Measurements of the Rhythm of the English Spoken by Different Ethnic Groups in Singapore

Seow Bee Lin, Belinda

English Language Honours AE, NIE, 1998


    Singapore English (SE) is perceptually different from other English accents. Its segmental features have been investigated in many studies, while instrumental research in its suprasegmental aspects has been quite neglected until recent years. Suprasegmental features are generally accorded a more important role in contributing to differences in accents, therefore, research in this area should be furthered. SE has also been termed 'syllable-timed' by many linguists, and a few studies have been implemented to compare SE rhythm with British accents.

    This study hopes to delineate a suitable method to measure SE rhythm. Syllable measurements and a calculation method which compares syllabic durations of adjacent syllabus are used. The analyses and calculations show that SE rhythm is not 'syllable-timed', in the sense that it does show a significant variability in syllabic durations.

    A comparison of the SE rhythm as produced by members of the three major ethnic groups in Singapore, is carried out. However, no significant difference according to ethnic grouping is found. The hypothesis that speakers of a syllable-timed Mother Tongue will be likely to produce a syllable-timed rhythm in English is investigated too. Due to various factors in the complicated sociolinguistic background of Singapore, the results are inconclusive. Nevertheless, this study may be valuable in highlighting potentially-interesting areas for further research in SE rhythm.