Skip to main content Accessibility help
Hostname: page-component-99c86f546-md8df Total loading time: 0.392 Render date: 2021-11-30T10:17:33.441Z Has data issue: true Feature Flags: { "shouldUseShareProductTool": true, "shouldUseHypothesis": true, "isUnsiloEnabled": true, "metricsAbstractViews": false, "figures": true, "newCiteModal": false, "newCitedByModal": true, "newEcommerce": true, "newUsageEvents": true }

Attitudes and exposure as predictors of -t/d deletion among local and expatriate children in Singapore

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  28 November 2019

Rebecca Lurie Starr*
National University of Singapore


Although orientation towards local norms is increasing in Singapore, Singapore English (SgE) is still perceived by some as a nonnative variety. Variation in attitudes towards SgE may shape acquisition of SgE features by both Singaporean and expatriate children, who increasingly attend government schools. The present study investigates how the -t/d deletion patterns of 60 children reflect their attitudes and school setting. Significant correlations are observed between deletion rate, attitude towards SgE, and accent self-perception among Singaporean children, highlighting that this variety is undergoing endonormative stabilization. However, while some expatriates in local schools delete more than peers in international schools, expatriate children generally do not acquire local -t/d deletion rates or constraints, regardless of familiarity with SgE or attitudes towards the variety. This gap between locals and expatriates reflects the persistence of ideologies that delegitimize SgE, as well as the growing prominence of SgE as a marker of local identity.

Research Article
Copyright © Cambridge University Press 2019

Access options

Get access to the full version of this content by using one of the access options below. (Log in options will check for institutional or personal access. Content may require purchase if you do not have access.)


This research was supported by a startup grant from the National University of Singapore. The author wishes to thank research assistants Andre Joseph Theng, Kevin Martens Wong, Natalie Tong Jing Yi, Nurul Afiqah Bte Ibrahim, Alicia Chua Mei Yin, Clarice Yong Hui Min, Frances Loke Wei, Helen Dominic, Keith Jayden Fernandez, Matthew Peh Tian Jing, Fiona Teo Sze Lynn, Sheryl Lim Wen Xi, Amanda Choo Shimin, Huimimn Teo, Anne Prusky, Guo Zhenhao, and Yin Lin Tan for their various contributions to the Voices of Children in Singapore project. Additional thanks to Mie Hiramoto, Roey Gafter, Lauren Hall-Lew, and members of the NUS-EL Sociolinguistics Reading Group for their helpful comments, and to the participants and their families for volunteering their time.


Alsagoff, Lubna. (2010). English in Singapore: Culture, capital, and identity in linguistic variation. World Englishes 29(3):336–48.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Awonusi, Victor O. (1994). The Americanization of Nigerian English. World Englishes 13(1):7582.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Bates, Douglas, Maechler, Martin, Bolker, Ben & Walker, Steve. (2015). Fitting linear mixed-effects models using lme4. Journal of Statistical Software 67(1):148.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Bruthiaux, Paul. (2010). The Speak Good English movement: A web-user's perspective. In Lim, L., Pakir, A., & Wee, L. (Eds.), English in Singapore: Modernity and management. Hong Kong: Hong Kong University Press. 91108.Google Scholar
Chambers, John K. (2002). Dynamics of dialect convergence. Journal of Sociolinguistics 6(1):117–30.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Dodsworth, Robin, & Kohn, Mary. (2012). Urban rejection of the vernacular: The SVS undone. Language Variation and Change 24(2):221–45.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Eckert, Penelope. (2008). Variation and the indexical field. Journal of Sociolinguistics 12(4). 453–76.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Foulkes, Paul, Docherty, Gerry, & Watt, Dom. (1999). Tracking the emergence of structured variation: Realisations of (t) by Newcastle children. Leeds Working Papers in Linguistics and Phonetics 7:125.Google Scholar
Goh, Daniel P.S. (2007). From colonial pluralism to postcolonial multiculturalism: Race, state formation and the question of cultural diversity in Malaysia and Singapore. Sociology Compass 2(1):232–52.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Gut, Ulrike. (2005). The realisation of final plosives in Singapore English: phonological rules and ethnic differences. In Deterding, D., Brown, A., & Low, E.L. (Eds.), English in Singapore: Phonetic Research on a Corpus. Singapore: McGraw-Hill. 1425.Google Scholar
Gut, Ulrike. (2007). First language influence and final consonant clusters in the new Englishes of Singapore and Nigeria. World Englishes 26(3):346–59.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Gut, Ulrike. (2009). Past tense marking in Singapore English verbs. English World-Wide 30(3):262–77.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Guy, Gregory. (1977). A new look at –t, -d deletion. In Fasold, R.W. & Shuy, R.W. (Eds.), Studies in language variation. Washington DC: Georgetown University Press. 111.Google Scholar
Guy, Gregory. (1980). Variation in the group and the individual: The case of final stop deletion. In Labov, W. (Ed.), Locating language in time and space. New York: Academic. 136.Google Scholar
Guy, Gregory. (1991). Explanation in variable morphology: An exponential model of morphological constraints. Language Variation and Change 3:122.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Guy, Gregory R., & Boyd, Sally. (1990). The development of a morphological class. Language Variation and Change 2: 118.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Ho, Mian-Lian, & Platt, John T. (1993). Dynamics of a contact continuum: Singaporean English. Oxford: Clarendon.Google Scholar
Johnstone, Barbara. (2016). The sociolinguistics of globalization: Standardization and localization in the context of change. Annual Review of Linguistics 2:349–65.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Kachru, Braj B. (2006). The English language in the outer circle. In Bolton, Kingsley and Kachru, Braj B. (Eds.), World Englishes. New York: Routledge. 241–55.Google Scholar
Labov, William. (1972). Sociolinguistic patterns. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press.Google Scholar
Labov, William. (1989). The child as linguistic historian. Language Variation and Change 1:8597.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Leimgruber, Jakob. (2012). Singapore English: an indexical approach. World Englishes 31(1). 114.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Lim, Lisa. 2004. Singapore English: A grammatical description. Amsterdam: John Benjamins.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Lim, Lisa. 2015. Coming of age, coming full circle: The (re)positioning of (Singapore) English and multilingualism in Singapore at 50. Asian Englishes 17(3):261–70.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Lim, Laureen T, & Guy, Gregory R. (2005). The limits of linguistic community: Speech styles and variable constraint effects. University of Pennsylvania Working Papers in Linguistics 10(2). 157–70.Google Scholar
Mathew, Mathews, Lim, Leonard, Shanthini, S., & Cheung, Nicole. (2017). CNA-IPS survey on ethnic identity in Singapore. IPS Working Papers 28:178.Google Scholar
National Youth Survey. (2016). A snapshot of our Singaporean youth. Retrieved from Accessed 18 September, 2019.Google Scholar
Nycz, Jennifer. (2015). Second dialect acquisition: A sociophonetic perspective. Language and Linguistic Compass 9(11):469–82.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Pakir, Anne. (1991). The range and depth of English-knowing bilinguals in Singapore. World Englishes 10:167–79.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Park, Joseph Sung-Yul, & Wee, Lionel. (2009). The three circles redux: A market-theoretic perspective on World Englishes. Applied Linguistics 30(3):389406.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Patrick, Peter L. (1991). Creoles at the intersection of variable processes: -t,d deletion and past-marking in the Jamaican mesolect. Language Variation and Change 3:171–89.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Payne, Arvilla. (1976). The acquisition of the phonological system of a second dialect. PhD dissertation. Philadelphia, PA: University of Pennsylvania.Google Scholar
Platt, John & Weber, Heidi. (1980). English in Singapore and Malaysia: Status, features, functions. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
Population By-Census. (2016). By-census Results. Retrieved from Accessed 14 May, 2019.Google Scholar
Population SG (2018). Population Trends. Retrieved from Accessed 14 May, 2019.Google Scholar
Regan, Vera, Howard, Martin, & Lemée, Isabelle. (2009). The Acquisition of sociolinguistic competence in a study abroad context. Bristol, UK: Multilingual Matters.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Roberts, Julie. (1997). Acquisition of variable rules: a study of (-t, d) deletion in preschool children. Journal of Child Language 24:351–72.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Romaine, Suzanne. (1984). The language of children and adolescents: The acquisition of communicative competence. Oxford & New York: Basil Blackwell.Google Scholar
Schneider, Edgar. (2007). Postcolonial English: Varieties around the world. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Singapore Department of Statistics. 2015. General Household Survey 2015. Retrieved from Accessed 14 May, 2019.Google Scholar
Smith, Jennifer, Durham, Mercedes, & Fortune, Liane. (2009). Universal and dialect-specific pathways of acquisition: Caregivers, children, and t/d deletion. Language Variation and Change 21:6995.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Starr, Rebecca L. (2016a). English variation and standard language ideology on a Singaporean game show. Paper presented at New Ways of Analyzing Variation Asia-Pacific 4, National Chung Cheng University, Chiayi, Taiwan.Google Scholar
Starr, Rebecca L. (2016b). Sociolinguistic variation and acquisition in two-way language immersion: Negotiating the standard. Bristol, UK: Multilingual Matters.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Starr, Rebecca L. (2019). Cross-dialectal awareness and use of the BATH-TRAP distinction in Singapore: Investigating the effects of overseas travel and media consumption. Journal of English Linguistics 47(1):5588.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Starr, Rebecca L. (forthcoming). Changing language, changing character types. In Hall-Lew, L., Moore, E., & Podesva, R. (Eds.), Social meaning and variation: Theorizing the Third Wave. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
Starr, Rebecca L. & Balasubramaniam, Brinda. (2019). Variation and change in English /r/ among Tamil Indian Singaporeans. World Englishes. doi: Scholar
Starr, Rebecca L., Theng, Andre J., Wong, Kevin M., Tong, Natalie J.Y., Ibrahim, Bte, Nurul A., Chua, Alicia M.Y., Yong, Clarice H.M., Loke, Frances W., Dominic, Helen, Fernandez, Keith, J., and Peh, Matthew T.J. (2017). Third culture kids in the outer circle: The development of sociolinguistic knowledge among local and expatriate children in Singapore. Language in Society 46(4):50546. doi: 10.1017/S0047404517000380.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Tagliamonte, Sali A., & Molfenter, Sonja. (2007). How'd you get that accent? Acquiring a second dialect of the same language. Language in Society 36:649–75.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Tagliamonte, Sali & Temple, Rosalind. (2005). New perspectives on an ol’ variable: (t,d) in British English. Language Variation and Change 17:281302.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Tan, Kah Keong. (2005). Vocalisation of /l/ in Singapore English. In Brown, A., Deterding, D. & Low, E. L. (Eds.), The English language in Singapore: Research on pronunciation (2005). Singapore: The Association for Applied Linguistics. 4353.Google Scholar
Tan, Yingying. (2012). To r or not to r: Social correlates of /ɹ/ in Singapore English. International Journal of the Sociology of Language 218:124.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Tulshyan, Ruchika. (2015). Some Singapore expats choose local education over international schools. The Wall Street Journal, April 30, 2015. Retrieved from Accessed May 4, 2019.Google Scholar
Useem, John, & Useem, Ruth. (1967). The interfaces of a binational third culture: A study of the American community in India. Journal of Social Issues 23(1):130–43.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Trudgill, Peter. (2014). Diffusion, drift, and the irrelevance of media influence. Journal of Sociolinguistics 18(2):214–22.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
van Compernolle, Rémi A., & Williams, Laurence. (2012). Reconceptualizing Sociolinguistic Competence as Mediated Action: Identity, Meaning-Making, Agency. The Modern Language Journal 96:234–50.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Vowell, Bianca. (2018). Settlers, sojourners or Third Culture Kids?: Hong Kong English influence in the vowel systems of expatriate children in Hong Kong. Paper presented at Sociolinguistics Symposium 22, Auckland, New Zealand.Google Scholar
Wee, Lionel. (2008). Singapore English: Phonology. In Mesthrie, R. (Ed.), Varieties of English 4. Berlin: Walter de Gruyter. 259–77.Google Scholar
Wolfram, Walt, Carter, Phillip M., & Moriello, Rebecca. (2004). New Dialect Formation in the American South: Emerging Hispanic English. Journal of Sociolinguistics 8 (3):339–58.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Yang, Hui, Yang, Peidong, & Zhan, Shaohua. (2017). Immigration, population, and foreign workforce in Singapore: An overview of trends, policies, and issues. HSSE Online 6(1):1025.Google Scholar

Send article to Kindle

To send this article to your Kindle, first ensure is added to your Approved Personal Document E-mail List under your Personal Document Settings on the Manage Your Content and Devices page of your Amazon account. Then enter the ‘name’ part of your Kindle email address below. Find out more about sending to your Kindle. Find out more about sending to your Kindle.

Note you can select to send to either the or variations. ‘’ emails are free but can only be sent to your device when it is connected to wi-fi. ‘’ emails can be delivered even when you are not connected to wi-fi, but note that service fees apply.

Find out more about the Kindle Personal Document Service.

Attitudes and exposure as predictors of -t/d deletion among local and expatriate children in Singapore
Available formats

Send article to Dropbox

To send this article to your Dropbox account, please select one or more formats and confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your <service> account. Find out more about sending content to Dropbox.

Attitudes and exposure as predictors of -t/d deletion among local and expatriate children in Singapore
Available formats

Send article to Google Drive

To send this article to your Google Drive account, please select one or more formats and confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your <service> account. Find out more about sending content to Google Drive.

Attitudes and exposure as predictors of -t/d deletion among local and expatriate children in Singapore
Available formats

Reply to: Submit a response

Please enter your response.

Your details

Please enter a valid email address.

Conflicting interests

Do you have any conflicting interests? *