Chinglish as full-fledged English dialect

Michael Erard's Wired story on the ways that Chinglish is mutating into a full-fludged (and widespread) dialect poses some interesting possibilities for the language's future, in which tonal suffixes, borrowed vocabulary words, and streamlined grammar open up rich new expressive possibilities. I've always loved English's baking-soda-like capacity to absorb other languages' best features — the Yiddish terminal "already" at sentences' end, the fantastic Gaelic-salted Irvine Welsh Scots dialect, the many glorious island formations from the Caribbean and South Seas. All my attempts to learn even a few words of comprehensible Chinese have been a disaster, so it's heartening to hear that Chinese may be coming to me, bridging the distance.

It's not merely that English will be salted with Chinese vocabulary for local cuisine, bon mots, and curses or that speakers will peel off words from local dialects. The Chinese and other Asians already pronounce English differently – in both subtle and not-so-subtle ways. For example, in various parts of the region they tend not to turn vowels in unstressed syllables into neutral vowels. Instead of "har-muh-nee," it's "har-moh-nee." And the sounds that begin words like this and thing are often enunciated as the letters f, v, t, or d. In Singaporean English (known as Singlish), think is pronounced "tink," and theories is "tee-oh-rees."…

And it's possible Chinglish will be more efficient than our version, doing away with word endings and the articles a, an, and the. After all, if you can figure out "Environmental sanitation needs your conserve," maybe conservation isn't so necessary.


(via Futurismic)