Adventures in Colloquial Singaporean English (Singlish) – More Particles

We’re finally back after the brief intermission where we talked about one of the most well-known indigenous languages, Inuktitut. Now, we will be discussing the hallmark features of Singlish particles, the use of particles like lah, leh, loh etc. We hear it quite often, they’re normally used at the end of sentences, and they can easily change the meaning of the sentence. Singlish particles.png

The table above summarises the ways particles can change the mood of Singlish sentences. Taken from the Wikipedia page for Singlish. But anyway,  let’s at least explain more about these particles.

As you may notice, particles can drastically change the meaning of a sentence by altering the conveyed mood in the sentence. The tone of some particles can also alter such meanings too. For example, a change in the particle meh to mah changes the mood from a skeptical yes/no question to a strong assertion on the clause the precedes the particle. Also, a change in tone of ar from low to rising alters the mood from a form of confirmation to a rhetoric, which is a really short form of “don’t approach me if anything screws up”.

The three most often heard particles, lah, leh, and lor, find their roots in Hokkien influences, alongside mah, oi, horh, and hah (rising tone). The particles mah and meh draw influences from Cantonese. Particles like sia, sial and siol draw influences from Malay, and it is known that aiyyo may have come from Tamil as an interjection to indicate surprise (or disappointment, like, Aiyyo ah, why you do that to him?)

Well the table kinda summarised most of the usage of most Singlish particles, saving up a lot of typing and post count. And if you want to find out more on Singlish expressions, particles and more about Singlish, there’s this publication I’d highly recommend, it’s titled The Coxford Singlish Dictionary. So yeah, next time we’ll be covering the attitudes to Colloquial Singapore English, and why we kind of speak two kinds of English in our lives. Until then, stay tuned.

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