Research Categories

Linguistics and Multilingual Studies

This category covers:

  • Bilingualism and Multilingualism
  • Child Language Acquisition
  • Chinese Linguistics
  • Interactive Media and Language Learning
  • Language and Culture
  • Language and Gender
  • Language Attitudes and Identity
  • Language Contact and Language Change
  • Language Maintenance and Language Shift
  • Language Policy and Language Planning
  • Morphology
  • Phonetics and Phonology
  • Pragmatics
  • Sematics
  • Syntax
  • World Englishes

  • The Division of Linguistics and Multilingual Studies (LMS) aims at achieving a detailed understanding of the complex neurological and psychological processes whereby speech and writing are produced and understood, as well as the sociological and cultural underpinnings that inform linguistic communication. As the name "Linguistics and Multilingual Studies" suggests, the faculty of the division work not only on the structural aspects of language, but with a focus on the study of the languages of multilingual individuals and of multilingual societies. Singapore, which is characterized by the widespread practice of bilingualism and multilingualism, is therefore a prime focus of the faculty’s research. In addition to that, faculty members also work on language issues in countries that are of special relevance to Singapore.

    The following are some of the broad research areas of the Linguistics and Multilingual Studies faculty (more detail can be found at

    Speech research
    Under this broad umbrella, areas of research include acoustic phonetics, experimental phonetics, perceptual phonetics, prosody, tonal systems and accents. The tonal system of Chinese languages, especially the Chinese languages in Singapore is another area that the faculty members work on. Two particular Min languages, Hokkien and Teochew, are of interest, for these languages have a large number of Malay borrowings through language contact situations, resulting in an assignment of tones (which is not present in Malay) on Malay borrowings in these two languages.

    Sociolinguistic research in Singapore is the study of how the society affects and is impacted by the languages spoken in this country. Singapore is a multilingual nation, where many languages are spoken. Though theoretical and comparative linguistics in Singapore have a relatively long history, the sociolinguistic situation of Singapore still offers a great deal of research opportunities. Sociolinguistics is a high priority area for the Division of linguistics and Multilingual Studies and has the aim of aiding community development through in-depth studies of how Singaporeans use their languages in everyday life.

    Sociolinguistics research in LMS is carried out by multinational and multilingual staff and focuses on Singapore, the region and beyond. The following are areas currently being investigated:

    Language maintenance and language shift
    Italians around the world
    Research in the Division focuses on how second generation Sicilian-Australians use their linguistic repertoire in different domains, and what are the motivating factors that lead to the choice of one particular language over another.

    Local communities in Singapore
    The multilingual nature of the Singaporean ethnic groups is the focus of a number of sociolinguistic studies within LMS. Research within the Division explore the shifting position of English vis-à-vis official languages and other vernaculars and how the increasing dominance of English has displaced various languages, including the other three official languages Mandarin Chinese, Malay and Tamil.

    Language attitudes
    The study of language attitudes has been an important area of sociolinguistic research in the last 40 years. The process whereby speakers are judged by their linguistic and paralinguistic variation is at the very centre of the language-communication intersection. This process affects not only everyday interactions of individuals, but also impacts at the macrosociological level of how communities react to other speakers and also at public policy levels in terms of whether languages have institutional support or are superseded by more prestigious varieties.

    Singapore, a multilingual environment is a rich setting for the exploration of language attitudes. Despite the intense interest in this issue in the media and at both the governmental and community levels, there have been little systematic attempts at documenting this phenomenon.

    Language Identity
    Research in LMS aims to explore the relationship between Language and Identity in the various communities in Singapore. One of the questions to answer is the relationship between attitudes, identity and language shift. A further aim is to assess the role identity plays in shaping both dominant and minority groups in Singapore. A developing research area is the role of identity in specific sub-cultures.

    Language Planning and Policy
    In the area of Language Planning and Policy, Singapore’s language policies are of specific interest. Many countries have developed comprehensive language policies, but few have well-integrated and balanced ones. Current research at LMS aims to ensure that a well thought out and integrated language policy is developed; that best practice is followed; and that suitable short-, medium- and long-term policies are formulated.

    Intercultural communication
    People from different cultures encode and decode messages differently, increasing the chances of misunderstanding. Even when people speak the same language, because of their cultural background the chances of miscommunication are high. Usages and contextual inferences many times are completely different between cultures. Current research in the Division is centred on the perception of accent across cultures.

    Bilingualism and Multilingualism
    The study of bilingualism and multilingualism intersects many areas of research with the school. Apart from sociolinguistics issues discussed in previous sections, research on Bilingualism and Multilingualism also looks at patterns of language acquisition in multilingual contexts and factors such as input patterns, bilingual parenting, and language contexts may have an impact on bilingual development.

    Semantics is the study of meaning. The approach to the study of semantics in the division is largely empirical. The focus of research in LMS is in looking at how meaningful components are packaged across languages. In particular, current research projects look at numeral classifications and how these classifications develop and change. Other research areas which involve semantic analysis in the division include the study of compound words in Mandarin Chinese, the semantic distribution and shift of Malay loanwords in Hokkien and Teochew and the evaluation and judgment of taboo words in Mandarin Chinese.

    Applied Linguistics research
    Applied Linguistics research in the Division of Linguistics and Multilingual Studies specialises in various aspects of language use and language functions related to language and culture in individuals and in classroom applications. Applied Linguistics research in LMS is characterised by a strong cross-linguistic perspective, with staff combining theoretical underpinnings of their various disciplines with attentiveness to the practical implications of those disciplines. Current interdisciplinary research at LMS is dedicated to the description and understanding of language as it is used in real classroom situations.

    Related Link:
    Division of Linguistic and Multilingual Studies at School of Humanities & Social Sciences

    NameResearch Interests
    Mdm Aileen Ng Cheng ChengAileen Ng is interested in the area of Discourse Analysis and Computer Mediated Communication in English Language teaching and learning. She has researched on the use of Information and Communication Technology for teaching Communication Skills based on Socio-cultural Theory as well as analysed the discourse of pre-workplace texts such as job application letters and resumes.
    Assoc Prof Alexander Robertson CoupeAlexander Coupe's major contributions to linguistic research have focused upon aspects of the grammar of Ao; more recently he has turned his attention to other Tibeto-Burman languages of north-east India, including Chang, Khiamniungan, Lotha, Sangtam and Yimchungru, and he has investigated evidence of their contact and convergence with Indic languages. This fieldwork-based research is driven by a desire to record and analyse the grammars of these poorly understood Tibeto-Burman languages, to determine their genetic relationships, and to document them for posterity. The output of this work feeds another research goal: to seek functional and diachronic explanations for the structural diversity and commonalities found in Tibeto-Burman languages and in human language more generally, and to advance knowledge in the field of linguistic typology. Specific areas of research interest include the analysis of tone systems, phonetics and phonology, the role of pragmatics in grammar, case-marking systems, morphosyntax, clause linkage, nominalization, grammaticalization and language contact.
    Asst Prof Astrid C KensingerGraphic Design history, typography, mapping, live art as communication and participation art. Currently working on three funded research and design projects using GPS, video and site-specific research in South East Asia and Europe.
    Assoc Prof Chan Hiu Dan AliceHer research work mainly utilizes neuroimaging (fMRI) and behavioral measures to investigate how cultural experiences such as language and socialization may shape our brains and affect the way we see and hear the world. Her studies demonstrated that the auditory perception pattern is different between members from East Asian and Western cultures, which is in connection with previous findings on visual perception. She is interested in looking at the underlying cognitive and neuroanatomical mechanisms as well as the genetic bases of these culturally sensitive perceptual patterns and behaviors. Her current work also looks at possible neurophysiological realizations that would support the Whorfian hypothesis, with a specific interest in Cantonese and Mandarin Chinese, as well as bilingual and multilingual communities.
    Mrs Cristina Gonzalez RuizLanguage Learning Strategies Developing Language Skills in the Classroom Effects of Computer Assisted Language Learning (CALL) Curriculum and Course Design
    Prof Denis BurnhamBehavioural science research in: Perception, Cognition, Psycholinguistics, Speech Science, and Developmental Psychology. Speech perception and production, and how humans adapt to variability in speech input. Research is guided by a quest to understand language development from infants’ early speech perception, through the influence of various surrounding language environments to the onset of reading, and on to language perception by adults. Specialisations in behavioural and brain research in: • Infant Speech Perception in infants and children, and relations with later Literacy, and Dyslexia. • Phonetic, attentional, emotional and rhythmic aspects of Infant-directed Speech and of Special Speech Registers to foreigners, pets, lovers, computers etc; • Lexical Tone, an understudied but prevalent speech feature used in 70% of languages by >50% of the world population; investigations of speech-music, and segmental-suprasegmental relationships. • Cross-Language studies of the relationship between speech perception and second language learning, vocabulary, and reading; • Auditory-Visual speech perception studies with infants, children and adults within and across languages; • Practical Applications to: hearing impairment, dyslexia, speech perception and production problems; speech and language corpus studies, talking heads and human-computer / human-robot interaction (HCI/HRI); emotional prosody in clinical conditions (Alzheimer’s, schizophrenia); infant and child language development and child rearing; methods of reading instruction, second language acquisition.
    Ms Estelle BechIT / web use in second language acquisition and blended learning pedagogical approach in second language acquisition
    Prof Foo Shou Boon, SchubertProfessor Schubert Foo's research areas cover multimedia technology, Internet technology, multilingual information retrieval, digital libraries, information literacy, knowledge management and social media innovations.
    Assoc Prof Francesco Paolo CavallaroFrancesco Cavallaro is primarily a sociolinguist, but also conducts research in applied linguistics. His research interests are in sociolinguistics and the social aspects of bilingualism, especially of minority groups in multilingual contexts. He has published on language maintenance and shift, the demographics of the Italian community in Australia, language attitudes in Singapore and on the use of technology in the classroom. He is the author of the book 'Transgenerational language shift: From Sicilian and Italian to Australian English', published in 2010 by The Italian Australian Institute. La Trobe University, Melbourne, Australia. His current research direction involves exploring language attitudes, identity and language shift in multilingual contexts.
    Assoc Prof Francis Charles BondFrancis Bond's areas of interest are: Machine Translation, Deep Parsing, Word Sense Disambiguation, Computational Lexicography and the linguistic phenomena of Definiteness, Number, Countability and Numeral classifiers. His current research work focuses on parsing English, Japanese and Korean with head-driven phrase structure grammars; word sense disambiguation with WordNet; constructing a Japanese WordNet and other lexicons.