world cultures and literatures in English
Turin, 16-21 September 2013
Teaching/Learning Englishes
through South Asian Literatures
Esterino Adami
University of Turin
A linguistic/stylistic/cultural
approach to literary texts
• Varieties of English and language variation
(pidgins/creoles, cf Roberta Cimarosti’s lecture
on the Caribbean)
• English as a postcolonial global language for
literary purposes (World Literatures in English)
• Teachers and education discourse in recent
literary texts
• The role/function/power of language in
postcolonial texts
English in the world / Englishes
from a postcolonial perspective
• World Englishes (cf. Braj Kachru)
• New Englishes (Platt, Weber, and Ho 1984) = newly grown secondlanguage varieties
• Postcolonial Englishes (Scheneider 2007): = i.e. varieties that have
shared origins in mostly British colonization activities, historical
origins and processes
• Extraterritorial English (cf. Görlach, Mazzon)
• Language contact in different degrees of intensity:
• “the vibrancy of postcolonial literatures in English is heavily
dependent on the healthy existence of other languages and
cultures” (Talib 2002: 156).
• Language and identity: “language is associated with identity, indeed,
can be said, metaphorically, to construct one’s identity, in many
ways: physiological, geographical, social and ethnic” (Ashcroft 2009:
English in South Asia
• South Asia / the Indian subcontinent =
India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Nepal,
Bhutan, Sri Lanka
• Varying percentages of population
speaking English as a mother tongue /
second / third language
• India is the third-largest publisher of
English books in the world after the UK
and USA (2006)
English in India / Timeline:
• 1600 Constitution of the East India company, with Chartered signed
by Elizabeth I
• 1668 The EIC acquires Bombay from Portugal
• 1780-95 English-language newspapers start in this period (India
Gazette, Bengal Journal, Bombay Gazette)
• 1835 Macaulay Minute on Education
• 1854 Wood’s Dispatch
• 1857 Establishment of universities in Bombay, Calcutta and Madras
/ Mutiny
• 1947 Independence from the UK
• 1950 Constitution and role of English
• 1950s/60s Three language formula
• 1962 Official Language Act
Hobson Jobson.
The Anglo-Indian Dictionary
Henry Yule and A. C. Burnell (1886)
• “Words of Indian origin
have been insinuating
themselves into English
ever since the end of
Elizabeth I and the
beginning of that of King
James, when such terms
as calico, chintz, and
gingham had already
effected a lodgement in
English warehouses and
shops, and were lying in
wait for entrance into
English literature” (p. xv)
• Hobson-Jobson: derived
from the Islamic cry at the
the celebration of
Muhurram ‘Ya Hasan, ya
The position of English in India
• “The children of independent India seem not to think of
English as being irredeemably tainted by its colonial
provenance. They use it as an Indian language, as one
of the tools they have to hand”. (Salman Rushdie,
“Commonwealth literature does not exist”, 1991)
• “English has become an Indian language. Its colonial
origins mean that, like Urdu and unlike all other Indian
languages, it has no regional base; but in all other ways,
it has emphatically come to stay”. (Salman Rushdie,
“Introduction” to The Vintage Book of Indian Writing
An 'English goddess' for India's down-trodden
by Geeta Pandey BBC News, Banka village, Uttar Pradesh
(15 February 2011)
A new goddess has recently been
born in India. She's the Dalit
Goddess of English. The Dalit
(formerly untouchable) community
is building a temple in Banka
village in the northern Indian state
of Uttar Pradesh to worship the
Goddess of the English language,
which they believe will help them
climb up the social and economic
ladder. About two feet tall, the
bronze statue of the goddess is
modelled after the Statue of
Liberty. "She is the symbol of Dalit
renaissance," says Chandra Bhan
Prasad, a Dalit writer who came
up with the idea of the Goddess of
Language variation
• All languages vary according to sociolinguistic
parameters (e.g. a speaker’s regional origin, gender,
age, status or the context of situation)
• Variety = a group-specific language form
• Other basic notions = register (stylistically defined
language varieties associated with certain channels,
e.g.. spoken/written, or situational contexts, e.g. letter
writing, texting, etc.); accent (re: pronunciation), dialect
(associated with a certain group of people from a given
region or social class/group)
• In the context of communication, what is salient
concerns linguistic and situational appropriateness,
not some supposedly inherent notion of ‘correctness’
(cf. Teaching/Learning).
Levels of language variation
• Features of language variation are ordered
into three main levels of language
• Sound (described in the discipline of
phonetics and phonology)
• Words (lexis or vocabulary)
• Structures (patterns and rules of
Other variation levels 1
• Morphology = “the study of internal make-up of
complex word”; this typically refers to:
• A) word formation: how items combine to form
new and complex lexical entities
• B) inflection: the use of endings to express
grammatical categories; this can be subtractive
(omission of verbal endings, e.g.. *He go) or
additive (e.g. mass nouns with plural sign:
Other variation levels 2
• There may also be differences in other areas
such as:
• Pragmatics: conventions on how to behave, also
verbally, in specific contexts, e.g. expressions of
politeness, forms of address
• Conceptualization: different cultures may
categorize things differently, e.g. numerical units
in Indian English: lakh = 100.000, crore = 10
millions (or 100 lakhs). Both words from Hindi
• Gestures: also these can vary, e.g. the way
Indians signal ‘yes’ with their head
“The object of this small book is to collect the common mistakes of
idiom, vocabulary and spelling which Indian boys make and to obliterate
them by exposure. I presume that before boys really set about
mastering the contents, they will have been learning English for two or
three years and my opinion is that every secondary schoolboy ought to
be able to rid his English of the mistakes recorded herein at least a year
before he takes his Matriculation or similar examination.”
T. L. H. Smith-Pearse (originally published as Errors in Indian Schools,
“Asian Englishes in the Asian Age:
Contexts and Challenges”
(Braj B. Kachru 2009)
• “By pluralism, then, we mean the multiple identities
which constitute a repertoire of cultures, linguistic
experimentation and innovations, and literary traditions.
And they come from a variety of sources. It is in this
sense that English embodies multiculturalism. And it is in
this sense that English is a global language” (177)
• Canon expansion ← divergence and convergence
• “Multi-canons in English have symbolic and substantive
meaning: symbolic in the sense that one’s identity is
symbolic, and substantive in the way the identity is
expressed, articulated, negotiated and preserved in
language” (182)
World literatures in English
• “Literary works in English are a valuable
source of sociocultural knowledge not
easily recoverable from grammars,
dictionaries, and textbooks" (Yamuna
Kachru & Larry E. Smith, 2008 Cultures,
Contexts and World Englishes: 168)
“English made in India”
(Geetha Ganapathy-Doré)
• The postcolonial Indian novel has enriched
the English language.
• Domains: family relations (amma, akka),
caste names (Modali), dress (salwar,
khurta, lungi), festivals (Diwali), food (alu
gopi, dal, roti), flora (champak)
• These lexical items/expressions not only
add local colour, but they aim to depict
specific sociocultural contexts.
Code-switching, code-mixing,
• CS: The phenomenon of beginning an utterance in one
language and changing the language mid-course. It
occurs at various levels – the word, the sentence and at
the level of discourse.
• CS is the alternation of languages in the speech of
bilinguals and may have different functions such as
quotation, addresee specification, interjection,
reiteration, message qualification…
• Code-mixing: “this involves the use of scattering of
words in a different language or dialect” (Talib 2009:
• Borrowing: “the introduction of single words or short,
frozen, idiomatic phrases from one variety into the other”
(Gumperz 1982: 66).
Lexis and discourse
• Lexical items are drawn mainly British
English, but also from American English
presently. Some words of other origin are
• aubergine (BE) – eggplant (AE) – brinjal
• Okra (BE / AM) – lady’s finger (IE)
Different meanings:
• Some English words have acquired
meanings which are different from their
original denotation:
• Bearer = waiter
• Hotel = restaurant, eatery
• Convent = a school run by Christians
Restricted items
• Elements of vocabulary that have not entered native
varieties of English (these words mainly come from
Hindi/Urdu or Sanskrit; borrowings into Indian English
from other languages, e.g. Tamil, are rarer)
• Bandh: a closure of all shops and institutions in a place
• Raga: patterned melody in Indian music
• Puja: ritual prayer
• Bhel puri: item in Indian fast food
• Acha: good, ok
• Idli: rice and lentil cake
Lexical innovation: compounding
• South Asian languages are rich in compounding
and this preference extends to local Englishes
• N+N
• Auto-rickshaw: a motorised three-wheeler
• Hill station: a place in the hills/mountains which
is generally cool in climate
• A+N
• Creamy layer: the economically well-off sections
of those who belong to underprivileged castes
Forms of address / honorifics
• Social structures in the Indian subcontinent tend
to be hierarchically organised. It is considered
disrespectful to address older people by their
• Aunty / Uncle
• Didi (elder sister), bhai (younger or older
brother) (from Hindi)
• In southern India: Tamil or Telugu equivalents:
akka (elder sister), anna (elder brother).
• Honofiric –ji: Doctor-ji (also spelt as jee)
• Style in many South Asian Englishes tend
to be archaic and formal (e.g. fossilised
forms of Victorian English):
• Kindly do the needful (cf. the title of the
play of Mahesh Dattani’s Do the needful)
• I shall be thankful if you would…
Caliban’s Voice
Bill Ashcroft (2009)
• Two key concepts:
• Translation: the movement of text from a
source language to a target language
• Transformation: the reshaping of text in a
target language by the cultural nuances of
a source language
• Translation in multicultural/multilingual
South Asia (in particular in India)
• “Translation into English makes a
translator in India. Translating into other
languages is simply not on a par with
translating English” (Sailaja 2009: 13).
Transformation of language
(Ashcroft 2009)
• The function of language is to operate as a
metonymy of culture.
• The world language called English is a
continuum of ‘intersects’ in which the
speaking habits in various communities
have intervened to reconstruct the

AISCLI SUMMER SCHOOL: world cultures and literatures in