LINGUIST List 23.3907

Thu Sep 20 2012

Review: Applied Ling.; Sociolinguistics: Low & Hashim (2012)

Editor for this issue: Joseph Salmons <>

Date: 20-Sep-2012
From: Yosuke Sato <>
Subject: English in Southeast Asia
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EDITORS: Low, Ee-Ling and Hashim, AzirahTITLE: English in Southeast AsiaSUBTITLE: Features, policy and language in useSERIES TITLE: Varieties of English around the WorldPUBLISHER: John BenjaminsYEAR: 2012

Yosuke Sato, Department of English Language and Literature, National Universityof Singapore

SUMMARYThis book provides the first comprehensive account of English in Southeast Asiawith reference to its local linguistic features, its socio-historical contextsand language planning, and its usages in diverse domains such as the law,education, pop culture, and electronic media. The volume starts with an"Introduction" written by Ee-Ling Low and Azirah Hashim, followed by the firstchapter "Theoretical Issues" by Andy Kirkpatrick. The volume consists of Part I(Features), Part II (Policy), and Part III (Language in Use).

In their "Introduction", Low and Hashim mention three gaps in studies on Englishin Southeast Asia which this volume aims to fill: a) asymmetry in the range anddepth of studies between the Outer Circle varieties of English and the Expandingvarieties of English, b) insufficient representativeness of the literature onEnglish in Southeast Asia, and c) the absence of concerted efforts to documentvarieties of English in Southeast Asia as a region.

Chapter 1 ("Theoretical Issues") by Andy Kirkpatrick discusses motivations fordistinctive linguistic features in new varieties of English and issues connectedwith language policy. He argues that simplification and regularization are tworeasons for new features. The second part of the chapter surveys English-mediumeducation in the Philippines, Malaysia, Brunei, Singapore and Hong Kong tohighlight complex issues that face language policy makers in these countries.

Part I ("Features") consists of six chapters, each of which describes uniquelinguistic features of English used in Singapore, Malaysia, Brunei, thePhilippines, Thailand, and Hong Kong. Many of these varieties share linguisticfeatures such as article omission, lack of agreement, lexical borrowing, andvowel length neutralization. Chapter 2 ("Singapore English") by Ee-Ling Lowstarts with an overview about language policies and models of linguisticvariation in Singapore such as the Lectal Continuum Model (Platt 1977) and theCultural Orientation Model (Alsagoff 2007). The chapter describes the vowel andconsonant inventories, collapse of vocalic length distinctions in StandardSingapore English and the tendency for speakers of Colloquial Singapore Englishto produce an excrescent [t] after word-final [n].

Chapter 3 ("Malaysian English") by Azirah Hashim and Rachel Tan first discussesphonological features of Malaysian English including the tendency for diphthongsto become monophthongs, consonant cluster reduction and the syllable-timedrhythm. The authors then introduce examples of structural nativization,including pronoun drop and replacement of past tense markers by adverbs.

Chapter 4 ("Brunei English") by James McLellan and Noor Azam Haji-Othmanobserves that Brunei English exhibits vowel shifts and mergers in informalspeech and unreleased word-final stops, the general question marker '… isn'tit", variation in the mass vs. count distinction, and 'non-standard' uses ofpassives.

Chapter 5 ("Philippine English") by Danilo T. Dayag shows that PhilippineEnglish does not reduce vowels in unstressed syllables to schwa as done instandard varieties of English. The variety retains lexical items no longer inuse in other varieties such as "solon" ("lawmaker").

In Chapter 6 ("Thai English"), Wannapa Trakulkasemsuk discusses distinctivefeatures of Thai English influenced by language background and communicativenorms. They include frequent uses of kinship terms due to the collectivisticculture of Thai and reduplication for emphasis. Vowel sounds in Thai Englishreceive strong transfer effects from Thai.

Chapter 7 ("Hong Kong English") by Tony T.N. Hung marks the end of Part I with adescription of Hong Kong English. This variety has a smaller set ofvowel/consonant contrasts than native varieties of English. It exhibitsreduction of diphthongs before stops, the lack of voicing contrast in fricativesand syllable-timing. This variety exhibits different subcategorization patternsof transitive verbs.

Turning to Part II (Policy), Chapter 8 ("The Development of English inSingapore: Language Policy and Planning in Nation Building") by Lubna Alsagoffpresents an in-depth analysis of the sociolinguistic landscape of English inSingapore with reference to major language policies, including a) the Ten-YearProgram in 1947 which defines the objectives of education, b) the All-PartyReport which includes recognition of English, Mandarin, Tamil and Malay as fourofficial languages of the country, and c) the bilingual education policy whichrequires that all school children be educated in English and an ethnic mothertongue. Alsagoff states that the language policies in post-independenceSingapore is characterized by a pragmatic approach to the management oflanguages with fine balances between English as the working language of thenation and the other three official languages as heritage languages to promoteequality for all ethnic groups.

Chapter 9 ("Pragmatics of Maintaining English in Malaysia's Education System")by Asmah Haji Omar presents an overview of language policy in Malaysia withreference to the Malaysian government ruling of English as a medium for teachingscience and mathematics and the perception of this policy among Malays, Chineseand Indians. This program has met with mixed reactions. The major disagreementcame from the Malays, who believe that the only language that should be themedium for learning science and mathematics is the national language (Malay).The opposition among the Chinese arises from their concern that mathematics isbetter taught and understood using Chinese as a medium of instruction. TheIndians seem to be neutral for various reasons, such as their disparateethnolinguistic origins.

Chapter 10 ("Language Planning in its Historical Context in Brunei Darussalam")by Gary M. Jones analyzes language planning in Brunei. A major breakthrough wasthe "Education System of Brunei" in 1984, which introduced the concept ofbilingual proficiency to ensure the sovereignty of Malay and recognized theimportance of English. In January 2009, Brunei introduced a new "NationalEducation System for the 21st century", which further emphasizes the importanceof English as pupils now learn mathematics and science in addition to theEnglish language itself through the medium of English from Primary 1.Chapter 11 ("Diffusion and Directions: English Language Policy in thePhilippines) by Isabel Pefianco Martin discusses the language policy situationin the Philippines from the Spanish occupation through the American era tocontemporary times which has eventually led to the deterioration of Englishproficiency and the marginalization of the first languages of the schoolchildren. Martin suggests future directions for effective language policies inthe Philippines that take into account underlying issues such as the continueddeterioration of basic education and genuine commitment to mother-tongue literacy.

Chapter 12 ("The Effect of Policy on English Language Teaching at SecondarySchools in Thailand") by Pornapit Darasawang and Richard Watson Todd presentsEnglish language policies and their implementation in Thailand using sevensources of English language education policy and interviews with principals andteachers at four government secondary schools. The authors show that the extentto which the stated policies would affect actual classroom is unclear. Theinterviews with principals and teachers at the schools revealed radicallydifferent views on the implementations of the language policies. The authorsargue that this could lead to an unfavorable situation where schools areunintentionally empowered to make their own decisions and still be able to findsome policy from some source that justifies their practice.

Chapter 13 ("Language Policy and Planning in Hong Kong: The Historical Contextand Current Realities") by Kingsley Bolton reviews current issues in languagepolicies in Hong Kong. In 1995, the government announced its new language policypromoting trilingualism in Cantonese, English and Putonghua and biliteracy inwritten Chinese and English. As for the language of education, the 1973 GreenPaper mandated Chinese medium instruction but immediately met with oppositionfrom parents and schools. As a result, the government published a White Paper in1974 which adopts a laissez-faire approach to the medium of instruction, whichcontinued until March 1997 when the government introduced another policy of"firm guidance".

Chapter 14 ("English in Southeast Asian Law") by Richard Powell, the openingchapter of Part III ("Language in Use"), reviews the historical roles Englishplayed and the emergence of the bilingual legal systems in the formerBritish/American-administered countries. Powell points out that English hasformed the basis of many post-colonial jurisdictions and remains theunchallenged medium of law in Brunei, the Philippines and Singapore whereas itco-exists in different ways with local Asian languages in Hong Kong, Malaysiaand Myanmar. In the other Southeast Asian countries which have been colonized bya non-Anglophone power or which have avoided colonization altogether, the locallanguages with historical roots remain the only language with judicial standing(e.g., Thai in Thailand, Chinese and Portuguese in Macau) but it has started toplay a vital role in legal reforms/translations in Thailand and Macau.

Chapter 15 ("The View from Below: Code-Switching and the Influence of'Substrate' Languages in the Development of Southeast Asian Englishes") by JamesMcLellan notes that Myers-Scotton's (1993) Matrix Language Frame theory, whichassumes an asymmetrical relationship between two or more languages thatcontribute to code-switching, has parallels in the dominant framework frompidgin and creole linguistics where one language, typically a local vernacular,is designed as the substrate language with another functioning as thelexicalizer language. McLellan then shows that the four set of examples fromMalaysian, Singapore, Philippine and Brunei English he collected demonstrateovert both intra- and inter-sentential code switching as well as substratalinfluences from other languages.

Chapter 16 ("Curriculum and World Englishes: Additive Language Learning as SLAParadigm") by James D'Angelo highlights issues in the traditional Inner, Outerand Expanding Circles within Kachru's (1990) Model of World Englishes. Sincemultilingualism is by now more common in traditionally monolingual societies,developments in English as a Foreign Language have become increasingly importanteven in the Inner Circle context. D'Angelo mentions six famous myths from Kachru(2005), which pedagogical practitioners and learners are likely to fall prey to.Turning to Outer Circle countries, where certain varieties of English areaccepted as legitimate, curricula in these countries require flexibilitydepending on the proficiency level of students involved. Finally, D'Angelo notesthat the key for curriculum planning in the Expanding Circle is to trainteachers in recognizing additive potentials of the "deviations" used by studentsto the development of English.

Chapter 17 ("English in Southeast Asian Pop Culture") by Andrew Moody analyzessamples of pop English from the media and observes that the kind of English usedin the media is highly codified to affect and accommodate the intra-ethnic aswell as intra-national mass markets by using locally familiar expressions suchas "tidak apathy", a case of English-Malay blending, or by deliberatelyemphasizing the stereotypical features of Malaysian English.

Chapter 18 ("Language Use in the Construction of Interpersonal Relationships:Electronic English in Malaysia") by Norizah Hassan, Azirah Hashim and AdiranaSufun Phillip investigates the impact of new media technologies on English inMalaysia through the examination of samples of electronic data comprisinge-mails, blogs and instant text messages. The study reveals that they containmany of the features found in spoken Malaysian English, includingcode-switching, discourse particles, hypocorism, and emoticons.

Chapter 19 ("Transfers of Politeness Strategies: Some Preliminary Findings") byBeng Soon Lim compares two systems of politeness through the use of politenessmarkers in Malay and English and identifies the levels of directness whenface-threatening acts are performed among educated Malay bilingual speakersthrough role-enactments. The present study adopts House and Kasper's (1981)schema on directness which recognizes eight levels of directness, with Level 1being the most indirect and Level 8 being the most direct, and assumes the powerstatus ([+] power vs. [-power]) and social distance between the interlocutors([+] distance vs. [-distance]) as the two significant parameters. They find thatrespondents tended to pitch complaints at Levels 5 and 6 whereas they tend topitch requests at Levels 3 and 7.

Chapter 20 ("Works on English in Southeast Asia") by Ee-Ling Low, Azirah Hashim,Ran Ao and Adriana Sufun Phillip provides a comprehensive list of publicationson English in Southeast Asia.

EVALUATIONThe coverage of topics discussed is impressive, ranging from linguistic featuresof local Englishes in Southeast Asia through language policies tosociolinguistic investigations of actual language use in various socialcontexts. The work conducted here is a major step forward with potentiallysignificant implications for future studies on bilingual brains, second languagelearning, curriculum planning, and national language policies. I hope that morestudies on regional varieties of English like those in Part I will be conductedto further deepen our understanding of the complex issues of language planningin Southeast Asia.

There are two points of improvement in Parts I and II. First, Chapters 2, 3 and6 each provide an in-depth overview of the sound system of the local Englishes,but other areas of grammar, particularly syntax, have not received duecoverage. Take Chapter 2, which has an excellent description of SingaporeEnglish phonetics followed by comparatively sporadic coverage of syntax. It thusdoes not include reference to well-known features in Singapore English such aspro drop (Alsagoff and Ho 1998), in-situ wh-questions (Bao 2001) andkena-passives (Bao and Wee 1999). Second, Part III illustrates thesociolinguistic and pragmatic realities that govern language use in variousfunctional domains. Despite the new findings reported here, these chapters werenot meaningfully integrated with other chapters.

Despite those last comments, the volume provides an excellent contribution toEnglish in Southeast Asia with research by leading scholars. None of the authorsclaims to have all the answers, but they emphasize that their work is a smallstep forward in achieving a comprehensive understanding of English in SoutheastAsia. I hope this book will attract new students and researchers, especiallyfrom Southeast Asian countries, to the exciting field of World Englishes.

REFERENCESAlsagoff, Lubna. 2007. Singlish: Negotiating culture, capital and identity. InEvolving Identities: The English Language in Singapore and Malaysia, VincentB.Y. Ooi (ed.), 79-88. Singapore: Times Academic Press.

Alsagoff, Lubna and Chee Lick Ho. 1998. The grammar of Singapore English. InEnglish in New Cultural Contexts: Reflections from Singapore, Joseph Foley,Thiru Kandiah, Zhiming Bao, Anthea Fraser Gupta, Lubna Alsagoff, Chee Lick Ho,Lionel Wee, Ismail S. Talib, and Wendy Bokhorst-Heng (eds.), 127-151. Singapore:Oxford University Press

Bao, Zhiming. 2001. The origins of empty categories in Singapore English.Journal of Pidgin and Creole Languages 16(2): 275-319.

Bao, Zhiming and Lionel Wee. 1999. The passive in Singapore English. WorldEnglishes 18(1): 1-11.

House, Juliane and Gabriele Kasper. 1981. Politeness markers in English andGerman. In Conversational Routine, Florian Coulmas (ed.), 157-185. The Hague:Mouton.

Kachru, Braj. B. 1990. The Alchemy of English. Urbana-Champaign IL: Universityof Illinois Press.

Kachru, Braj. B. 2005. Asian Englishes: Beyond the Canon. Hong Kong: Hong KongUniversity Press.

Myers-Scotton, Carol. 1993. Duelling Languages: Grammatical Structure inCode-switching. Oxford: Clarendon Press.

Platt, John. 1977. The sub-varieties of Singapore English: Their sociolectal andfunctional stratus. In The English Language in Singapore, William Crewe (ed.),83-95. Singapore: Eastern Universities Press.

ABOUT THE REVIEWERYosuke Sato received his PhD in Linguistics from the University of Arizona.After a post-doc at the University of British Columbia, he moved toSingapore, where he's currently assistant professor in the Department ofEnglish Language and Literature at National University of Singapore. Hisresearch specialties are in Generative syntax and linguistic interfaces.His current interest is Singapore English and its implications for contactgenesis/development.

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