The curious case of nomenclatures: Singapore(an) English

27 Aug 2021 03.30 PM - 05.30 PM Alumni, Current Students, Industry/Academic Partners, Prospective Students, Public
Organised by:
SoH Communications Office

How did the terms “Singlish” and “Singapore English” come about? And why did the term “Singapore English” resist the suffix ‘-ean’? These are some of the questions this paper will answer. I will begin by presenting evidence from archival research of local newspapers, starting from the 1800s, to trace when these terms reached the public consciousness, and how the public understood them. I will also present an overview and meta-analysis on how linguists have used these terms in their writing on Singapore(an) English and Singlish, and using that to trace their ideologies and how they shape the construction of these languages. I propose three waves of research – starting from the 1970s which saw scholars use “Singaporean English” but made no distinction between Singapore English and Singlish; to the 1990s which was the start of a long period of scholars naming Singlish as “Colloquial Singapore English”, effectively creating a continuum of Singapore English from the standard to the colloquial; and finally, to the new wave, which I will claim to be part of, pushing Singlish away from this cline of English. I argue that the nomenclatures, though curious, are no coincidences and accidents, and that they bear the signs of what these languages represent to the people.

About the Speaker

Tan Ying Ying is Associate Professor of Linguistics and Multilingual Studies at the Nanyang Technological University. On odd numbered days, you will find her working as a sociophonetician. On even numbered days, she buries her nose into language planning and policy work. The thread that binds is that she works on languages in Singapore.