Imperfectives in Singapore’s Indian community

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This chapter examines the sociolinguistics of the Indian community in Singapore, with a particular emphasis on the use of the -ing marker among Tamils. The Indian diaspora in Singapore is of interest because the community differs from others in many respects: although a minority of less than 10 percent, Indians enjoy constitutional recognition, primarily through the use of Tamil as one of the four official languages. Furthermore, they are a firmly established ethnic group within the country, both socially and economically, having been instrumental in early colonial times and during the foundation phase of present-day Singapore English. Our study, drawing on data collected from 96 informants coming in equal parts from the Tamil, Chinese, and Malay communities, investigates the use of ­over-extension of -ing as a marker of all imperfectives, including statives and non-delimited habituals. We found the Tamils rating -ing as acceptable significantly more frequently than the other two groups in the case of statives and non-delimited habituals. As this parallels the Tamil aspectual system, our findings strongly support a substratist explanation for the Indian Singapore English aspect system.


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