Innovations and Reproductions in Cultures and Societies
(IRICS) Vienna, 9 - 11 december 2005

<< Postcolonial innovations and transformations: Putting language in the forefront

Postcolonial and foreign: English as argot in urban India

Anjali Pande (Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi, India)



The journey of English in India from a language of the oppressor to a language of the elite and then to a language of the upwardly mobile urban educated masses clearly reflects one fact: that English in India has been and is still the language of the dominant and the language of prestige. The history of English medium education in India goes back to the colonial need to "create a class of persons, Indian in blood and colour, but English in opinions, in morals, and in intellect." (Agnihotri 1997:38) The post-independence political and social developments and the political misadventure of imposing Hindi as national language helped in consolidating the dominant position of English in Indian society.

English was freed of its negative colonial past when the communication needs imposed by globalisation suddenly turned it into a powerful tool that could be put to use in the expanding economic horizons of the Indian market. The unknown, the feared, the foreign was accepted, appropriated and adapted as "own", as one of the many languages in multilingual India, giving rise to the so-called Indian English. Against this background this paper will focus on questions related to the "foreignness" of a language and to linguistic choices in a multilingual society. Everyday communication becomes a site of manifestation of this interplay between the "foreign" and the "own". In the constellation of English, Indian languages and "real" foreign languages this paper will discuss what renders the once foreign, colonisers’ language "own".


Agnihotri, Rama Kant (1997). Multilingualism, Colonialism and Translation, In Translation and Multilingualism- Post Colonial Contexts. (Ed) Ramakrishna, Shantha, Pencraft. International: Delhi.

Innovationen und Reproduktionen in Kulturen und Gesellschaften (IRICS) Wien, 9. bis 11. Dezember 2005

WEBDESIGN: Peter R. Horn 2005-10-06