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Dictionary of South African Indian English, A

Dictionary of South African Indian English, A

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South African Indian English (or SAIE) is one of the better-known varieties of English in the Linguistics literature. It arose out of a language shift that occurred when Indians were denied full access to the norms of standard English, partly because of the colonial and especially apartheid influences in South African society and education in the late 19th century. Language shift means that speakers no longer command their original languages, even though they often express positive sentiments towards them, especially in cultural and religious spheres.  

In South Africa, SAIE is an important dialect, especially in KwaZulu-Natal, whose speakers themselves played an important part in the subsequent propagation of English – as teachers, employers, creative writers.  SAIE is increasingly found in plays and novels and its potential is recognised by the advertising industry in South Africa.  Where would South African cuisine be without roti, biryani, dhania and bunny chow?  And where would South African slang be without SAIE terms like larney, lucker (so pronounced) and charras (or chaar ous)?

In 1992 the author published a lexicon of SAIE, based on a lifetime’s personal observations as well as hundreds of hours of dialect interviews and close word-for-word transcription that is the hallmark of sociolinguistic study.  Twenty years on he has collected more items and new words that have come into being and has expanded the original work to take on terms from literary sources as well.  It now contains around 1700 entries. 

2010 was an important date in South African history, as it marked the 150th anniversary of the arrival of the Truro, the first ship to bring Indians into Durban in 1860. A Dictionary of South African Indian English is a fitting tribute to this aspect of South African culture and to the sociolinguistic literature.


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