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

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