Crosslinguistic influence from ethnic languages

Without a doubt the differences in the way English is spoken in Singapore is to a large extent, the result of crosslinguistic influence from the other ethnic languages spoken in the country. As shown in the previous section on Colloquial Singapore English already, got, and one, the semantic functions of these words have expanded as compared to their functions in Standard English. In what follows, similar or parallel constructions (see Chapter 3 for a theory of parallel constructions) of these expanded semantic functions that are present in the ethnic languages will be described in detail.

Parallels for Colloquial Singapore English already

Chinese sentence-final le and yijing

As mentioned in the previous section, not only can Colloquial Singapore English already express ‘change of state’ and ‘contrary to expectation’. It can also convey three different aspectual meanings - completive, inchoative, and prospective, without the need for periphrastic expressions to provide additional meaning. This is exactly identical to Chinese sentence-final le}

Chinese sentence-final le is also often described as a marker of‘currently relevant state’ (Li and Thompson 1981), this is similar to the perfect aspect in English (Comrie 1976), wherein “a new situation that has consequences at reference time” (Olsson 2013: 21) is marked. In addition to indicating current relevance, sentence- final le has also been analyzed as indicating the semantic meanings of ‘change of state’ and ‘contrary to expectation’ (Li and Thompson 1981; Sybesma 1999; Soh

  • 2009), which is no different from Colloquial Singapore English already. Moreover, like Colloquial Singapore English already, sentence-final le is also able to convey the aspectual meanings of completive, inchoative, and prospective, without the addition of periphrastic expressions.
  • (30) № Щ ШШ, 7

ta kan baozhl le

3SG see newspaper CRS

'He has read the newspaper/He has started reading newspapers/He is about to read the newspaper.’

Example (30) shows that sentence-final le can convey completive aspect, inchoative aspect, and prospective aspect when it co-occurs with the activity ‘read newspaper’. In this case completive aspect would mean that the action of reading the newspaper has been completed; inchoative aspect would mean that the referent of ta ‘he’ does not read newspapers in the past but does so now; and prospective aspect would mean that the referent of la ‘he’ is signaling that he is going to read the newspaper in the immediate future, either through his action or through verbal means. As there are three possible readings, narrowing it down to a particular reading depends on a situation’s aktionsart and the linguistic context. For instance, if it is an achievement situation where the simation happens instantaneously, the sentence will be understood as completive (see Example (31)).

(31) Ш Ш. S’

ta ying le

3SG win CRS

‘He won (the race).’

In Example (31), as the action of winning a race happens instantaneously, the only possible interpretation is that he has completed the action of winning, hence, only a completive reading is possible. Other than sentence-final le, another linguistic item in Chinese that can indicate ‘change of state' and ‘contrary to expectation’ is the adverb yijing. Not only is yijing semantically similar to Standard English already, it is also similar syntactically. Chinese yijing appears only in pre-predicate position, and that is one of the syntactic positions that already can appear in.

(32) Ш E£ Ш Ш, 7

ta yijing kan baozhl le

3SG already see newspaper CRS

‘He has already read the newspaper.’

Example (32) shows yjing in pre-predicate position. It follows the subject ta ‘he’ and precedes the verb phrase kan baozhl le ‘read the newspaper'. Chinese yijing

is glossed as already because it indicates the completion of the action of reading the newspaper prior to speech time, and presupposes the existence of a negative phase in which the newspaper was not read yet. It is important to note that, unlike sentence-final le, yfjing is only compatible with a completive reading. Additionally, as shown in Example (32), yijing often co-occurs with sentence-final le, and the sentence will be ungrammatical without sentence-final le. In such sentences, sentence-final le indicates current relevance while yijing provides a completive reading. Such a sentence would also convey the semantic meanings of ‘change of state’ and ‘contrary to expectation’.

As we have seen so far, both sentence-final le and yijing are possible sources of crosslinguistic influence on Colloquial Singapore English already (see Kwan-Terxy

1989) . Attestations of examples like they already make their mindset already ‘They have already fonned then mindsets’ in the interview data, where there are two already's, provide us with evidence that this is indeed the case. The two already's appear in prepredicate and sentence-final positions just like yijing and le in Example (32).

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