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Title: Pragmatics of the sentence-final uses of can in Colloquial Singapore English
Authors: Hiramoto, M. 
Keywords: Can
Colloquial Singapore English (CSE)
Contact linguistics
Discourse particle
Pseudo-tag question
Substrate influence
Issue Date: May-2012
Citation: Hiramoto, M. (2012-05). Pragmatics of the sentence-final uses of can in Colloquial Singapore English. Journal of Pragmatics 44 (6-7) : 890-906. ScholarBank@NUS Repository.
Abstract: In. 11The following abbreviations are used in this paper. 1sg: first person singular; 1pl: first person plural; 2sg: second person singular; ASP: aspect; CSE: Colloquial Singapore English, DEM: demonstrative; GEN: genitive; LOC: locative; ICE-SIN: the International Corpus of English, Singapore English database; NEG: negation; NUS: National University of Singapore; NZ: New Zealand; PART; particle. Colloquial Singapore English (CSE), the default usage of the word can is congruent with that in Standard English. It functions as a modal auxiliary marking epistemic, deontic, and ability meanings. Additionally, the word can is used as a pragmatic marker in sentence final position in CSE. One such function of can represents a pseudo-tag question marker, as in the sentence, '. Borrow me $5 can?', which translates to Standard English, 'Can you lend me $5?'. 22This example was publicized as a part of the Singapore Government's Speak Good English Movement 2010/2011 themed "Get It Right" (Taipei Times, 2010). Another pragmatic function of can is as a discourse marker. Discourse markers are a highly noticeable feature of CSE, with its rich inventory of available particles including lah, lor, leh, wat, hor, meh, and mah, on which a number of scholars have reported. This paper investigates the pragmatic uses of sentence final can in these two functions. Because the positions of pseudo-tag can and discourse marker can overlap, it is at times ambiguous whether can is behaving as pseudo-tag or a discourse marker. I suggest that (1) pseudo-tag question use of can is a type of a calque transferred from CSE's Chinese substrate languages, and (2) discourse particle can is an innovative feature that developed from semantic expansion of the word 'can' in CSE under the influence of 'can'-equivalent terms in the Chinese and Malay substrate languages. © 2012 Elsevier B.V.
Source Title: Journal of Pragmatics
ISSN: 03782166
DOI: 10.1016/j.pragma.2012.03.013
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