I'm a linguist doing research on the emergence of new dialects of English spoken in former colonies, especially India. These new dialects have two major influences: (1) Interference from the mother tongues of the learners (colonised), and (2) input from the dialects spoken by the colonisers.

There is good evidence on (1) but (2) is harder to establish, at least for me. (1) is a linguistics topic I am well acquainted with, but (2) is mainly a history question. Perhaps I'm ignorant of important work in this area, but textbooks on Indian colonial history do not deal with the question in as much detail as I need.


  • Which regions of the United Kingdom did (a) employees of the East India Company, (b) colonial officers of the Raj, (c) military personnel during the Raj, and (d) missionaries come from?
  • What was their educational background? (university graduates, grammar school, only basic school education?)
  • How many people belonging to each of these groups came from the UK to India at what time?


The Indians that learned English during the colonial period were mainly those that worked for the East India Company/the Raj. Some of them went to schools founded for that purpose, others (partly or mainly) acquired English informally. The level of education of colonial personnel is important because university graduates were likely to speak Received Pronunciation or an approximation of it, but less educated speakers were more likely to speak the dialect of their region of origin (say, Scotland or Yorkshire). Missionaries are particularly interesting because they founded many schools for Indians (many, but not all of which taught (in) English).

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    Depending on the period in question, you may want to edit either the title or the text, as Great Britain and United Kingdom are not the same thing. Sep 25, 2013 at 11:14
  • You may want to first look into this: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/East_India_Company_College Sep 25, 2013 at 17:43
  • Steve: I changed the title. Felix: Thanks. I've seen the Wikipedia entry already, and it doesn't provide statistical information on its graduates (and employees in the lower ranks probably didn't at the College).
    – Robert
    Sep 25, 2013 at 19:55
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    Digging up a really old post, but you might want to speak to FIBIS - the Families in British India Society, focusing on genealogy connected with the British in India. fibis.org They will almost certainly know of what research has been done on this... Sep 7, 2015 at 19:55

1 Answer 1

  • EITC employees usually came from the outer regions (ports and fishing villages). Some of the main ones where; Brighton, Hull, Liverpool and Dover. People would usually receive a sort of "page service" on one of the ships.
  • Colonial officers of the Raj is probably the easiest one. These were usually officials that had done great deeds fighting in other colonies. So, they would have been from across the "world" and dialects (which I think you are mainly interested in) would have been mainly London English because of the Academy at Sandhurst. Now Sandhurst is nearest to Dover, however they were taught London English because of military boys coming in from different countries. And because British lingo isn't the same everywhere (for example toilet is either the lou or the bath) there were taught a common dialect in order for orders to have the same meanings.
  • Missionaries came from the unwanted areas of England (Scotland, Wales, Ireland) because of the lack of funds. When going to a new world camp they would have plenty of funding from the mother country. They would have gone to a theology school beforehand.

How many people came to India and how many from each exact group is impossible to find out. The reason being the numbers fluctuated and also they schooled Indians to become EITC men, Monks, and Rajs. This throws off the exact number of British men that you actually want.

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    Thanks for your answer! Do you think you could provide references for any of these points?
    – Robert
    Sep 30, 2013 at 6:33
  • It'll take time because of demographics. I'll get them posted as soon as possible though. Sep 30, 2013 at 8:46

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