(Un)intelligibility: A phonetic question or is it a matter of attitude
Ying Ying Tan
Division of Linguistics and Multilingual Studies, Nanyang Technological University, Singapore
LPL (Aix-En-Provence): Feb 22nd, 11h, Conference Room
In this seminar, I present the results of a recent study conducted to elicit international responses to Singapore English (SgE), in terms of both intelligibility and attitudes toward the speaker, as compared to American English. One of the biggest concerns of educationists and language policy makers in Singapore is that SgE is not an “internationally acceptable English” (Singapore Ministry of Education, 2001), and is thus not intelligible to the other English speakers. The question however is: is SgE really unintelligible outside of Singapore? If SgE is to be viewed negatively, is it due to unintelligibility or could it be attitudes and perceptions toward this variety of English? There is, at present, very little research to show how well SgE is understood in international contexts, and even less investigating international attitudes towards the variety.It is therefore the aim of this paper to address the following questions, based on the responses of over 200 respondents from over 20 countries as they listen to a set of 15 sound recordings, including read SgE, spontaneous SgE, and read American English:
- How intelligible is SgE internationally and how does SgE compare to AmE in terms of intelligibility?
- What is the attitude toward SgE internationally and how does SgE compare to AmE in terms of attitudes toward these two varieties?
Using these results of this study, I hope to take the research forward in the future by looking at some possible phonetic features that may contribute to unintelligibility.
Ying-Ying TAN is a sociophonetician who looks at how speech and accent, especially of individuals and communities in multilingual environments, encode social information. Outside of phonetics, she also works on language planning and policy, looking at how the State manages ethnolinguistic diversity and engineers multilingual individuals through language, education and media policies. Her articles have appeared in journals such as The International Journal of the Sociology of Language, Journal of Multilingual and Multicultural Development, Journal of Pragmatics, and English World-wide. She has recently been awarded the Fung Global Fellowship by Princeton University, and will spend the 2013/14 academic year at Princeton.