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Indian English: Features and Attitudes


Indian English has been a subject of research, with most of the research describing its linguistic features. The language is used by locals whose first language is not English. Since it is a second language, it is not the primary language but a minority question. However, it is a language of national affairs (Sailaja, 2012). Indian English has been used in the country since the 1600s. Over the years, there has been a lot of attention to its morphology, lexis, syntactic constructions, and sound system. Acoustic phonetic research is increasingly becoming the norm. However, the language has been having some debate on the extent and nature of impact and the language intersection with second language universals (Sailaja, 2012). There have also been arguments on the phase to which Indian English is connected to Schneider's dynamic evolution approach for a new form of English: nativization and endonormative stabilization (Sailaja, 2012). Furthermore, English speakers in India have various attitudes towards their local language and other English varieties in the world. English speakers in India have a variety of attitudes towards British English, American, and Sri Lankan’s English accent. According to Bernaisch and Koch (2016), Indian English speakers demonstrate a positive attitude towards the local Indian English. However, other individuals perceive British English to be favorable compared to other kinds of English. Moreover, most individuals in India show a more positive attitude towards the English spoken in Sri Lankan, which indicates a mutual attitudinal demarcation between the two neighboring English. This paper will discuss the Indian variety of English in terms of features and attitudes.


A particular Indian accent characterizes Indian English. The ascent stems from the Indian language speech patterns. However, the two languages have broad variation. According to Sailaja (2012), there are two types of languages (English as a Second Language), which includes the Dravidian language background and Indo-Aryan language background. Regardless of the variation, several similar aspects across the nation identify the various Indian language accents. The most common phonological features identified across the language is sounds ⁄ Ç, _ ⁄. However, alveolars ⁄ t, d ⁄ may also be evident. Example of these sound in dozen, ton. The sound varies from one speaker to another though both might be present in a speech by one speaker (Sailaja, 2012). Another phonological feature is dental plosives ⁄ t1 ⁄ as well as ⁄ d1⁄, which substitute the fricatives ⁄ h, D ⁄ of the local Indian language and native English varieties. These words are evident in words like “these and “thanks." These words demonstrate plosives in the initial position. Also, the language is characterized by a labio-dental approximant ⁄ t ⁄. However, this feature is utilized by only some speakers, which substitutes the use of both ⁄ v ⁄ and ⁄w⁄. The phonological aspects impact the spelling, which is believed to be the main reason for the geminate articulation in words like cunning, summer, and collar (Crystal, 2003).


Also, the language exhibits a remarkable lack of agreement in the vowel description compared to consonants. According to Crystal (2003), it is globally accepted that the RP diphthongs⁄C⁄ as well as ⁄Y ⁄ are not present in Indian English. Also, monophthongs⁄ o: ⁄ and ⁄ e: ⁄ are widely utilized in words like goat and blame. Moreover, the study reveals that the Indian language has a tendency to utilize a falling tone more often and a rising tone after the raising tone. Also, using a raising tone for closed questions that require Yes or No is common (Gargesh, 2018). The study reveals that there has been debate on whether the Indian language is rhetoric or not. However, Sailaja (2012) points out that the language is rhotic through analyzing the research conducted by Wells (1982), English (1972), and Nihalani et al. (2005). However, the study also reveals that other studies have concluded the opposite- not rhetoric. The study also reveals that, in most cases, most rhetorical features can only be generalized to a small population. However, the phonological aspect creates a separate element of the Indian language, making the Dravidian language speakers and the Indo-Aryan group of speakers.

Lexis and Morphology

English has, over time, been permeated the Indian ethos. This is evident in the normal use of English expressions among Indians. According to Parviainen (2012), the Indian language has been adopted in the English lexicon and used in many English varieties. For instance, the word avatar, which is a Hollywood film title, has been adopted into English. Other words which has been adapted to English and which originates from Sanskrit and Hindi. The accent has contributed to words like thali, “plate," and bandh, "strike," which are initially Hindi words. Moreover, words that are unique to the community, cultural habits, and India's ethos have also significantly been adopted in Indian English. According to Parviainen (2012), some words are unique in the Indian language, and though adopted to the English language, do not have precisely the meaning as in the native language. This indicates that the words or vocabulary of an English language- lexical vary in the two languages. Most of the English words in Indian English are often pronounced in the same way they are spelled after being shortened. However, according to Gargesh (2018), most English words are pronounced differently compared to their actual spelling based on Indian English speakers. For instance, a word like typically is often pronounced ti-pick-lee; however, an Indian English speaker will pronounce it as ti-pick-ah-lee.

The compounding of various vocabularies in Indian English is the most standard way of constructing new words. To create new words and vocabulary, the Indian language has adopted hybrid compounds. In this case, words like burning ghat and dhobi-washed have been created. The hybrid constructions have generated new words and morphology like police wallah and paper wallah- wallah is being the most popular suffix showing “role or occupation” (Sailaja, 2012). Identifying an individual as per the Indian English has been identified as an origin of vocabulary. For example, Naxalite, Delhiite. Naxalite means that an individual comes from the naxalbari region. Also, in word formation, there are other suffixes like "ese," which are used to form new words in English- Assamese. Moreover, "I," like in Hyderabadi and Madrasi, are also used to form words in Indian English. The difference in morphology and lexical aspects differentiate the Dravidian language and Indo-Aryan language. Indian English morphology contains many new terms and usages. However, as revealed, to form vocabulary, compound formation is mostly used. For instance, via compounding, words like chalk-piece and meeting notice have been accepted as new vocabulary. Moreover, to form various morphology, Indians English shorten many words to create commonly used terms. For example, Enthusiasm is commonly referred to as enthu.


In linguistics, the syntax is generally considered to have less variation, especially in the English language. This lack of variation has been evident among British, American, and Indian English. The ‘typical’ syntactic features are often demonstrated in verb complementation patterns, stative verbs, and in the structure of wh-questions. According to Lange (2012), Indian English form sentences in a way that is unique from other languages in its use of only and itself to emphasize place and time. For instance, "Can we meet tomorrow itself?" and "I was in Toledo only." The Indian English also allows for duplication of words to emphasize action; for example, "Come come! Sit sit!" This is most evident in Malayali English, and the main focus of the reduplication is to intensify or extend something. However, these rules are often followed in spoken language. Also, other Indians leave out some words, especially when giving a range of numbers. For instance, unlike American English, Indian English leaves the B.C. like in 233BC and pronounces it as two-three. The arrangement of words in Indian English has some similarities as in the Indian language, which indicates that some similarities exist between the Indian language syntax and the Indian English language. For example, Assamese English, a subtype of Indian English among the Assamese speakers, uses kolna and bandh karna when requesting an individual to turn light on and off respectfully. Similarly, Indian English speakers say, "open the light" and "close the light while speaking English." This is an indication that the arrangement of words has some similarities. Also, concerning syntax, there are various confusing words used and can confuse other English speakers. For example, the word keep is used among the Bengali English speaker and other Indian speakers as an alternative for put. For example, it is correct to say, "keep the ball there."

Discourse Features

Indian English has grown to a more distinctive level compared to other states where English has been utilized as a second language. The Indian English has evolved features at the lexical, phonological, syntactic, and discourse levels. English is no longer treated as a foreign language; instead, it is treated as part of the Indian culture. Wee (2002) states that in Indian English, some speakers have been found to be intransitively, and others are transitive. For example, the general Indian English intransitivity is evident. It is seen as licensed by the discourse, where a previously mentioned item can be dropped. For instance, most speakers exhibit the lack of a direct object in their speech. Sailaja (2012) states that language discourse address forms in some detail.


Users Attitudes towards their own variety and Standard English

In India, being able to speak English with a 'foreign' accent is often considered an intangible status symbol. Indians, particularly Punjabis, are often social class conscious. This is a character that is shared with the colonial master. Bernaisch and Koch (2016) state that most youth in India prefers to speak English among themselves despite being able to speak fluent Hindi. Also, while learning abroad, most youths tend to dismiss their vernacular, which has become a unique culture. This indicates that most Indian English language is accorded lower standard than English with ascents like Britain and American. Unlike Indians, most Brazilians, Greeks, and people from Arabic speaking countries like to speak in their local language regardless of being fluent in English. This indicates that these race rank their vernacular language high and accord it with more value than English. However, there is variation in the rank accorded to English in that most Delhi girls communicate in English while males communicate within themselves in the local language. This indicates that girls are more likely to admire English with ascent compared to men who like their local language. Similarly, Bernaisch and Koch (2016) suggest that there are varying attitudes toward Indian English. Young females who adopt and use syntactic traits of Indian English like topicalization constructions and presentational like itself and only are more used by young women than men. In most cases, female Indian English speakers utilize more English structures and demonstrate a positive attitude towards their nativized English model. This shows that female speakers are currently creating a change in linguistic, especially in the local speech community.

Moreover, though Indian English speakers demonstrate a positive attitude towards Indian English, British English is mostly preferred. This indicates that, regardless of Indian English being ranked low, it is still being perceived with the low accord. Bernaisch and Koch (2016) state that Indian English speakers show a low positive attitude towards Sri Lankan English. Similarly, the same speakers have a high positive attitude towards Standard English like Britain and American English. However, Indians love all the accents and language though it is essential to acknowledge that a person's intelligence is based on the language that an individual can speak. Most people like to use English in social settings; thus, those who can speak Standard English are accorded high rank. Therefore, the ability to speak Standard English is more than speaking to many people. Bernaisch and Koch (2016) state that there are many advantages to speaking Standard English in the community. English language competency is often cited as an edge that elite Indians have over illiterate India. The need to communicate in Standard English has promoted communication skills among the youth. Standard English is also perceived as the best language of studies and instructions in schools, thus being given high ranks. English proficiency is also linked to higher incomes since such people are perceived to have more skills and high qualifications in their chosen fields. Therefore, the use of Standard English has been linked to various economic advancements to people and the state.

Endonormative and Exonormative Models

Indian English teachers favor endonormativity. Most teachers mostly rank their local form of English though they greatly favor British English. However, the historical and political backgrounds of English teachers greatly influence the construction of teachers’ identity. Lambert (2014) states that, endonormative model which supports non-native teachers has become socially acceptable. This indicates that, the endonormative attitude is becoming accepted’ in India. However, there is also some argument for Indian English. This argument includes the exonormative view, the endonormative view, and the lack of concern. The endonormative view reveals that regardless of valuing and encouraging various types of English, teachers also promote awareness concerning the global spread of English. Furthermore, the endonormative model which acknowledges the non-native teachers. Similarly, in India, Indian English teachers mostly favor British English as the best linguistic model; there is still a positive attitude towards local variety. Local English teachers are often more familiar with the expected learning challenges and student learning acquisition strategies. Over the years, there has been a high awareness concerning Indian-accented English, thus reducing the popularity of the American and British varieties of English.

According to Caine (2008), British English is rated and ranked more positively among most Indians since it conveys 'colonial baggage. Thus, Indians have a positive attitude towards their own local variety. Moreover, as revealed, non-native English teachers are well-positioned to teach English, which indicates that other accents are more preferred in teaching English than the local language. It is also perceived that local teachers do not have the expected confidence to teach English. According to Caine (2008), increasing teachers' confidence and awareness in the local English language can help promote students' confidence in their own English varieties. The study reveals that, in most institutions, pronunciation is given little consideration, thus making native accent unimpressive to most young people and teachers. Therefore, considering all essential phonology traits, which have been demonstrated to be less critical, can be vital in improving the attitude and perception of the Indian English language. Regardless of many teachers sticking and promoting the local Indian English language, these attitudes have been indicated to limit an individual's ability to think critically and advance their language and ascent.

Another view is exonormative, which is the perceived prestige of a non-local variety. After the establishment of colonialism, British dominance becomes popular, thus influencing local culture. This meant that English is spoken in the British territory and, in most cases, perceived to be more advanced. Colonialism creates an exonormative view of language, which is shown to have prestige and has standards. According to Fuchs (2020), it is also the standard form of language accorded more prestige than local Indian English. This view contrast with the endonormative view, which shows the local language is being the standardized variety. British English is considered exonormative. In India, British English is referred to as the target model and appears to be firmly in place. Fuchs (2020) states that most educators and politicians perceive Indian English as being littered with instances of grammatical mistakes, spelling errors, and pronunciation howlers. This makes the British English to be perceived as standard. This indicates that the various Indian English language, including Assamese English, Bengali English, West Indian English, and General Indian English, are of low standard compared to British English. Moreover, individuals with British English backgrounds are perceived to be more elite, thus becoming more desired than the local English. During the colonial period, English was being used by many middle-ranking jobs; thus, most of today’s Indians believe in developing British English accent and language- thus perceived as standard. This is an indication that Exonormativity is essential in the development of Standard English in India. However, studies show that it is no longer appropriate in today’s multicultural and multilingual setting. The assumption is also challenged by education and raising teacher’s awareness of English in the globalized world.

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Indian English has been under investigation for some time now. Most of the research describes the Indian language's linguistic features. Some of the aspects which differentiate the Indian English language include morphology, lexis, syntactic constructions, and sound system. Also, various attitudes have been associated with Indian English. Based on phonetical traits, the Indian language is categorized into the Dravidian language and Indo-Aryan language. Some of the most common features include sounds ⁄ Ç, _ ⁄ and dental plosives like ⁄ t1 ⁄. The language is also characterized as rhetorical though there is also a debate on its ability to be rhetoric. Also, the language is differentiated by the use of lexis and morphology. The language often uses lexicon and which originate from the local vernacular language -Hindi. To create morphology, compounding of various vocabularies in Indian English has been mostly adopted to achieve new words. This includes adopting a suffix and prefix. Moreover, syntactic also have played a great part in creating Indian English. Syntactic features are often demonstrated in verb complementation patterns, especially in Malayali English. Furthermore, discourse features like intransitive and transitive help create variation in various Indian English. In India, being able to speak English with a 'foreign' accent is often considered an intangible status symbol. Concerning endonormative and exonormative models, teachers perceive and acknowledge Indian English though there is also some debate. On the other hand, young people rank British English more positively, which conveys 'colonial baggage. British dominance has become popular, thus influencing local culture and languages, thus being perceived as more critical and standard.


Bernaisch, T. and Koch, C., 2016. Attitudes towards Englishes in India. World Englishes, 35(1), pp.118-132.

Caine, T.M., 2008. Do you speak global?: The spread of English and the implications for English language teaching. Canadian Journal for New Scholars in Education/Revue canadienne des jeunes chercheures et chercheurs en éducation, 1(1).

Crystal, D., 2003. English as a global language. Ernst Klett Sprachen.

Fuchs, R., 2020. The progressive in 19th and 20th century settler and indigenous Indian English. World Englishes.

Gargesh, R., 2018. Bi‐/multilingual creativity in Indian English. World Englishes, 37(3), pp.464-471.

Lambert, J., 2014. Diachronic stability in Indian English lexis. World Englishes, 33(1), pp.112-127.

Lange, C., 2012. The syntax of spoken Indian English. John Benjamins Publishing Company

Parviainen, H., 2012. Focus particles in Indian English and other varieties. World Englishes, 31(2), pp.226-247.

Sailaja, P., 2012. Indian English: Features and sociolinguistic aspects. Language and Linguistics Compass, 6(6), pp.359-370.

Wee, L., 2002. When English is not a mother tongue: Linguistic ownership and the Eurasian community in Singapore. Journal of Multilingual and Multicultural Development, 23(4), pp.282-295.

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