English in Singapore

English in Singapore: Modernity and Management

Copyright Date: 2010
Pages: 324
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  • Book Info
    English in Singapore
    Book Description:

    English in Singapore provides an up-to-date, detailed and comprehensive investigation into the various issues surrounding the sociolinguistics of English in Singapore. Rather than attempting to cover the usual topics in an overview of a variety of English in a particular country, the essays in this volume are important for identifying some of the most significant issues pertaining to the state and status of English in Singapore in modern times, and for doing so in a treatment that involves a critical evaluation of work in the field and new and thought-provoking angles for reviewing such issues in the context of Singapore in the twenty-first century. The contributions address the historical trajectory of English (past, present and possible future), its position in relation to language policy and multiculturalism, the relationship between the standard and colloquial varieties, and how English can and should be taught. This book is thus essential reading for scholars and students concerned with how the dynamics of the English language are played out and managed in a modern society such as Singapore. It will also interest readers who have a more general interest in Asian studies, the sociology of language, and World Englishes.

    eISBN: 978-988-220-625-0
    Subjects: Linguistics

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Series editor’s preface
    (pp. vii-viii)
    Kingsley Bolton
  4. Acknowledgements
    (pp. ix-x)
  5. List of Contributors
    (pp. xi-xiii)
  6. Map of Singapore and the region
    (pp. xiv-xiv)
  7. Part I: The Ecology of English in Singapore

    • 1 English in Singapore: Policies and prospects
      (pp. 3-18)
      Lisa Lim, Anne Pakir and Lionel Wee

      The Republic of Singapore, independent since 1965, makes an interesting case study for various issues in sociolinguistics, not least because it is an ethnically and linguistically diverse society with a strong history of attempts at social engineering by the state. Language policies instituted by the state, follow-up language campaigns aimed at ensuring conformity to these policies, the ongoing tensions between what the state envisions for the general population and their actual language practices are just some of the phenomena that provide the grounding for a host of analyses.

      A common thread throughout these phenomena concerns the role of English. As...

    • 2 Migrants and ‘mother tongues’: Extralinguistic forces in the ecology of English in Singapore
      (pp. 19-54)
      Lisa Lim

      It has long been recognized that the history and fortunes of Singapore have been closely intertwined with migrants and migration (e.g., Yeoh 2007). In this chapter, I suggest that the fortunes of the various languages in the ecology of Singapore — their various rises and falls — can also be seen to be not only intertwined with migrants and migration but also very much affected by politicians and policies. Rather than simply consider these as distinct factors in the scenario, however, I represent them as components of an integrated ecological model for understanding the dynamics of the evolution of English in Singapore.²...

  8. Part II: Reconceptualizing ‘English’

    • 3 Singapore Standard English revisited
      (pp. 57-90)
      Anthea Fraser Gupta

      In the 1980s, Mary Tay and I outlined what we thought were the features of a Singapore Standard English (Tay 1982; Tay and Gupta 1983; Gupta 1986). At the time, our preference for a local (or ‘endonormative’) standard for Singapore English was seen as revolutionary, because the policy then was that the English taught in Singapore should be British Standard English with an RP accent. This was a policy in theory rather than one that could actually be delivered. Delivery of an RP accent was impossible because almost no teachers were (or ever had been) speakers of RP. In any...

    • 4 The Speak Good English Movement: A web-user’s perspective
      (pp. 91-108)
      Paul Bruthiaux

      Set in Singapore, ‘the meeting place of a hundred peoples’ (Maugham 1927/2001: 116), this scene from one of Maugham’s Malayan stories has a curiously modern ring despite the colonial trappings that would be hard to spot in today’s city-state. Introduced to set the scene for the skulduggery that is to come, the suggestion that speaking ‘beautiful English’ correlates with good character would probably have seemed entirely plausible to many of Maugham’s readers. Attitudes have of course changed, in postcolonial settings as elsewhere, and not least in Singapore, a country now promoting itself as a model not only of rapid socio-economic...

    • 5 Hybridity in ways of speaking: The glocalization of English in Singapore
      (pp. 109-130)
      Lubna Alsagoff

      English in Singapore has been described as serving both as a global language of trade, commerce, science and technology, as well as a local language for interethnic communication. Given the ideological incongruence and often conflicting histories and goals associated with these roles, researchers such as Pakir (1994, 1999, 2001), Rubdy (2001), Wee (2003), Bokhorst-Heng (2005), and Chew (2006) have talked about English in Singapore as being pulled in two opposing directions. Pakir, for example, discusses the competing norms that these divergent ideologies assume: the global orientation necessitates the adoption of an English that is internationally standardized, while the local advocates...

  9. Part III: Ethnicity and Ownership

    • 6 Whose English? Language ownership in Singapore’s English language debates
      (pp. 133-158)
      Wendy D. Bokhorst-Heng, Rani Rubdy, Sandra Lee McKay and Lubna Alsagoff

      ‘Language ideological debates’ (Blommaert 1999) are a common feature of Singapore politicking, and are centrally implicated in much of the social, economic, and political constructedness of the nation. As articulated by Blommaert (1999: 1–2), language debates ‘are organized around issues of purity and impurity of languages, the social “value” of some language(s) as opposed to (an) other(s), the socio-political desirability of the use of one language or language variety over another, the symbolic “quality” of languages and varieties as emblems’ of socio-cultural notions of nationhood, cultural authenticity, progress, modernity, and so forth. At the core of such debates are...

    • 7 Language and social capital in Singapore
      (pp. 159-180)
      Viniti Vaish, Teck Kiang Tan, Wendy D. Bokhorst-Heng, David Hogan and Trivina Kang

      The opening quotes above articulate Singapore’s commitment to bilingualism and to bilingual education, and make a link between the language and the culture of an ethnic group. The statements suggest that social capital is maintained through language — as seen in the phrases which state that ‘the Malay language joins generations’, and Tamil is to be ‘a living language among future generations’, and in the Chinese report where reference is made to ‘culture’, ‘roots’, and ‘a people’. Embedded in the significance of what we call the mother tongue policy is thus the notion of identity and connectedness to other members of...

    • 8 Language policy and planning in Singaporean late modernity
      (pp. 181-204)
      Christopher Stroud and Lionel Wee

      In today’s global world, extant language policies are increasingly inadequate for managing and regulating the complex sociolinguistic dynamics of highly transforming communities characterized by pervasive transnational mobility and an extensive domestic reconstruction of social, political and economic life. This is the case for Singapore, whose late modern structure, we argue, requires an approach to the management of multilingualism that departs radically from that of the founding years of the nation. Grounded in a politics of national (re)construction and mobilization, and a concern with ethnolinguistic harmony, Singapore’s language policy was designed as a strategy for managing a multiethnic society, via a...

  10. Part IV: English in Education

    • 9 Problematizing the implementation of innovation in English language education in Singapore
      (pp. 207-234)
      Rani Rubdy

      Much has been written about Singapore’s successful implementation of its syllabus reforms and carefully monitored innovations in English language education in the course of its 45-year-old history. Yet the history of educational change has shown that in spite of large and expensive campaigns undertaken at the national level, 75% of them fail to survive in the long term or die out (Adam and Chen 1981), that disappointingly few proposed ‘improvements’ catch on (Fullan 1982). Indeed, the success of curriculum innovations is more often than not determined by their contextual validity and the extent to which they are perceived to be...

    • 10 Sounding local and going global: Current research and implications for pronunciation teaching
      (pp. 235-260)
      Ee-Ling Low

      This chapter summarizes recent research on the pronunciation of Singapore English, which has provided empirical support for earlier impressionistic observations made by the first-generation scholars in the 1980s on Singapore English such as Tongue (1979), Platt and Weber (1980) and Tay (1982). These empirical studies appear to have two distinct trends. One essentially still uses auditory analysis but is backed up by empirical evidence provided by collection of speech corpora (Lim 2004; Wee 2004; Brown and Deterding 2005; Deterding 2007). The other set employs acoustic and statistical analyses to either validate or offer new perspectives about previous auditory research (e.g.,...

    • 11 English as a lingua franca: Negotiating Singapore’s English language education
      (pp. 261-280)
      Anne Pakir

      Several discussions on English as a lingua franca have taken place in the early years of the twenty-first century (Pakir 2001; Seidlhofer 2004; Modiano 2005; Canagarajah 2006; Jenkins 2006a), within a decade of Kachru’s (1996) seminal article. The English as Lingua Franca (ELF) ‘movement’ in Europe and the world Englishes (WE) paradigm originating first in the US and gaining currency in Kachru’s Outer and Expanding Circles of English have each developed distinct theoretical models of ‘lingua franca’ with not too dissimilar pedagogical and educational implications. This chapter first explores the research in WE, a paradigm established in the mid-1980s onwards,...

  11. Part V: Research Bibliography

    • 12 Researching English in Singapore: Bibliographic sources
      (pp. 283-304)

      This volume has had, as a primary thrust, the various policies and practices with regard to language that have been implemented and manifested over the past decades, crucially in how these have been managed in the modern multilingual and multicultural ecology that is Singapore. The various contributions have explored the implications of this for a number of issues: a consideration of the evolution of the emergent English variety, its glocalized features, its status vis-à-vis a ‘standard’ or ‘good’ English; a reflection on how this translates — or should be translated — to nativeness, ownership, and capital; a deliberation for what this means...

  12. Index
    (pp. 305-308)