Indian languages


Indian languages
   Britain now has speakers of over a hundred different languages. Several of these languages are Indian, most notably Bengali, Hindi, Gujarati, Urdu and Panjabi, and are spoken especially in major cities such as London, Birmingham, Glasgow and Cardiff.
   Bengali is one of the fifteen major languages of India and the official language of Bangladesh, with over 160 million speakers (the most famous Bengali writer was Rabindranath Tagore, winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature). Bengali and English have had links since the East India Company founded Calcutta in 1690. Gujarati is spoken by about twenty million people in Gujarat, Bombay and elsewhere in India, plus in East and South Africa, and Britain (many Gujurati-speaking people came to Britain in 1974, following General Idi Amin’s order to all South Asian British passport holders to quit Uganda). Hindi has the fourth most common mother tongue with around 250 million, and is the most widely spoken Indian language. Panjabi is spoken by 12 million people in India and 40 million in Pakistan, and is the language of Sikhs. Urdu is associated with the Mughal Empire in India and is clearly related to Hindi. It is the national language of Pakistan, a first language of 30 million people and a second language of a further 100 million.
   Indian languages have also contributed many familiar words to the English language, such as ‘verandah’ and ‘juggernaut’, as well as ‘curry’, ‘pukka’ and ‘tiffin’. The well-known Victorian dictionary of Indian-English, entitled Hobson-Jobson, is still available today. Indian English is a hybrid language found all across India and also in Britain. It tends to be formal, lilting, sing-song and poetical. Writers such as G.V.Desani and Salman Rushdie have exploited its idiosyncracies to highly praised literary ends.
   See also: Indian communities
   PETER CHILDS

Encyclopedia of contemporary British culture . . 2014.

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