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International Review of Applied Linguistics McKay, S. Hornberger Sociolinguistics and language teaching. Papapavlou, A. International Journal of the Sociology of Language Pavlou Pavlou, P. Papapavlou International Journal of Applied Linguistics 14 2 : Skutnabb-Kangas, T. Bilingualism or not - the education of minorities. Sonano, E. Grazer Linguistische Studien Swain, M. Reprinted in J. Fishman ed. The Hague: Mouton, Yiakoumetti, A. Bidialectism and linguistic performance in the standard: The case of Cyprus. Selected papers on theoretical and applied linguistics.

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Purchase Instant Access. View Preview. Learn more Check out. Furthermore, there tend to be concentrations of bilingual families among migrant families who may also be economically disadvantaged. Sanders points out that "most of the problems associated with bilingualism are really social or cultural problems" Saunders , principal among them the majority-minority contrast.

In these communities where bilingualism has been seen as a problem: bilingual families therefore often need support in the maintenance of bilingualism, such as that offered by Arnberg's book.

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However, in Singapore monolinguals are rare, and would be seen as socially limited. There are ethnic minority groups, but they are not more likely to be multilingual than the majority Chinese community-in fact, due to the proliferation of varieties of Chinese, the most multilingual individuals are likely to be from the majority Chinese community. Saunders's experiment in the use of German to his children was inspired by a visit to the Malaysian city of Kuching, which has a pattern of language use similar to Singapore's, which is "very favourable to some sort of bi- or trilingualism" Saunders English in Singapore is the principal school language, an ethnic link language, a major work-place language, the language of government, and has become a native language for an increasing number of children.

It is not restricted to any single ethnic group, having its principal association with the English-educated of all communities. Bilingualism and biculturalism do not generally go hand in hand in Singapore. English has the position of a language of Singapore.

Mesthrie Rajend English in Language Shift The History Structure and

In its role as a badge of identity for the English-educated, Singapore English has developed a colloquial form sharply different from its formal form. In it we see a non-standard dialect of English, a contact variety which can be linked with creoles, but which, unusually, is associated with a high-prestige group. In this book I will introduce you to the English-speaking children of Singapore. They are the second generation to have benefitted from Singapore's economic prosperity. Their parents experienced the availability of a high-quality Englishmedium education, good health care and housing.

In many cases their parents have provided English as the step-tongue for their children. In Singapore, the popular term is Singlish. As I wish to make a distinction between the colloquial usage of proficient speakers and the usage of those whose English may be very limited, I do not use this popular term. Three factors have influenced all the languages of Singapore, and have led to the emergence, in this century, of SCE: 1 The extensive contact between speakers with different language repertoires, including close domestic contact.

I use the term Singapore Colloquial English, but in terms of its syntax, its phonology, and, on the whole, its lexis, the colloquial usage of proficient English users in Singapore is currently little different from that of their equivalents in Malaysia: most of the linguistic features discussed in this book could apply equally to Malaysia. However the demographic distribution and social functions of English are rather different in Malaysia.

In Malaysia there are also differences in the functions of English depending on the region. In the multiracial cities of West Coast Malaysia and of Malaysian Borneo, especially in Penang, Kuala Lumpur, and Kuching, the position of English is very comparable to that in Singapore, with English being a widespread lingua franca, especially among racial groups other than the Malays. However, in the less racially mixed rural areas, English has a status much more like that of a foreign language, as there is less need for it in daily life. Many non-Malay children also study a third language such as Mandarin or Tamil.

The Step-tongue: Children's English in Singapore

The East Malaysian states on the island of Borneo Sarawak and Sabah , retained English as a principal medium of education more recently than the states in Peninsular Malaysia. Although the demography of English speakers differs between Malaysia and Singapore, the nature of the English which proficient and habitual speakers use does not yet substantially differ.

The difference is mainly in the handful of lexical differences between Singapore English and Malaysian English, some, but not all, referring to different institutions in the two countries. With the exception of Brunei Darussalam, the other South-east Asian countries were not colonised by Britain. Brunei was once part of the Straits Settlements, but the demographic situation in Brunei has further differences from that of Singapore or of Malaysia.

Thailand was never colonized, Indonesia was colonized by the Netherlands, and the Philippines were colonized first by Spain and then by the US. This has resulted in differences in the status and features of any English used in them. In Thailand and Indonesia English is a foreign language, although an increasingly important one. The English of the Philippines is dialectally very different from that of Singapore and Malaysia, with a different history of contact. The regional grouping of "Southeast Asia and Hongkong" which is covered by Tay in Cheshire's collection is neither a contiguous region nor a logical grouping.

Tay has to do a country by country analysis. Both the status of English in Hongkong and the features of the English of Hongkong are sharply different from Singapore, despite Hongkong's being a Cantonese city and the Cantonese being an important group in Singapore and in Kuala Lumpur. To some extent the discussion in this book can be extended to Malaysia, but that is all. It is only in the last 20 years that there has been any study of the varieties of English in Singapore. The majority of these studies still see any form of Singapore English which is different from British English as being a 'deviant' variety, whose features result from interference and error.

What I call SCE is viewed in a particularly negative light, and is frequently quoted alongside observations of 'falling standards' of English. The perception of 'falling standards' seems to have arisen from the democratization of English, and has occurred alongside a rise in the number of people using English in a range of contexts. I believe that we should look at SCE as a dialect in its own terms.

SCE is a contact variety which arose in a situation of extreme multilingualism and has many traces in it of influence from other languages. Others of its features result from most of its users having been, as they still are, non-native speakers of English. Proficient users of English still live in a community with people at all points of the proficiency range in English.

Many of the features of SCE may have had their origin in the 'mistakes' of non-native speakers, but these features have become fossilized in the second half of the twentieth century, and it is no longer useful to talk about them as if they were learner errors. Not, that is, if they are to be found in the speech of native speakers. But it is far from easy to sort out native from non-native speakers in the mass of languages that is Singapore. Diglossia in Singapore English Singapore presents an extremely complex picture of languages in contact. For the individual, as well as for the society as a whole, the situation is likely to be complex.

English was introduced to the non-European people of Singapore in the mid-nineteenth century as a language of education, at which point it also became a playground lingua franca between children of different language backgrounds. Out of this situation grew a diglossic English Gupta a , in terms of Ferguson's use of diglossia Ferguson Richards , was the first person to refer to the situation in Singapore in this way, although he never fully linked the diglossia to linguistic features as I prefer to.

The features which distinguish one Standard English from another are principally in phonology, and in the use of a small number of culturally based lexical items Gupta c. This Hvariety is the norm in formal circumstances, in education, and in all writing except some representations of dialogue. However, the Low variety of English in Singapore is sharply different from StdE, especially in syntax and morphology.

SCE is the main kind of English used in the home and in casual situations.


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It is the normal variety to be used to small children, outside a pedagogical situation. Nearly all those children who have learnt English from birth will have SCE, rather than StdE, as their native language. In both cases, punctuation and spelling conventions associated with computer communications are used.


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If StdE is used, texts with StdE verb and noun morphology are produced which could be from any informal bulletin board in the world, as in this example: U seem to get pulled into weird conversations between ppl here hmm must be something funny happening with your electronic brain rem the teeny weeny little ol thingamajig tt u used to carry ard?