The hypothetical subjunctive in South Asian Englishes
Local developments in the use of a global construction
This paper studies the distribution and usage patterns in hypothetical if-clauses in a set of South Asian Englishes (SAEs), namely Indian, Pakistani, Bangladeshi and Sri Lankan English on the basis of web-derived newspaper data. Comparative evidence comes from newspaper texts in the British National Corpus (BNC). It looks at the use of subjunctive were, indicative was and modal would as variant verb forms in the if-clause. The qualitative analyses also consider tense sequencing in the main and subordinate clause. In terms of overall frequencies, the SAEs do not cluster together in their use of the subjunctive but form a gradient or cline with British English at one end. Similarities between the SAEs emerge from the qualitative analyses. An additional, serendipitous result of the study concerns the local use in SAEs of the subordinator on if meaning ‘whether’, a pattern that is likely to have its origin in Indian English.
Keywords: nativization, exonormative influence, web-based newspaper corpora, subjunctive, South Asian Englishes, indicative
Published online: 02 July 2012
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