Sociophonetics and the Indian diaspora

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This chapter explores the potential of phonetic and sociophonetic research in characterising varieties of English in the Indian diaspora, using South African Indian English (SAIE) as a focal point. We first identify key phonetic features that lend themselves to such comparative study. In this regard we note that retroflexes are recessive in SAIE, aspiration shows patterns that are intermediate between Indian English (IE) and varieties like White South African English (White SAE), and interdental fricatives /ð/ and /θ/ are closer to IE, while differing in respect of aspiration. In characterising the differences between IE as usually described in the literature and SAIE, three factors are crucial: (a) the give-and-take between the English of speakers of North Indian and South Indian origins in South Africa, (b) the influence of varieties of South African English, and (c) internal sociolinguistic developments within the SAIE community relating to age, gender and class. This last aspect is illustrated in detail in the second half of the chapter via a sociophonetic study of the nurse vowel.


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