Sustaining and maintaining a minority language

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Singapore offers clues as to how languages of lesser power may thrive in contexts where there is a multiplicity of languages and metropolitan languages dominate. Under colonial rule the position of Tamil in both society and schooling was marginal. The community lacked numbers and economic power and many Indian children were sent to English medium schools. A multiplicity of Indian languages further complicated the situation. In 1956, an emergent multilingual elite committed itself to equal treatment for the four official languages – English, Chinese (Mandarin), Tamil and Malay. We provide some insights as to how this commitment has resulted in various initiatives sustaining Tamil in Singapore despite its declining functional value in the larger community.


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