The management of multilingualism in a city-state

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Language policy in Singapore exists against a background of large diversity, a diversity that has been present in the city-state ever since its founding, and which is manifest both in ethnic and in linguistic terms. The government deals with this diversity in several ways: firstly, in giving recognition to the three major ethnic groups (Chinese, Malays, and Indians) by assigning them an official language (Mandarin, Malay, and Tamil, respectively), and secondly, by endorsing English as the main working (and educational, administrative, governmental, etc.) language of the country. Further policies include the demotion of varieties without official status: specifically non-Mandarin varieties of Chinese and Singlish, the local English vernacular. This paper explores these policies and the reasons that motivated them.


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