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Title: Filling gaps or code choice? Code-switching across generations in colloquial Singapore Mandarin
Authors: Lee, Cher Leng 
Issue Date: 24-Apr-2019
Publisher: Walter de Gruyter GmbH
Citation: Lee, Cher Leng (2019-04-24). Filling gaps or code choice? Code-switching across generations in colloquial Singapore Mandarin. Global Chinese 5 (1) : 1-24. ScholarBank@NUS Repository.
Abstract: Abstract Singapore is a multiracial, multicultural island nation; three quarters of its population is ethnic Chinese. This paper examines the phenomenon of code-switching between the younger generation and their parents, and grandparents, focusing on the English, Chinese dialect and Malay elements present in this variety of spoken Mandarin. The data is taken from university students who have recorded their conversations with their parents, grandparents, siblings and friends. Many of the older generation in their 70s still speak southern Chinese dialects such as Hokkien, Teochew, Cantonese, Hakka, and Hainanese as well as Bazaar Malay (which was a lingua franca with Hokkien). Their spoken Mandarin consists of code-switching with these dialects. The middle generation in their 50s is the generation that is able to communicate both with the older generation and younger generation in the various languages. Their spoken Mandarin consists of English, dialects, and even some Malay. The younger generation in their 20s can hardly understand or speak these dialects as a result of the Speak Mandarin Campaign which was launched in 1979 to replace all dialects with Mandarin. As such, the younger generation’s spoken Mandarin consists mainly of English code-switched elements. This paper argues that code-switching takes place mainly due to convenience to fill in the gaps when younger speakers do not know the Mandarin equivalent of the words in certain domains, given the changes in language policies in the nation. In this case, it is not necessarily a choice of code but rather filling the gaps with the language that they know out of necessity.
Source Title: Global Chinese
ISSN: 21994374
DOI: 10.1515/glochi-2019-0001
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