A grammar of Baba Malay with sociophonetic considerations

Lee, Huiying Nala
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[Honolulu] : [University of Hawaii at Manoa], [December 2014]
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Baba Malay, the home language of Peranakans, was formed via early intermarriage between Hokkien-speaking male traders and Malay-speaking indigenous women in the Malay Peninsula. The language is endangered, with less than 1,000 speakers in Singapore, and less than 1,000 speakers in Malacca, Malaysia. This dissertation describes the language's sociohistorical background, its current circumstances of endangerment, and provides information regarding the phonology, parts of speech, and syntax of Baba Malay as it is spoken in Singapore. The language has 19 consonants and 8 vowels, of which [ɛ] occurs only in a refined style of speaking. Acoustic investigation of the vowel system shows that that [ɛ] is falling out of use, especially among less proficient speakers. A matched guise task is conducted to show the associations that listeners form between this changing variant and the speakers who produce this variant. Results show that younger listeners in particular perceived forms with [ɛ] as being more emblematic of the Peranakan culture and community than corresponding coarse speech forms that do not use [ɛ]. This is consequential for language change. Results from a post-matched guise survey also indicate that Peranakans are very concerned about language loss. Beyond this extended phonological investigation, the language's basic clausal word order is Subject Verb Object, where Subject is optional. Topicalization also occurs frequently in the language. The basic phrasal word orders in Baba Malay are Noun Adjective, Genitive Noun, and Preposition Noun. Relative clauses occur prenominally and postnominally. Other than presenting a traditional description of Singapore Baba Malay, this grammar also highlights differences between Singapore Baba Malay and Malacca Baba Malay, and addresses whether Baba Malay is a genetic dialect of Malay, a mixed language, or a creole. Comparison between Singapore Baba Malay and Malacca Baba Malay shows that Malacca Baba Malay is more influenced by standard Malay, particularly where lexicon is concerned. Investigation into the issue of classification shows that BM should be classified as a creole. This dissertation includes vocabulary and texts; the audio files associated with these texts are archived at Kaipuleohone.
Ph.D. University of Hawaii at Manoa 2014.
Includes bibliographical references.
Baba Malay
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Theses for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy (University of Hawaii at Manoa). Linguistics.
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