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Varieties of English

Varieties of English, such as Singlish, have an important role to play in contemporary society. Discuss. Different varieties of English, such as the interesting variety used in Singapore, known as ‘Singlish’, have an important role to play in our modern society.

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Singlish in particular serves as a unifying tongue between the diverse cultures and ethnic groups that reside on the island. Although disapproved by the government, it continues to convey a unique Singaporean identity and a taste of the local flavour.

It does this through the distinctive use of phonology, syntax and lexicon, together working to bring a whole new variety of English itself. The phonology used by Singlish speakers characteristically defines the identity of Singapore. It does this by effectively adding a ‘local flavour’ to what may seem like normal English words. Singlish speakers often simplify their consonant clusters, to make speaking easier on the grounds that it may not be said in their own language i. e. In Chinese or Tamil. A good example of this would be the way that the consonant cluster ‘th’ is pronounced.

A normal English speaker would pronounce the lexical term thing as ‘thing’ as opposed to the more Singlish way; ‘ting’, changing the place and manner of articulation from the harder to say dental, to the easier alveolar. They may also omit final consonants in words, for example the lexical term ‘about’ may be expressed as much simpler ‘abou-‘, completely getting rid of the stop. Both these examples help to convey the uniqueness of Singlish as a new variety of English. The syntactical use of language in Singlish makes the links and most importantly, the differences of the new language to English evident. It does this in multiple ways.

A habit of many Singlish speakers is to add conjunctions to the end of sentences. A good example can be taken from a scene from the hit Singlish show named ‘I Not Stupid’. While the parents are disciplining their daughter the janitor interjects with a cheeky ‘Haha, my parents used to say that also’, ‘also’ being tacked onto the end of the phrase rather than its familiar place between the words ‘parents’ and ‘used’. It is also common to see a Singlish speaker using the incorrect negatives terms in certain sentences. Another example from ‘I Not Stupid’, helps to show this when the mother exclaims “Can you don’t mess up my table? using a contraction, ‘don’t’, in place of the adverb ‘not’. In this way, the distinctive use of syntax in the language of Singlish clearly labels its individuality. The use of lexicon in Singlish subconsciously expresses the local flavour of the language and its speakers. Lexical terms are used in a way that is different to many other varieties or English, making it individual and ‘home grown’. One of the most distinctive ways in which Singlish differs to Standard English is the use of discourse particles. The use of ‘lah’ and ‘ne’ in many contexts keeps the language different and interesting.

They can be used in contexts from ‘Why you so silly lah? ’ to ‘Stop it lah! Don’t ask who lah! ’ when used with different intonations, conveying completely different emotions. Also, the use of repetition to reiterate and emphasise is one that is not usually used in Standard English, making the language unique to many other such varieties. In the ‘Macmillan English Language’ Text Book, in conversation, it is mentioned; “Don’t ask who, why you ask ask ask? ” effectively conveying the emphasis that the speaker wanted to put on the phrase, whereas in normal conversation, we wouldn’t repeat the same word three times to gain someone’s attention!

Thus is not hard to see how the special way in which lexical terms are used in Singlish differ to Standard English substantially, and at the same time conveys its uniqueness in society. Singlish, and other varieties of new English, have a very significant role to play in contemporary society. With the simplifying of consonant clusters and omitting final consonants, the distinct phonology of this variety of English gives a sense ‘home grown-ness’ that is expressively different to that of Standard English.

In the syntactical sense, adding conjunctions to end of sentences and the improper use of negative words help to distinguish Singlish from other varieties and to show the local flavour that is present in Singapore. Similarly, the uniqueness of the language is shown through the various discourse particles used by its speakers and the use of repetition for emphasis. Despite differences in the language of Singlish to Standard English, these differences are the ones that make the language interesting, unique and most importantly, noteworthy in our modern society.