The Semiotics and Social Practices of Constructing a "Proper" Singaporean Identity
AuthorShin, Priscilla Z.
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PublisherThe University of Arizona.
RightsCopyright © is held by the author. Digital access to this material is made possible by the University Libraries, University of Arizona. Further transmission, reproduction, presentation (such as public display or performance) of protected items is prohibited except with permission of the author.
AbstractThis dissertation investigates the semiotic resources that Singaporeans combine, balance, and negotiate in order to enact a “proper” Singaporean identity. The analysis considers a variety of semiotic resources, ranging from fine-grained phonetic variables to language varieties to education or career paths. The meaningful organization and use of these semiotic resources are situated within Singapore’s broader sociopolitical discourses of nationhood, that is, how Singaporeans perceive themselves as a nation and citizens of that nation according to participation – or non-participation – in institutional discourses. I show how the notion of being “proper” as well as evaluations of “properness” are associated with social and linguistic practices that index (Silverstein 2003) meanings of being global and local, often simultaneously or in balance. Furthermore, this work extends Eckert’s (2008) concept of indexical fields, acknowledging that variables index multiple social meanings, any one of which have the potential to be activated in use. In the enactment of a “proper” identity, I investigate how these meanings are continuously co-constructed in interaction (Bucholtz and Hall 2005). The (re-)production of “proper” ways of speaking and being are part of the processes of enregisterment (Agha 2007), via a semiotic repertoire, which is then available for public circulation and performable cultural models of behavior. This work examines the range and flexibility of resources that constitute a semiotic repertoire through a combination of qualitative and quantitative analyses – connecting macro-level discourses, such as the circulation of sociocultural stereotypes, to variation in speakers’ day to day language use, including micro-level investigations, such as the perception of voice onset time in Singapore English. This work highlights the many ways in which social identities and meanings are contextualized in and emerge out of interactions that regiment and discipline the behaviors of the self and others.
Degree ProgramGraduate College
Anthropology & Linguistics