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English in Malaysia

Postcolonial and Beyond

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Edited By Hajar Abdul Rahim and Shakila Abdul Manan

The main thrust of this edited book is the development of Malaysian English (ME) as a new variety of English from the 1950s to the first decade of the 21st century. The book comprises nine chapters on different aspects of the variety based on original research.
The journey ME has taken as a postcolonial variety is discussed in terms of its linguistic development within the current frameworks of World Englishes (WE), particularly with regard to the evolution of new Englishes. Thus, the book discusses a range of ME linguistic and development issues such as lexis, phonology, modality, discoursal features, linguistic style and variation based on a variety of spoken, written, formal, informal, literary and non-literary language data. The findings from the studies contribute new knowledge on how ME has developed and also importantly, the realities and prospects of the variety as a dynamic and rich New English.
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Modal Expressions in Malaysian English: Peter Collins

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PETER COLLINS

Modal Expressions in Malaysian English

Introduction

The English language was, in Malaysia, a language imposed by its colonial masters, and one which the Malaysian government attempted to replace with Bahasa Malaysia in the constitution of 1957. However Malaysia continued to maintain ties with Britain through its membership of the Commonwealth, and the English language has not only remained deeply rooted in the country but at the same time undergone extensive structural nativisation. Today it is readily accessible in the mass media, through which Malaysians are exposed not only to a variety of English that is distinctive to their country, Malaysian English (ME), but also to British English (BrE) the language of the colonial “parent” of ME, and to American English (AmE), the most influential variety in English world-wide today.

The aim of this chapter is to determine what insights into the development of ME can be gleaned from an examination of expressions instantiating the category of modality. A more specific objective is to consider the validity of Schneider’s dual claims, in his study of the evolution of the postcolonial Englishes (Schneider 2007: 152), that “Malaysian English, even in its acrolectal form, is not yet accepted as adequate in formal contexts, and the linguistic orientation is still exonormative”. Comparisons of modal usage in ME and in the two “supervarieties” of World English, BrE and AmE, will be used to seek evidence of the continuing presence of exonormativity in ME, and comparisons...

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