Academic journal article English Language Teaching

1malaysia English Reflects Unity

Academic journal article English Language Teaching

1malaysia English Reflects Unity

Article excerpt


The main aims of this qualitative study are to identify and categorise the types of lexical borrowings from the three main Malaysian languages which are the Malay language, Chinese dialects and Indian languages used by 203 ESL teachers, to what extent these lexical borrowings are used and for what reasons. This study has identified a new category known as prefixation and collected 483 lexical items over a period of one year that is, from December 2011 to November 2012. The findings of this study show that the ESL teachers mainly use the lexical items from the Malay language more frequently as it is the official language and has a prestigious placing. Since unity in diversity is encouraged, 1Malaysia English will further unite the Malaysians and thus accept the 1Malaysia concept with a more open and positive mind.

Keywords: ESL teachers, lexical borrowings, Cohen's Kappa, 1Malaysia English

1. Introduction

The emergence of the Malay language as the medium of instruction in the government schools in Malaysia had considerable influence on the local usage of English. Firstly, there was frequent code-switching by the second generation of Malaysians, namely those who entered schools in 1980 and later. They are far familiar with colloquial expressions in Bahasa words and expressions to convey what they mean when speaking English to their fellow Malaysians and even when using their native language within their own communities. Besides this, they also resort to code-mixing whereby Bahasa roots are combined with English affixes e.g. "cacated", meaning awkward or improper. Bahasa words are also combined with English words to form compounds e.g. "kampung house". In other words, lexico-semantic features of local languages such as Malay have begun to creep into the English language spoken by Malaysians who have received their formal education in Malay medium.

While this feature is also found in the English language spoken by the first generation of Malaysians who have received their formal education in the English language, there is a distinctive difference between the first generation and the second generation. While the younger generation tends to be also influenced by the syntax and grammar of Bahasa in their Malaysian English, members of the older group have retained the syntax and grammar of Standard British English when writing or speaking the English language. This is because they have a stronger foundation in the English grammar, having benefited from the system where English was the medium of instruction (Menon, 2003, p. 33).

However, like the younger generation, many have diverged from the Standard British English, in terms of lexis and semantics of spoken English. Words and even idiomatic expressions from Bahasa Melayu, Cantonese, Hokkien, Tamil and other languages have been extensively borrowed and a range of native English words have acquired new meanings or new connotations.

The English language which has emerged from all those influences has been termed "Malaysian English" (ME). There may be three viewpoints which account for the emergence of Malaysian English in terms of lexis. The first viewpoint is that of psycholinguists and language educators regard ME to be a result of "fossilized errors" acquired during the language acquisition process. ME may be regarded as a permanent sort of "interlanguage" (Selinker, 1972), which consists of a large number of fossilized phonological, semantic and syntactic errors. The second viewpoint is that of sociolinguists, regard ME as a result of an acculturation process of language transfer whereby cultural features from the mother tongue of the different ethnic communities have permeated the English language used locally. While certain aspects of ME may be a result of language transfer, it is believed that this may be only one of the factors leading to the creation of ME. The third viewpoint is that, ME may be the result of a creative process whereby both common cultural features as well as aspects of learner strategies such as creativity and redundancy may be resulted in a variety of English which may be regarded as uniquely Malaysian (Menon, 2003, p. …

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