In less than 200 years since its formal introduction as part of a nascent and westernized education system, English has grown to be the medium through which the people of India communicate with the world, and often with one another. In large parts of a country with several major languages, it vies with Hindi—the most commonly used Indian language—as the spoken language of choice. There is a range of ability from a mere smattering of words, to some amount of rudimentary communication, to highly proficient use of the language. Arguably, the number of Indians speaking at least a few words of English, and the contexts in which they do so, continue to grow by the day. The language has a large presence in governance, education, media, and the publishing industry. For instance, the number of English language newspapers registered in India and their circulation figures are second only to those in Hindi. India produces the third largest number of English books in the world, after the USA and UK.Excerpt taken from OED blog post ‘Introduction to Indian English’ by Prof Pingali Sailaj’
Indian English words recently recorded in the OED
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The OED works in partnership with external experts from or in India to ensure that our entries for Indian English words draw from local knowledge and expertise and reflect the everyday reality and distinctive identity of the Indian English-speaking community.
- Release notes: Indian English
- The most distinctive counting system in English? Indian cardinal numbers
Some Indian loanwords that initially referred to concrete objects subsequently evolved a more metaphorical meaning. The Urdu word chamcha was first borrowed into English in 1832 to indicate a large spoon with a long handle and cup-shaped bowl that is used in cooking or serving food. More than a hundred years later, this concrete sense developed a figurative meaning referring to an obsequious subordinate, especially one who seeks to gain favour or advancement. Yet this type of sense development does not always take such a long time to occur. The Hindi word jugaad, for example, was first used in English in 1995 to mean a makeshift automobile constructed from inexpensive materials, but in only seven years this same word had already begun to be used figuratively to signify a distinctly Indian way of flexible, innovative problem-solving.