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Title: The ideological landscape of Singapore English: Citizen representations of Singlish in forum letters
Authors: Tan, Samuel Wei Jian
Keywords: DRNTU::Humanities::Linguistics::Sociolinguistics::Language policy
DRNTU::Humanities::Linguistics::Colloquial language
DRNTU::Humanities::Linguistics::Discourse analysis
DRNTU::Social sciences::Communication::Public opinion
DRNTU::Social sciences::Sociology::Anthropology
Issue Date: 2017
Abstract: Singapore English ranks among the most ideologically contested varieties of World Englishes. Conflicting ideological conceptions of its two broadly differentiable sub-varieties – Standard Singapore English (SSE) and Colloquial Singapore English (CSE) – between institutional and individual actors, have produced a significant history of socio-political debate (Fong, Lim & Wee 2002, Chng 2003, Kramer-Dahl 2003, Bokhorst-Heng 2005). At one end, the Singapore government has long valorised ‘Standard English’ (technically SSE) as the only legitimate or “proper” variety of (Singapore) English, while actively seeking the eradication of its highly localized counterpart ‘Singlish’ (technically CSE) from the body politic (Rubdy 2001). Such official efforts have culminated in the now long-running, state-sponsored Speak Good English Movement. At the other, popular opinion concerning the growing stature of Singlish as a marker of national identity, among a not inconsequential segment of the populace, has led to an alternative view which embraces both SSE and CSE as serving complementary functions: the former, as a tool for communicating with the wider, international community of English speakers, and the latter, as an emblem of Singaporean culture (Chng 2003). Such grassroots sentiments have found their clearest expressions in the unabashed use of Singlish in the literary works of prominent local writers from Catherine Lim to Alfian Sa’at, the publication of Goh and Woo’s (2002) satirical Coxford Singlish Dictionary, and most substantially, the parade of large floats displaying well-known Singlish words and phrases during the ‘Identity – Uniquely Singaporean’ segment of the republic’s fifty years of independence celebrations (SG50) in August 2015. Strikingly, the apparent celebration – and thus validation – of Singlish as a constituent part of Singaporean identity, on such an official platform, strongly suggests that a hitherto uncommented shift in the state’s militant attitude towards Singlish may have occurred. However, a recent study by Tan (2015) which analyzed the representation of Singlish in government discourse, using public speeches delivered by either the invited Guest-of-Honour or Chairperson at the annual launches of the Speak Good English Movement (SGEM) from the years 2000-2015, revealed that the state has not fundamentally altered its censorious ideological position towards Singlish over time, nor has its expressed determination to eradicate the vernacular disappeared. Consequently, the present study sought to investigate whether the nonetheless strong indications of a more congenial climate towards Singlish having recently developed can instead be evidenced by an observable shift towards a more approving, if not tolerant, ideological conception of Singlish in the citizenry’s discourse. Specifically, this investigation will focus on the discursive representations of Singlish in forum letters published in two major Singaporean dailies – The Straits Times and TODAY – since the inauguration of the SGEM on 29th April 2000 till 29th April 2016.
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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