The personal pronoun “I” is always capitalized in English, regardless of its position in a sentence. This is an orthographic convention that every native speaker should know.
Whenever I have seen anyone breaking this ‘rule’ online, irrespective of their nationality, I’ve tended to make the following assumptions:
- a typo
- fatigue (pressing that shift key can be so exhausting)
For ignorance I don’t mean stupidity, I mean that the writer (of any nationality) either chooses to ‘ignore’ the rule, or he is ignorant of its existence. This can be caused by a person’s first language (or mother tongue) interference. For example, the italian personal pronoun, io, is only capitalized at the beginning of a sentence, and coincidentally, the lowercase letter is also adopted for the words italiana and italiano.
So it was quite an eye-opener to read the following, posted on EL&U nearly three years ago.
But i read a fantastic article some years back that convinced me to write a small “i” instead of a capital one, and to make the y capital in “You” to show more respect to the person, and attach a modesty to oneself.
jeega (Sep 5 ’12)
I’m not 100% certain, but I believe jeega is Indian, and it’s indisputable that many Indian speakers who are learning English have a tendency to write the subject pronoun “I” in lowercase.
- How established is this praxis among Indian English speakers?
- Is writing i a means of circumventing the perceived limitations of the English language?
- Can anyone confirm this practice, and/or provide a link to the aforementioned article?
- Because English is continuously evolving and it has become, for better or for worse, the 21st century lingua franca, I wouldn’t be surprised if I was written i in two generation times. Are there any studies on this eventuality?
I’d hate for anyone to walk away with the idea that Indians think ‘i’ is acceptable. You won’t find it in any respected Indian publication. You won’t find the average Indian writing it down on paper. It’s just textspeak and that’s why it’s common in text and tweets and comments online.
I’m from India. I assure you there’s no such thing as the lowercase ‘i’. No grammar teacher of mine — and I’ve had quite a few good ones — ever so much as mentioned it. In fact, this is the first I’m hearing of it.
The tendency of Indians to write in textspeak is unfortunate, but ‘i’ is as erroneous as ‘u’.
I’d like to point out that almost all of these violations occur in the electronic medium. Nobody writes ‘i’ on paper. They type it. And if there’s no autocorrect, most of them can’t be bothered to rectify it themselves.
How established is this practice among Indian English speakers?
Based on my experience, this is pretty established, but not so much among Indian English speakers as among Indian netizens.
Is writing i a means of circumventing the perceived limitations of the English language?
If you mean the limitations regarding the tiered system of politeness, then no. The tiered system affects more pronouns than ‘I’, and affects verbs and modifiers as well.
I might as well mention that Hindi’s script Devanagari (or any other Indian script I’m familiar with) does not have the concept of capital and small letters. So, the question of whether this practice is a carry-over is moot in this case (unlike that of some European languages).
Can anyone confirm this practice, and/or provide a link to the aforementioned article?
Don’t know about the link, but I can confirm that what you have there is a practice evolved solely for digital media. Admittedly Indians use it a bit more, but it’s not exclusive to Indian English and shouldn’t be considered a part of it.
I don’t know what article Jeega was referring to, but that was just an opinion piece, an opinion he seemed to agree with. But it’s definitely NOT a feature of Indian English. I’ll eat my words if anyone can provide a shred of evidence to the contrary.
EDIT: Sumelic seems to have unearthed the article link in his answer below.