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What happened to contemporary English?

What do the leading experts in English sociolinguistics say?

inglese contemporaneo

The future of English: a glance toward the sociolinguistic debate and new perspectives

Since some decades to the present the intellectual efforts of the most influential linguists of the anglophone universe as David Crystal, Tom McArthur and Braj B. Kachru, led the world toward the awareness of a pervasively widespread English language on a global scale, which at the same time becomes deeply marked and influenced by the countless linguistic realities with which it progressively came into contact.

So much so that, instead of talking about English, it would be far more appropriate using the recent expression World Englishes1, through which you can functionally enclose and identify  a multitude of geographical varieties of colloquial English just like Spanglish of the U.S. Spanish-speaking communities, Japenglish recently in vogue in the Land of the Rising Sun, Chinglish which continues to grow in People’s Republic of China, as well as the controversial and very popular Singlish from Singapore.

Singapore Colloquial English

With its four dominant ethnic groups (European, Chinese, Malaysian, Indian,), its four official languages (English, Mandarin Chinese, Malay, and Tamil), a myriad of dialects related to the branch of Sinitic languages (Hokkien, Teochew, Cantonese, Hainanese, Hakka etc.) and a fair amount of Dravidian languages (Tamil and Malayalam), Indo-Aryan languages (Punjabi, Hindustani, Gujarati etc.) and Malayo-Polynesian Languages (Malay, Javanese, Boyanese), Singapore island, aside from rousing the interest of the most illustrious anthropologists and archaeologists, it is also considered an uncomparable cultural and linguistic “ecosystem”, inside which an impressive number of linguistic interferences come to life.

In this blog we will travel together toward the discovery of Singlish, also known as Singapore Colloquial English, and we will learn to know it just in the way it appears in the various contexts of informal communication.

We will try to hilight the extraordinary way in which the different linguistic realities actively present on the island territory together with the English Language, both as adstrate languages and substrate languages, over the centuries have contributed to the enrichment or (according to the different schools of thought) to the “contamination” of the lexicon, the pronunciation, the syntax and even the morphology of Singapore Colloquial English.

The evolution of English in Singapore Island: the historical political path and sociocultural coordinates of “Lion City”

Before diving into the examination of the typical linguistic interferences related to Singapore Colloquial English, we will focus our attention on the identification and classification of today’s English speakers and, by taking into consideration their main distinctive features, we will try to delineate the boundaries of their respective spheres of belonging.

In order to provide you with a clear and comprehensive idea about the current healt status of English language in Asia, I considered it essential to propose a concise overview regarding the different approaches and the various implications of English language on the social, political, economic and cultural development of the major Asian countries.

With the purpose to shed light on the main factors that have encouraged the spread of the English Language on a global scale, it is impossible to overlook some of the most salient historical events of which the famous British East India Company became the unquestioned protagonist. We will gradually see how just in the deeds, in the fertility of mind, in the dedication and foresight of the men who made this institution undefeatable are enclosed the reasons of today’s dominance of English Language on a planetary scale.

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While attempting to lay bare the roots of Singlish phenomenon and also tracying the cultural coordinates of the heterogeneus “Singaporean Sociolinguistic Ecosystem”, I couldn’t help retracing the historical-political route, which starting from the Sultanate of Johor, passing by British domination and Japanese military occupation, and flowing at the end toward the merger within the Malaysian Federation, led toward the birth, the development and the auspicate indipendence of today’s Repubblic of Singapore.

Essential space of sociolinguistic survey, the contemporary social fabric of Singapore is nothing but the result of the meeting of merchants, fishers, soldiers, but especially immigrants coming from every corner of Asia and Southeast Asia, which, along with their own cultural traditions and customs, they ferried into the former British colonial outpost also their own languages, and dialects, making Singapore the “homeland” of linguistic interferences par excellence.

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Further readings and most recommended books

1Kachru B. Braj, Kachru Yamuna, Nelson L. Cecil, The Handbook of World Englishes, Blackwell Publishing Ltd., Oxford, 2009, United Kingdom.

Dr. Biagio Faraci, traduttore tecnico, interprete di trattativa ed international web business consultant

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Dr. Biagio Faraci

Technical translator, consecutive business interpreter, personal web - teacher of English, German and Italian for foreigners, expert in sociolinguistics, internationalization of business communication, strategic localization of business communication, intercultural mediation and corporate language training, I help individuals, professionals and companies to internationalize and / or efficiently localize their communication in the world of Web 2.0, establish a strong presence and find new customers in foreign markets through customized strategies.
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