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Malaysian English

Language Contact and Change


Siew Imm Tan

Malaysian English: Language Contact and Change is a corpus-based study of contemporary Malaysian English. Based on linguistic features extracted from the Malaysian English Newspaper Corpus, this study demonstrates the diverse ways in which Malaysian English has changed as a result of contact with Malay and Chinese languages. The interactions between groups of speakers who are dominant in English and those who are dominant in Malay or Chinese have resulted in wide-ranging changes in Malaysian English. Multilingual individuals who juggle several languages in their daily communications have also shaped the structure of this variety. This volume suggests that variation and change in Malaysian English are the results of both the communal acquisition and the maintenance of English by a multilingual community.


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Chapter 1: English in Malaysia


1.1 Introduction This volume comprises a study of Malaysian English (henceforth, ME) and in- vestigates how this variety of English has evolved within the multilingual, mul- ticultural milieu of Malaysia.1 Employing a corpus-based approach, the study surveys a comprehensive range of contemporary ME features in real-world con- texts in order to determine the specific linguistic processes and the sociocultural dynamics that engendered them. Situated within the framework of contact lin- guistics, the book focuses on how the contact between English and the other languages spoken in Malaysia has induced systematic variation and change in the linguistic system of ME. Although contemporary in focus, this study posi- tions ME within a specific geo-historical context, examining the arrival of the English language in the region, the subsequent emergence of a British colonial structure in Malaya, and the ways in which diverse linguistic and cultural com- munities have influenced the evolution of ME. Thus, variation and change in this variety of English are viewed not merely as linguistic outcomes of contact between English and other languages in Malaysia, but also as manifestations of the sociohistorical aspects of the contact situation. The utilisation of concepts deriving from the field of contact linguistics in describing variation and change in ME is of course not new. In addition to Schneider’s (2003b; 2007, pp.144-153) compelling account of the evolution of ME, there has also been a pronounced interest, among scholars of ME, in the process of lexical borrowing, and the mechanisms of code-switching and code- mixing (e.g...

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