Singapore
Literature & Society

Singapore English: Important Readings

Anthea Fraser Gupta, School of English, University of Leeds

Why these references?

In this list of references I have concentrated on books and collections of papers. Often authors will summarise their theories in later works. I have therefore only listed articles whose authors haven't done this, and those which have not been reprinted in one of the collections.

References are listed under three headings:

Popular Works

Brown, Adam. 1992. Making Sense of Singapore English. Singapore: Federal Publications.

This is probably the best introduction to SingE for most readers. Brown is a phonetician, British by origin, but settled in Singapore for many years, and has written this book for general readers with both Singaporean and non-Singaporean readers in mind. Especially useful for non-Singaporeans. [Look out for Brown's new book that will be replacing this one -- should be very good.]

Shelley, Rex. 1995. Sounds and Sins of English and Other Nonsense. Kuala Lumpur/Singapore: Times Books.

Shelley is one of Singapore's best novelists, who has used SingE to good effect in his fiction. This book jokes about SingE -- good fun, but it's really for those who are familiar with SingE. As with the on-line Singlish Dictionary at Cafe Vanda, if you don't know Singlish, you won't get the joke....

Academic Works : really important reading

Crewe, William (ed.). 1977. The English Language in Singapore. Singapore:Eastern Universities Press.

The first collection of papers about SingE, includes some that have become classics (including those by Chia, Kuo, Richards, Richards & Tay). State of the art in the 70s.

Foley, Joseph (ed.). 1988. New Englishes: The Case of Singapore . Singapore University Press: Singapore.

Variety of papers, some original and some reprints. Includes the editor's useful review article and full bibliography. State of the art in the 80s.

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

This is the state of art in the late 90s and the one to buy first at the moment. The authors have contributed one or more chapters, but there is more unity than you get in an edited book. Was written as a textbook for an Open University course.

Gopinathan, S, Anne Pakir, Ho Wah Kam, & Vanithamani Saravanan (eds). 1994. [2nd edn 1998] Language, Society and Education in Singapore: Issues and Trends. Singapore: Times Academic Press.

Varied collection of new papers by various authors. State of the art in the 1990s. [a new edition was published in 1998. This has some new papers, but some of the old papers are reprinted unchanged.]

Gupta, Anthea Fraser. 1994. The Step-Tongue: Children's English in Singapore. Clevedon: Multilingual Matters.

Uses the diglossia approach to SingE. Acquisition of English as native language, English in education & speech therapy in Singapore. [Health Warning: You would expect me to think it was good!]

Ho Mian-Lian & John T Platt. 1993. Dynamics of a Contact Continuum. Oxford: Clarendon.

Adapted Labovian methodology. Mostly syntactic variables concerning the verb in Singapore English.(especially BE occurrence/deletion; use of past tense; [punctual], [continuative], [completive], and [anterior] features). Dependent clauses.

Pakir, Anne (ed.). 1993. The English Language in Singapore: Standards and Norms. Singapore: Unipress/Singapore Association for Applied Linguistics.

Issues of correctness and concepts of standards have been very important in the study of SingE. These are the papers from a 1992 conference where that was the topic.

Platt, John & Heidi Weber. 1980. English In Singapore and Malaysia. Kuala Lumpur: OUP.

Probably still the major reference for Singapore English. The Platt school use modified Labovian methodology to analyse the speech of large numbers of informants quantitatively. Historical background. Phonology, lexis, syntax. Compulsory reading still, but some things have changed since it was written both in the language and in the Platt school's approach to its study.

Tongue, R K. 1974 (1st edn.), 1979 (2nd. edn.). The English of Singapore and Malaysia. Singapore: Eastern Universities Press.

A classic. The first book on Singapore English. Since it was first written much has changed in both the discipline and in Singapore English itself, but at the time it was trailblazing and revolutionary, and still has many insights to offer.

Academic Works : also important

Afendras, Evangelos A & Eddie C Y Kuo. 1980. Language and Society in Singapore. Singapore. Singapore University Press.

Several relevant papers, especially Kuo' on language profile.

Bell, Roger & Larry Peng Quee Ser. 1983. `Today la?' `Tomorrow lah!'; the LA particle in Singapore English. RELC Journal 14:2, 1-18.

One of several papers that clarified understanding of the pragmatic particles.

Benjamin, Geoffrey. 1976. The cultural logic of Singapore's `multiracialism'. In Riaz Hassan (ed), Singapore: a Society in Transition. Kuala Lumpur: OUP, 115-133.

This paper has contributed considerably to many later papers' understanding of the language planning policy of Singapore.

Bloom, David. 1986. The English language and Singapore: a critical survey. In Basant K Kapur (ed) Singapore Studies. Singapore:SUP, 337-458.

Very long and full paper. Contains a detailed history of English-medium education in Singapore, with a focus on colonial policy. And a full review of everything that was published on Singapore English by 1982. Bloom's analysis of the stages of analysis of SingE has become the standard one. Foley brings it up to date and summarises it in the introduction to Foley (ed).

Elliott, Annie B. 1983. Errors in English. Singapore: SUP.

A study in the normative tradition. Analysis of the English of science graduates in the 1970s.

Johnson, Lawrence (ed.). 1984. Mini-Dictionaries of Southeast Asian Englishes . Singapore: SEAMEO Regional Lang. Centre, Occasional Papers 35.

Includes two Singapore English Mini-Dictionaries, one by Manee Lugg and one by Tan Geck Eng.

Kachru, Braj B (ed.). 1982. The Other Tongue. Urbana: University of Illinois Press.

Includes article on Singapore English by Jack Richards.

Khoo, Rosemary, Ursula Kreher & Ruth Wong (eds). Towards Global Multilingualism: European Models and Asian Realities. Clevedon/ Philadelphia/Adelaide: Multilingual Matters.

Papers from a conference held in Singapore. Four of the papers are of direct reference to Singapore.

Kwan-Terry, Anna (ed). 1991. Child Language Development in Singapore and Malaysia. Singapore: Singapore University Press.

Many very relevant papers.

Kwan-Terry, Anna. 1978. The meaning and the source of the `la' and the `what' particles in Singapore English. RELC Journal 9:2, 22-36.

Another of the contributions to understanding of the pragmatic particles.

Kwan-Terry, Anna. 1986a. The acquisition of word order in English and Cantonese interrogative sentences: a Singapore case study. RELC Journal 17:1, 14-39

Case study of acquisition.

McCarthy, Brian (ed.). 1988. Asian-Pacific Papers. Applied Linguistics Association of Australia, Occasional Papers 10. Wollongong.

Includes several papers relating to Singapore, especially those by Loke & Low, Pakir, Soh, Tay.

Murray, Douglas. 1971. Multilanguage Education and Bilingualism: The Formation of Social Brokers in Singapore. PhD , Stanford University.

A classic, unfortunately still (as far as I know) only available in its original PhD form. Documents the extraordinary multilinguality of the generation who were teenagers in the late 60s.

Newbrook, Mark (with others). 1987. Aspects of The Syntax of Educated Singaporean English: Attitudes, Beliefs and Usage. PeterLang: Frankfurt am Main.

A collection of articles on various topics, mostly by Newbrook in collaboration with former students.

Pakir, Anne (ed). 1992. Words in a Cultural Context: Proceedings of The Lexicography Workshop. Singapore: Unipress.

The workshop discussed the considerations in making a dictionary of Singapore English. Papers and edited discussion.

Pakir, Anne. 1991. The range and depth of English-knowing bilinguals in Singapore. World Englishes 10:2, 167-179.

Presents an overview of the range of Englishes in Singapore.

Pennycook, Alastair. 1994. The Cultural Politics of English. London / New York: Longman.

Important discussion about the political situation of English with special reference to Singapore and Malaysia.

Platt, John, Heidi Weber & Mian Lian Ho. 1983. Singapore and Malaysia, Varieties of English around the world T4. John Benjamins.

One in a series. Includes some interesting texts.

Platt, John. 1975. The Singapore English speech continuum and its basilect `Singlish' as a creoloid. Anthrop. Lings. 17:7, 363-374.

The first work to use the terms of the creole continuum for Singapore. An influence on nearly everything written later.

Platt, John. 1987. Communicative functions of particles in Singapore English. In R Steele & T Threadgold (eds.) Language topics:1 JB:Amst'm, 391-401.

One of the last things Platt published before his death. This paper shows a departure from the way he had treated the particles in his earlier writing,.

Richards, Jack C. 1983. Singapore English: rhetorical and communicative styles. In Braj B Kachru (ed). 1983. The Other Tongue: English across Cultures. Oxford: Pergamon Press., 154-167.

The article that introduced the concepts of diglossia to the study of Singapore English.

Smith, Ian. 1985. Multilingualism and diffusion: a case study from Singapore English. Indian Journal of Applied Linguistics XI:2, 105-128.

Mostly about the pragmatic particle "what".

Tay, Mary W J 1983. Trends in language, literacy and education in Singapore. Census Monograph No. 2. Singapore: Department of Statistics.

Critical summary of the language data from the 1980 census.

Tay, Mary W J. 1982. The phonology of educated Singapore English. English World-Wide 3:2.

One of the papers that seeks to establish a prestige pronunciation for SingE.

Tay, Mary Wan Joo. 1993. The English Language in Singapore: Issues and Development. Singapore: Unipress.

Collection of most of Tay's papers published from 1969-1989. Tay was one of the first linguists to address Singapore English from a non-normative perspective.

Teng Su Ching & Ho Mian Lian (eds) The English Language in Singapore: Implications for teaching. Singapore. Singapore Association for Applied Linguistics/ Singapore Teachers Union.

Proceedings of a 1994 conference. Most of the papers deal with pedagogical issues.

You can contact the author at a.f.gupta@leeds.ac.uk.


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