Annika Hohenthal, Department of English, University of Turku, Finland


My hypothesis is that English and one's mother tongue are used in different domains and for different purposes in India. The status of English in India is high among the Úlite by which it is used mostly in the formal domains (such as education, government and employment); more informal domains (such as the family, friendship and neighbourhood) are reserved for the mother tongue. Still, the use of English as a medium for creative self-expression is also on the increase; and English has become nativized in the Indian environment.

According to my hypothesis, instrumental motivation can be mentioned as the most important kind of motivation for the use of English in India. Hindi has more cultural symbolic value than English: English is spoken because it is useful to a person, or even, in a sense, obligatory to know to advance, while Hindi is in the cultural sense closer to people and easier to be identified with.

I assume, too, that even though English is acquiring new identities in new cultural contexts, such as in India (which in itself should be a natural phenomenon), often the new Englishes are considered as deviations of the standard British or American English norm, and Indian people, too, are quite ambivalent about their variety of the language. Thus, I think that to my question about the suitable norm for the English in India, many people will answer: RP (Received Pronunciation: BBC English; Standard English in Britain) or General American English.

A Description of the Study

The study was conducted with the help of internet and e-mail. The group of informants was collected by announcing at home pages of Indian universities for people interested in taking part in the study about Indian multilingualism. The surveys were e-mailed to the informants, who filled it in and e-mailed it back to me. This method of collecting the data worked smoothly: e-mail was a fast way to correspond with the informants.

The informants were asked to fill in a survey about multilingualism in India. It was not specified that the attitudes towards the use of English were being studied. The first part of the survey included statements related to domains such as family, friendship, neighborhood, transactions, education, government and employment. The informants' duty was to fill in the language he most often uses for each occasion. The aim was to do a domain analysis of the use of English in India to find out which language(s) does an Indian person use in which situations.

The second part of the study comprised of 35 statements related to attitudes towards English and other languages of India. The third part of the was related to the model of English: the respondents had to give their opinion as to which model of English would suit India best.

Domain analysis and a study of language attitudes are strongly interlinked: the attitudes, which develop in a society during a course of time can determine the domains in which a particular language is used in a society. They determine the place a language holds in a society. By including a domain analysis in the study, it is possible to get a better, and probably a more realistic idea of the language situation in India. Consequently, domain analysis is an effective method to find out about the use of different languages in different domains of life.

The third part of the study, the question about the model for Indian English is also connected with attitudes: it shows the preference for either the domestic Indian variety, or the "foreign" one (such as RP or American English).

With the three separate parts I wanted to ensure that (the three parts, although separate, are still very closely connected) it would be harder for people to try to give "politically correct" answers (or answers which an informant might think would be expected to be given by him) because there is a bigger possibility that they will be noticed in other parts of the study. In my opinion, also, the inclusion of such a big number of questions (the number of which no informant actually complained about) made the study more reliable. I think that had I had a smaller number of questions, the treatment of the topic would have been considerably more narrow.

The Informants

The total number of informants was thirty, which, in my opinion, proved to be an adequate number. Only two of the informants are female, all the others are male. One of the reasons to the small number of female informants may be that most of the universities where the informants are studying/have studied are institutions of technology (28 had studied/were currently studying technical subjects, such as engineering and computer sciences), and these institutions most probably are male-dominated; thus there is simply a greater possibility of finding male informants. One informant was pursuing her PhD studies in psychology and one has a Master's degree in Philosophy. All the informants have either Bachelor's, Master's or PhD degree (11 Bachelors', 17 Masters', 2 PhDs').

The informants come from nine different states in India. This made the study more interesting but, on the other hand, one cannot draw too far-reaching conclusions, for instance, about the attitudes of people who live in Maharastra on the basis of just two informants. That is, also, one reason why I have not concentrated so much on the states where the informants come from. Nine of them are from Andhra Pradesh, seven from Tamil Nadu, six from West Bengal, two from Kerala and another two from Maharastra. There is, too, one informant from each of the following states: Uttar Pradesh, Haryana and Rajasthan.

In India, the state where one comes from is important, for some of the states are more pro-English or pro-Hindi,or pro-regional language than others. Traditionally, the opposition of Hindi has been the most fervent in the south (such as in Tamil Nadu, for instance). One reason to this may be that Hindi belongs to a different language group than the Dravidian languages which are native to the south of India, and it is thought of as unfair to have such an unfamiliar language as an official language. Sometimes, however, the use of Hindi is opposed simply because people do not want to appoint any special role to Hindi. They do not see why Hindi would be more special than any other language.

The mother tongues of the informants vary; mostly following the states' borders (which is not surprising, for, in India, states are divided along linguistic lines). Only three people out of the thirty informants reported as having Hindi as their mother tongue (the informants from Rajasthan, Haryana and Uttar Pradesh). Thus, in my study, about 10 percent had Hindi as their mother tongue: in the whole of India the percentage is, however, 20 percent (180 million). The other informants speak the following languages:

Telugu is thus spoken by the majority (37%), Bengali comes next (20%), Tamil follows with 17%, Hindi 10%, Malayalam and Marathi (10% both) and Kashmiri (3%).

All the informants speak at least three languages (English included); some claim to speak even up to six languages. One informant reports that he writes only in English, another one that she only speaks her mother tongue, but does not write in it.

One informant claims she has spoken English since she learnt to speak, so it is almost like a mother tongue for her. 19 informants report that they started to learn English when they were between two to six years old (in kindergarten/at school). The rest of the people do not mention any specific age (only saying, for instance, that they learnt English at school or "very young"). One says he started learning English when he was eight. The majority of the people have had their education in the medium of English (most of them since kindergarten).

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