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Singlish, Once Again… September 29, 2011

Posted by The Truth in Im Allgemeinen.

Here’s a post which appeared as an opinion piece on the Catholic News. It was, however, so full of bombast that I had to reply to what seemed an article which was posted because the bombastic writing seemed to lend it depth which it didn’t have. Here it is: English vs Singlish as our Language. (EDIT: Catholic News removed the post. Thanks to Google, here’s a cached version.)

Since I don’t know whether my reply will be published or not (generally people don’t like polemic drenched in sarcasm), so here is my reply:

Bravo, bravo!

So bombastic was your argument that I was left nearly speechless, not knowing what to say. But then I remembered why I was here, which is to say the following:

your article is full of big words but is rather poor in content. Let’s see why.

Firstly what do you mean by ‘for the purpose of dialectic’? I assume that you must mean ‘argument from received opinion’, which would explain your dichotomous division of English into standard and non-standard. OK.

Second, what is linguistic etiquette? you mean the prescriptive rules of standard English which may assert status?  There is no such thing as linguistic etiquette. Your usage of the word ‘etiquette’ suggests that it is per se correct to use Standard English, which is not always the case. Try speaking Standard English to someone who only speaks a non-standard variety. In that case, you may have broken with your so-called ‘linguistic etiquette’.

Third, if Singapore does not give us the luxury of choice (which in fact it does), then how can you say that our indulgence in it will lead us to losing? Can you indulge in a non-existant luxury? Don’t you think that Singapore SHOULD give us the luxury of choice by making sure we know what Singlish is and what Standard English is and when to use both?

Fourth, what do you mean by ‘we are faced with the Sapir-Whorf Hypothesis?’ You mean that we will not be able to understand Standard English, because Singlish has ‘polluted our thinking’? So what about, say, a dialect speaker from England? Would his English dialect too have polluted his thinking, making him unable to understand Standard English, and making him a loser?

You make a crass overgeneralization here, and since you are so fond of naming Latin forms of refutation, here’s yours: secundum quid. The refutation is as follows: Standard English  is utilized by America and England for communication. Therefore, only Standard English is spoken in America and England. Which is a fallacy.

by the way: Standard English in England is known as Received Pronunciation, and Standard English in America is yet another variety. You seem to see THE Standard English, which may be..?

Fifth, you say that “It is not a question of etymology but of prescriptive tendentiousness where for us it is a universal means of communication with the English-speaking world.” I’m afraid that your ideailzed Standard English speaker wouldn’t understand what you mean. Especially: what is prescriptive tendentiousness? you mean a prescriptive bias? Towards what? Who or what is exerting the bias? Singlish? Standard English?

I mean, perhaps I may have misunderstood you, considering that your brilliance in writing this article must have led many to misread some of your core points. I apologize for my audacity to challenge your authority. But still the questions come!

Sixth, how can a set of prescriptive rules with their minute variations, like “the noun being primary to the adjective” (which is, as a linguist [did I just out myself there?] a highly unsatisfactory description) indicate a deductive and inductive mindset?

Let’s take a stab at that. Deduction means that you deduce certain propositions from a general proposition. For example, if all men are mortal, then Socrates is mortal. Induction menas that you deduce from a multitude of particular propositions a general one. For example, if Socrates, Plato, Aristotle etc. are capable of laughing, then it is possible that all men are capable of laughing.

Nowhere do your so-called “minute variations” appear, and I am tempted to say that once again, I must have misunderstood your brilliance in argumentation. Would you care to show me where these variations may be and how exactly they indicate such a mindset?

Your last paragraph smacks of a false dichotomy (maybe the Sapir-Whorf Hypothesis has been getting to you.) You say that to survive, we should give up Singlish and instead all become Standard English speakers. Can’t you have both? It is the KNOWLEDGE that one should use the one under these circumstances and the other under those which makes the difference. Or perhaps you have seen a truth which none of us have?

Lastly: I didn’t know it was possible to semantically classify languages along the connotative/denotative division. I thought that ALL languages are connotative and denotative? Example: If someone says in Singlish that ‘my car spoil already’, he is DENOTING the status of his car, namely, out of service. If someone says in Standard English that ‘x is an idiot’, he is CONNOTING the notion that x is dumb, stupid, etc. Or is there yet another greater truth that you have seen and we haven’t?

O, please enlighten us!


1. Deleted: Letter in Catholic News spits on Singlish | New Nation - September 30, 2011

[…] News deleted the letter, the search engine saved a cached version. The letter even earned a rebuttal from a blogger, who thought stringing together a bunch of bombastic words betrays a lack of […]

2. cakeordeath - October 1, 2011

Excellent pwnage, good points. Thanks, this was a refreshing read after that painfully moronic letter by Dudley Au.

3. Who on Earth is Dudley Au? | New Nation - October 6, 2011

[…] be found in Google’s cache. (And the points in the letter was subsequently torn apart by a self-professed linguist/ blogger. And if you’re wondering what’s the fuss about Dudley Au’s letter, all you should […]

4. Zoroukah – Who on Earth is Dudley Au? - October 7, 2011

[…] still be found in Google’s cache. (And the points in the letter was subsequently torn apart by a self-professed linguist/ blogger. And if you’re wondering what’s the fuss about Dudley Au’s letter, all you should be wary of […]

5. mollydixon75386 - April 8, 2016

“Dat kost je waarschijnlijk veel, want dat zijn vaak vriendschappen met mensen die niet veel te bieden hebben.” Click http://link.mx/hool081945

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