Literature & Society

Singapore English

Anthea Fraser Gupta, School of English, University of Leeds, and Lubna Alsagoff, formerly Department of English Language and Literature

Ever since Sir Stamford Raffles claimed the island of Singapore for the East India Company in 1819, English has had a place in Singapore. As more and more of its people experienced learning English at school, English became widely spoken, alongside Singapore's many other languages. Since Singapore became an independent Republic in 1965, the use of English has increased still further, and now all Singaporean children have an English-medium education. For many Singaporeans, English is their main language. Many families speak English at home and it is one of the the first languages learnt by about half of the current pre-school children.

Nearly everyone in Singapore speaks more than one language, with many people speaking three or four. Most children grow up bilingual from infancy and learn more languages as they grow up. Naturally the presence of other languages (especially various varieties of Malay and of Chinese) has influenced the English of Singapore. The influence is especially apparent in a kind of English that is used informally, which is popularly called Singlish.

Since the 1960s linguists and sociologists have studied the features and the functions of English in Singapore from a number of perspectives. Those who would like to know about studies of Singapore English should look at our annotated list of the major works on Singapore English.

Related Websites

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