Wednesday, July 25, 2007


my indian/singporean/canadian intern friend was talking bout singlish at tea, so i wiki-ed it.

god. i found a LONG-ASS, scholarly, very serious, earnest article on it. it is v interesting; as an insider and long-time perpetrator of this 'local creole', i understand EXACTLY the inflections. Lemme show you.

The Sociolect Continuum of Singaporean English
1. Basilect ("Singlish")"Dis guy Singrish si behpowderful wan. Hoh seh liao lah!Damn steady wan la!"
2. Mesolect"Dis guy Singlishdamn powerful one leh."
3. Acrolect ("Standard")"This person's Singlish is very good."

Topic prominence
Singlish is topic-prominent, like Chinese and Japanese. This means that Singlish sentences often begin with a topic (or a known reference of the conversation), followed by a comment (or new information).
Dis country weather very hot one. — In this country, the weather is very warm.
Dat person there cannot trust. — That person over there is not trustworthy.

The above constructions can be translated analogously into Chinese, with little change to the word order. <- never occur to me before. i stupid. (that was gd example of er, basilectal english, btw.) Nouns are optionally marked for plurality. Articles are also optional:
He can play piano.
I like to read storybook.

Due to consonant cluster simplification, the past tense is unmarked when it is part of a complex consonant cluster:
He talk for so long, never stop, not even when I ask him. <- I TALK LIKE THIS ALL THE TIME. Reduplication Another feature strongly reminiscent of Chinese and Malay, verbs are often repeated (e.g., TV personality Phua Chu Kang's "don't pray-pray!" pray = play.) In general verbs are repeated twice to indicate the delimitative aspect (that the action goes on for a short period), and three times to indicate greater length and continuity:
You go ting ting a little bit, maybe den you will get answer. (Go and think over it for a while, and then you might understand.)
So what I do was, I sit down and I ting ting ting, until I get answer lor. (So I sat down, thought, thought and thought, until I understood.)
(midget midget. hermy hermy.)

The word one is used to emphasize the predicate of the sentence by implying that it is unique and characteristic. It is analogous to the use of particles like 嘅 ge in Cantonese, 啲 e in Hokkien, or 的 de in southern-influenced Mandarin. One used in this way does not correspond to any use of the word "one" in British, American English, Australian English, etc: It can be compared to the British usage of 'eh'.
Wah lau! So stupid one! - Oh my gosh! He's so stupid!
I do everything by habit one. - I always do everything by habit.
He never go to school one. - He doesn't go to school (unlike other people).

Can. -"It can be done."
Solidarity - Can lah. - "Rest assured, it can be done."
Seeking attention / support (implicit) - Can hor / huh? - "It can be done, right?"
Characteristic - Can one / do. - "This can be accomplished."
(Vividness) - Likdat very nice. - "This looks very nice."
Acceptance /Resignation - Can lor. - "It can be done."
Assertion (implies that listener should already know) - Can wat. - "It can be done... shouldn't you know this?"
Assertion (strong) - Can mah. - "See?! It can be done!"
Assertion (softened) - Can leh. - "Can't you see that it can be done?"
Yes / No question - Can or not? - "Can it be done?"
Yes / No question(confirmation) - Can is it? - "It can be done, right?"
Yes / No question(skepticism) - Can meh? - "Um... are you sure it can be done?"
Confirmation - Can ar (low tone). - "So... it can really be done?"
Rhetorical - Can ar (rising). - "Alright then, don't come asking for help if problems arise."
Change of state (finished) - Can already / liao. - "It's done!"
(Indifference?) - Can huh (low tone). - "It can be done..."

I love how the author was able to pinpoint EXACTLY the connotations of the inflections. so, people, we have learnt today that the delicatest nuances can be found in the crudest of approximations. (whatever. didn't mean that.)

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