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Language and Colonialism

Language policy in the British period evolved along with the development of various forms of centralized rule, and can be roughly divided into at least two stages, one pre-Mutiny and the other post-Mutiny. When Europeans first came to India in the early sixteenth century, they communicated in whatever languages were already in use, which would have been Persian and Urdu at the official levels, and local languages, including Portuguese or some form of it, at the grass-roots level. We have evidence of the development and use of a specific Indo-Portuguese pidgin (later Creole) in the coastal ports from this early time, and even after the Portuguese star had waned, Dutch, Danish, British, French and other colonial powers often used Portuguese pidgin in their dealings with Indians. A number of events changed this.


Harold Schiffman