Please use this identifier to cite or link to this item: https://scholarbank.nus.edu.sg/handle/10635/155981
Title: DEI: THE SOCIOLINGUISTIC INVESTIGATION OF AN INDIAN ETHNIC MARKER IN ENGLISH
Authors: ERSHEN KAUR LANGEANA
Issue Date: 15-Apr-2019
Citation: ERSHEN KAUR LANGEANA (2019-04-15). DEI: THE SOCIOLINGUISTIC INVESTIGATION OF AN INDIAN ETHNIC MARKER IN ENGLISH. ScholarBank@NUS Repository.
Abstract: In folk linguistic contexts, Singlish is often imagined as an ‘ethnically neutral’ variety that is representative of the nation’s multiracial Chinese-Malay-Indian model – for instance, Singapore’s National Library Board website writes that Singlish is “a variety of English that has evolved out of Singapore’s unique multi-ethnic social milieu” (Yeo, 2010, para 4). However, this assertion often obfuscates the presence of Indian linguistic communities in Singapore, which have a smaller influence on Singlish compared to the Chinese and Malays. Taking this as a starting point, this thesis questions how a well-recognized Indian-associated lexical item, dei, has been construed by Singlish speakers in general. My investigation is based on two different sets of data: a 5-million-word corpus of text messages from Singaporean University students, and a standardized online survey with 264 native Singlish-speaking participants. The first dataset provides the primary data for a corpus-assisted quantitative analysis, while the second dataset contributes to qualitative analysis on how dei is understood by Singlish speakers in terms of their linguistic ideology. The results reveal that dei takes on a unique position in Singlish as it works as both a marker of local Indian identity, and is part of the wider Singlish vernacular across speakers of different races. The corpus-assisted analysis shows that dei is being used by Singaporean youths in rather innovative ways. Originally an address term or exclamative, dei is often used as a discourse particle in a combination with lah to form lah dei, predominantly by Chinese speakers. Since discourse particles are known to feature widely in Chinese varieties, this suggests that an iconized ‘Indian’ term like dei may have a constraint to enter the Singlish discourse particle paradigm without a Chinese-influenced element such as a generic particle lah. Further, the qualitative analysis uncovers that there exists an intra-Indian divide within a Singlish-speaking community – that is, Indian survey participants conceive dei as either a solely Tamil term or a Singaporean Indian term. Broadly, this study showcases that the Indian-associated term is recognized as Singlish vocabulary. The findings as a whole, nonetheless, emphasize that Singlish must not be conceived of as an ethnically neutral variety in terms of its makeup, as Indian varieties are hardly reflected within.
URI: https://scholarbank.nus.edu.sg/handle/10635/155981
Appears in Collections:Bachelor's Theses

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