(Singaporean English)
Singlish, a portmanteau of "Singapore" and "English", is
the English-based creole spoken colloquially in Singapore.
Although English is the lexifier language, Singlish may be
difficult to understand for speakers of standard varieties, such
as British, American or Australian English. The main difficulties
in understanding are Singlish's unique slang and syntax,
which are more pronounced in informal speech.
English Creole
British English
Indian English (Tamil)
Baba Malay
the southern varieties of Chinese
 Sociolect continuum
 Acrolectal: "highest-class" form of speech
 Mesolectal: "middle-class", used in formal and semi-formal
 Basilectal: colloquial speech, "Singlish"
 Pidgin: a good representative of an earlier stage of Singlish,
before creolization took place and solidified Singlish as a
fully-formed creole.
 The coexistence of basilectal Singlish and acrolectal
Standard English can also be analyzed as a diglossia, which
is a split between a "high" formal language and a "low"
informal language.
 The Sociolect Continuum of
Singaporean English Basilect
★"Dis guy Singrish si beh powderful wan. Hoh seh
liao lah!" Basilect ("Singlish")
★"Dis guy Singlish damn powerful one leh."
★"This person's Singlishis very good."
Acrolect ("Standard")
The unvoiced stops and affricate—/p/ pat, /t/ tin, /k/ come,
/tʃ/ chin—are sometimes unaspirated. The general effect
of this is that, the Singlish pronunciation of pat, tin and
come may sometimes seem closer to bat, din, and gum
than other varieties of English.
The voiced fricatives—/v/ very, /z/ zero, /ʒ/ vision—are
unstable at the basilectal level, and may be substituted
with other phonemes, e.g. bery for very, gero for zero.
The dental fricatives—/θ/ thin and /ð/ then—merge into /t/
and /d/, so that three = tree and then = den. /θ/ is often
replaced with a strongly aspirated /t/: [tʰ]. When put at the
end of a word, -th are pronounced as -f, for example, with or
path is read as wiff and paff respectively. Under the
influence of "with", without is often pronounced with /v/ in
place of /ð/. The dental fricatives are restored in acrolectal
Final consonant clusters simplify, especially fast speech. In
general, stops, especially /t/ and /d/, are lost if they come
after another consonant: bent = Ben, act = ack, nest = Ness.
/s/ is also commonly lost at the end of a consonant cluster:
relax = relac, although this pair has also been explained as
the result of a reanalysation of relax as a 3rd person plural
verb, he *relacs
Singlish Joke
• 丈夫对朋友介绍自己的妻子, 讲到年龄
时他说:You know I’m dirty tree,
already lah. But do you know my
wife is also dirty tree?
• 他的本意为:你知道我已经三十三岁了,
• 他的英语却在说:你知道我这人是棵脏
The vowel system of Singlish can be generally
derived by merging vowel phonemes in the British
Received Pronunciation vowel system. The following
describes a typical system. Some speakers may
further merge /e/ and /ɛ/; other speakers make a
distinction between /i/ and /ɪ/, /ɛ/ and /ɛə/, or /ɑ/ and
 Examples of worlds have idiosyncratic pronunciations:
flour /flɑ/ (expected: /flɑ wə/ = flower)
their /djɑ/ (expected: /dɛ/ = there)
 In loanwords from Hokkien that contain nasal vowels,
the nasalization is often kept - one prominent example
being the mood particle hor, pronounced as [hõ].
 Pitch contours
 Preserve the tones of loan words from Mandarin
and other Chinese languages.
Coxford Singlish Dictionary
英国人:I’m sorry, Sir, but we don’t seem to have the sweater you want
in your size, but if you give me a moment, I can call the other outlets for
新加坡人:No stock! (没货!)
英国人:Hello, this is Mr. Bean. Did anyone page for me a few
moments ago?
新加坡人:Hello, who page? (喂,谁呼我?)
英国人:Excuse me, but do you think it would be possible for me to
enter through this door?
新加坡人:(while pointing at door) Can or Not? 能不能?
英国人:Please make yourself right at home.
新加坡人:Don’t shy, leh! (别害臊了!)
英国人:Excuse me, I’d like to get by. Would you please make way?
新加坡人:Lai,siam! 或者 Siam, hor! 或者Skius! (前两者乃闽南方
言,大意为:让开;后者为不标准英语, 意即:对不起,让我过
Typical Dialogue
-“Aiyah!Vienna very Hot!” 1
-“We bring the heat,mah 5 !”
-“Don’t kau peh,lah 5 !” 2
-“I’m hungry,already lah5!Go where?
3Meh Donner.”
-“Can can,4 lah 5 !”
Typical Dialogue
-“Aiyah!Vienna very Hot!” 1(哎呀,维也纳真
-“We bring the heat,mah 5 !” (我们把热带来了
-“Don’t kau peh(闽南话:哭爹) ,lah 5 !” 2(别吵
-“I’m hungry,already lah5!Go where?3Meh Donne
(我已经饿啦! 到哪儿吃饭去?去麦当劳好不
-“Can can,4 lah 5 !” (可以啦!)
动词“To be”
新加坡英语副词 very、so、not等代替to be、not to be的
Dis house very nice. — 这个房子很好看。
You so stupid! – 你真笨!
Dat car not worth the money. — 那辆车不值。
-ing 可以独立作进行体,不需加to be,相当于汉语“在”、
How come so late in the night you still playing music, ar? —
You looking for trouble, is it? — 你是不是在找岔儿啊?
其他省略to be的用法,如直接加介词:
His house in Ang Mo Kio. — 他家在宏茂桥。
一般来说,to be在名词、人称代词后省略(I、he、she除
Negation works in general like English, with not added
after "to be", "to have", or modals, and don't before all
other verbs. Contractions (can't, shouldn't) are used
alongside their uncontracted forms.
 However, due to final cluster simplification, the -t drops
out from negative forms, and -n may also drop out after
nasalizing the previous vowel. This makes nasalization
the only mark of the negative.
e.g. I do ([dõ]) want. — I don't want to.
 Another effect of this is that in the verb "can", its positive
and negative forms are distinguished only by vowel:
e.g. I can /kɛn/ do this lah.
I can't /kɑn/ do this lah.
In addition to the usual way of forming yes-no questions,
Singlish uses two more constructions:
 In a construction similar (but not identical) to Chinese, or not
is appended to the end of sentences to form yes/no questions.
Or not cannot be used with sentences already in the negative:
e.g. This book you want or not? — Do you want this book?
Can or not? — Is this possible / permissible?
 The phrase is it is also appended to the end of sentences to
form yes-no questions. Is it implies that the speaker is simply
confirming something he/she has already inferred:
e.g. They never study, is it? (No wonder they fail!)
You don't like that, is it? (No wonder you had that face!)
In general verbs are repeated twice to indicate the delimitative
aspect (that the action goes on for a short period), and three
times to indicate greater length and continuity:
e.g. You go tink tink a little bit, maybe den you will get answer.
(Go and think over it for a while, and then you might
So what I do was, I sit down and I tink tink tink, until I get
answer lor. (So I sat down, thought, thought and thought, until
I understood.)
 In another usage reminiscent of Chinese, nouns referring to
people can be repeated for intimacy. Only monosyllabic
nouns can be repeated:
e.g. My boy-boy is going to Primary One already. — 我的儿子
Discourse particles
Lah: used at the end of a sentence; simultaneously asserts a
position and entices solidarity.
e.g. used with imperatives: Drink, lah! (粤语:饮啦!)
used with brusque, short, negative responses: You dun know
one, lah! — 我看你根本不知道!
used for reassurance: It‘s okay lah. — 没事了。
 Mah: used to assert that something is obvious and final, and is
usually used only with statements that are already patently true.
It is often used to correct or cajole. This may seem
condescending to the listener:
e.g. But he very good at sports, dat's why can play soccer
mah! — 他体育不错,所以球踢得这么好嘛!
Words with Different Meanings
 blur - 笨
 cock - 胡说八道
"Don't talk cock, lah!"(“别胡说八道啦!”)
 keep - (把东西)收起来
"Please keep your notes"(“请把你的笔记收起来。”)
 send - 把人送到一个地方
"I'll send you to the airport." (“我会送你到机场。”)
 spoil - 弄坏(动词)或是已经坏掉的(名词或形容词)
"This one, spoil."(“这个已经坏了。”)
 stay - 住在某处
"She's staying in Ang Mo Kio." (“她住在宏茂桥。”)
 upgrade - 提高、变得更好
“The service has been upgraded.”(“服务提高了。”)

SINGLISH - 厦门大学外文学院