Malaysian English

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Greetings in English among Malaysian

1.0 Introduction

The English language has been widely spoken and used in Malaysia over the decades. Malaysian English originated from the British English during British colonialism in Malaya far back before the Second World War. In the first half of the 20th century, Malaysian English was exactly similar to British English (BrE) (albeit spoken with a Malaysian accent). However, after Malaysia gained her independence in1957,Bahasa Melayu claimed its status and replaced English as the official language of the nation. Since there is no official language board, council or organisation to ensure the correct and standard usage of Malaysian English, a special variety of English,which is now referred as Manglish, evolved in Malaysia and prevailed across different ethnics.

Manglish refers to the colloquial, informal spoken form of Malaysian English. It is the most common form of spoken English on the street and is used in daily interaction. Nevertheless it is not encouraged in schools where only Malaysian Standard English is taught. Loan words (code-switching) included non-English nouns and verbs from indigenous languages in Malaysia into the authentic language, has been a common phenomenon which resulted in the emergence of Manglish. The use of Manglish or Malaysian English is therefore a style-based regional variation and it is often used in informal context to show solidarity and affecting meaning.

Agheyisi, Rebecca and Joshua A.Fishman(1990) in their books “Language Attitude Studies” argued that “People’s styles of speech and written communication reflect and express not only aspects of their identity, age and gender, they also indicate the context in which language is being used”. Thus, the emergence of Malaysian English must have some relations with some variables mentioned above. This study intends to find answers to the implication of factors like languages of different ethnics on the emergence of this special form of language. In addition, it will also look at how strong the influence of this indigenous languages and cultural aspects is on this special variety of language and the usage of informal variety according to age and gender. Finally, this study seeks to find out whether the special linguistic features like grammar and morphology indicate the solidarity between the interlocutors. Janet Holmes cited that the better you know someone, the more casual and relaxed the speech style you used to them (p.236). Janets argued that relative social distance/ solidarity is one important dimension reflected in the greeting of the members in a particular speech community.

In order to find out the answers to the questions above, an observation was carried out on the greeting in English among Malaysian because greetings is the most obvious speech style in Manglish among Malaysian L2 speakers of English. The reason which accounts for these greetings are an essential part of the communication of any speech community and is the context in which informal variety being manifested broadly. For half a century, ethnolinguists like Hymes (1962) have suggested that beyond syntax and phonology, cultural differences is another dimension that needs to be given due consideration. According to the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis, people’s perception of reality, and the way they see the world are determined by their ideology, emotion and the social-cultural values.

Unfortunately, the speech style of Manglish greetings language have not been much consideration in the development of Malaysian national curriculum , leading to misunderstandings and negative feelings towards the different speech style of greetings. In the context of a foreign language, “the more speakers understand the cultural context of greetings, the better the society appreciates them, and the more they are regarded as well behaved” (Schleicher 1997:334). Failure to fulfill one’s obligatory role during greeting exchange may...
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