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Language and social identity amongst Tamil-English bilinguals in Singapore
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Saravanan, V. (1994). Language and social identity amongst Tamil-English bilinguals in Singapore. In R. Khoo, U. Kreher & R. Wong (Eds.), Towards global multilingualism: European models and Asian realities (pp. 79-94). UK: Multilingual Matters.
The paper examines the position of the Tamil language in Singapore.
It is one of the four official languages of the country, but shows signs
of decline in recent years relative to English, Chinese and Malay. The reasons
for this are explored. Its low social status is the primary factor. Tamil is still
associated with poverty and lack of social and political influence. But other
factors, some of them more amenable to planned intervention, are also
working against it. Formal varieties of the language are still dominant in the
media, limiting its popular appeal to many Indians and even its comprehensibility.
A prescriptive, language-centred attitude dominates in the schools
also, making Tamil increasingly a 'classroom language' that has little likelihood
of being used for everyday communication. The paper argues that it
will be essential in the coming years to increase the out-of-school use of the
language among young Singaporean and Malaysian Tamils. To achieve this
it will be necessary to get them to use the language more often in the home,
thus bridging the gulf between the formal varieties of the language, associated
with school, media, and temple, and the informal varieties that still
flourish in everyday transactions.
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