Artistic re-creation of grassroots English: Ideologies and structures in English Vinglish
Institut für Anglistik und Amerikanistik
Framed in a tradition of investigating literary dialect and artistic re-creations of varieties of English, I investigate the representation of grassroots English in a successful Bollywood movie, English Vinglish (2012). The plot focusses upon Shashi, a young Indian mother who speaks hardly any English, a fact which is hugely embarrassing to herself and her family. During a stay in New York City she secretly takes beginners‘ English lessons in a language school. There she meets an international group of other learners who are equally incapable of speaking fluent English but extremely motivated to acquire it as quickly as possible for communicative purposes, usually associated with a job’s needs.
The movie reacts to and portrays linguistically interesting issues which are relevant for World Englishes research and illustrative of settings and usage conditions which may appear to be peripheral in the overall concerto of varieties. After briefly characterizing the background frame, English in India, two different approaches will be documented and investigated. One is language attitudes and ideologies held by the characters in this movie, both the fluent and the learner speakers, concerning the social value and roles of English and the need to acquire it. The other one concerns the linguistically descriptive perspective, analyzing and interpreting the basic syntactic patterns employed by Shashi and her classmates and the stages of their acquisition process. These reduced but communicatively sufficient structures are characteristic of early adult learners‘ usage, and similar to what has been found in other grassroots usage settings and also in pidgins.
Edgar W. Schneider is Professor Emeritus and former holder of the Chair of English Linguistics at the University of Regensburg, after previous appointments at Universities in Bamberg (where he received his PhD in 1981), Georgia (USA), and Berlin. He is an internationally renowned sociolinguist and World Englishes scholar, known widely for his „Dynamic Model“ of the evolution of Postcolonial Englishes. He has published many articles and books on the dialectology, sociolinguistics, history, semantics and varieties of English, including American Earlier Black English (1989, Alabama Press), Handbook of Varieties of English (2 vols., Mouton 2004) and the Cambridge UP books Postcolonial English (2007), English Around the World (2nd ed. 2020) and Cambridge Handbook of World Englishes. For many years he edited the journal English World-Wide and its associated book series, Varieties of English Around the World, and he is now the editor of CUP’s new publishing format Elements: World Englishes.
Alexander Onysko (alexander [dot] onysko [at] aau [dot] at)