Optimal expressions in Indian English

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This paper presents an account of sociolinguistic-syntactic variation in Indian English. It focuses on the differences between Standard Indian English (SIE) and Indian Vernacular English (IVE), restricting the discussion to the syntax of wh-questions, Focus constructions, null subjects and objects (pro drop), and null expletive subjects. The major claim of this paper is that the differences between the observed patterns of generalization in SIE and IVE are best accounted for in a conceptualization of grammar that is based on a general notion of priority of syntactic constraints on wellformedness. This optimality-theoretic (OT) conceptualization (Grimshaw, 1997; Prince & Smolensky, 1993) is able to capture the following generalizations: (a) IVE is just as systematic and logical as SIE; (b) the grammars of IVE and SIE are bound by the same set of grammatical constraints; and (c) the differences between the two varieties is a function of how each grammar prioritizes these constraints. This paper thus also presents a strong argument for using OT as a framework for research on language variation and use.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)69-95
Number of pages27
JournalEnglish Language and Linguistics
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2000
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Language and Linguistics
  • Linguistics and Language


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