Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Topic–comment


The above (Sunday Times, 12 May 2013) is an interesting example of a topic–comment (or left-dislocation) structure in Singapore English (SgE).

Where Standard English has the sentence structure subject–predicate, SgE often has topic–comment, where the topic of the sentence is stated, and then a comment is added to it. 

In the sentence above, the topic of the sentence is Linna Tay, mother of national swimmer Jerryl Yong begins the sentence; for may be thought of as a topic marker which separates the topic from the comment. In the comment clause, the topic ‘reappears’ as the subject; this is called a resumptive pronoun.

(A subject–predicate counterpart of the above would be Linna Tay, mother of national swimmer Jerryl Yong, has to ....)

While topic–comment is more typical of Singapore Colloquial English (SCE, or Singlish), it is also fairly common in more formal uses (such as formal newspaper reports and student essays), which led me to argue in my PhD thesis (Cambridge, 2007) that there is good reason to believe that all of SgE is, in fact, underlyingly topic–comment rather than subject–predicate.

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