Regional differences and dialects in Indian English

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Indian English has developed a number of dialects, distinct from the General/Standard Indian English that educators have attempted to establish and institutionalise, 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 other's 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 recognised dialects include Malayali English,Maharashtrian 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.[3][4][5][6]

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[edit]

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 characterised 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][10]

Butler English[edit]

Main article: 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.

Hindi English[edit]

Main article: Hinglish

Hinglish (the name is a combination of the words "Hindi" and "English") is a macaronic language, a hybrid of English and South Asian languages – it is a code-switching variety of these languages whereby they are freely interchanged within a sentence or between sentences.[1] While the name is based on the Hindi language, it does not refer exclusively to Hindi, but "is used in India, with English words blending with Punjabi, and Hindi, and also within British Asian families to enliven standard English."

Major regional dialects and accents[edit]

Modern phonologists often divide Indian English into five major varieties.

Bengali English[edit]

Bengali English (or eastern Indian English) here refers collectively to the varieties of the West Bengal state and neighbouring country of Bangladesh, which has been greatly influenced by Bengali. Its main subdivisions are Calcutta English as well as Dhaka English.

West Indian English[edit]

West Indian English here refers to a traditional variety spoken in the western part of India.

Cultivated Indian English[edit]

Cultivated Indian English here refers collectively to non-localised, non-working class, and more recent varieties of India and the surrounding region of India. It includes mainstream Indian English, a widely common, upper-class variety that preserves a few local Indian features while setting the basis for an otherwise General Indian English accent as well as new Cultivated Indian English, a youthful variety beginning in the 2000s.Though both are found rare in India.

Southern Indian English[edit]

Southern Indian English here refers to rural, broad varieties of India's south Regions.

General Indian English[edit]

Main article: Indian English

General Indian English here refers to a variety originating outside of the island's eastern regions and southern regions, crossing regional boundaries throughout the Republic of India. As mentioned earlier, Cultivated Indian English is almost entirely this General Indian dialect but with a few features more Received Pronunciation.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ J. Sethi; Dhamija Sethi & P. V. Dhamija (2004). A Course in Phonetics and Spoken English. PHI Learning Pvt. Ltd. p. 59. ISBN 9788120314955. 
  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 9788126903504. 
  3. ^ a b Edgar W. Schneider (2007). Postcolonial English. Cambridge University Press. p. 168. ISBN 9780521831406. 
  4. ^ N. Krishnaswamy & Lalitha Krishnaswamy (2006). the story of english in india. Foundation Books. ISBN 9788175963122. 
  5. ^ Andy Kirkpatrick (2007). World Englishes. Cambridge University Press. p. 89. ISBN 9780521851473. 
  6. ^ Ravinder Gargesh (2006). "South Asian Englishes". In Braj B. Kachru; Yamuna Kachru; Cecil L. Nelson. The Handbook of World Englishes. Blackwell Publishing. p. 92. ISBN 9781405111850. 
  7. ^ Raymond Hickey (2004). "South Asian Englishes". In Raymond Hickey. Legacies of Colonial English. Cambridge University Press. p. 543. ISBN 9780521830201. 
  8. ^ a b Braj B. Kachru (2006). "English in South Asia". In Kingsley Bolton; Braj B. Kachru. World Englishes. Taylor & Francis UK. pp. 267–269. ISBN 9780415315074. 
    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 9780521264785. 
  9. ^ Melvyn Bragg (2006). The Adventure of English. Arcade Publishing. p. 243. ISBN 9781559707848. 
  10. ^ Srinivas Aravamudan (2006). Guru English: South Asian religion in a cosmopolitan language. Princeton University Press. p. 133. ISBN 978-0-691-11828-4. 

Further reading[edit]

Babu English[edit]

  • 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. P. Allan & Co., Ltd. 
  • Baboo Jabberjee, B.A. at Project Gutenberg

Malayali English[edit]

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

Tamilian English[edit]

  • 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[edit]

  • 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[edit]

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

Telugu English[edit]

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