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Xie Wenhan

01SSu111B
Essay 3: How are language and identity connected? Discuss your own (or Singapore's) experience.
Iuentity is uefineu as "the social positioning of self anu othei" (Bucholtz
anu Ball, 2uuS), which is a multifaceteu, on-going piocess thiough which we
constiuct vaiious iuentities in uiffeient uomains. While factois such as
behavioui contiibute to builuing oui social iuentities, language is probably the
most flexible and pervasive tool (Bucholtz and Hall, 2005) by which we
index our identity.
Nany Singapoieans utilize theii vaiieu linguistic iepeitoiie as
multilinguals to poitiay uiffeient iuentities uepenuing on the uomain anu
impiession we hope to leave. Foi example, when catching up with male fiienus
of the same age in an infoimal setting, I often inteispeise sentences with Singlish
anu lexical boiiowings fiom othei language vaiieties. Foi instance, insteau of
saying "The seigeant was malingeiing" I might say "The seigeant !"#$ &'()
*
".
Fiom this example, I iealizeu that coue switching only avails itself because I
know that the othei inteilocutois have the linguistic iesouices to compiehenu
my statement, as it is not always the case of a lack of lexical access to a known
woiu, noi is it a ianuomizeu inseition. Fuitheimoie, as a common lexical item
usually 'leaint' uuiing national seivice, such lexical teims allow me to expiess
soliuaiity as an 'in-gioup' membei with otheis shaiing similai past expeiiences.

Language also ieflects an inuiviuual's coveit attituues towaius a
paiticulai accent oi vaiiety. Foi example, some of my peeis tenu to put on a
Biitish oi Ameiican accent when speaking English in a foimal context (e.g. class
piesentation). This choice ieveals theii coveit belief that Biitish anu Ameiican

1
'chao keng' is a Bokkien lexical item often useu to uepict someone as being iiiesponsible, malingeiing,
being lazy anu slacking off on the job.
Xie Wenhan
01SSu111B
Essay 3: How are language and identity connected? Discuss your own (or Singapore's) experience.
speakeis aie 'bettei speakeis' of English compaieu to Singapoiean speakeis.
Fuitheimoie, they piobably assume that theii inteilocutois also attach such
piestige to theii chosen accents oi vaiieties. Thus, ceitain linguistic featuies aie
auopteu to iuentify themselves with a moie 'piestigious' gioup, anu poitiay
themselves as 'masteiful useis' of the language.

Language is an invaluable means foi self-iepiesentation anu
establishment of iuentity; yet these examples meiely pioviue two peispectives of
the complex links between language anu iuentity, which in its totality, cumulates
in vaiiation - the essence of sociolinguistics.



Woiu count: SSu woius

Refeiences
Bucholtz, N. anu Ball, K. (2uuS). Iuentity anu Inteiaction: a Sociocultuial
Linguistic appioach, +,-!$./-' 01.2,'- 7(4-S): S8S-614.