Singapore’s Linguistic Genocide Programe

By:
Dr. Ying Ying Tan
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This paper seeks to look at language policies in Singapore. Language, as Shepherd (2005: 121) rightly points out, is treated by the People’s Action Party (PAP) government as a resource and key to the achievement of economic and social development of a linguistically and culturally plural society. The motivations and aims behind every single language policy has always been either a pragmatic or a communitarian one. Language planning in Singapore has always been seen as a pragmatic tool in gearing the nation toward economic gain. For communitarian purposes, language policies have been seen as necessary to achieve national cohesiveness amongst its people. Under the veneer of these motivations however, the method of which the State executes these language policies is in fact, I will argue, that which commits linguistic genocide. Using what I will call the twin strategies of ‘prohibition’ and ‘denigration’, the State aims to bring about the death of the languages that it finds undesirable or useless, either because the language in question is seen to create a schism within the community, or is believed to be a threat to the economic fabric of the nation. The Speak Mandarin Campaign (1979 -- ), aimed at killing off Chinese languages, and the Speak Good English Movement (2000 -- ), designed to kill of Singlish (a unique variety of English in Singapore) are what this paper will look at specifically as examples of the State’s execution of linguistic genocide. I will question the success of this genocide programme, and more interestingly, about how the State undercuts its own programme, creating an almost schizophrenic situation.


Keywords: Language Policy, Singapore, Linguistic Genocide
Stream: Anthropology, Archaeology, Cultural Studies, Humanities
Presentation Type: Paper Presentation in English
Paper: A paper has not yet been submitted.


Dr. Ying Ying Tan

Assistant Professor, School of Humanities and Social Sciences, Nanyang Technological University
Singapore, Singapore

Ying-Ying Tan is Assistant Professor at the School of Humanities and Social Sciences, Nanyang Technological University. Trained in Linguistics, she specialises in Phonetics. Besides Phonetics, she also works in the area of language policy and World Englishes. She is particularly interested in the dynamics of the language ecology in Singapore, particularly with Singapore English and Chinese languages of Singapore.

Ref: I07P0255