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Title: Not so "chee bai" anymore : a look at Hokkien swear words in Singapore and how they have changed over time.
Authors: Bok, Samantha Catherine Shi Yun.
Keywords: DRNTU::Humanities
Issue Date: 2012
Abstract: Swear words can be found in the lexicon of many natural languages. They can convey meaning and like any other language component which can convey meaning, are subject to change. Semantic change will thus be the focus of this study which seeks to identify and explore the diachronic change of Hokkien swear words in Singapore through comparing the way they are perceived and used by first, second and third generation ethnic Chinese Singaporeans. This study has found that that the swear word inventory of the third generation respondents has decreased significantly compared to the inventory of the first generation respondents. Many swear words have either weakened/ ameliorated to become normal words and/or have left the Hokkien lexicon entirely within a single generation. These swear words are generally those that violate one taboo. Those that are loaded (i.e violate more than one taboo) seem to be more resistant to forces of change. Yet the study shows that they are undergoing some sort of semantic weakening as well; in that they are no longer able to express the same intensity of anger as before. Swear words which start out as innovations in the second generation have also failed to be transmitted successfully to the third generation. These changes, as I go on to argue in the paper, can be largely attributed to the occurrence of language shift in Singapore.
Rights: Nanyang Technological University
Fulltext Permission: restricted
Fulltext Availability: With Fulltext
Appears in Collections:HSS Student Reports (FYP/IA/PA/PI)

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