Public communication in the contemporary world constitutes a particularly multifaceted phenomenon. The Internet offers unlimited possibilities of contact and public expression locally and globally, yet exerts its power too, inducing the use of the Internet lingo, loosening language norms, and often encouraging the use of a lingua franca, English in particular. This leads to linguistic choices liberating for some and difficult for others on ideological grounds, due to the norms of the discourse community, or simply because of insufficient language skills and linguistic means available.
Such choices appear to particularly characterise postcolonial states, in which the co-existence of multiple local tongues with the language once imperially imposed, and now owned by local users makes the web of repertoires especially complex. Such case is no doubt India, where the use of English alongside the nationally encouraged Hindi and state languages stems not only from its historical past, but especially its present position enhanced not only by its local prestige, but the global status too, also as the primary language of online communication. Internet, however, has also been recognised as a medium that encourages, even revitalises the use of local tongues, which may manifest itself through the choice of a given language as the main medium of communication, or only a symbolic one, indicated by certain lexical or grammatical features as identity markers. It is therefore of particular interest to investigate how members of such a multilingual community, represented here by Hindi users, convey their cultural identity when interacting with friends and general public online, on social media sites. Motivated by Kachru’s (1983) classical study, and, among others, a recent discussion concerning the use of Hinglish (Kothari and Snell, eds., 2011).
This research analyses posts generated by Hindi users on Facebook (private profiles and fanpages) and Twitter, where personalities of users is largely known, and on YouTube, where it is often hidden, in order to identify how the users mark their Indian identity. Investigated will be Hindi lexical items, grammatical aspects and word order, cases of code-switching, and locally coloured use of English words and spelling conventions, with the aim to establish, also from the point of view of gender preferences, the most dominating linguistic patterns found online.
Kachru, B. B. 1983. The Indianisation of English: The English Language in India. Delhi: OUP.
Kothari, R. and R. Snell (eds.) Chutnefying English. The Phenomenon of Hinglish. New Delhi: Penguin Books India.