Hinglish, a portmanteau of Hindi and English,[1] is the macaronic hybrid use of English and South Asian languages from across the Indian subcontinent, involving code-switching between these languages whereby they are freely interchanged within a sentence or between sentences.[2] While the name is based on the Hindi language, it does not refer exclusively to Hindi, but "is used in India, with English words blending with Punjabi, and Hindi, and also in British Asian families to enliven standard English".[2][3]

History and evolution

Hindi has an approximately ten-century history. In this period, it has accommodated several linguistic influences. Contact with Sanskrit, Persian, Urdu and Indic-European languages has led to historical 'mixes' or fusions, e.g., Hindustani, Rekhta. Linguistic fusions were celebrated by Bhakti poets, in approximately the 15th-17th centuries as 'khichdi boli' – or amalgamated speech.[4]

At the turn of the 18th century, with the rising dominion of the East India Company, also called 'Company Raj' (literally, 'Company Rule'), the languages of India were brought into contact with the foreign element of English. In colonized India, English became a symbol of authority and a powerful hegemonic tool to propagate British culture, including Christianity.[5] The political ascendancy of the British reflected into social and professional roles; this meant that the legal system as well as the studies in medicine and science were conducted in English.

This led to an interest in the promotion of English into the society of Indian natives. Educated Indians, or 'brown sahibs', wished to participate in academia and pursue professional careers. Raja Rammohan Roy, a social and education reformer, advocated that English be taught to Indians by certain British gentlemen for the benefit and instruction of the native Indians.[6] Charles Grant, the president of the East India Company's board of control, championed the cause of English education as a 'cure for darkness' where 'darkness' was 'Hindoo ignorance'. The Charter Act was passed in 1813. This legalized missionary work by the Company, including the introduction of English education.[7] By the beginning of the twentieth century, English had become the unifying language in the Indian struggle for independence against the British.

Meanwhile, English was on its way to becoming the first global lingua franca. By the end of the twentieth century, it had special status in seventy countries, including India.[8] Worldwide, English began to represent modernization and internationalization, with more and more jobs requiring basic fluency in it.[9] In India especially, the language came to acquire a social prestige, 'a class apart of education', which prompted native Indian or South Asian speakers to turn bilingual, speaking their mother tongue at home or in a local context, but English in academic or work environments.[10]

The contact of 'South Asian' languages, which is a category that refers inclusively to Hindi and Indian languages, with English, led to the emergence of the linguistic phenomenon now known as Hinglish. Many common Indic words such as 'pyjamas', 'karma', 'guru' and 'yoga' were incorporated into English usage, and vice versa ('road', 'sweater', and 'plate'). This is in parallel with several other similar hybrids around the world, like Spanglish (Spanish + English) and Taglish (Tagalog + English). In recent years, due to an increase in literacy and connectivity, the interchange of languages has reached new heights, especially due to increasing online immersion. English is the most widely used language on the internet, and this is a further impetus to the use of Hinglish online by native Hindi speakers, especially among the youth.

While Hinglish has arisen from the presence of English in India, it is not merely Hindi and English spoken side by side, but a language type in itself, like all linguistic fusions. Aside from the borrowing of vocabulary, there is the phenomenon of switching between languages, called code switching, direct translations, adapting certain words, and infusing the flavours of each language into each other.[11]

The Indian English variety, or simply Hinglish, is the Indian adaption of English in a very endocentric manner, which is why it is popular among the youth. Like other dynamic language mixes, Hinglish is now thought to 'have a life of its own'.[12]


A dictionary for Hinglish has been published.[2]


Hinglish is more commonly heard in urban and semi-urban centers of the Hindi-speaking states of India[13] and is spoken even by the Indian diaspora.[14] Research into the linguistic dynamics of India shows that while the use of English is definitely on the rise, there are more people fluent in Hinglish than in pure English.[15] David Crystal, a British linguist at the University of Wales, projected in 2004 that at about 350 million, the world's Hinglish speakers may soon outnumber native English speakers.[16]

See also


  1. "The rise of Hinglish: How the media created a new lingua franca for India's elites".
  2. 1 2 3 Coughlan, Sean (8 November 2006). "It's Hinglish, innit?" (PDF). BBC News Magazine. Archived from the original on 25 February 2009. Retrieved 19 May 2015.
  3. "Hinglish is the new NRI and global language". The Times of India. 2 February 2015. Retrieved 29 July 2015.
  4. Kothari, Rita (April 19, 2011). Chutnefying English. Penguin Books. p. 37.
  5. Mukherjee, Alok (October 18, 2009). This Gift of English. Orient Blackswan Pvt. Ltd. p. 175. ISBN 978-8125036012.
  6. Braj Kachru. "The Alchemy of English: The Spread, Functions, and Models of Non-native Englishes". The University of Illinois Press. p. 7.
  7. Mukherjee, Alok (October 18, 2009). This Gift of English. Orient Blackswan Pvt. Ltd. p. 114-116. ISBN 978-8125036012.
  8. Crystal, David (March 1, 1997). English as a Global Language. Cambridge University Press. p. 1-2.
  9. Carla Power (March 7, 2007). "Not the Queen's English" (PDF). Newsweek MSNBC International.
  10. Braj Kachru. "The Alchemy of English: The Spread, Functions, and Models of Non-native Englishes". The University of Illinois Press. p. 1.
  11. Kothari, Rita (April 19, 2011). Chutnefying English. Penguin Books. p. 39.
  12. Agnihotri, Ramakant (October 18, 2009). Indian English. Palgrave Macmillian. p. 212. ISBN 9780230220393.
  13. Thakur, Saroj; Dutta, Kamlesh; Thakur, Aushima (2007). Davis, Graeme; Bernhardt, Karl, eds. "Hinglish: Code switching, code mixing and indigenization in multilingual environment". Lingua et Linguistica. Journal of Language and Linguistics. 1.2: 112–6. ISBN 978-1-84799-129-4.
  14. "Hinglish gets the most laughs, say Mumbai's standup comics".
  15. Vineeta Chand (February 11, 2016). "The rise and rise of Hinglish". The Conversation.
  16. Scott Baldauf (November 23, 2004). "A Hindi-English jumble, spoken by 350 million". Christian Science Monitor.

Further reading

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