New York: Braj B. Kachru, an authority on English as a global language who passed away recently, championed the cause of Indian English as “vibrant expressions of distinct cultural identities” during an academic career at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign that lasted almost half-a-century.
A linguist and authority on India Studies, he was the founder of the academic organisations, South Asian Languages Analysis (SALA), and the International Association for World Englishes and a former president of the American Association for Applied Linguistics.
Kachru was also an Honorary Fellow of English and Foreign Languages University in Hyderabad.
The University’s Jubilee Professor of Liberal Arts and Sciences, Kachru has served as the director of its prestigious Center for Advanced Study with many Nobel laureates and its Division of English as an International Language at the university.
He died on July 29 in Urbana in Illinois state at the age of 84, according to S.N. Sridhar, the Distinguished Service Professor of Linguistics and India Studies and director of the Mattoo Center for India Studies at Stony Brook University in New York.
Kachru was the author or editor of more than 25 books, including “The Indianization of English,” “Language in South Asia” and “A History of Kashmiri Literature”.
One of his books, “The Alchemy of English,” received the English Speaking Union of the Commonwealth prize for the best book on English.
“Kachru successfully challenged the orthodoxies of the English establishment on both sides of the Atlantic … which looked upon non-native varieties as erroneous approximations of standard English. He argued for a pluralistic, socially realistic view of the English-using world,” Sridhar said.
His researched showed that the English of non-native speakers like Indians had rules and was shaped by the influence of the mother tongue and multilingual creativity and emerged “as vibrant expressions of distinct cultural identities”, Sridhar said.
“Through half a century of meticulous scholarship and energetic advocacy, Kachru emerged as the world’s leading authority on English as a global language” Sridhar added.
“Today, ‘World Englishes,’ the branch of linguistics and English teaching he pioneered and shaped, is a burgeoning discipline, with a global following.”
Kachru studied the mixing of language or hybrid languages like “Hinglish” all across South Asia and his researchn showed how South Asian languages have been shaped by a history of multilingual give and take with one another and with Sanskrit, Persian and English, Sridhar said.
Born in Srinagar, Kachru was educated at the University of Allahabad, the Deccan College, Pune, and the University of Edinburgh.