This paper investigates the use of only and itself in Indian English, drawing on data from the Indian subcorpus of the International Corpus of English (ICE-India). In all varieties of English, only is used as an exclusive focus particle and itself as a reflexive pronoun and intensifier. Indian English has developed an additional use for only and itself as presentational, i.e. non-contrastive focus markers. The paper investigates the syntactic and semantic contexts of itself and only in order to capture the two lexical items’ functional extension in current Indian English. One interesting finding concerns the distribution of the two forms within the corpus: Itself is mainly found in written texts, while only is restricted to the spoken language. The paper further considers the origin and the likely future of this innovation in Indian English: Whereas it is quite clear that substrate influence is directly responsible for the innovative usage, the question whether this usage will also become accepted as part of an emerging Indian English standard remains to be settled.
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