Field of Science

Magic Singlish

A number of non-native English speakers get "Singaporean" as the top guess for their native language. You can actually see that by playing around in our dialect navigator. Here's screenshot of a particularly illuminating view:


As you can see, "Singaporean" is connected to a big bundle of non-native dialects. Most of the other native dialects are off in a chain in the bottom right. Here is another view with a slightly weaker filter on connectedness:

Again, you can see that most of the non-native dialects cluster together. Most of the native dialects do not connect directly to that cluster but rather connect to Singaporean. Again, you can see Standard American and AAVE off in their own cluster.

Of course, this view just tells you what is connected to what. It's possible that Swedish is actually more similar to Irish than to Singaporean, even though the chain of connections is farther for Swedish and Irish. If you click on one of the dialects, the panel on the left will show you how closely related that dialect is to all others:

We're working on a browser that will let you see *why* different dialects are more or less related -- that is, what answers in the quiz are typical of which dialects. I'm hoping it will be ready soon. In the meantime, enjoy the dialect browser.

3 comments:

Anonymous said...

Looking forward to the new feature!

Many of my dutch friends (and myself) are getting AAVE as their closest native dialect, and none of us can figure out why. Some of us consider our english to be closest to standard american, others to british english, and some somewhere in between. None of our dialects come across as (stereotypes of) AAVE to the casual observer.

Anonymous said...

As a Hungarian I got Romanian as first guess. Russian the second.

And yes, I also got Singaporean, which is completely off the mark.

While I understand that this test counts the mistakes and tries to make accurate guesses, I'm pointing out that it still needs work.

As one who has studied the Indo-European languages (connections, families and all) and the grammar, syntax and morphology of the English language I'm puzzled by these results.

For example, if I got Finnish, that would be a much better guess. Long ago the Hungarians and Finnish lived in the same place, or at least close enough to swap words and some grammar, and we still can find similarities now.

Romanian and Russian on the other hand have no similarities with the Hungarian language. Yes, Russia occupied Hungary after WWII until the 1980s and Romania took over Hungarian land like Transylvania, so there is a connection, just not the one on language.

Yasir Shah said...

Many of my dutch friends (and myself) are getting AAVE as their closest native dialect, and none of us can figure out why. Some of us consider our english to be closest to standard american, others to british english, and some somewhere in between. None of our dialects come across as (stereotypes of) AAVE to the casual observer.
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