1st Edition

Multilingual Singapore Language Policies and Linguistic Realities

Edited By Ritu Jain Copyright 2021
    240 Pages 24 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    240 Pages 24 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    This volume brings together researchers whose analysis and insights provide a comprehensive and up-to-date account of Singapore’s rich linguistic diversity. Applying a combination of descriptive, empirical, and theoretical approaches, the authors investigate not only official languages such as English, Mandarin, Malay, and Tamil, but also minority languages such as the Chinese vernaculars and South Asian and Austronesian languages. The chapters in this volume trace the historical development, contemporary status, and functions of these languages, as well as potential scenarios for the future. Exploring the tension between language policies and linguistic realities in Singapore, the contributions in this volume capture the shifting educational, political, and societal priorities of the community through its past and contemporary present.

    1. Multilingual Singapore: Language policies, challenges, and responses (Ritu Jain)

    2. The fetishization of official languages (Lionel Wee)

    3. Singapore English, language mixing, and vernacular speech (Kingsley Bolton and Werner Botha)

    4. Spoken Tamil in Singapore (Helen Dominic and Lavanya Balachandran)

    5. The other mother tongues of Singaporean Indians (Ritu Jain)

    6. The changing status of Malayalam in Singapore (Anitha Devi Pillai and Rani Rubdy)

    7. Singapore’s other Austronesian languages (Geoffrey Benjamin)

    8. Baba Malay (Anne Pakir)

    9. Pronouncing the Malay identity: Sebutan Johor-Riau and Sebutan Baku (Mukhlis Abu Bakar and Lionel Wee)

    10. The curious case of Mandarin Chinese in Singapore (Ng Bee Chin and Francesco Cavallaro)

    11. Chinese dialects in Singapore: Context and situation (Goh Hock Huan and Lim Tai Wei)

    12. Unpacking ‘multilingualism’: Filipinos in Singapore (Ruanni Tupas)

    13. Towards a liquid-multilingual Singapore? An outsider’s view (Li Wei)


    Ritu Jain is Lecturer at the Language and Communication Centre at Nanyang Technological University. Her research interests lie in the areas of language policy and planning, and language and identity. In her work, she has examined the role of language education policy in the maintenance and promotion of minority and heritage languages, and the implications this has for language maintenance and shift. She is currently exploring the interplay of language and identity among the Indian language communities of Singapore.

    "Multilingual Singapore is a highly informative and carefully edited volume that shows differential language evolution in progress in Singapore as a population contact setting and as a site of a social natural experiment. Successful economic development and a well-orchestrated official language policy are two of the ecological factors that have promoted English (a colonial legacy) and Mandarin (spoken by a very small minority of immigrants) into the dominant languages of the polity. A noteworthy cost is the endangerment of "mother tongues" such as Hokkien, spoken by the ethnic majority; Malay, the indigenous language; and Baba Malay, associated with the Peranakan community, besides several immigrant languages from China, India, and the Philippines. The chapters detail the dynamics that have rolled the dice in this language market."---Salikoko S. Mufwene, The Edward Carson Waller Distinguished Service Professor of Linguistics, The University of Chicago

    "This expertly curated volume provides the reader with an extraordinary account of the dynamics of multilingual Singapore, contextualized in its history, contemporary realities, and potential future scenarios. The articles bear witness to the complexity of Singapore’s linguistic diversity and the ever-present tensions and entanglements with official language policies. This book is a must read for those interested in multilingualism in society with a focus on the impact and interplay between language policies and linguistic realities."---Professor Elisabeth Lanza, University of Oslo