England returned’.

There are certain Indianisms which are specific to the Indian culture. These Indianisms may be termed as contextually determined Indianisms. Often contextually determined Indianisms are unintelligible to speakers of other English variety because they are not acquainted with the particular cultural context, which the Indianism refers to. For example ‘Bamboo-stretcher’, ‘Bath-fire’, ‘Betel-Bag’, ‘Black-money’, ‘Bride-showing’, ‘Cow-dung cakes’ etc. It is apparently clear that today English language has been amalgamated into the cultural and social life of India and has become what Raja Rao said, the language of ‘intellectual make-up’ of Indians.

Indian Writings in English

The history of Indian English writings can be traced back to as early as 1830, when a book of poem – Shair and Other Poems – was published by Kashiprasad Ghosh. Indian English poetry was the first genre of Indian English writing, it was then ridiculed as ‘Mathew Arnold in Sari’ and later as ‘Shakuntala in skirts’. But today the scene has radically changed. The Indian English writings have not only made its mark in Indian literature but in world literature as well. Imitating the English literature Indian writings in English also developed in three forms or genres – poetry, drama, and novel. India was familiar with the first two forms because of Sanskrit literature but the novel was directly inherited from the British literature. Early Indian English poets often took their concept or theme of poetry from the past to incorporate the situation of present, but in doing so they unknowingly were following the footstep of Orientalists. It would be unfair to say that in their attempts of incorporating Indian myths and retelling the history so to make it live in present Indian contexts they took the easy way out. They did not take the easy way out; they did what they thought to be the only way. It was the awareness of imperial subjugation and distancing of self from the culture that made them take the themes from history and use it in present colonial context.

Understanding the situation of Indian English writer is very crucial at this stage. Indian English writers were torn between the two opposite forces namely native culture and foreign language. And, perhaps, that is the reason that Indian English writers have often suffered from, what Upamanayu Chatterjee called, “an intrinsic schizophrenia”. Meenakshi Mukherjee who is the author of Twice-born Fiction makes an important and interesting point about the development of Indian English genre. She interestingly shifts her attention from writer to the reader and then back to the writer. In doing show she is trying to find, what exactly the English writers on India were reading that made their intellectual make-up. She suggests four possible ranges of reading that were available to Indians. These were:

(a) Curricula: These were the texts available to Indian through formal educations. (b) References: These were the reference made in text of nineteenth centuries which often refer to intellectual discourses, famous novels and various other academic developments in Europe. (c) Translation: These were the translated books in Indian languages from English. (d) Influences: These refer to the common literary influences and intellectual borrowings that were assimilated.

The first Indian English novel to be published was Bankim Chandra Chatterjee’s Rajmohan’s Wife. After this the Indian English novel saw a torrent of Indian writers writing in English. Writers like R.K Narayan, Raja Rao, Mulk Raj Anand, Bhabani Bhattacharya, Anita Desai, Ruskin Bond, etc. have contributed greatly to the enrichment and development of Indian English literature. With Salman Rushdie’s Midnight’s Children coming into print in 1980, Indian English writing got a new dimension. After Rushdie’s novel writers like Amitav Ghosh, Upamanayu Chatterjee, I. Allan Sealy, Vikaram Seth, and Arundhati Roy have made Indian English writings globally read and appreciated, which in turn has opened up new possibilities of Indian English writings.

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