Monday, October 25, 2010

Standard Singlish

The mistake is probably excusable, since it is made by One can hardly expect it to get its Singlish right.

On one of its posters, in imitation of typical Singapore English, there is an expression 'You got eat already or not?' I have to protest that this expression is an unflattering and inaccurate caricature of Singlish.

The problem with this sentence is the expression of its perfective aspect. In standard English, it is expressed as 'Have you eaten...?', with the compound verb 'have eaten' carrying present perfective meaning.

In Singlish, the perfective aspect is carrried in 'already', as in, for example, 'the bus come already' (the bus has come). On the other hand, 'got' is sometimes used to indicate past tense, as in 'the bus got come' (the bus came).

I think that the sentence in the poster is simply carrying too much, and redundant information. The expression should simply be 'you got eat or not', or 'you eat already or not', but not 'you got eat already or not?' Excuse my purist streak, but not every mangled expression is Singlish. Singaporeans who do speak Singlish intuitively follow systematic rules too. We may speak wrongly, but we don't speak like idiots.

Maybe it is the first sign of creolisation - when the users of the pidgin forms begin to recognize new language structures, and can identify whether an expression is correctly incorrect, or incorrectly incorrect. Hm...maybe we don't want to get there, of course. This brickbat aside, I support the Speak Good English movement.


tigerfish said...

Oops! :P

jen said...

this is like el hons class all over again. :P