Singapore English, language mixing, and vernacular speech

Kingsley Bolton, Werner Botha

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review

Abstract

Introduction

In this chapter, we present an overview of research on Singapore English, a field of academic inquiry which began in the mid-nineteen seventies, and which has expanded greatly throughout the following decades. Today, there is a small library of research on Singapore English, viewed from multiple perspectives, not least with reference to the spread and features of the colloquial variety of the language known as ‘Singlish’. In our discussion of this topic, we have three broad aims: first, to describe the main tenets of the existing research tradition of Singapore English; second, to present the results of our own empirical research on the use of English by young people in Singapore; and, finally, to consider a number of key questions related to the notions of ‘Singapore English’ and ‘Singlish’. Such questions are interesting for various reasons, not least because the study of Singlish remains a somewhat slippery business, given multiple problems of definition and delimitation. These include the following: What exactly constitutes Singlish as a linguistic system, whether this is a whole system, or partial system? Is it the form of colloquial expression used by educated speakers able to style-switch into a more formal style, or is it the language of the less educated, unable to master a more standardised variety? Is it primarily spoken in the majority Chinese Singaporean community, in the Malay community, or in the Indian community? Do the three major ethnic groups have their own distinct varieties, or is Singlish an inter-ethnic link language? While our own research on English in the Singapore community may not be able to answer all these questions, we would at least hope that our findings might signpost useful opportunities for further research on such matters.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationMultilingual Singapore
Subtitle of host publicationLanguage Policies and Linguistic Realities
EditorsRitu Jain
Place of PublicationLondon
PublisherRoutledge, Taylor and Francis
Chapter3
Pages28-46
Number of pages19
ISBN (Electronic)9780429280146
ISBN (Print)9781032000435, 9780367235192
Publication statusPublished - 26 May 2021

Publication series

NameRoutledge Multilingual Asia Series

Keywords

  • Singapore English
  • 'Singlish'
  • language mixing
  • vernacular speech
  • colloquial language
  • Singlish as a linguistic system
  • Singlish as an inter-ethnic link language

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