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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 6: A Theoretical Model of Contactinduced Change in Malaysian English


Chapter 6: A Theoretical Model of Contact- induced Change in Malaysian English 6.1 Introduction Although this study focuses on contemporary ME, the dynamics underlying this variety were set in place many centuries ago. One of the most important aspects of the historical background of ME is the gradual formation, long before the ar- rival of the first English-speaking traders, of a complex multiethnic network in the Peninsula and the surrounding region. This phenomenon, extending over more than two millennia, not only shaped the demographic structure of this re- gion, but also transformed its linguistic topography. The arrival of the first Eng- lish traders to Southeast Asia in the 17th century brought their language into con- tact with this already extremely heterogeneous sociolinguistic landscape. These initial interactions resulted in some manifestations of contact in the English lan- guage, as can be seen in the travel accounts and trade logs of these early visitors. The gradual expansion of British economic and political power over the succeeding centuries intensified the contact between the language of the British sojourners and the local communities. The transplantation of English in Malaya culminated in the communal acquisition of the colonial language by the local populace, which triggered the emergence of a local variety of English. Today, English has fewer official functions in Malaysia, but it remains a second lan- guage in the domain of national education and the medium of instruction in pri- vate tertiary institutions, continues to be the language of the elite, and is the...

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