LINGUIST List 25.1301

Mon Mar 17 2014

Review: Language Documentation; Sociolinguistics: Deterding & Sharbawi (2013)

Editor for this issue: Joseph Salmons <>

Date: 09-Nov-2013
From: Gabriela Brozba <>
Subject: Brunei English
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Book announced at

AUTHOR: David Deterding
AUTHOR: Salbrina Sharbawi
TITLE: Brunei English
SUBTITLE: A New Variety in a Multilingual Society
SERIES TITLE: Multilingual Education
YEAR: 2013

REVIEWER: Gabriela Anidora Brozba, University of Bucharest

David Deterding and Salbrina Sharbawi’s “Brunei English” is the fourth volume in
the series Multilingual Education. The book consists of an introduction and
seven main chapters, followed by appendices, references and an index, all
preceded by some explanations regarding the conventions used in the
transcriptions and a list of abbreviations.

Chapter 1 “Introduction” (pp. 1-11) starts by briefly presenting the history
of Brunei, its population, the languages spoken. The appropriate label for the
English variety used in Brunei is also discussed. It illustrates what
Schneider (2007: 50) calls the substitution of “English in X” by “X English”,
in his model the transition from phase 3 to phase 4 (i.e. from “nativization”
to “endonormative stabilization”). This is followed by a discussion of the
substantial variation characteristic of Brunei English (henceforth BruneiE)
and a presentation of the data, which consist of spoken material from 53
formal interviews (38 female and 15 male participants) and the informal
interview of Umi -- data from the University of Brunei Darussalam Corpus of
Spoken Brunei English (UBDCSBE) -- , and written data from 2 local newspapers
(“The Brunei Times” and the “Borneo Bulletin”), texts from the “Kampong Ayer
Cultural and Tourism Centre”, and from the online forum “BruDirect”.

As the title indicates, the second chapter, “Education in Brunei” (pp. 13-21),
presents the history and status of the educational system in Brunei, with a
focus on English-related educational policies.

The analysis in chapter 3 “Phonetics and Phonology” (pp. 23−47) is based on
the UBDCSBE data which consist of 53 readings of the “Wolf” passage, an
identical number of five-minute interviews, and a more extensive interview
with Umi, a 33-year-old female speaker, whose English is fluent (p. 10), but
it also builds, among other materials, on written assignments by first-year
undergraduate students (p. 39). The sections on segmental phenomena (pp.
24-41) illustrate and discuss the tendency to replace the dental fricatives
[θ] and [ð] with [t] and [d] respectively, the simplification of consonant
clusters in word-final position, the addition of [t] after words, the
realization as a glottal stop [ʔ] of /t/ and /k/ when they occur in word-final
simple codas, obstruent word-final devoicing as well as some unexpected
patterns of voicing (e.g. “racing” [reɪzɪŋ], p. 31), /l/-vocalization and
/l/-deletion, the increasing incidence of post-vocalic /r/, the tendency to
level the length distinction, such that the lexical sets (as proposed by Wells
1982) KIT and FLEECE or FOOT and GOOSE seem to have merged to single vowels.
It seems that sometimes first-year undergraduates confuse the FACE vowel with
the TRAP vowel (see Fig. 3.2 on p. 39), while there is also a tendency to
monophthongize the FACE and GOAT vowels. The authors also discuss the relative
absence of reduced vowels in BruneiE (i.e. they are quite rare), as well as
some cases of spelling pronunciations and some idiosyncratic pronunciations
(pp. 41-42). The remaining sections (pp. 41-47) deal with suprasegmental
phenomena: lexical stress, rhythm, sentence stress, de-accenting, the sharp
rise in pitch at the end of in the utterance known as “uptalk” or “high rising
terminal” (p. 46).

In chapter 4 “Morphology and Syntax” (pp. 49-70), the authors first look at
the occurrence or absence of inflectional suffixes (pp. 50-57) in count and
non-count nouns (i.e. the plural suffix “-s”), as well as at the 3rd person
singular suffix “-s” which reflects novel agreement patterns and which
unexpectedly attaches to modal verbs as well (p. 58). Also addressed are the
issues of the comparative merits of a phonological (in terms of cluster
simplification, especially for the past tense suffix -ed) versus a
morphological account of the deletion of the suffix “-s”, the pluralization of
what are non-count nouns in native varieties of English, and variability in
the use of these suffixes. The next four sections (pp. 59-64) discuss tenses,
the use of “will” to refer to regularly occurring events, tentative “would”,
the use of auxiliary “do” in affirmative sentences without showing particular
emphasis, and the use of “already” as a perfective aspect marker or the
substitution of present perfect by past perfect. In the remainder of the
chapter (64-70), the authors examine the frequent occurrence of null subjects,
subject-auxiliary inversion in embedded questions, the absence of determiners
in general and the omission of articles for names of countries in particular,
the use of affirmative answers to negative questions; the rather fuzzy
boundaries in the distinction between “Adj to V” and “Adj V-ing” constructions
(p. 69) and the use of non-prepositional verbs with a preposition.

Chapter 5 “Discourse” (pp. 71-87) is divided into 16 subsections highlighting
the most typical discourse patterns in BruneiE. Particular attention is paid
to the use of discourse particles: those analyzed include “bah” -- “perhaps
the favourite particle for Bruneians” (p. 72), “lah”, “ah” and “kan” (used to
form questions). This is followed by a discussion of “yeah” as a discourse
continuation marker, the relative use of “sort of” and “kind of”, and the
various uses of the particle “tsk” (pp. 75-76). So-called topic prominence is
discussed in relation to resumptive pronouns and “-wise” as a topic marker.
Reduplication is also touched upon and what the author calls the “substantial
tolerance for repetition of lexical items” (p. 79), explained by the presence
of lexical doublets, tautological expressions, the use of the expression “and
so forth” or a tendency for unnecessary explicitness. Finally, lengthy
sentences (seen as influence from Malay) and run-on sentences are illustrated.

Chapter 6 (pp. 89-106) on the vocabulary of BruneiE covers lexical borrowings
from Arabic, especially for religious terms, and from Malay for a wide variety
of semantic fields ranging from words belonging to a special register used in
referring to or addressing the royal family to traditional local cuisine,
dress codes or other culture-specific entities, calques (e.g. “four-eye
meeting”, p. 98). The authors note the frequent use of initialisms (e.g. “KL”
for Kuala Lumpur, p.100), clippings and a special type of blends (probably
influenced by Malay, where speakers blend the first parts of the words
involved rather than the beginning of one of them and the end of the other,
“aircon” or “promex”, p. 102). There is shift in meaning or connotation, and
special terms for participants in various sports are also to be found in

In chapter 7 (pp. 107-116), the authors sketch some possible underlying
reasons for recurrent patterns of mixing, among which they list: the
“inability to think of a word” (p. 111), the need to explain something, the
lack of equivalents for religious terms and food items, direct quotations or
stylistic reasons. Attitudinally, it seems that in Brunei a speaker is
expected to switch freely between English and Malay if he or she can speak
both languages or else the respective linguistic behaviour would be deemed
strange or even rude (p. 116).

Finally, chapter 8 “Brunei English in the World” (pp. 117-125) touches upon
issues related to the intelligibility of BruneiE, some pedagogical
implications, the future of BruneiE, and the status of BruneiE in light of
Schneider’s dynamic model (2003, 2007, 2011). The authors write that unlike
Singapore English which “is assumed to be in the fourth stage of development”
(p. 118), namely endonormative stabilization, BruneiE must be still during the
third stage, i.e. nativization, since “English is not so widely adopted as a
lingua franca in Brunei” (p. 119).

The “Appendices” (pp. 127-153) are subdivided into five parts: appendix A
includes the biographical data of the female speakers in the UBDCSBE corpus,
appendix B those of the male speakers, appendix C is a rendition of the “Wolf”
passage, appendix D contains the full orthographic transcripts of the .wav
files of the recorded conversational data in the interview with Umi, of which
illustrative excerpts are included in the chapters 3-7, and appendix E
provides details the 15 discussion threads from the “BruDirect” online forum
(identification code, title, the date of the initial post and the URL where it
can be accessed).

The book is a clearly structured overview of BruneiE. The authors keep a
constant focus on comparative characteristics of BruneiE. The first author is
a specialist in Singapore English but comparisons are also drawn with other
Asian Englishes such as Malaysian English or Hong Kong English. The
description and analysis of linguistic features of BruneiE are placed in the
larger context of World Englishes, including natively spoken varieties. The
potential influence of local languages is given careful consideration. Also,
words of caution appear several times throughout. (An exception is the
discussion of the absence of hypothetical conditional constructions which
might seem categorical and cannot be falsified given the limited corpus
available, an issue admittedly noted as a shortcoming by the authors
themselves several times throughout the book.) The discussion of controversial
sociolinguistic issues is both informative and objective.

Finally, the volume is beautifully edited and is almost typo-free, with the
exception of “with” (p. 78) which should be “which”, “mature” (p. 110) which
should be “nature”, “model” instead of “modal” (p. 120), and “prepositions”
not “propositions” (p. 124). A few other minor formal flaws are related to the
references: with a few exceptions, the articles listed in the references from
those journals that have issues do not have the number of the issue mentioned
(e.g. Cane, Collins or Deterding and Kirkpatrick in “World Englishes”, Fuchs
in “English World-Wide”, Smith in “TESOL Quarterly”, Low in “Language and
Speech”); some articles that constitute chapters in edited books are missing
the pages (e.g. Noor Azam Haji-Othman 2012b), and the notation for the first
names of the referenced authors are at times inconsistent (e.g. “Hussainmiya,
B. A.” but “Gupta, Anthea Fraser”). However, these are truly minor faults that
do not minimize the value of the content nor the pioneering effort of the
authors in having put together the first monograph on a variety of English
that has not even been thought of or categorized as such by the large public,
specialized or uninitiated.

In conclusion, this comprehensive and insightful book constitutes an
invaluable addition and resource for researchers interested in New Englishes.

Schneider, E. W. (2003) The dynamics of New Englishes: From identity
construction to dialect birth. “Language” 79 (1): 233-281.

Schneider, E. W. (2007) “Postcolonial English: Varieties around the World”.
Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Schneider, E. W. (2011) “English around the World: An Introduction”.
Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Wells, J. C. (1982) “Accents of English, vol. I, An Introduction”. Cambridge,
New York: Cambridge University Press.

Gabriela Brozbă is a junior lecturer in phonetics and phonology, as well as
pragmatics at the University of Bucharest with a PhD degree in Philology,
specifically Applied English Linguistics. Her main research interests include
phonetics and phonology, non-native Englishes, sociolinguistics, pragmatics,
and dialectal variation, among others. She is the author of two published
books: Between Reality and Myth: A Corpus-based Analysis of the Stereotypic
Image of Some Romanian Ethnic Minorities (2010), and The Phonology of New
Englishes (2012).

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