Singapore English

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Life in Singapore

Singapore English is the English language spoken in Singapore, of which there are two main forms, Standard Singapore English and Singapore Colloquial English (better known as Singlish).[1][2]

Singapore is a cosmopolitan city with 42% of its population born outside the country.[3][needs update] Singaporeans, even those of the same ethnic group, have many different first languages and cultures. For example, in 2005, among Chinese Singaporeans, nearly a third spoke English as their main language at home while almost half spoke Mandarin, and the rest spoke various mutually unintelligible varieties of Chinese.[4] In the Indian community, most Singaporeans of Indian descent speak either English or Tamil at home. The English language is now the most popular medium of communication among students from primary school to university. Many families use two or three languages on a regular basis, and English is often one of them. In the past,[when?] some children received fewer years of English education than others. As such, the level of fluency in English among residents in Singapore varies greatly from person to person.[5][incomplete short citation]

Classification of Singapore English

Singapore English can be classified into Singapore Standard English (SSE) and Singapore Colloquial English (Singlish).[6] The language consists of three sociolects; Acrolect, Mesolect, and Basilect.[7] Both Acrolect and Mesolect are regarded as Standard Singapore English, while Basilect is considered as Singlish.[8]

  • Acrolect; there is no significant and consistent difference from the features of Standard British English (SBE).[8]
  • Mesolect; it has some features distinct from SBE [8]
    1. Question tenses in an indirect form; e.g. "May I ask where is the toilet?"
    2. Indefinite article deletion (copula absence); e.g. "May I apply for car licence?" (Instead of saying "a" car licence)
    3. Lack of marking in verb forms (Regularisation); e.g. "He always go to the shopping centre."
  • Basilect (Singlish);[8]
    1. Generalised "is it" question tag; e.g. "You are coming today, Is it?"
    2. Consistent copula deletion; e.g. "My handwriting no good, lah."
    3. Use of particles like ah; lah, e.g. "Wait ah; Hurry lah, I need to go now!"

Singaporeans vary their language according to social situations (Pakir 1991) and attitudes that they want to convey (Poedjosoedarmo 1993).[9] The better educated Singaporeans who have a "higher" standard of English, tend to speak "Standard" Singapore English (the acrolect). On the other hand, and typically the less-educated or Singaporeans whose first language isn't English, speak Singlish (the basilect).[9] Gupta (1994) said that most Singaporean speakers systematically alternate between colloquial and formal language depending on the formality of the situation.[9] The constant use of both SSE and Singlish has resulted in the gradual emergence of a mesolect, an intermediate form of Singapore English, half-way between formal and informal Singapore English.[9]

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