Sociolinguistic Factors Affecting Tense Variation in Singapore English

  • Wesley Leong New York University


Despite English being the primary official language of Singapore, many of its citizens show deviations from Standard Singapore English (SSE) in speech or writing. In particular, it has been noted that Singapore English speakers may produce non-standard tense morphology, often omitting verbal past-tense markers in past-tense contexts. However, a couple of open questions remain: are there any social or external factors driving this variation, and is this variation morphological or phonological? To address these questions, I asked participants to complete a verbal interview and written questionnaire designed to probe how they inflect verbs, and examined if conformity to SSE is predicted by age, sex, or mother tongue. The results suggest that non-standard tense use does not differ along these lines. They also support earlier claims that tense marker omission in SSE is phonological, rather than morphological, for a majority of speakers, but that there is a small group for whom the variation may be morphological.

How to Cite
Leong, W. “Sociolinguistic Factors Affecting Tense Variation in Singapore English”. Lifespans and Styles, Vol. 7, no. 1, June 2021, pp. 36-47, doi:10.2218/ls.v7i1.2021.5642.