IN, OF, and ABOUT: Some unfinished reflections from South Asia
Rajendra Singh, Université de Montreal
Whereas some scholars speak of South Asian Englishes, other scholars prefer to talk about English in South Asia. What to do with English in SA countries is, in other words, a problem for both linguistics and sociolinguistics.The extent to which Indians, Pakistanis, or Srilankans speak an endo-normative variety of English, albeit with some intereference from Standard British English, their English cannot be described with the pedagogically inspired but linguistically oxymoronic label or notion “non-native variety”—these varieties are just as (non-) native as Texan or Yorkshire English (cf. Singh 1995); and the extent to which these varieties now have even popular cultures associated with them, the socio-culturally inspired treatment of them as ecologically alien (cf. Dasgupta 1993) cannot be justified either. The former approach fails because it is, as gracefully acknowledged by scholars such as Trudgill (1995), unable to come up with a list of properties not shared by any of the so-called ‘native’ varieties (cf. Singh et al1995); the latter approach also fails because it is unable to show that there are some criteria for full ecological integration that these varieties fail to meet. Given that there are no psycho- or neuro- differences between the acquisition of monolingual and multilingual linguistic competence (cf. Paradis 1998),the fact that these varieties are used in multilingual contexts is a justification NOT for treating them as ‘non-native’ (in either sense) but for raising some very fundamental theoretical questions regarding notions such as “native speaker” and “linguistic community” (cf. Singh 1998 and in press). This paper will attempt to do just that.
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