Among sociological studies in South Asia, frequent reference is made to caste as one of the greatest motivating factors in establishing, reinforcing, and creating social structure. This system of social hierarchy has, however, undergone drastic shifts and changes over the past decades (Dirks, 2001: 5) resulting in 'caste' as a term used to systematize concepts of social identity, community, and organization in India. The Brahmin caste, in particular, has undergone drastic changes as a result of social and political influence from without as well as from within, resulting in a conflict of identity (Bairy, 2010: 233).As a direct result of this conflict of caste identity, many individuals respond, act, and interact in ways that confirm, reject, or (re)establish their own individual identity within the greater scheme of their caste. The current study will examine specific ways in which Telugu Brahmins use linguistic markers to index socially acceptable, cultural ideologies. It will be explained how the use of lexical borrowings, markers of politeness and honorification, and emphatic aspiration index historical ideologies of Brahmin-ness. In indexing these ideologies, Brahmins identify with and associate their own actions in relation to traditional notions of those qualities assumed to be inherent in the Brahmin caste. Furthermore, meta-linguistic discourse will be examined, showing that recognition, acknowledgment of, and (mis)interpretation of a 'Brahmin register' is used to both mark intra-caste solidarity and reinforce social stereotypes about the caste.



College and Department

Humanities; Linguistics and English Language



Date Submitted


Document Type





register, caste, social hierarchy, Brahmin, Telugu



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Linguistics Commons