Singapore English

An Annotated Bibliography

Prepared by David Deterding

This bibliography is topic-specific and focuses mainly on structural topics (rather than political or sociolinguistic topics). A valuable bibliography arranged according to levels of difficulty is maintained by Anthea Fraser Gupta at the University of Leeds and is available at Anthea Fraser Gupta's bibliography

Books: general SAAL series other collections
Overviews: general phonetics grammar
Papers: phonetics grammar diglossia
  particles rhythm speech therapy
  miscellaneous

General Books

Tongue, Ray K (1979) The English of Singapore and Malaysia (2nd edition), Singapore: Eastern Universities Press.

This is the first substantial work on English in the region. It still makes lots of sense, even after all these years, and is still well worth reading.

Platt, John & Weber, Heidi (1980) English in Singapore and Malaysia: Status, Features, Functions, Kuala Lumpur: Oxford University Press.

An important work that has had lots of influence over the years.

Brown, Adam (1992) Making Sense of Singapore English, Singapore: Federal

An invaluable list of the words and features that contribute to Singapore English. Now surplanted by Singapore English in a Nutshell.

Ho Mian-Lian & Platt, John T (1993) Dynamics of a Contact Continuum: Singaporean English, Oxford: Clarenden Press.

A detailed analysis of various issues connected with verb usage in Singapore, including the use of be and the acquisition of past tense.

Gupta, Anthea Fraser (1994) The Step-Tongue: Children's English in Singapore.

Based on Gupta's PhD thesis, this extremely influential book describes the development of diglossic English in young children in Singapore in some detail.

Brown, Adam (1999) Singapore English in a Nutshell, Singapore: Federal.

The most comprehensive and authoritative collection of words and features that contribute to Singapore English. An essential reference work for anyone interested in Singapore English.

Brown, Adam (2003) English Language Myths: 30 Beliefs that Aren't Really True, Singapore: McGraw-Hill

A discussion of 30 misguided beliefs about English that are commonly found in Singapore. Provides well-documented evidence to demonstrate that they are indeed myths. (on-line review)

Low Ee Ling & Brown, Adam (2005) English in Singapore: An Introduction, Singapore: McGraw-Hill

An introductory textbook on the history, sociology, grammar and phonetics of Singapore English. Also very useful as a reference book, as it covers such a wide range of topics in some detail.

Deterding, David (2007) Singapore English Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press.

An overview of the pronunciation, grammar, lexis, discourse and history of Singapore English with substantial examples from the one-hour recording of a single speaker, the transcription of which is provided in the last chapter. (Overview)

The English Language in Singapore

This series of small books published by the Singapore Association for Applied Linguistics continues to provide a rich collection of papers on various aspects of Singapore English.

Tay, W J Mary (1993) The English Language in Singapore: Issues and Development, Singapore: Singapore Association for Applied Linguistics.

A collection of the writings of Mary Tay from over the years, covering the status of English in Singapore. Most of the papers date from the early 1980's

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

The papers presented at a 1992 conference on Singapore English.

Teng Su Ching & Ho Mian Lian, (eds. 1995) The English Language in Singapore: Implications for Teaching, Singapore: Singapore Association for Applied Linguistics.

The papers presented at a 1993 conference on Singapore English.

Abraham, Sunita A & Hsui, Victoria Y (eds. 1996) The English Language in Singapore: Current Perspectives on the Teaching of Writing, Singapore: Singapore Association for Applied Linguistics.

The state of play in the mid 1990's with regard to the teaching of writing in Singapore.

Brown, Adam, Deterding, David & Low, Ee Ling (eds. 2000) The English Language in Singapore: Research on Pronunciation, Singapore: Singapore Association of Applied Linguistics.

The papers in this volume focus on the detailed phonetic description of data. It also includes a comprehensive bibliography on Singapore English pronunciation. (Overview)

Collections of Papers

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

The first collection of papers on Singapore English, with some classic early papers.

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

An early collection of papers on English in the region.

Gopinathan, S, Pakir, Anne, Ho Wah Kam & Saravanan, Vanithamani (eds. 1998) Language, Society and Education in Singapore, Singapore: Times Academic Press.

A collection of important articles about various facets of language use in Singapore.

Foley, J et al. (eds. 1998) English in New Cultural Contexts: Reflections from Singapore, Singapore: Oxford University Press.

It's a pity nobody took on the role of editing this volume, to ensure greater consistency between the papers. Nevertheless, it is a useful collection of papers on various aspects of language in Singapore.

Ooi, Vincent B Y (ed. 2001) Evolving Identities: The English Language in Singapore and Malaysia, Singapore: Times Academic Press.

A recent collection of papers on English in the region, some of which include valuable new data. For a review, see English World-Wide 23, 322-327.

Low Ee Ling & Teng Su Ching (eds. 2002) The Teaching and Use of Standard English, Singapore: Singapore Association for Applied Linguistics.

The papers from a STU/SAAL colloquium held in May 2000.

Deterding, David, Low Ee Ling & Brown, Adam (eds. 2003) English in Singapore: Research on Grammar, Singapore: McGraw-Hill

Contains two kinds of paper: those reporting on research on the grammar of Singapore English; and those reporting on research into the teaching of grammar in Singapore. Also contains a comprehensive bibliography of works on grammar in Singapore. (more details, including on-line data). For a review, see SAAL Quarterly No 64.

Lim, Lisa (ed. 2004) Singapore English: A Grammatical Description, Amsterdam: John Benjamins

Despite the title, it contains chapters on pronunciation and the evolution of Singapore English as well as grammar. All chapters are based on a corpus collected at NUS, and it is a pity that this corpus is not made more widely available. For a review, see English World-Wide 27(1), 106-109.

Deterding, David, Brown, Adam & Low Ee Ling (eds. 2005) English in Singapore: Phonetic Research on a Corpus, Singapore: McGraw-Hill

Contains two kinds of paper: those reporting on research on the pronunciation of Singapore English; and those reporting on the intelligibility of Singapore English in other parts of the world. All the papers use the NIECSSE corpus, which is provided on a CD with the book. (more details, including on-line data).

General Overviews

Deterding, David (2008) Singapore English. (Click here).

A brief 'Knol' (web-based article) summarising the phonology, grammar, lexicon, and discourse of Singpaore English.

Phonetic Overviews

Deterding, David & Poedjosoedarmo, Gloria (1998) The Sounds of English: Phonetics and Phonology for English Teachers in Southeast Asia. Singapore: Prentice Hall.

Chapter 17 includes a summary of the features of Singapore English Pronunciation, including vowels, consonants, stress, rhythm and intonation.

Low Ee Ling & Deterding, David (2002) 'Recent research into the pronunciation of Singapore English'. In Kirkpatrick, A (ed.) Englishes in Asia: Communication, Identity, Power & Education (pp. 179-190). Melbourne: Language Australia Ltd.

A summary of current phonetic knowledge about Singapore English derived from acoustic research, and a consideration of the relative importance of various pronunciation features for language teachers.

Wee, Lionel (2004) 'Singapore English: Phonology'. In E. W. Schneider, K. Burridge, B. Kortmann, R. Mesthrie & C. Upton (eds.) A Handbook of Varieties of English. Volume 1: Phonology (pp. 10171033). Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter.

A summary of the main features of pronunciation of Singapore English, in a volume that includes summaries or a wide range of different Englishes.

Grammar Overviews

Deterding, David & Poedjosoedarmo, Gloria (2001) The Sounds of English: Phonetics and Phonology for English Teachers in Southeast Asia. Singapore: Prentice Hall.

Chapter 19 includes a summary of the features of the grammar of Singapore English, including verb forms, tags, relative clauses and discourse particles.

Wee, Lionel (2004) 'Singapore English: Morphology and Syntax'. In B. Kortmann, K. Burridge, R. Mesthrie, E. W. Schneider & C. Upton (eds.) A Handbook of Varieties of English. Volume 2: Morphology and Syntax (pp. 10581072). Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter.

A summary of the main features of the grammar of Singapore English, in a volume that includes summaries or a wide range of different Englishes.

Papers on Phonetics

See also the Phonetics section of the index of NIE AEs. Adam Brown has also prepared a comprehensive bibiliography on the pronunciation of Singapore English in Chapter 14 of Brown et al (2000).

Tay, Wan Joo Mary (1982) 'The phonology of educated Singapore English', English Worldwide, 3:135-145.

An early attempt to provide a description of the pronunciation of educated Singapore English. The observations were impressionistic, so they were not supported by any systematic analysis of data. Unfortunately, many of the observations are flawed, such as the claim that all questions in Singapore have a rising intonation. There is no evidence to support this.

Deterding, David (1994) 'The Intonation of Singapore English', Journal of the International Phonetic Association, 24(2):61-72.

A description of Singapore English intonation based on the careful analysis of a small corpus of data.

Deterding, David & Low, Ee Ling, (2001) 'The NIE Corpus of Spoken Singapore English (NIECSSE)', SAAL Quarterly, Nov 2001:2-5.

Provides an overview of this corpus of spoken data, which is designed to allow phonetic research on Singapore English. (on-line version). The corpus itself is available on-line.

Deterding, David (2003) 'An instrumental study of the monophthong vowels of Singapore English', English World-Wide, 24:1, 1-16.

A description of the distribution of vowels in Educated Singapore English based on the acoustic measurement of vowels found in the NIECSSE corpus.

Deterding, David (2005) 'Emergent patterns in the vowels of Singapore English', English World-Wide, 26:2, 179-196.

A further investigation of the idiosyncratic vowel patterns found in Singapore, showing for example that egg rhymes with vague and not with peg.

Papers on Grammar

See also the papers in Deterding et al (2003). Adam Brown has prepared a comprehensive bibiliography on the grammar of Singapore English in Chapter 17 of this volume.

Bao Zhiming (1995) 'Already in Singapore English', World Englishes, 14(2):181-188.

Analyses two separate meanings for already in Singapore: perfective, indicating a completed action, and inchoative, indicating the beginning of an action. Claims that the inchoative meaning is derived from the Chinese le particle.

Alsagoff, Lubna & Ho Chee Lick (1998) 'The relative clause in colloquial Singapore English', World Englishes, 17(2):127-138.

Analyses constructions with one as similar to a relative pronoun, and compares this construction with relative clauses with de in Chinese.

Bao Zhiming & Wee, Lionel (1998) 'Until in Singapore English', World Englishes, 17(1):31-41.

Analyses the use of until in Singapore, where there is one meaning not found in British English, namely the continuation of the action beyond the specified timepoint. Analyses this as derived from the Chinese dao.

Bao Zhiming & Wee, Lionel (1999) 'The passive in Singapore English', World Englishes, 18(1):1-11.

Analyses two forms of passive found in Singapore English: the kena passive that is derived from Malay, and the give passive that comes from Chinese.

Papers on Diglossia

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

The article that first discussed the concept of diglossia in the Singapore context.

Gupta, Anthea Fraser (1989) Singapore Colloquial English and Standard English, Singapore Journal of Education, 10:2, 33-39.

One of the first papers to develop the concept of diglossia in Singapore. See also pages 7 to 9 in Gupta (1994).

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

Includes the original version of Pakir's expanding triangles model of variation in English in Singapore. A presentation of this model can also be found in Pakir's paper in Teng & Ho (1995). This model is an alternative to the diglossic model, suggesting continuous variation that depends on clines of formality and proficiency.

Deterding, David (1998) 'Approaches to Diglossia in the Classroom: The Middle Way', REACT Issue No. 2 November 1998:18-23.

A brief introduction to the diglossic status of Singapore English. Includes some advice for teachers. (on-line version).

Papers on Particles

Richards, Jack & Tay W J, Mary (1977) 'The la particle in Singapore English'. In Crewe W (ed.) The English Language in Singapore, Singapore: Eastern Universities Press, 141-156.

First reference to la to establish solidarity and support.

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.

Identifies two kinds of la: stressed, indicating persuasion and conciliation; and unstressed, indicating impatience and annouyance.

Bell, R & Ser, L (1983) '"Today la?" "Tomorrow lah": the LA particle in Singapore English', RELC Journal, 14(2):1-18.

Discusses long and short la, with long version indicating power and social-distancing, and short version building solidarity.

Platt, John & Ho Mian Lian (1989) 'Discourse particles in Singaporean English: Substratum influences and universals', World Englishes, 8(2):215-221.

Analyses the particles in discourse terms, roughly equivalent to intonation in British English.

Gupta, Anthea Fraser (1992) 'The pragamatic particles of Singapore Colloquial English', Journal of Pragmatics, 18:31-57.

Discusses eleven separate particles, analysing them on a scale of assertiveness and tentativeness.

Low Ee Ling & Deterding, David (2003) 'A corpus-based description of particles in spoken Singapore English'. In Deterding, D, Low E L & Brown, A (eds) The English Language in Singapore:Research on Grammar, Singapore: McGraw Hill, 58-66.

Considers the la and a particles found in the NIECSSE Corpus under two roles: grammatical and pragmatic.

Wee, Lionel (2003) 'The birth of a particle: know in Colloquial Singapore English', World Englishes, 22:5-13.

Analysis of the use of know, comparing it with discourse particles such as la.

Papers on the Rhythm of Singapore English

The papers listed here only cover the rhythm of Singapore English. A more general bibiliography on rhythm is the bibliography prepared by Peter Roach

Brown, Adam (1988) 'The staccato effect in the pronunciation of English in Malaysia and Singapore'. In J. Foley (ed.) New Englishes: The Case of Singapore, Singapore: Singapore University Press, 115-128.

An early overview of the features that may contribute to the perception that the rhythm of Singapore English is different from that of British English.

Low Ee Ling, Grabe, Esther & Nolan, Francis (2000) 'Quantitative characterisations of speech rhythm: syllable-timing in Singapore English', Language & Speech, 43(4).

Describes one way to measure differences in rhythm, based on the duration of vowels.

Deterding, David (2001) 'The measurement of rhythm: a comparison of Singapore and British English', Journal of Phonetics, 29:217-230.

Describes one way to measure differences in rhythm, based on the duration of syllables.

Speech Therapy

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

Considers the state of speech therapy in Singapore in the early 1990's. Observes that referral rates to speech therapists are very low.

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

Discusses the problem of the absence of standardised tests for assessing language development in Singapore, and proposes tests that might be used.

Miscellaneous Papers

(See also various sections of the index of NIE AEs.)

Chia Boh Peng & Brown, Adam (2002) 'Singaporeans' reactions to Estuary English', English Today, 18:33-38.

Reports on the impressions of Singaporean listeners on the friendliness and intelligence of a speaker of Estuary English, the style of English common among young people in Britain today.

Deterding, David (2005) 'Listening to Estuary English in Singapore'. TESOL Quarterly, 39(3), 425-440.

A study of how comprehensible Singaporeans find Estuary English.
(Last updated: 24 July 2007)