Is it English or Englishes?

In my last week’s column, I discussed some of the Indian English expressions and raised these questions: Is English the sole property of the UK, the US, Australia, New Zealand and Canada? 

Published: 09th January 2017 06:00 AM  |   Last Updated: 07th January 2017 06:42 PM   |  A+A-


Dr Albert P Rayan

Express News Service

In my last week’s column, I discussed some of the Indian English expressions and raised these questions: Is English the sole property of the UK, the US, Australia, New Zealand and Canada? Which variety of English should be taught to those who learn English as a second or foreign language? Is English singular or plural? Is ‘Englishes’ a recognized term?  

The questions have evoked responses from readers. One of them wrote: “… I don’t believe that we have the right to set the rules of this language. It belongs to the native speakers. But we do have the right to set the rules of our languages.” Another reader asked me why I changed my pedantic position.  Mr Lawrence, a regular reader of the column, writes: “When a particular usage is found to be convenient for speakers, it gains currency and recognition. As we compare it with that used by the native speakers we find the difference. Such changes may or may not be accepted as long as they do not create ambiguity. But, whether native or foreign, the person who speaks a language has the right to select words that are easily comprehensible for conveying ideas. Indians are not prohibited from this. Incidentally in India, or in Asia for that matter, ‘cranny’ is less understood than ‘corner’.”  

I do agree with Mr Lawrence’s comment. Language is for communication. Successful communicators are those who convey their thoughts effectively and make their listeners/readers understand the message easily as intended. Consider this example. The word bandh is not an English word. It is a typical Indian English term and it means ‘general strike’. When an Indian speaks to another Indian, they can use the word “bandh” but it is not good to use the term in a conversation with a foreigner who is not familiar with the term.

Is everyone expected to speak the so-called “Queen’s English?” Even the Queen of England does not speak Queen’s English. The Queen’s English Society, which championed good English and railed against the deterioration of the English language for four decades, has conceded that it cannot survive in the era of text-speak and Twitter. The QES announced its closure in 2012.
There are different varieties of English and the term ‘Englishes’ are used to refer to the varieties. The term was used to refer to emerging varieties of English in different territories influenced by the UK and the US.

Is it wrong to use the word ‘prepone’? This typical Indian English word is not found in many dictionaries but it is recognized as a meaningful neologism. The word ‘postpone’ is a combination of the prefix ‘post’ , which means ‘after’, and the word ‘ponore’, which means ‘put’ or ‘place’. So, ‘prepone’ is a logical antonym of ‘postpone’. Native speakers use the terms ‘advance’, ‘reschedule’ and ‘move forward’ as antonyms for ‘postpone’.
The English language has evolved over the years. The different varieties of English add colour to the language.  It is a very rich language with over a million words borrowed from different languages.

Dr Albert p’ Rayan is an ELT Resource Person and Professor of English. He can be contacted at

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