Yesterday’s founder population, today’s Englishes

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This paper highlights a less well known player in the contact dynamics involved in the evolution of Singapore English (SgE): the Peranakans – descendants of 18th / 19th-century southern Chinese traders in Malaya and local women, who became a prestigious minority group. As multilingual, early English adopters, and dominant in the ecology, the Peranakans demonstrate the significance of a founder population, in how their features – here, their original vernacular Baba Malay via Peranakan English – are persistent and influential in the evolution of contact varieties in a multilingual ecology. This paper also considers the current positioning of the Peranakans in their 21st-century revival in the changed sociolinguistic context of Singapore and what this means for the current and future evolution of SgE.


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