Heritage Languages, Heart, and Home: Examining Language Ideologies in Postcolonial India
Sridharan Vaidehi, K.
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In this paper, I examine the connection between heritage language acquisition and English language acquisition among young Indian adults currently living outside of India, insofar as it pertains to cultural, linguistic, and personal identity. Additionally, I delve into the postcolonial implications of a colonial language maintaining a status of high prestige in India, a country with over 120 attested languages. To begin, I discuss existing language ideologies in India, briefly outlining the extent of British colonial rule and its impact on language planning and policy in present-day India. I then explore the established literature on the topics of heritage languages, diaspora studies, and sociolinguistic research in former colonies. Based on this literature review, I conduct a qualitative research study consisting of semi-structured interviews with six young Indian adults. The transcription of these interviews serves as a corpus for my data analysis. Drawing on the work of Teun van Dijk (1993), I perform a critical discourse analysis of these interviews in an effort to glean insights into dominant ideological positions on the prestige of the English language in India. Furthermore, I explore the effects of postcoloniality on cultural and personal belonging, perceived heritage language proficiency, and social stratification as markers of identity. Postcolonial studies, heritage language studies, and diaspora studies are all incorporated in the discussion of my results, bringing forth the question of what it means to be a heritage language speaker--and, indeed, an English language speaker--in present-day India.