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National University of Singapore
Is Your Child Learning Singlish? Attitudes, Exposure, and Acquisition of Variation Among Local and Expatriate Children in Singapore

Although orientation towards local linguistic norms is increasing in Singapore, Singapore English (SgE) is still perceived by some as a non-native variety. Variation in attitudes towards SgE may shape acquisition of SgE features by both Singaporean and expatriate children, who increasingly attend government schools. The present study investigates how the -t/d deletion patterns of 60 children reflect their attitudes and school setting. Significant correlations are observed between deletion rate, attitude towards SgE, and accent self-perception among Singaporean children, highlighting that this variety is undergoing endonormative stabilization. However, while some expatriates in local schools delete more than peers in international schools, expatriate children generally do not acquire local -t/d deletion rates or constraints, regardless of familiarity with SgE or attitudes towards the variety. This gap between locals and expatriates reflects the persistence of ideologies that delegitimize SgE, as well as the growing prominence of SgE as a marker of local identity.


Dr. Rebecca Starr is an assistant professor studying variation phenomena in English, Mandarin, Cantonese, Japanese, Korean, and Irish Gaelic. She is primarily interested in the acquisition of sociolinguistic knowledge among children, particularly those growing up in a bilingual environment. Currently she is leading the Voices of Children in Singapore project investigating how children here learn about language variation. Dr. Starr is also beginning work on the Singapore Multilingual Corpus, which seeks to document the language use patterns of multilingual Singaporeans, including documentation of Southern Chinese varieties such as Cantonese and Hokkien. She also studies teachers' stylistic variation in the classroom and sociolinguistic variation in the media, as well as sociolinguistic variation in Singapore more generally.