Singlish and the Maori Language

Irving Goh, The National University of Singapore

Note 10 in the author's " Promising "Post-colonialism": Deleuze-Guattari's "Minor Literature" and the Poetry of Arthur Yap"

Cf. The response of New Zealand writer Witi Ihimaera at a literary forum, reported in "Writer with a Cause: He's All for Subverting English" (Straits Times. 8 September 1999): "At Thurdays' forum, five Singaporeans stood up to speak in defence of Singlish, which of late, has been much maligned by the teachers and the authorities for its supposed negative effects on the learning of standard English.

Singaporean writer Suchen Christine Lim tried to assure the audience that Singlish will survive regardless of any form of legislation.

Ihimaera did not buy this confidence. He said: "Once upon a time, every Maori in New Zealand spoke Maori. Now only 5 per cent of them do.

"The world changes very fast and language is one of the main constructs for onešs identity and once it goes, then you are left with a bastard language like English.

"Singlish is a manifestation of Singaporean nationhood and it is one of those things that binds a people together.

"Learning standard English does not bind a people together."


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Last modified: 31 May 2001