Singlish: Singapore's de facto national language

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iguanamon
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Singlish: Singapore's de facto national language

Postby iguanamon » Tue Jul 03, 2018 1:07 am

As someone who has learned a couple of creole languages, I find "Singlish" to be interesting. I came across this article today in Atlas Obscura: The Government Campaign to Get Rid of Singapore’s Unofficial Language.

For those who have never heard it (I never had before), here's a short clip from the Singlish dub of Disney's Beauty and the Beast:


Dan Nosowitz writing for Atlas Obscura wrote:...“Singlish itself, in its full-blown version, can get quite hard to understand [for non-Singaporean English speakers],” says Jakob Leimgruber, a sociolinguist and assistant professor who wrote his thesis on Singlish. Singaporeans are rarely monolingual, and conversations can often include bits and pieces, or full sentences, in multiple languages, which can make trying to isolate Singlish a bit tricky. But, despite the fact that Singapore is made up of multiple ethnic groups who speak different languages, Singlish itself is “remarkably consistent,” says Leimgruber, across the entire populace. ... Singlish also uses a lot of reduplication, which is repeating the same word. English doesn’t do this much; it might have a phrase like “very, very big,” in which the repetition is used to amplify the word “very.” “Very, very big” is even bigger than “very big,” which is bigger than “big.” In Singlish, that’s not at all how reduplication works. Take a sentence like this: “Your son short short.”
For one thing, that’s not a typo; Singlish, like Hebrew and a few other languages, simply doesn’t use the verb “to be.” (Singlish also often omits articles like “the” and “a/an.”) But the reduplication thing: “short short” doesn’t mean “very short.” Instead the reduplication of the word is a dampener, taking the whole phrase to something more like “short-ish.” This kind of reduplication can be used with both adjectives and verbs; you can take a walk walk, which would be a very mild stroll. ...

Haitian Creole and Lesser Antilles French Creole work without using the word "to be", although reduplication works as an intensifier. I also see similarities with Singlish use of particles for some verb tenses. Haitian Creole and LAFC get their grammatical influences from West African languages. The Singlish grammatical influence from Asian languages is quite interesting. It's also a semi-tonal language where Chinese borrowings retain their tones.

According to the writer of the article, the Singaporean government wants people to speak Standard English to help it's worldwide economic success. Still, the author says not to worry about Singlish going away
Dan Nosowitz writing for Atlas Obscura wrote:But, says Leimgruber, Singlish is not really in any danger of dying out, despite the government’s hopes. (He says that in cases where the government really feels the need to connect with the populace, like in elections, government officials will sometimes lapse into Singlish.) It’s as close to a unique national language as Singapore gets lah?

Singlish Bible- Genesis wrote:Start Oreddy
1 Starting arh, God make the sky and the ground. 2 The ground bo shape, bo simi; den the deep on top is orr-orr one. Then the Spirit of God float at the water on top. 3 Den God say, “On light leh”; and den got light lor. 4 Den God see the light is tok kong lah; den God make the light and dark kena separated. 5 God say the light is Day, then dark He say is Night. Got evening, got morning, so first day. 6 Den God say, “All the water in between must have dua lobang, so then the dua lobang can separate some water and other water.” 7 So God made the dua lobang, then divide the downstair water from the upstair water; like that lor. 8 Den God say the dua lobang is Heaven. Got evening, got morning, so second day. 9 Then God say, “All the zhui under the sky must go one place, then the dry land can come out”; then like that lor. 10 Then God say the dry land is Earth, then all the water is call Ocean. Then God see it is hor seh.

Youtube, of course has a bunch of videos about Singlish... too many to list here. Another interesting take on the language is in this article from Atlas Obscura Singaporean English is Almost Impossible to Pick Up Wah lao! Why can’t I speak Singlish?
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Re: Singlish: Singapore's de facto national language

Postby Adrianslont » Tue Jul 03, 2018 2:47 am

This post makes me want to go to Singapore. I lived there in the early nineties and have visited a couple of times as a tourist in recent years. Some comments:

On recent visits I heard much less Singlish but that is most probably largely because I was a tourist and not working with Singaporeans - but not completely due to that. Some people you have dealings with as a tourist eg taxi drivers and waiters now speak something much closer to “standard” Singapore English than 25 years ago. Back then it could be quite hard to catch a taxi unless you used the staccato prosody of Singlish - these days there doesn’t seem to be as much need to do that.

The articles talk about the influence of Mandarin - my understanding is that the Chinese vocabulary comes very much from Cantonese, Hokkien and Teochew - I speak none of those languages but I heard this a lot from Singaporeans.

The Beauty and the Beast clip was pretty unbearable for me - that falsetto! Anyone interested should search around YouTube for Singaporean tv shows. There is fun to be had.

The Wikipedia article is pretty good. https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Singlish

Singapore is underrated as a place to visit. It is often dismissed as boring - unfairly in my opinion - I think it is as interesting as many other cities of 5 million people. It doesn’t have the gritty charm of much of SEA but I think the locals are pretty happy with their level of comfort. It is, though, a pity that much architecture has been lost. As always, you need to get away from the tourist centre.
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Re: Singlish: Singapore's de facto national language

Postby Axon » Tue Jul 03, 2018 3:58 am

This YouTube channel is one of the most popular in Singapore, and you can find quite a lot of Singaporean English and Singlish in their videos.

I've only visited for a few days, but I'll second Adrianslont on Singapore being a cool place to see. People were perfectly willing to speak Mandarin with me, though I kind of gave that up on the second or third day because I was addressed in English 100 percent of the time. That plus the architecture and city planning made me feel like I was pretty much back in California.
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Re: Singlish: Singapore's de facto national language

Postby rdearman » Tue Jul 03, 2018 7:44 am

I spent 45 days in Singapore and it was amazing. In fact a lot of the reason i deciided to learn Mandarin
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Re: Singlish: Singapore's de facto national language

Postby Adrianslont » Tue Jul 03, 2018 8:31 am

rdearman wrote:I spent 45 days in Singapore and it was amazing. In fact a lot of the reason i deciided to learn Mandarin

Interesting to note that the amount of Mandarin spoken in Singapore has increased significantly over the last 25 years. Although it had been the official variety of Chinese for many years, in fact, Cantonese, Hokkien and Teochew were spoken in homes and Mandarin was just a school subject for most - with the majority of instruction being in English. The situation is/was slightly different for the schools for elite students who would do more Mandarin. The government, noting the economic growth of China promoted the use of Mandarin heavily through campaigns but the big increase in Mandarin speakers came with the sharp rise in immigrants from the People’s Republic in recent years. This, along with the predominance of English has meant the decline in “the dialects” unfortunately.

Mandarin speakers from China work heavily in in the markets and food stalls and restaurants and as a recent tourist I would hear more Mandarin than before and wasn’t able to use English in a neighbourhood restaurant I frequented despite the fact that the wait staff were young.

Singapore and Malaysia are fascinating in terms of languages - not just because of Singlish and Manglish - it becomes probably more a politcal issue in Malaysia - I’m not going there because I don’t feel informed enough to make comment ... and forum rules.

It’s nice to see some love for Singapore on the forum - most people look at me like I’m “gila” when I say I like Singapore.
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Re: Singlish: Singapore's de facto national language

Postby rdearman » Tue Jul 03, 2018 8:50 am

There is a lot of immigration from Taiwan as well into Singapore. The Chinese language TV station is in Mandarin, I know because I watched a lot of programs when I started learning Mandarin. They might have other dialects but I'm not sure.
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