Politics of Language: Context in Cambodia, Singapore and China

Authors: Meng Vong (National University of Singapore, Singapore)
Speakers: Meng Vong
Strand: Language, Community, Ethnicity
Session Type: General Session


This paper takes the comparative method by analyzing the four key elements in terms of language, identity, language standardization, and dialect in Cambodia, Singapore, and China. The purpose of this paper is to investigate the aspects of policies on language at national, local, and international levels. This research examines the three main factors. Firstly, this paper addresses what politics and language are related and how are they worked in Cambodia, Singapore, and China. To distinguish between the politics and language, this paper investigates the six key terms such as nationality, ethnic groups, nation, state, national language, and official language.Secondly, this paper investigates the language standardization that reflects how the language will be organized to be standard in the context of Cambodia, China, and Singapore. In Cambodia, Khmer central becomes the official dialect. Singapore took the policy of multiracialism because this country is the multilingual community so that the Ministry of Education of Singapore used the policy of bilingual education since 1978 (Simpson 2007:374). In China, the 20th century National Language Movement was established and promoted a standard language to replace the written standard based on old Chinese so that in the 1950s the policy was changed from guoyu ‘national language’ to putonghua (Chen 2007:141). Thirdly, this research paper also investigates the politics of standardization. Cambodia takes Khmer language as a national language while Singapore consists of four languages as an official one: English, Chinese Mandarin (Huaya), Bahasa Melyau (Malay), and Tamil. Moreover, China takes the modern standard Chinese (Mandarin, Putonghua) for standard use and this policy was successfully in Mainland China. As a result, Cambodian scholars tried to find out the unification for the nation since 1915 when Singapore promotes the multilingual society and bilingual education for Asian cultural identities and values. China had spent more than 30 years to unify the dialects then it was changed the old Chinese to “Mandarin or Putonghua” for the whole society. REFERENCES Chen, P. (2007). China. In A. Simpson (ed.), Language and National Identity in Asia (pp. 141-167). Oxford: Oxford University. Simpson, A. (2007). Singapore. In A. Simpson (ed.), Language and National Identity in Asia (pp. 374-390). Oxford: Oxford University.

Keywords: Politics, Language, Identity, Language standardization, Dialects, Official languages.