The meaning of the particle lah in Singapore English
In this paper we try to crack one of the hardest and most intriguing chestnuts in the field of cross-cultural pragmatics and to identify the meaning of the celebrated Singaporean particle lah — the hallmark of Singapore English. In pursuing this goal, we investigate the use of lah and seek to identify its meaning by trying to find a paraphrase in ordinary language which would be substitutable for lah in any context. In doing so, we try to enter the speakers’ minds, and as John Locke (1959 :99) urged in his pioneering work on particles, “observe nicely” the speakers’ “postures of the mind in discoursing”. At the same time, we offer a general model for the investigation of discourse markers and show how the methodology based on the “NSM” semantic theory allows the analyst to link pragmatics, via semantics, with the study of cognition.
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