LINGUIST List 6.463

Tue 28 Mar 1995

Sum: Singapore English

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  1. 91A26936217F, Sum: Singapore English

Message 1: Sum: Singapore English

Date: Mon, 27 Mar 1995 15:04 +08Sum: Singapore English
From: 91A26936217F <>
Subject: Sum: Singapore English

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A couple of weeks ago, I asked the following question:

) Many people would not regard S'pore English as a "native" English.
) However, there are many speakers here who grew up speaking
) English,
) ie acquiring English as their first language; though certainly it may be a
) somewhat different variety from the English spoken in Britain or
) America.

) In this respect, what is the currently accepted way of classifying
) Singapore English? In particular, is it possible to say that it is not a
) native language given that some people have it as their first
) language?

Three respondants believed that Singapore English should be regarded
as "native" if it is the first language learned; while three others
suggested "native" has other connotations or suggested other terms for
the English of Singapore.

Thus Anthea Fraser Gupta said:

 I strongly feel that the term "native language" should be used to refer
 to the language(s) an individual first learns, and that any other
 definition, based on race, on ancestral language use, or geographical
 origin, is untenable.

Debbie Ziegeler agreed with this view:

 Most people I believe would classify a first language as a native
 language (= mother tongue), and I think this is what Anthea Gupta had
 in mind when she said that English in Singapore now has native
 speakers, and that approximately 20% of Singapore's incoming
 schoolchildren have English as a native language

and Ms. Faridah Hudson said:

 I believe that any language that is learned by a child as its first
 language should be considered as the native language. Granted that
 Singapore English is not as well studied as British or American English,
 it is still a form of English.

On the other hand, Wen-Chao Li claims suggests that "native" does not
just refer to the linguistic experience of the individual:

 I think the word "native" here refers not to whether or not people
 speak the variety as a native language, but is just a convenient label
 used to distinguish the English of Britain and the US, where the
 language originated ("native" in this sense), from the English of places
 like Singapore, India, and many countries in Africa, where although
 English is widely spoken as a native language, it is a language that had
 transplanted another in the last 200 years, a language that was
 introduced rather than one that's been culturally and historically

Mario Cal Varela suggested the use of the term "Localized Forms of
English" for new varieties such as that of Singapore:

 The expression "Localized Forms of English" is often used ... to
 refer to varieties of English that have developed peculiar
 characteristics (nativized features) because of being used in cultural
 settings different from the so-called Native Englishes.

and Rodrik Wade prefers "New Englishes":

 A term that was popularised, if not introduced by Platt, Weber and Ho
 (1984) for SE and other similar varieties of English is 'New
 Englishes'. I have used this term when writing about South African
 Black English although as yet this variety has few L1 speakers.

I would like to thank all these respondants, as well as Alan Firth and
Benny Lee for their useful references and Umberto for his questions
about the pronunciation involved. Special thanks to my mentor David
Deterding for introducing me to the list and for helping me out with
this summary.

Kia-Sheng Chew

National Technological University
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