19 July 2012

Malay English Intonation

Yesterday I attended the viva examination for Noor Fadhilah Mat Nayan at the University of Reading. Her thesis is on the intonation of English as it is spoken in Malaysia, based on recordings of ten female speakers engaged in the "map task". Her findings are that models of intonation based on British English, specifically the model known as Discourse Intonation proposed by David Brazil, may not be suitable for the description of Malay English, partly because there is a distinct tone (which she calls a Cooperative Rise) which is common in Malaysia but does not occur in British English. This tone is quite distinct from the fall-rise of British English, and its role seems to be to present information in a less demanding fashion than with the ordinary rising tone.

She also found that nucleus placement can be quite variable, and shifts in the main intonational accent of a phrase do not have the same role as similar shifts in British English.

These findings are important in the continuing efforts to describe varieties of English around the world, and I very much hope she will publish them in top journals, to enable other researchersthem to access them easily.

It was a privilege to be able to contribute a little bit to this work. Reading a thesis can sometimes be hard work; but in this case, it was well written, the research design was sound, and the data analysis was careful and thorough.

My wife complains that I almost never stop working, even when I am on vacation (as I am at the moment). But if you enjoy working on something like this, then is it really work?