How do you pronounce biopic, synod, and Breughel? - and why? Do our cake and archaic sound the same? Where does the stress go in stalagmite? What's odd about the word epergne? As a finale, the author writes a letter to his 16-year-old self.
Date: Mon, 10 Jan 2005 14:18:21 +0100 From: J. Mukherjee Subject: Indian and British English: A Handbook of Usage and Pronunciation
AUTHORS: Nihalani, Paroo; Tongue, R. K.; Hosali, Priya; Crowther, Jonathan TITLE: Indian and British English SUBTITLE: A Handbook of Usage and Pronunciation PUBLISHER: Oxford University Press YEAR: 2004
Joybrato Mukherjee, Department of English, University of Giessen.
The book under review is the second edition of Nihalani et al.'s (1979) dictionary of - and pronunciation guide to - Indian English. At the time, the first edition represented one of the very first dictionaries of English-as-a-Second-Language (ESL) varieties and has exerted an enormous influence on ESL lexicography ever since. The fact that the long-awaited second edition differs only marginally (with regard to a couple of dictionary entries) from the first leads to a mixed picture: on the one hand, I see the same great merits in Nihalani et al. (2004) as in Nihalani et al. (1979), but on the other hand, it is obvious that the book under review fails in various regards to take into account major developments in research into Indian English over the last 25 years.
The book contains two major parts: part I is a lexicon of usage and part II is a pronunciation guide.
In the introduction to part I, the authors offer some general remarks on the role of the English language in India and sketch out their descriptive and language-pedagogical aim, which is "to provide teachers and learners of English in India with information about the way in which certain forms and patterns of English used in India differ from the contemporary version of the native speaker model to which Indian English is closest, namely British Standard English" (p. 4). The Indian English forms and patterns that are contrasted with British English (BrE) are grouped into five major categories: grammar (G), lexis (L), idiom (I), style (S), and social/cultural (C). Within lexis, Nihalani et al. allow for a more fine- grained categorisation into five subtypes: collocational differences (Lc), meaning-related differences (Lm), differences with regard to register (Lr), loan-words taken over from Indian languages including mixed compounds (L1), and neologisms, i.e. entirely new English words coined by Indian users (Ln). On nearly 200 pages, a selection of about 1,000 Indian English items is covered. Each entry includes the item at hand, its categorisation by one of the aforementioned labels, a brief comment on the peculiarity involved in the use of the item in Indian English (usually including a contrastive analysis of British English and Indian English usage), and in most cases an example. For instance, the Indian English verb "to by-heart" is given the following entry:
"by-heart 'The teacher asked us to by-heart the poem by tomorrow morning.' The verb 'to by-heart' does not exist in BS (British Standard English), speakers of which would say 'to learn by heart'. (Ln)" (p. 39)
The list of entries, which is nearly identical with the list included in Nihalani et al. (1979), continues to be a very useful collection because it includes many lexical, grammatical, idiomatic and stylistic features which no doubt mark some of the major differences between Indian English and British English usage.
The general usefulness of the dictionary included in part I notwithstanding, there are, however, two notable systematic inconsistencies concerning the selection of items and the description of the selected items. Firstly, the authors admit that the selection of the items is entirely intuition-based and not the result of an analysis of large amounts of authentic Indian English data, let alone a frequency- based analysis of Indian English corpora: "This Lexicon contains those items which have impressed the compilers as worthy of commentary" (p. 5). Thus, it remains unclear to what extent each of the items is truly typical of Indian English. For example, the authors claim that with regard to the variation between the British English phrasal verb "to cope with" and the Indian English variant "to cope up with" many Indian English speakers use the latter form (p. 55). However, the Indian English variant occurs in only 17% of all cases in the 1-million-word Kolhapur corpus of Indian English, while in 83% of all cases the British English form is also used by Indian English users (cf. Mukherjee 2002). This distribution is in stark contrast to, say, the use of the terms "lakh" ("one hundred thousand" in British English) and "crore" ("ten million" in British English), which are quite clearly the preferred choices in Indian English and not just secondary variants of British English forms. Secondly, the authors insist on using the label "Indian Variant(s) of English" (IVE) instead of "Indian English" in the dictionary. While the latter notion captures the uniformity of the English language as it is used in India, the former label, which is preferred by Nihalani et al., puts the internal variation within Indian English into focus. However, contrary to what one would have expected, the authors do not take into account regional and social variation in the Indian English lexicon and grammar in the dictionary entries. For example, in the entry for "information", the impression is given that this noun is generally accepted as a count noun in Indian English. The only three instances of the plural form "informations" that one finds in the 1-million-word Indian component of the International Corpus of English (ICE-India), however, seem to indicate that the plural form tends to be avoided in the Indian English acrolect and is used only in mesolectal and basilectal variants.
In part II, the authors' aim is two-fold: firstly, they intend to take stock of the characteristic features of the pronunciation by educated speakers of Indian English, i.e. "Educated Indian English" (EIE) pronunciation, which deviates in various regards from British Received Pronunciation (BRP). Secondly, they set out to develop a model of "Indian Recommended Pronunciation" (IRP), which could be used as a target model in the English classroom in India. To this end, in the introduction to the dictionary of pronunciation the authors compare the vowel systems and the consonant systems of BRP and EIE and discuss major differences at the level of word stress, sentence stress, intonation and rhythm. For example, it is pointed out that BRP diphthongs, as for example in "coat" and "day", are monophthongized in EIE, and that very often Indian speakers transfer the syllable-timed rhythm from their L1 to English. At the level of the IRP model, the authors try to strike a balance between "attainability in the actual teaching situation" in India and "intelligibility at the national and international level" (p. 228). Thus, for example, while the aforementioned monophthongization of diphthongs is included in the IRP model, the typically Indian syllable-timed rhythm is not incorporated in the IRP model because "a native speaker finds it difficult to understand" (p. 219). Rather, the authors emphasise their view that "it is of utmost importance that Indian learners should learn how to move smoothly from one stressed syllable to another by using weak vowels in unstressed syllables" (p. 221), i.e. to approximate towards a stress-timed rhythm. The actual dictionary of pronunciation includes some 2,000 words, taken from West (1953), which are all transcribed according to the IRP model.
Part II of the book under review is an excellent example of how local pronunciation norms may be developed for ESL varieties of English. Nihalani et al. provide a convincing answer to the question as to how to reconcile linguistic realism (in the sense of avoiding features that Indian learners will find difficult to learn) with global intelligibility (in the sense of avoiding features that would render the speech of Indian users of English unintelligible to native speakers of English). It is more than unfortunate that in India itself the IRP model has not attracted more attention over the last 25 years in terms of active implementation in curricula and teaching materials.
It has already been pointed out that the second edition of the handbook is nearly identical with the first edition, published in 1979. As far as the second part, i.e. the pronunciation guide, is concerned, it seems to me the that decision to stick to the original text is largely justified, given the lasting appropriateness of the description of Indian English pronunciation and the persisting innovative quality of the IRP model. One is left to wonder, however, why the authors have refrained from updating text passages which may nowadays strike the reader as odd; note, for example, that the exact wording of the following sentence has been taken over from the first edition: "For one thing, until about fifteen or twenty years ago, there was very little systematic and conscious teaching of pronunciation at all in this country" (p. 202). I do think that 25 years later the sentence should at least have been changed to "about forty or forty-five years ago", if only for the reason of logic.
While the lack of updating and revision of the present book is not a problem for part II (strange as the wording may be at times), the opposite is true for part I. The blurb of the second edition states that it "includes additional information on collocation"; and indeed, some entries dealing with collocations in Indian English are new, e.g. the entries for "copious", "keen" and "unearth". But apart from the very few new entries, virtually no changes have been implemented. This applies both to the introductory text and the dictionary entries (including examples). Apart from the fact that the dictionary thus largely reflects a 25-year- old selection of items, it is obvious that major developments in linguistic research into Indian English and in lexicography have not been taken into account by the authors. In particular, no reference is made to major corpora of Indian English, especially the Kolhapur Corpus, the ICE- India Corpus and large newspaper archives, the analysis of which would have helped to put the description of Indian English on an empirical footing and to include frequency information in the dictionary. Also, because of the lack of updating and the failure to base the description on authentic (corpus) material, it seems to me that many new items that have entered Indian English (e.g. "two-/three-wheeler", "inquilab") or that have become frequent in English in India and beyond (e.g. "bhangra", "pundit") have been left out.
Given that the second edition is to a very large extent a reprint of the first edition, Görlach's (1998: 186) rather sobering assessment of the lexicographical state of the art with regard to Indian English still stands: "(...) as far as India is concerned, the reluctant reception of the innovative user's dictionary by Nihalani et al. (1979) and the absence of a second edition or major follow-up studies does not indicate that much progress is to be expected as far as the lexicography of IndE is concerned. At least there is no dearth of promising projects for assiduous lexicographers of the 21st century" (Görlach 1998: 186). The present second edition is a solid and useful reference work (just as the first edition) and will no doubt remain the standard dictionary of Indian English (and rightly so), but I cannot help feeling that in part I of the handbook the authors have fallen short of what could have been expected in light of the progress in linguistics and lexicography over the last 25 years. While the pronunciation guide in part II gives a very timely reminder that the extremely useful and still highly innovative IRP model has not yet been systematically implemented in English language teaching in India, the actual quantum leap in Indian English lexicography has yet to be taken.
Görlach, Manfred (1998). Even more Englishes: Studies 1996-1997. Amsterdam: John Benjamins.
International Corpus of English - ICE-India (2002). Kolhapur and Berlin: Shivaji University and Freie Universitaet.
Kolhapur Corpus of Indian English (1986). Kolhapur: Shivaji University.
Mukherjee, Joybrato (2002): "Norms for the Indian English classroom: A corpus-linguistic perspective", Indian Journal of Applied Linguistics 28 (2), 63-82.
Nihalani, Paroo, R. K. Tongue and Priya Hosali (1979): Indian and British English: A Handbook of Usage and Pronunciation. Delhi: Oxford University Press.
West, Michael (1953): A General Service List of English Words. London: Longman.
ABOUT THE REVIEWER:
ABOUT THE REVIEWER
Joybrato Mukherjee is Professor of English Linguistics at the University of Giessen, Germany. His research interests include applied linguistics, corpus linguistics, intonation, stylistics, syntax and varieties of English (esp. Indian English). His book publications include "Form and Function of Parasyntactic Presentation Structures" (Rodopi, 2001), "Korpuslinguistik und Englischunterricht" ('Corpus linguistics and English language teaching'; (Peter Lang, 2002) and "English Ditransitive Verbs" (Rodopi, 2005).