It is a fact that it is the poor and underprivileged natives who majorly contributed to the development of Singlish. This aids two related objectives: first, the relevance of Singlish to the postcolonial agency, and second, Singlish as a medium for the subaltern voice. Linguist Mark Abley, who has done sizeable research on variants of English, notes the following about Singlish: “I’d have to say that my favourite examples are the amazing phrases and expressions you find in Singlish–‘Last time policeman also wear shorts,’ ‘very what one,’ ‘catch no ball,’ etc.” One Abley didn’tinclude in his book: “The Singlish way of saying ‘complain loudly in the morning’–‘seven morning eight morning cry father cry mother.'” (Herther, 2009)
There are several reasons why Singlish is a valid conduit for understanding postcolonial agency and consciousness. Once we accord authenticity to Singlish as a proper language in its own right, the process becomes simpler. But one need not look beyond standard definitions of English language in its entirety to place Singlish in relation to the former. For example, David Chrystal, one of the foremost linguists of the twentieth century, comments on the history of English language is one that ““promotes a sense of identity and continuity, and enables us to find coherence in many of the fluctuations and conflicts of present-day English language use”.” (Hitchings, 2006) This is in contrast to dominant, mainstream accounts that carry a jingoistic tone, evidencing it as proof of Anglo-American excellence. It needs to be remembered that, far from being monolithic, the English language is a forest of varieties. These include
“Irish English, which has existed since 1169, when a polyglot band of adventurers from Pembrokeshire landed near Wexford, as well as Maori English, the West African English spoken in Ghana and Sierra Leone, and recent fusions such as Singlish (spoken in Singapore). Where a history of English might once have focused on its “standard” form, an authoritative telling must now take account of dialects and variants. Furthermore, where it was once acceptable to talk about “the triumph of English”, it is now customary to identify the extraordinary spread of the language as a mark of the ruthless imperialism of Britain and America…So the very idea of a history of English is problematic, and its politics are thorny.” (Hitchings, 2006)
In order to fully comprehend Singlish’s role as promoter of agency and postcolonial consciousness, we need to look at political factors bearing upon it. As a cursory glance at local Singaporean media’s attention on Singlish reveals, the status accorded to Singlish currently is politically motivated than being linguistically accurate. Such discrimination is evident in similar language currents across the globe. For example, while Mandarin Chinese is officially accorded the status of a proper language, Hokkien and Cantonese are always treated as dialects. The irony is that even experts acknowledge how different the supposed dialects are from the mother language. For instance, a speech in the dialect would be incomprehensible to a speaker of the mother language. Hence, in linguistic terms all three are languages in their own right, but official classification doesn’t reflect this reality. A similar phenomenon is witnessed in the case of Singlish as well. The Singapore government has even promoted Mandarin Chinese to proper language status, while continuing to recognize Singlish as such. This discrimination has attracted much controversy in Singapore in recent times.