Strength for Today and Bright Hope for Tomorrow

Volume 7 : 10 October 2007
ISSN 1930-2940

Managing Editor: M. S. Thirumalai, Ph.D.
Editors: B. Mallikarjun, Ph.D.
         Sam Mohanlal, Ph.D.
         B. A. Sharada, Ph.D.
         A. R. Fatihi, Ph.D.
         Lakhan Gusain, Ph.D.
         K. Karunakaran, Ph.D.
         Jennifer Marie Bayer, Ph.D.



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Behzad Anwar, Ph.D. Candidate


This paper examines the use of the Urdu figurative language in Pakistani English. Based on the written data from Pakistani English newspapers and magazines, this paper aims to show how Urdu similes, metaphors, fixed collocations, cultural and social expressions are involved in creating uniqueness in Pakistani English. This particular area of code-switching has not yet been investigated in Pakistani English. This brief paper is an attempt to fill this gap. It would certainly encourage the other researchers to explore this phenomenon in detail. Urdu figurative language has potential to penetrate in Pakistani English since Urdu has a strong presence in the minds of the Pakistani Urdu-English bilinguals.


The status of English as an international and global language has made it available in all parts of the world. It is spoken and understood almost in all countries of the world. Recently, it is very easy to find Chinese/English or Japanese/English bilinguals in such traditionally monolingual countries as Japan or China on account of its dominant position. English is the official language of 21 and co-official language of about 16 countries. Kachru (1992) divided English speakers into following three groups:

  1. 'Inner circle' where English is used as a native or first language. (ENL) e.g., United Kingdom, America, Australia, etc.
  2. 'Outer circle' where English is used as a second or additional language. (ESL) e.g., India, Pakistan, Singapore, etc.
  3. 'Expanding circle' where English is used as a foreign language. (EFL) e.g., Japan, Korea, China, etc.

This model of three concentric circles has been the standard framework of World Englishes studies. This model has been defined with reference to historical, sociolinguistic and literary contexts. English has been institutionalized in the outer circle because it works in diverse cultural settings in all these countries. We can easily find the linguistic variations and innovations in the English language because of the linguistic and social conditions in which it operates.

As Y. Kachru (2001) rightly stated, there is no 'International English' in which every English language user is competent. In fact, we have world Englishes with their own cultural bases and rhetorical strategies. In Pakistan, English is used in a non-native and different cultural context. That is why creativity is manifested at all levels in Pakistani English. However, in this paper, I have described only those features of the Urdu figurative language, which have been found in Pakistani English and occur quite regularly. The sources of the examples have been given in brackets. Urdu words and phrases have been written in italics with their approximate English equivalents.

Urdu Figurative Language in Pakistani English

In the process of nativization of English in Pakistan, the importance of the Urdu figurative language cannot be ignored. Figurative language is different from ordinary language as it is not used in its basic literal sense. Urdu figurative language makes a remarkable contribution in transforming English into a new and non-native variety of English i.e. Pakistani English. Such non-native varieties of English demonstrate the identities of those communities that use it in new contexts. Creativity in English emerges from local, cultural and stylistic strategies (Kachru 1987).

The figurative level of a language consists of culturally dependent expressions, fixed collocations, proverbs and metaphors, which lead to the creation of unique cultural images. Pakistani English reveals the use of Urdu similes, metaphors, cultural specific expressions and transcreation of idiomatic expressions. The use of the Urdu figurative language seems to an attempt to portray pure Pakistani realities. It also serves a wide variety of crucial communicative functions in Pakistani English. In non-native context, English can borrow different figurative expressions from the indigenous languages because of its close contact with those languages. To begin with, the next section of this paper introduces the use of Urdu metaphors in Pakistani English.

Urdu Metaphors

In Pakistani English, Urdu metaphors and symbols, which are unique to Pakistani experience, occur quite frequently and regularly. These metaphors reflect typical Pakistani social customs, localized attitudes and behaviours. Infact, the use of metaphors pervades all human languages. Metaphor involves the juxtaposition of two apparently unrelated domains (Littlemore 2005).

Metaphors are not literally true. Mostly, metaphors are based on similarity or analogy between different things or situations. In order to grasp the meaning of the metaphor, as it was intended by the speaker/writer, it is important that the listener/reader is familiar with the cultural background of the context in which it has been used. Metaphors are typically culturally-loaded expressions whose meaning has to be inferred through reference to shared cultural knowledge (Littlemore 2001). As Carter (1997) significantly observes that the appropriate ground of metaphors is often culturally specific, it will not necessarily be familiar to non-native speakers.

The main reason of the use of Urdu metaphors in Pakistani English is that they serve an excellent evaluative device (ibid: 150). Metaphor is often used to convey one's evaluation of a situation, and an inability to understand the metaphor can lead the listener or reader to completely misinterpret the evaluation. Metaphors are strongly associated with evaluative orientations (Moon 1998). Here is one example of the use of an Urdu evaluative metaphor in an English frame:

He is called sher ka bacha (lion's child) and mard ka bacha (high minded). (January 08, 2006 D)

This is only the introductory part of the article. PLEASE CLICK HERE TO READ THE ENTIRE ARTICLE IN A PRINTER-FRIENDLY VERSION.

Language of Headlines in Kannada Dailies | Urdu Figurative Language and Creativity in Pakistani English | Learning and Teaching Tamil in Singapore - An Argument in Favor of Engaged Learning and Emphasis on Spoken Tamil | "TEACH READING??? WHY ME?!?!" - Content Area Teacher's Question Answered! | Folk Theatre and Human Complexity in Girish Karnad's Nagamandala | Technique as Revelation of the Psyche - A Study of the Book of Psalms | HOME PAGE OF OCTOBER 2007 ISSUE | HOME PAGE | CONTACT EDITOR

Behzad Anwar, Ph.D. Candidate
Bahauddin Zakariya University
Multan, Pakistan.

Academic Visitor
Centre for Advanced Research in English
University of Birmingham
United Kingdom
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