Parallels in Chinese and Malay
Of the three main ethnic languages of Chinese, Malay, and Tamil, only the Tamil language has no clause-final discourse particles.1 Not only do both Chinese and Malay have clause-final discourse particles, most of the clause-final discourse particles in Chinese like lah, leh, and lor, and some clause-final discourse particles in Malay like ah and lah, are also shared with Colloquial Singapore English.
Clause-final particles lah, leh, and lor in Chinese
All three discourse particles - lah, leh, and lor, examined in this chapter appear in most if not all the colloquial varieties of Chinese spoken in Singapore. According to Lin and KJioo (2018), clause-final particles in Colloquial Singapore Mandarin include lah, leh, and lor. These three clause-final particles are used in the same way in Colloquial Singapore Mandarin as they are used in Colloquial Singapore English.
(12) № fT Ш fT 0 № nfe
ta da ni ni Da huii ta la
3SG hit 2SG 2SG hit return 3SG DIS
‘He hit you, you hit him back!’
(Lin 2015: 38)
Example (12) illustrates how lah is used in Colloquial Singapore Mandarin. Similar to lah in Colloquial Singapore English, lah in Colloquial Singapore Mandarin also has a two part function. In this example, the speaker uses lah to signal his attitude or perspective that it is alright for the hearer to hit someone that has hit him or her. By using lah here, the speaker also hopes that the hearer will accommodate or agree with his perspective.
(13) ni, Ш Л Ш U Щ
wa ni ren hen hao lie
EX 2SG person very good DIS
'Wow, you are indeed a good person.’
(Lee 2015: 185)
Example (13) illustrates how lie or I eh is used in Colloquial Singapore Mandarin. Similar to leh in Colloquial Singapore English, leh in Colloquial Singapore Mandarin also functions as a pragmatic softener that makes the sentence less assertive. In this example, leh is used so that the speaker’s praise that the hearer is a good person does not sound like flattery.
(14) Ш Ш 1Й №)> № Ш 1$ и&
qishi hen rongyi zud de gaici jiao ni lo
actually very easy make CFM next time teach 2SG DIS
‘It’s actually very easy to make, I will teach you next time.’
(Lee 2015: 194)
Example (14) illustrates how I о or lor is used in Colloquial Singapore Mandarin. Similar to lor in Colloquial Singapore English, lor in Colloquial Singapore Mandarin also functions to mark direct observations or obvious inferences. In this example, since the thing in question is not difficult to make, it is easily inferable that the speaker will not find it too difficult to teach the hearer what he or she wants to learn and will find time to do so.
Clause-final particle lah in Malay
Of the three discourse particles of lah, leh, and lor, only lah is attested in colloquial Malay. Goddard (1994) describes the use of lah in Colloquial Malay in Malaysia. The use of lah in Colloquial Malay in Singapore is confirmed by my informants.
(15) Masuk lah! Aku hantar engkau
enter DIS 1SG send 2SG
'Well, get in! I'll give you a lift!’
(Goddard 1994: 156)
Example (15) illustrates how lah is used in Colloquial Malay. Similar to lah in Colloquial Singapore English, lah in Colloquial Malay also has a two part function. In this example, the speaker uses lah to signal his attitude that he hopes that the hearer will accept his offer for a lift. By using lah here, the speaker also hopes that the hearer will accommodate to his attitude by accepting his offer.
In this section of data analysis, the general usage patterns of the twenty-four interviewees will be analyzed in terms of their use of clause-final particles. Interaction plots from Poisson regressions indicate that ‘ethnicity’ and ‘age’ have a strong influence on the use of clause-final particles in Colloquial Singapore English. Closer inspection of individual tokens reveals two main trends in the use of clause-final particles. First, Chinese speakers are using a wider range of clause- final particles compared to Malay and Tamil speakers. This is in line with Smak- man and Wagenarr’s (2013) study where they found a similar pattern of Chinese speakers using a wider range of clause-final particles. Second, younger speakers not only use a wider range of clause-final particles compared to middle-aged speakers, they also use the particles more frequently than middle-aged speakers. At the end of this section, the speech of particular individuals will be qualitatively analyzed to illustrate the way in which different personal styles can be created through the differential use of clause-final particles.