Indian English

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Introduction

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 Sailaja’

Indian English words recently recorded in the OED

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Additional resources

Indian English pronunciations in the Oxford English Dictionary

An Indian English pronunciation model, accompanied by several hundred audio recordings, has been added for the first time to the Oxford English Dictionary.

Dr Catherine Sangster, Oxford University Press, Divyanshi Shaktawat, University of Glasgow, and Dr Matthew Moreland, University of East Anglia, talk about the project, discussing:

  • Why Indian English pronunciations were added
  • The project’s journey and considerations along the way: what was needed for the model
  • The approach to naturalization and code-switching
  • What the core model (and its extensions for languages spoken in India) looks like, with examples
  • The implications for other English varieties

Who is this for?

  • Lexicographers and linguists
  • Anyone interested in phonetics and pronunciations in general
  • Those with an interest in Indian English in particular
  • Those with an interest in World Englishes

Speakers (in alphabetical order):

Dr Catherine Sangster
Oxford Languages Executive Editor: Pronunciations
Dr Catherine Sangster is Executive Editor: Pronunciations at Oxford Languages. Before moving into lexicography, she headed the BBC Pronunciation Unit, and completed a D.Phil. in Sociophonetics.

Divyanshi Shaktawat
Doctoral Researcher
Divyanshi Shaktawat is a final-year doctoral researcher at the University of Glasgow. Her research examines 1st generation immigrants and specifically how the sounds of their native language and dialect change when they come in contact with a new dominant host language. This is explored in 1st generation Indian immigrants in Glasgow who are native speakers of Hindi and Indian English and are now in contact with Glaswegian English. Additionally, she is examining the effect of multiple psycholinguistic and sociolinguistic variables on this transfer. Her research interests include psycholinguistics of bilingualism, phonetics and phonology, language change and variation.

Dr Matthew Moreland
Senior Consultant Phonetics Editor at Oxford Languages, and Lecturer in Phonetics, University of East Anglia
Following linguistics qualifications from the University of Reading, Dr Matthew Moreland started as one of OED’s British English speakers in 2012 and has been a pronunciations editor since 2015, where his remit includes researching and drafting OED’s World English pronunciation models. Alongside his Oxford Languages role, Matthew teaches and assesses on the University of East Anglia’s speech and language therapy programmes as a phonetician and qualified clinician.

Submit an Indian English word to the OED

Use the submissions form below to suggest an Indian English word for inclusion in the OED:

World Englishes

  • E.g. Philippine English, Hong Kong English, Ugandan English
  • e.g. bammy, skinship, bunny hug
  • e.g. an informal social gathering, a street vendor
  • If you would like to, you can also add a pronunciation transcription here, or there is the option to add a sound file below.
  • Add a file to demonstrate how this word is pronounced.
    Drop files here or
    Accepted file types: mp4, mp4, wav, aac, flac.

Indian English editors and consultants

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.

Indian English resources: from the OED blog

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.

Excerpt taken from OED blog post ‘Release notes: Indian English’

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