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Sana Bharadwaj

Start date

Apr 2015

Submission date

Apr 2019


Sana Bharadwaj

Sana Bharadwaj profile photo


Stories of Migration: Language Variation and Change in the Indian Diaspora of Australia


India is responsible for the second largest group of English speakers in the world (Parshad et. al) and, with over 16 million persons of Indian origin residing outside India, the Indian diaspora is the world’s largest and features prominently in Inner Circle (Kachru, 1985) countries such as the UK (Sharma, 2014) and Australia (Australian Bureau of Statistics, 2014). Sharma’s (2011; 2014) research on the Punjabi community in London and Mesthrie’s (2013; inter alia) studies of South African Indian English have drawn significant attention to documenting variation and change in the Indian diaspora. However, its Australian counterpart remains untapped and we have yet to explore the dynamics of language variation and change in Australia's fastest growing migrant community. Furthermore, the bulk of previous studies of English in the diaspora or, of English in the Indian subcontinent have largely focused on phonological or morphosyntactic variables that offer little or no account of discourse-pragmatic variation.

My PhD dissertation aims to fill this gap, by offering the first systematic, cross-generational account of discourse-pragmatic variation and change in English of the Indian diaspora in Australia - a richly multilingual community with strong transnational ties to the Indian subcontinent.

Using a Variationist Sociolinguistic framework, my research will explore quantitative patterns in language variation and their interaction with ethnic identity, which is central to the migrant experience. This will be complemented by qualitative analyses to explore underlying motivations for the observed patterns. Most importantly, given that migrants' lived experiences are often situated between the 'home' and 'host' countries, my research translates this to sociolinguistics by considering language variation and change in the context of the 'home' (Indian subcontinental) variety of English and the 'host' ('mainstream' Anglo-Celtic Australian) variety of English.


Australian Bureau of Statistics (2014). Where do migrants live? Australian social trends, 2014. Australian Bureau of Statistics

Kachru, Braj B. (1985). Standards, codification and sociolinguistic realism: the English language in the outer circle. In Quirk, R. & Widdowson, H. G. (Eds.), English in the world: teaching and learning the language and literatures. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 11-30.

Mesthrie, Rajend. (2013). Transfer and contact in migrant and multiethnic communities: the conversational historical be + -ing present in South African Indian English. In Schreier, D. & Hundt, M. (Eds.), English as a contact language Cambridge: Cambridge University Press 242-257.

Parshad, Rana, Bhowmick, Suman, Chand, Vineeta, Kumari, Nitu & Sinha, Neha. (2016). What is India speaking? Exploring the ‘‘Hinglish’’ invasion. Physica A 449(2016): 375-389.

Sharma, Devyani. (2011). Style repertoire and social change in British Asian English. Journal of Sociolinguistics 15(4): 464-492.

Sharma, Devyani. (2014). Transnational flows, language variation and ideology. In Hundt, M. & Sharma, D. (Eds.), English in the Indian Diaspora. Amsterdam/Philadelphia: John Benjamins Publishing Company. 215-242.

Why my research is important

In addition to making a significant scholarly contribution, my research also aims to increase awareness and understanding of cross-cultural differences in communication. In doing so, the findings from my research can potentially be applied to a variety of contexts such as classrooms or work environments, to facilitate more effective communication while also building mutual respect and understanding of individuals from a diverse range of backgrounds.


  • Australia Postgraduate Award
  • UWA Top-Up Scholarship