Volume 34, Issue 2
  • ISSN 0920-9034
  • E-ISSN: 1569-9870
Buy:$35.00 + Taxes



Imposition, a general mechanism of contact-induced change that manifests itself in creole formation, second language acquisition, and even language attrition (Winford 2013), is a result of unequal dominance in a multilingual’s languages, whereby linguistic features from an individual’s more dominant language are transferred to a less dominant language (van Coetsem 1988). In order to flesh out how imposition operates in multilinguals, this study compares the differences between Singaporean Chinese and Malay speakers in their use of in Colloquial Singapore English. Based on sociolinguistic interview data from twelve Chinese and eight Malay individuals, it is found that Chinese and Malay speakers differ primarily in two ways: (1) the preferred syntactic position for ; (2) the frequency of different contexts that appears in. By integrating theories from cognitive linguistics and findings from psycholinguistic studies, this paper argues that ‘equivalent’ constructions across two grammatical systems within a multilingual’s mind is a key channel through which imposition operates. To support this argument, differences between the speech of Chinese and Malay speakers are shown to be motivated by the presence or absence of ‘equivalent’ or parallel constructions.


Article metrics loading...

Loading full text...

Full text loading...


  1. Ansaldo, Umberto
    2004 The evolution of Singapore English: Finding the matrix. InLisa Lim (ed.), Singapore English: A grammatical description, 127–149. Amsterdam/Philadelphia: John Benjamins. 10.1075/veaw.g33.08ans
    https://doi.org/10.1075/veaw.g33.08ans [Google Scholar]
  2. Bao, Zhiming
    1995 ‘Already’ in Singapore English. World Englishes14(2). 181–88. 10.1111/j.1467‑971X.1995.tb00348.x
    https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1467-971X.1995.tb00348.x [Google Scholar]
  3. 2005 The aspectual system of Singapore English and the systemic substratist explanation. Journal of Linguistics41(2). 237–267. 10.1017/S0022226705003269
    https://doi.org/10.1017/S0022226705003269 [Google Scholar]
  4. 2011 Convergence-to-substratum and the passives in Singapore English. InClaire Lefebvre (ed.), Creoles, their substrates, and language typology, 253–270. Amsterdam: John Benjamins. 10.1075/tsl.95.15zhi
    https://doi.org/10.1075/tsl.95.15zhi [Google Scholar]
  5. Bybee, Joan L., Revere Perkins, & William Pagliuca
    1994The evolution of grammar: Tense, aspect and modality in the languages of the world. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
    [Google Scholar]
  6. Chua, Vincent
    2015 How Do Singaporeans Connect? Ties Among Chinese, Malays, and Indians. American Behavioral Scientist59(9). 1115–1128. 10.1177/0002764215580617
    https://doi.org/10.1177/0002764215580617 [Google Scholar]
  7. Comrie, Bernard
    1976Aspect. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
    [Google Scholar]
  8. Fong, Vivienne
    2004 The verbal cluster. InLisa Lim (ed.), Singapore English: A grammatical description, 75–104. Amsterdam/Philadelphia: John Benjamins. 10.1075/veaw.g33.06fon
    https://doi.org/10.1075/veaw.g33.06fon [Google Scholar]
  9. 2005 Unmarked ‘already’: Aspectual expressions in two varieties of English. InHenk J. Verkuyl, Henriette de Swart, & Angeliek van Hout (eds.), Perspectives on aspect, 251–267. Dordrecht: Springer. 10.1007/1‑4020‑3232‑3_14
    https://doi.org/10.1007/1-4020-3232-3_14 [Google Scholar]
  10. Grangé, Philippe
    2010 Aspect and modality in Indonesian: The case of sudah, telah, pernah, sempat. Wacana12(2). 143–168. 10.17510/wjhi.v12i2.117
    https://doi.org/10.17510/wjhi.v12i2.117 [Google Scholar]
  11. Grosjean, François
    2010Bilingual: life and reality. Cambridge, Mass: Harvard University Press. 10.4159/9780674056459
    https://doi.org/10.4159/9780674056459 [Google Scholar]
  12. Hartsuiker, Robert J., Martin J. Pickering, & Eline Veltkamp
    2004 Is syntax separate or shared between languages? Cross-linguistic syntactic priming in Spanish-English bilinguals. Psychological Science15. 409–414. 10.1111/j.0956‑7976.2004.00693.x
    https://doi.org/10.1111/j.0956-7976.2004.00693.x [Google Scholar]
  13. Huang, Lillian Meei Jin & Philip W. Davis
    1989 An aspectual system in Mandarin Chinese. Journal of Chinese Linguistics17. 128–166.
    [Google Scholar]
  14. Koh, Ann Sweesun
    1990 Topics in colloquial Malay. Melbourne: The University of Melbourne dissertation.
  15. Kwan-Terry, Anna
    1989 The specification of stage by a child learning English and Cantonese simultaneously: A study of acquisition processes. InHans-Wilhelm Dechert & ‎Manfred Raupach (eds.), Interlingual processes, 33–48. Tubingen: Narr.
    [Google Scholar]
  16. Leimgruber, Jakob R. E.
    2009 Modelling variation in Singapore English. Oxford: University of Oxford dissertation.
  17. Li, Charles N., & Sandra A. Thompson
    1981Mandarin Chinese: A functional reference grammar. Berkeley: University of California Press.
    [Google Scholar]
  18. Lim, Lisa
    2001Towards a reference grammar of Singapore English. Final research report. Academic Research Fund: National University of Singapore.
    [Google Scholar]
  19. Matthews, Stephen J. & Virginia Yip
    2009 Contact-induced grammaticalization: Evidence from multilingual acquisition. Studies in Language33(2). 366–395. 10.1075/sl.33.2.06mat
    https://doi.org/10.1075/sl.33.2.06mat [Google Scholar]
  20. Olsson, Bruno
    2013 Iamitives: Perfects in Southeast Asia and beyond. Stockholm: Stockholm University MA thesis.
  21. Shirai, Yasuhiro & Roger W. Andersen
    1995 The acquisition of tense-aspect morphology: A prototype account. Language71(4). 743–762. 10.2307/415743
    https://doi.org/10.2307/415743 [Google Scholar]
  22. Soh, Hooi Ling
    2008 The syntax and semantics of change/transition: Evidence from Mandarin Chinese. InSusan Rothstein (ed.), Theoretical and cross- linguistic approaches to the semantics of aspect, 387–419. Philadelphia: John Benjamins. 10.1075/la.110.16soh
    https://doi.org/10.1075/la.110.16soh [Google Scholar]
  23. 2009 Speaker presupposition and Mandarin Chinese sentence final – ‘le’: A unified analysis of the ‘change of state’ and the ‘contrary to expectation’ reading. Natural Language and Linguistic Theory27(3). 623–657. 10.1007/s11049‑009‑9074‑4
    https://doi.org/10.1007/s11049-009-9074-4 [Google Scholar]
  24. 2014 Aspect. InC.-T. James Huang, Y. H. Audrey Li, & Andrew Simpson (eds.), The handbook of Chinese linguistics, 126–155. Malden: Wiley-Blackwell Publishing. 10.1002/9781118584552.ch6
    https://doi.org/10.1002/9781118584552.ch6 [Google Scholar]
  25. Sybesma, Rint
    1999The Mandarin VP. Dordrecht: Kluwer Academic Publishers. 10.1007/978‑94‑015‑9163‑8
    https://doi.org/10.1007/978-94-015-9163-8 [Google Scholar]
  26. Szeto, Pui Yiu, Stephen Matthews, & Virginia Yip
    2017 Multiple correspondence and typological convergence in contact-induced grammaticalization: Evidence from Cantonese-English bilingual development. Journal of Language Contact10(3). 485–518. 10.1163/19552629‑01002014
    https://doi.org/10.1163/19552629-01002014 [Google Scholar]
  27. Traugott, Elizabeth Closs & Graeme Trousdale
    2013Constructionalization and constructional changes. Oxford: Oxford University Press. 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199679898.001.0001
    https://doi.org/10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199679898.001.0001 [Google Scholar]
  28. Travis, Catherine E., Evan Kidd, & Rena Torres Cacoullos
    2017 Cross-language priming: A view from bilingual speech. Multilingualism20(2). 283–298.
    [Google Scholar]
  29. van Coetsem, Frans
    1988Loan Phonology and the Two Transfer Types in Language Contact. Dordrecht: Foris. 10.1515/9783110884869
    https://doi.org/10.1515/9783110884869 [Google Scholar]
  30. Wee, Lionel
    2004 Reduplication and discourse particles. InLisa Lim (ed.), Singapore English: A grammatical description, 105–126. Amsterdam/Philadelphia: John Benjamins. 10.1075/veaw.g33.07wee
    https://doi.org/10.1075/veaw.g33.07wee [Google Scholar]
  31. Wee, Lionel & Umberto Ansaldo
    2004 Nouns and noun phrases. InLisa Lim (ed.), Singapore English: A grammatical description, 57–74. Amsterdam/Philadelphia: John Benjamins. 10.1075/veaw.g33.05wee
    https://doi.org/10.1075/veaw.g33.05wee [Google Scholar]
  32. Winford, Donald
    2013 On the unity of contact phenomena: the case for imposition. InCarole de Fe’ral (ed.), In and out of Africa: Languages in question. In honour of Robert Nicolai, 43–72. Louvain: Peeters.
    [Google Scholar]
  33. Yue-Hashimoto, Anne
    2003 Chinese dialects: grammar. InGraham Thurgood & Randy J. LaPolla (eds.), The Sino-Tibetan Languages, 84–125. New York: Routledge.
    [Google Scholar]

Data & Media loading...

  • Article Type: Research Article
Keyword(s): Chinese; construction; cross-linguistic influence; dominance; English; imposition; Malay; multilingual
This is a required field
Please enter a valid email address
Approval was successful
Invalid data
An Error Occurred
Approval was partially successful, following selected items could not be processed due to error