Article published in:The Typology of Asian Englishes
Edited by Lisa Lim and Nikolas Gisborne
[English World-Wide 30:2] 2009
► pp. 218–239
Revisiting English prosody
(Some) New Englishes as tone languages?
Many New Englishes are spoken in what can often be considered multilingual contexts in which typologically diverse languages come into contact. In several Asian contexts, one typological feature that is prominent in the multilingual contact situation (the “ecology”) is tone. Given that tone is recognized as an areal feature and is acquired easily by languages in contact, the question that arises is how this is manifested in the prosody of these New Englishes. Recent work has shown that contact languages, including English varieties, evolving in an ecology where tone languages are present do indeed combine aspects of tone languages. This paper attempts to go a step further, in suggesting not only that such varieties should not be viewed as aberrant in comparison to “standard” English but recognized as having their own prosodic system partly due to substrate typology, but also that in the consideration of New Englishes — here, Asian (but also African) Englishes — the traditional view of English as a stress / intonation language need to be revisited and revised, to consider some New Englishes as tone languages. Singapore English (SgE) is presented as a case in point, with the presence of tone demonstrated in the set of SgE particles acquired from Cantonese, at the level of the word, as well as in the intonation contour which moves in a series of level steps. A comparison is then made with Hong Kong English, another New English in a tone-language-dominant ecology, with a consideration of typological comparability as well as difference due to the dynamic nature of SgE’s ecology.
Keywords: intonation, tone language, Singapore English, Asian Englishes, Hong Kong English, ecology, New Englishes, typology, tone
Published online: 11 June 2009
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