Selected publications of Anthea Fraser GUPTA

School of English
University of Leeds
Leeds
LS2 9JT
England

1974. Thomas Spence and the English Language. Transactions of the Philological Society: 33-64. (published under the name Anthea Fraser SHIELDS)

Thomas Spence(1750-1814) was a political and religious reformer, looking forward to the coming of the millenium. He thought the millenium could be brought about sooner if an egalitarian society was developed first. The eliminating of class distinctions based on language would be part of this. A reformed spelling, based on the correct pronunciation, would ensure that everyone pronounced things in the most prestigious way. The texts he wrote, and his 1775 pronouncing dictionary are interesting both for his philosophy and for what they tell us about 18th century pronunciation.

1977. On the identification of Singapore English vocabulary. In W J Crewe (ed) The English Language in Singapore. Singapore: Eastern Universities Press: 120-140. (published under the name Anthea Fraser SHIELDS)

Students were asked to imagine they were making a dictionary of Singlish. What words did they choose?

1983. Mary W J Tay and -- -- Towards a description of Standard Singapore English. In R B Noss (ed) Varieties of English in Southeast Asia. RELC Anthology Series 11. Singapore University Press: 173-189.

The first article that seriously discussed the possibility of a local standard English for Singapore.

1985. Language Status Planning in the ASEAN Countries. In David Bradley (ed) Pacific Linguistics: Papers in Southeast Asian Linguistics No. 9. Language policy, language planning and sociolinguistics in Southeast Asia, 1-14.

What are the considerations that lead particular countries to have their language planning policies? Political, social, and demographic considerations all figure.

1985. "Know what ho?" Questions from a three year old Singaporean. In Paul Fletcher and Michael Garman, eds., Child Language Seminar Papers 1985, 251-266. (Reading University)

The structure of interrogatives in a child acquiring Singapore Colloquial English as a dominant native language is outlined, and development in this child compared to norms of development in a child acquiring Standard English.

1986. A standard for written Singapore English? English World-wide 7:1, 75-99. (reprinted in J Foley (ed), 1988 New Englishes: The Case of Singapore, Singapore University Press, 27-50.)

Based on Gupta's contribution to Tay & Gupta. The syntactic and lexical possibilities for a local standard English in Singapore.

1989. Singapore Colloquial English and Standard English. Singapore Journal of Education 10:2, 33-37.

Based in part on a longitudinal study of the acquisition of Singapore Colloquial English as a native language, this paper outlines the differences between Standard English and Singapore Colloquial English and suggests the appropriate places for each in the educational system.

1989. One Big Problem. Singapore: Graham Brash.

Children's novel (age 9-12). From all over Singapore top school children are selected for a leadership training camp on an offshore island. But one school makes a mistake in who it sends.....

1990. ( -- & Ameline Lee Su Yin) Gender representation in English Language textbooks used in the Singapore Primary Schools. Language and Education 4:1, 29-50.

Two basal reader series used in the Singapore primary schools were analysed for discrepancies in the treatment of male and female characters. Imbalances were found in the female:male ratio, in the amount of speech given to characters, and in role-represention. In both series, the importance of male characters becomes greater as the level of reader rises.
The implications of this discrepancy are of some concern for Singapore's education system, where textbooks have long been seen as a major means of socialization.

1990. A study of the acquisition and use of interrogatives and questions in the English of pre-school Chinese Singaporeans. D.Phil. University of York. (DX93169)

Two pairs of siblings were recorded on nine occasions each in normal activities. The children were Singaporean Chinese children who were acquiring Singapore Colloquial English as their major native language alongside Hokkien/Teochew, Cantonese and Mandarin. The mix and dominance of the other languages changed in both families in the course of study. The parents were not native speakers of English, but were highly educated and proficient in English. The children's ages at the beginning of the study were from 0;10 to 4;6, and at the end of the study from 3;6 to 7;3.
Singapore Colloquial English (SCE) is the L-variety in a diglossic English where Standard English (StdE) is the H-variety. It is a contact variety which in some ways resembles creoles. SCE is acquired first by the child, while StdE is introduced by the parents as the child approaches school age. By the age of four, children show an awareness that StdE is to be used to a foreigner, while SCE is to be used to family members.
Due to the syntactic differences, the acquisition of interrogatives in SCE differs from the acquisition of interrogatives in other varieties of English. Fronting of the wh-word, and inversion of Subject and Verb varies according to choice of wh-word and of verb: it is most common in the formulaic frames What's X? and Where's X? Why and how are fronted, but not accompanied by inversion. Wh-words (especially which and how many) often maintain their declarative position. Inversion is associated with BE and CAN. There is no DO support. The form of SCE interrogatives is influenced by contact with Southern varieties of Chinese, but this represents an historic transfer, not transfer in the child.
In SCE utterances can be marked on a scale of assertiveness by using pragmatic particles. Pragmatic particles of the tentative group (of which the most common is a) are used after statements to which the speaker wishes to attach a low degree of commitment. Children use pragmatic particles well and early, and show a high degree of discourse sensitivity. Some speech functions are acquired earlier than can be expected in children acquiring other varieties of English, which may be accounted for by the explicit marking of discourse features by pragmatic particles, and by the simpler syntax of SCE.
When StdE begins to develop, the child builds inversion and DO support around formulaic frames. Experiential verbs (WANT, SEE etc.) are a main focus of DO support.
Singapore Colloquial English is an established contact variety, with an ordered acquisition process, rather than an accumulation of interlanguage errors. Children's learning of it may be facilitated by its simple syntax, and by the extensive discourse sensitivity features (notably, pragmatic particles, nominal deletion, and absence of tense and number marking). These are acquired easily by children, and result in a child language with few errors, which expresses functions (such as conditionals, and threats) at an earlier age than can be expected in children learning a syntactically more complex variety. StdE is added to the language repertoire, beginning around age 4, when SCE is well-established, as the school years approach. SCE continues to be used in socially appropriate environments.

1991. Acquisition of diglossia in Singapore English. In Anna Kwan-Terry, ed., Child Language Development in Singapore and Malaysia. Singapore: Singapore University Press, 119-160.

Singapore English is best seen as diglossic. The H-variety is Standard English and the L-variety is Singapore Colloquial English. Criterial features of each variety are explained, and the development of diglossia in four children from two Singapore Colloquial English-speaking families is outlined.

1991. Almost a creole: Singapore Colloquial English. California Linguistic Notes 23:1, (Fall-Winter 1991) 9-21. (Working paper)

Singapore Colloquial English (SCE) can be seen as the L-variety of a diglossic English in which Standard English is the H-variety. It emerged from an complex contact situation in the English-medium schools of the Straits Settlements in the early twentieth century. When pupils started to use English as a means of social interaction Singapore Colloquial English developed. An increasing proportion of the population speak it as a native language. Unlike most speakers of creoles, SCE's native speakers tend to have a high social status.
An approach to SCE through creolistics gives useful insights, while the study of SCE can contribute to understanding of more central pidgins and creoles. Sociohistorical study suggests a complex substrate of language, which continue to be in contact. The syntax of SCE shows many structures emerging at the meeting points of the languages in contact. SCE is in general more creole-like than the superstrate and less creole-like than the substrates. Universal grammar might account for the selection of structures in SCE, and for the facility with which native speakers appear to learn them.

1992. Contact Features of Singapore Colloquial English. In Kingsley Bolton and Helen Kwok, eds., Sociolinguistics Today: International Perspectives. Routledge: London, 323-345.

Singapore Colloquial English is a contact variety which has emerged from a complex contact situation. It can be analysed using the terms of creolistics. An examination of the nominalizer one and of the structure of interrogatives shows the various sources for structures in SCE. Much of the data is drawn from a longitudinal study of the acquisition of Singapore Colloquial English as a native language. In the case of one the substrate and the superstrate are both of importance: a marked structure emerges out of the formal overlap of pronoun and nominalizer. In the case of polar interrogatives the form of the superstrate structure is marked, while the new structures are less marked. The superstrate contributes the formal features, while the substrate reinforces a pattern of distribution. There is little or no formal influence from the substrate. We need to approach the tracing of multi-language influences with rigour.

1992. (Tan Chor Hiang & -- ) Post-vocalic /r/ in Singapore English. York Papers in Linguistics 16, 139-152.

The use of post-vocalic (r) has not hitherto been referred to in studies of Singapore English. This paper gives evidence that the use of post-vocalic (r) has in recent years become a prestige feature for some speakers of Singapore English, under influence from American English.

1992. The pragmatic particles of Singapore Colloquial English. Journal of Pragmatics, 17:3, 39-65.

Eleven pragmatic particles, loans from Southern varieties of Chinese, are used in Singapore Colloquial English. They express varying degrees of commitment to an utterance, and can be arranged on a single scale of assertiveness. They fall into three main groups: contradictory, assertive, and tentative. This paper uses data from natural conversation in the home from, between, and with children acquiring Singapore Colloquial English as a native language. The pragmatic particles are acquired early and without error.
Previous analyses of the Singapore Colloquial English particles suggest that analysts disagree on the functions of the particles. Each particle appears to have a wide range of multiple functions. These apparently disparate functions can be reconciled if the pragmatic particles are examined in terms of a system of marking degree of assertion, which results in different functions when the same particle is used in sentences of different types. No pragmatic particle in Singapore Colloquial English is associated with only one sentence type.

1992. Considerations in tracing etymologies. In Anne Pakir (ed) Words in a Cultural Context: Proceedings of the Lexicography Workshop. Singapore: Unipress, 48-51.

Dictionaries often have etymologies, although the degree of detail varies considerably. A dictionary of the English of Singapore and Malaysia may wish to offer etymologies, the writing of which could present some problems.

1992. Restrictive labels for a dictionary of Singapore and Malaysian English. In Anne Pakir (ed) Words in a Cultural Context: Proceedings of the Lexicography Workshop. Singapore: Unipress, 139-142.

Restrictive labels in dictionaries indicate what usages an item is restricted to. It can be indicated, for example, that a word is informal, or restricted to Singapore and/or Malaysia, or a combination of these.

1992. English in the playground in Singapore Schools. In Gary Jones & Conrad Ozog (eds) Proceedings of the International Conference of Bilingualism and National Development, Brunei Darussalam 1991, 552-562. Universiti Brunei Darussalam: Brunei Darussalam

The ethnic composition of the English-medium schools of the Straits Settlements of the late nineteenth and early twentieth century indicates a language environment which began with a high proportion of English speakers (mostly Eurasian) and absorbed increasing numbers of non-English speakers, mostly ethnically Chinese. The language of interaction between the pupils appears to have switched from time to time and from place to place between Malay (which would be Baba Malay and/or Bazaar Malay) and English. When children started to use English as a means of social interaction Singapore Colloquial English developed. By natural and engineered means the principal language of the playground in English-medium schools in the mid-twentieth century became Singapore Colloquial English.
Current language planning policies in Singapore seek to promote the use of Mandarin Chinese among the Chinese population. The policy has already reduced multilingualism among school-age children, and has also reduced the use of Singapore Colloquial English in informal interaction among Chinese schoolchildren. The extreme diversity of language repertoire which we currently see in the middle-aged population of Singapore is unlikely to be sustainable, but attention needs to be paid to the maintenance of codes which can express cross-ethnic solidarity.

1993. ( -- and Helen Chandler) Paediatric speech and language therapy referral in Singapore: implications for multilingual language disability. European Journal of Disorders of Communication 28, 311-317.

Singapore is extremely multilingual, a situation which presents many difficulties for speech therapists. A prevalent attitude of tolerance of language use appears to mask language disability in children, and referral rates are low.

1993. Spelling and concord: the good, the bad and the indifferent. In Anne Pakir (ed) The English Language in Singapore: Standards and Norms. Singapore: Unipress, 47-58.

Standard English is not an absolute norm. Although there are features which are definitely standard or non-standard, it is not entirely bipolar. Orthography and number concord are used to illustrate how standardness may be scalar.
While some spellings and some types of concord can definitely be seen as non-standard, others are less stigmatized, or involve choices between standard alternatives. Teachers and editors need to be alerted to central areas of standardness as identifying sentences which are in the greatest need of correction.

1993. The debate over a standard in Singapore English. In P H Peters (ed) Style on the Move: Proceedings of the Style Council 92. Sydney: Dictionary Research Centre, Macquarie University: 12-19.

In some respects the thinking about standards in Singapore is similar to the thinking in Australia twenty years ago. However there are important differences in philosophy, mostly due to Singapore English still being seen as a `non-native' variety, although nearly half of the current primary school population now have English as a native language. A further complicating factor is the presence of a colloquial variety of English alongside the local standard variety. This colloquial variety is extremely different from Standard English, especially in syntax. Because this difference is conscious in the community, those who discuss the possibility of a local standard are often (wrongly) assumed to be promoting the use of this colloquial variety.
Much of the discussion has been unrealistic, especially in terms of the use of a mythical and inaccessible British English as a reference point. The debate should be founded on more realism about how English is used in Singapore and around the world. For advanced users of English everywhere, a flexibility in style is needed which allows for the expression of local culture but which is sensitive to the needs of those outside the community when the writer reaches across national boundaries.

1994. The truth about English in Singapore. English Today 38 (Vol 10:2): 15-17.

A rebuttal of an article by Duncan Forbes in English Today 34. There are several varieties of Singapore English, depending on the level of education and other social characteristics of the speaker. All English-speaking communities show a similar range, and there is nowhere where everyone has full control of Standard English.

1994. (Helen Chandler Yeo, Susan Rickard Liow & --) Specific language disorders in Singaporean children: four case studies. Singapore Journal of Education 114:2, 1-10.

Children with specific disorders of language have failed to develop normal means of spoken and written communication. International studies suggest that 5-10% of children enter school with a significant language disorder that puts them at risk educationally and also affects their social and emotional development.
The invisible nature of language disorders makes early detection and remediation difficult. In multilingual settings, such as Singapore, early detection may be particularly difficult, and remediation is complicated by the desirability of maintaining the range of languages used in the home and at school. Two case studies of specific spoken language disorder and two of written language disorder are presented to illustrate means of remediation and the importance of early intervention.

1994. A framework for the analysis of Singapore English. In S Gopinathan, Anne Pakir, Ho Wah Kam, & Vanithamani Saravanan (eds). Language, Society and Education in Singapore: Issues and Trends. Singapore: Times Academic Press., 123-140

It is important to identify speakers and native speakers of English in Singapore when describing and analysing the features of Singapore English. A diglossic model is useful. The school is a major agent in the development of the High variety, but the Low variety has its role in the school as well, and its use by teachings in the early years of education can facilitate the development of English. As increasing numbers of children acquire English as a native language, concepts of proficiency will change: whereas now proficiency in English can be equated with proficiency in Standard English, this is not likely to be the case in the future.

1994. The Step-Tongue: Children's English in Singapore. Clevedon/Philadelphia: Multilingual Matters.

The Step-Tongue discusses the social context in which children in Singapore today acquire and use English, and explores the educational issues which arise from this complex setting in which most people are multilingual.
A large proportion of children in Singapore acquire English as a native language: they are likely to be initially exposed to Singapore Colloquial English, a contact variety with a syntax very different from that of Standard English. The development of four such children is traced, and the book includes numerous extended transcripts of natural conversation with them. The author argues that it is important to treat Singapore Colloquial English as a dialect of English.
In Singapore, multilingualism is not associated with minority status, and the non-standard variety, Singapore Colloquial English, is used alongside Standard English even by high-prestige English speakers. This gives a new perspective on issues in several areas -- especially in mother-tongue education and in speech therapy -- which are discussed here for the first time. The chapter on speech therapy in Singapore is jointly written with Helen CHANDLER YEO, Head Speech Therapist at the National University Hospital.
This book will be of interest to researchers and students of language, sociology, and language policy of multilingual communities. Educationists and speech therapists will see a new perspective on issues relating to the needs of multilingual children.

1994. Language disorder -- is monolingualism necessary? The Bilingual Family Newsletter 11:4.

Many speech therapists recommend that parents of children with speech disorders abandon bilingualism. In many families this is neither desirable nor possible. Parents, in consultation with therapists, need to make a careful cost-benefit analysis to determine whether they should switch to monolingualism. Certain situations indicate a switch to monolingualism, while others indicate its maintenance.

1995. -- & Siew Pui Yeok. Language shift in a Singapore family. Journal of Multilingual & Multicultural Development 16 (4), 301-314.

A major language shift in Singapore over the last twenty years has been from familial use of varieties of Chinese other than Mandarin, towards the languages of education, English and Mandarin. This has been so rapid that grandchildren may have no language in common with their grandparents. An ethnographic study of a Singaporean Chinese family which has moved from Cantonese to English examines the attitudes and societal pressures which have led to this and shows how family members deal with the discrepancies in language repertoire.

1996 English and Empire: teaching English in nineteenth century India. In N Mercer & J Swann (eds) Learning English. Routledge: London.

In nineteenth century India, Britain first faced the possibility of teaching English to a body of people who were politically and economically important and whose literary and cultural backgrounds were in languages other than English. English was developed in India as a second language for science and for career opportunities, and also as a means of promoting European cultural values. Access to English was intended for boys from elite groups only. There was little concern with teaching methods. Many of the ideological issues founded by this policy are still operational today.

1996. Selling in Singapore. In Sharon Goodman & David Graddol (eds). Redesigning English: New Texts. New Identities. London/New York: Routledge/ Open University, 169-177. [ISBN 0-415-13124-3].

Commercial organisations and government build on common techniques to promote their products or services, and to create an acceptance of government policies in Singapore. They also build on and actually develop stereotypes and myths of Singapore, its history, and its people. Two cartoons appeared in the Straits Times, Singapore's leading English newspaper, in 1995, one commercial, and one public information. They portray a similar image of Singapore, manipulating images of ethnic identity, gender and language.

1997. Colonisation, migration and functions of English. In Edgar W Schneider (ed) Englishes around the World 1: General Studies, British Isles, North America Studies in Honour of Manfred Görlach. Amsterdam / Philadelphia: John Benjamins, 47-58.

The sociohistory of English in a locality has implications for the current functions of English there. Such factors as colonial attitudes to earlier inhabitants, colonial involvement in education, and the movement of people into the colonised territory, have created a multiplicity of different relationships with English. English-using countries fall into five categories, but the experience of individuals in each category varies too widely to allow generalisation from the country to the individual.

1997. (Desmond Allison and ---) Why some questions don't work: Evaluating examination prompts in an educational setting. Language and Education 11:3 147-162. [ISSN 0950-0782].

This report seeks to illuminate some of the possibilities and pitfalls of question design for examinations, and refers to a particular academic setting as an illustrative case study. The paper presents a narrative account of a staff workshop in which the presenters drew on writing prompts that an examiner judged to have worked or not worked in practice. Our account retraces the stages of the workshop. We invite readers to formulate reactions to three examination prompts before we reveal which one of the three proved to be "a dismal failure" in the experience of the examiner. The comments of participating colleagues, and our own observations as workshop designers, will also be reported. Our closing discussion relates the issues that arose to guidelines proposed in the language assessment literature for the design of essay writing and text response prompts

1998 Singapore Colloquial English? Or deviant standard English? In Jan Tent & France Mugler (eds) .SICOL, Proceedings of the Second International Conference on Oceanic Linguistics: Vol. 1 .Language Contact: Canberra: Pacific Linguistics. [ISBN 0 85883 448 X]

There are two main frameworks for the analysis of Singapore English: the lectal continuum model and the diglossia model. The late John Platt and his Monash University students have been the principal users of the lectal continuum model (e.g. Platt 1975, Platt and Weber 1980, Ho and Platt 1993). Their approach emphasises the non-nativeness of Singapore English, entails the analysis of varieties along the continuum in terms of their deviance from Standard English, and links linguistic features to educational level. The diglossia model (e.g. Richards 1977, Richards 1983, Gupta 1989, Gupta 1991, Gupta 1994) is currently more common among those working in the National University of Singapore. It involves a delimitation of an L-variety, Singapore Colloquial English, which is treated as having an autonomous syntax. The diglossia model links linguistic features to context of use, emphasises the nativeness of Singapore English and casts speakers in an active role.
Using the recent books by proponents of each of these schools as examples, the advantages and disadvantages of both approaches are illustrated. The main advantage of the lectal continuum model is that all varieties of English in Singapore are potentially describable, while the diglossia model requires a definition of (native) speaker which excludes many learner varieties. The main advantage of the diglossia model is that it allows for a coherent description and analysis of the contact variety.

1997. When mother-tongue education is not preferred. Journal of Multilingual and Multicultural Development 18:6, 496-506.. [ISSN 0143-4632]

In some language situations primary education in the mother tongue may not be desirable. A number of factors may militate against education in the mother tongue.
(1) Difficulty in determining the mother tongue. This is especially a problem in multilingual settings where children grow up with multiple mother tongues.
Definition of 'a language'. Mother tongues may be deemed to be the standard variety.
(3)Social and ethnic divisiveness of mother tongue education. In multilingual settings the maintenance of social cohesiveness may be of more importance than the benefit of mother tongue education. Where patterns of language use are linked to social class, mother tongue education could further diminish access to power structures by underprivileged groups.
Ideological issues can be resolved only in the context of the particular social and political situation. There is no general rule that primary education should be in the mother tongue.

1998 ( --- , Chris Brebner & Helen Chandler Yeo) Developmental assessments in speech-language therapy in Singapore. Asia Pacific Journal of Speech Language and Hearing 3:1, 17-28.

There are no standardised tests of language development which have been normed for the Singapore population. Given the extreme multilingualism of the population, and the fact that the local variety of English is significantly different from Standard English, this presents considerable problems in the assessment of pediatric cases. Speech-language therapists in Singapore develop a variety of strategies including the use of tests standardised elsewhere, and assessments based on seat-of-the pants experience. The unsatisfactory nature of these compromises can be distressing. We have been attempting to develop more realistic norms for acquisition of language in Singapore, beginning with the acquisition of English. We have (a) adapted the PRO-ED Speech & Language Development Chart (Gard, Gilman & Garman 1993, 2nd edition) incorporatung findings of research on the acquisition of Singapore English and the intuitions of experienced therapists and (b) begun the norming of Renfrew's Bus Story on a sample of children aged 4-6. The chart reveals reflects the need to recognise the different pattern of acquisition of syntax and morphology in the local variety of English, and the importance of recognising local cultural factors. The use of the Bus Story appears to be useful after one year of education, although low scores may result from insufficient exposure to English, from educational problems, or from speech-language problems.

1998. The situation of English in Singapore. Chapter Four in Foley, J A, T Kandiah, Bao Zhiming, A F Gupta, L Alsagoff, Ho Chee Lick, L Wee, I S Talib, W Bokhorst-Heng. English in New Cultural Contexts: Reflections from Singapore. Singapore Institute of Management/ Oxford University Press: Singapore, 106-126.

This unit focuses on how English is used in the ecology of multilingual Singapore. It traces the socio-historical development of English in Singapore from the early nineteenth century to the present. It draws on concepts introduced in the first three chapters and provides a socio-cultural and historical overview from which the following sets of units are to be understood. How English came to Singapore. Who uses English, to whom, and in what circumstances. How the use of English relates to the use of other languages. How historical developments have affected the pattern of use of English, and (in general terms) the linguistic features of SgE. It is linked to an Open University course (EZS399) of the same name. There is a separate study guide and reader which may accompany it as a workbook, though this paper can be read alone.

Back to my home page.


Last updated 19 February 1999.

This page was created by Anthea Fraser GUPTA. You can contact me at:

a.f.gupta@leeds.ac.uk