Singapore’s Speak Mandarin Campaign: A Historiographical Review
Keywords:Speak Mandarin Campaign, nation building, identity, linguistic capital, language shift, globalization
Language policy functions as a critical instrument in
Singapore’s nation building since its independence in the 1960s. This
paper intends to examine some major literature in the past fifty years
concerning Singapore’s well-known Speak Mandarin Campaign, in
order to reveal the chronological development in scholarship. The
content of the literature foregrounds paradigm shifts from viewing
Mandarin as an identity marker to valuing it as linguistic capital, and
from treating identity as a bounded concept to acknowledging its
fluidity in the context of globalisation. The evident historical changes
in the writing of the studies also reflect shifts in terms of the scholars’
gaze in research, the core subject under investigation, the meaning
of critical notions such as national identity and Mandarin, as well as
research methods adopted and sources analysed. These findings could
reinforce understanding of the scholarly developments concerning
Singapore’s language policy and inform the direction for investigating
recent progress of the Speak Mandarin Campaign and Singapore’s
national identity formation.
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