Structural nativization in Indian English lexicogrammar

Structural nativization in Indian English lexicogrammar. By Marco Schilk. (Studies in corpus linguistics 46.) Amsterdam: John Benjamins, 2011. Pp. xiii, 182. ISBN 9789027203519. $135 (Hb).

Reviewed by Kanavillil Rajagopalan, State University at Campinas

In sharp contrast with most previous treatments of the topic that focus on lexical peculiarities of Indian English and other second-language varieties of English, Marco Schilk looks at structural nativization at the lexis-grammar interface. The objective is eminently fact-finding and exploratory. S’s approach is based on a detailed comparison of the Indian and the British components of the International Corpus of English and also the 100-million-word web-derived corpus of acrolectal Indian newspaper English, viewed against its British counterpart.

The book is presented in nine chapters. Following an introductory first chapter, Chs. 2 and 3 explore aspects of structural nativization and of lexicogrammar, and Ch. 4 spells out the methodology of corpus linguistics. Chs. 5, 6, and 7 deal with three ditransitive verbs, give, send, and offer, and subject them to thorough scrutiny. The three verbs, though all ditransitive, are graded according to their degree of ditransitivity:  give is characterized as prototypically ditransitive, send less so, and offer is ranked as ‘low-frequency’. Ch. 8 is comprised of an evaluation and discussion of this topic, and Ch. 9 wraps up the book’s material on the whole and suggests some prospects for future research.

S begins the book by reviewing the history of the English language in India in its early (1579–1834) phase and its more robust (1835–1947) phase, dominated by the British Raj. The year 1579 is when Thomas Stephens, an English missionary, arrived in India, and the year 1835 marks the approval of Thomas Babington Macaulay’s Minute on Indian education by the British parliament, which formally introduced English into India, its coveted ‘jewel in the crown’. He traces the fortunes of English in India though the Orientalist-Anglist controversy of the 1780s through the 1840s and in post-independence India, when the country considered replacing English with Hindi after a transitional period. He also briefly weighs in on different models of conceptualizing World Englishes.

S discusses structural nativization, which he nicely sums up as a transition from ‘English in India’ to ‘Indian English’ (5) with its own ‘characteristic features, which in turn may be [viewed as] endonormatively stabilized and institutionalized’ (16). In raising the issue of lexicogrammar, S has recourse to the writings of British linguists like J.R. Firth, M.A.K. Halliday, and John McHardy Sinclair in addition to work in phraseology by Russian linguists, especially from the Soviet days.

S establishes his thesis of progressive nativization of Indian English along two levels of analysis, namely collocational profiles and verb-complementational profiles of ditransitive verbs. He argues that English-language Indian newspapers, such as the Times of India, play a key role in propagating ‘the multiplying effect of the nativization of Indian English’ (172).

In the final chapter of the book, S underscores the importance of corpus-based research and the need for amassing even larger corpora to broaden the scope of research.

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