Repository logo

“But you don’t sound Malay!”

Accepted version

No Thumbnail Available



Change log


Sim Hong, Jasper 


This study examined the English accents of English-Malay bilinguals in Singapore to ascertain whether language dominance was a determinant of accent variation in Singapore English, with a hypothesis that a Malay-dominant bilingual would have more ethnic-specific features than an English-dominant one. Ten English-Malay bilinguals – five English-dominant and five Malay-dominant – who differed greatly in their language dominance took part in this study. In an ethnic discriminability task that involved 60 naïve raters, Malay-dominant bilinguals were significantly more often correctly identified as ethnically Malay and were rated as having a significantly more perceivable Malay-accented English accent, while those who were English-dominant had an English accent that lacked ethnic-specific features so much so that naïve raters, including raters who were English-Malay bilinguals, were less able to identify the speakers as ethnically Malay. The results of this study indicate that early sequential bilinguals or simultaneous bilinguals of the same two languages need not have similar accents. The findings also suggest that language dominance is a determinant of accent variation in Singapore English, at least for the English-Malay bilinguals.



Singapore English, accent variation, language dominance, English-Malay bilinguals, ethnic identification

Journal Title

English World-Wide

Conference Name

Journal ISSN


Volume Title



John Benjamins Publishing Company