Kathryn Davis kathrynd at hawaii.edu
Tue Mar 22 23:29:58 UTC 2005

Could you please take me off the email list.  Thanks.  Kathryn Davis

>On Tue Mar 22 08:55:35 EST 2005, "Harold F. Schiffman"
><haroldfs at ccat.sas.upenn.edu> wrote:
>>Dear Paul,
>>I'm glad to see that it's possible to update and correct some of the
>>listings in Ethnologue.  I just did a check on Malaysia, to see what it
>>says, and the following statement I find a little strange:
>>         "Languages of Malaysia
>>         [See also SIL publications on the languages of Malaysia.]
>>         National or official language: Malay. 21,410,000 (1998 UN). Also
>>         includes Burmese, Western Cham, Chinese Sign Language, Malayalam
>> 37,000,
>>         Eastern Panjabi 43,000, Telugu 30,000, people from Indonesia,
>> Pakistan,
>>         the Philippines, Sri Lanka, Thailand, United Kingdom.
>> Information mainly
>>         from S. Wurm and S. Hattori 1981. Deaf population 31,000 (1980).
>> Deaf
>>         institutions: 5. Data accuracy estimate: B, C. The number of
>> languages
>>         listed for Malaysia is 140. Of those, 139 are living languages
>> and 1 is
>>         extinct. Diversity index 0.75."
>>This is fine as far as it goes, but it lists small Indian language
>>populations like Malayalam and Telugu, but fails to mention the over a
>>million Tamil speakers.  True, the next page does mention the 1,060,000
>>Tamil speakers [or people of Tamil descent who declare it as their
>>'mother tongue'], but it seems strange that Eastern Panjabi and Telugu
>>get more attention than the dominant Indian language. Then, on the next
>>page (Peninsular Malaysia) it does go into further detail but then ignores
>>Panjabi and Telugu etc.  Is this deliberate, or an oversight?
>>Hal Schiffman
>>On Mon, 21 Mar 2005 Paul_Lewis at sil.org wrote:
>>>Many thanks to Anthea for pointing out the inaccuracies in the Ethnologue
>>>reporting regarding the national / official languages of Singapore. The
>>>Ethnologue is a continuing research effort and we appreciate all
>>>contributions aimed at making it more accurate and complete.
>>>The error (at least regarding Bengali) has been corrected in the 15th
>>>edition which is now available in print (from Academic_Books at sil.org) and
>>>will soon be available on line.
>>>All users of the Ethnologue website (www.ethnologue.com) should be aware
>>>that the site is an online version of the last released print version of
>>>the Ethnologue. As such, the data is increasingly dated over time as the
>>>website is NOT generally updated until the next printed volume is released
>>>(about every four years).
>>>We welcome all corrections and comments and will evaluate all
>>>communications that we receive with our sources and others we deem to be
>>>knowledgeable.  We attempt to acknowledge all such communications but may
>>>not necessarily notify a correspondent when we have changed our database to
>>>reflect their input.  Even when we have done so, the website will not
>>>reflect a change or correction until the next printed volume is published.
>>>We recognize that this is frustrating to those who have submitted new and
>>>corrected data but it is an artifact of the limited number of personnel we
>>>have available to maintain both the database and the website.
>>>Our hope is
>>>to improve the timeliness of the online data, but for the time being we are
>>>where we are.
>>>With best wishes,
>>>M. Paul Lewis
>>>Editor, Ethnologue
>>>Editor_Ethnologue at sil.org
>>>(972) 708-7432
>>>(972) 708-7589 (Fax)
>>>              "Anthea Fraser
>>>              Gupta"
>>>              <A.F.Gupta at leeds.
>>>        To
>>>              ac.uk>
>>><lgpolicy-list at ccat.sas.upenn.edu>
>>>              Sent by:
>>>        cc
>>>              owner-lgpolicy-li
>>>              st at ccat.sas.upenn
>>>   Subject
>>>              .edu                      facts, Stegemann and Gupta
>>>              03/21/2005 05:56
>>>              AM
>>>              Please respond to
>>>              lgpolicy-list at cca
>>>               t.sas.upenn.edu
>>>Stegemann seems to think he has facts and I have assertions. Census
>>>evidence ALWAYS needs interpretation and an assessment of the direction
>>>of error. We ALWAYS need to know the source of statistics.
>>>I lack imagination  ("Anthea's inability to imagine a society
>>>without a single unifying national language"). J'accuse Stegemann of
>>>lacking an understanding that in language planning there are no easy
>>>answers. There are difficult decisions to be made in the light of
>>>political, ethnic, linguistic, and pragmatic complexities. I would
>>>understand what he thinks better if, instead of rubbishing Malaysia,
>>>Hong Kong and Singapore, he told us instead what he thinks does and
>>>would work better.
>>>S seems to be holding up Switzerland as a shining example. Switzerland
>>>has also had to make difficult decisions and the choice made is not
>>>without its problems either. In Switzerland (as in India and Nigeria)
>>>there is a regional element to language, which makes regional
>>>differentiation possible in a way that it would not be in a city-state.
>>>And it has to be remembered that the education system of Switzerland is
>>>intended to ensure that any two Swiss people meeting will be able to
>>>communicate in at least one of the official languages (and in English
>>>too). That seems to me like a unifying policy.
>>>One of Singapore's main concerns is the prevention of too much
>>>inter-ethnic tension. I happen to think that there is still too much
>>>ethnic separation in Singapore and would (as I said) like to see more
>>>cross-ethnic language learning, but the balancing act is a difficult
>>>one, and there have not been race riots since the 1960s, which suggests
>>>government's decisions have not been foolish.
>>>S says:
>>> >Firstly, with the exception of the Ethnologue data that relies on a
>>> > variety of sources of varying dates, all of my census data is
>>> > far more
>>> > recent than Anthea's 1994 book _The Step-tongue
>>>The critique in my 1994 book is just as valid applied to the 2000 census
>>>because the language question was the same (as it probably has to be --
>>>otherwise there could not be comparison across the years). Only language
>>>use within the household is classified (we do not know what language 50
>>>year olds speak to their children unless the children live in the same
>>>household); families are classified as a collection of 'dyads';
>>>responses are for main language used only.  I don't want to revisit the
>>>critique, but I must defend myself against the out of dateness. In 1990
>>>27% of those born in 1961-1970 claimed to speak mainly English to their
>>>spouse (Gupta 1994:31). They were the youngest married age-group in
>>>1990, and would therefore include a relatively low proportion of the
>>>highly educated. The most highly educated groups would be even more
>>>likely to be chatting to their boy/girlcfriends at the time/ In the 2000
>>>census, the figures supplied are much less detailed, and give only the
>>>(next to useless) figure of main household language, but even so, in the
>>>same age group, 26% claimed English as the main household language.  So
>>>even on the kind of figures S seems to like, in a quarter of families
>>>English was claimed as the main language in a majority of dyads.
>>>In the 2000 census, 65% of the 'resident' population claimed to be
>>>literate in English (defined as the ability to read a newspaper).
>>>Singapore is carrying the legacy of the past: in the UK there has been
>>>near-universal education in the medium of English for over 100 years,
>>>but in Singapore this has been the case only for the last 30 years. In
>>>those aged 15-24 97% claimed literacy in English, a figure very similar
>>>to UK or US figures, and probably near the possible maximum.
>>>The Ministry of Education asks parents for the most used and second most
>>>used language at home for incoming students. On 'most used' language
>>>Mandarin is the lead language, and English a close the runner up. In
>>>some years (though not 2000) the second most common language is also
>>>released revealing the prevalent pattern of domestic use of two
>>>languages, with one of them being English, in all ethnic groups. Here
>>>are the results for the censal years ('Dialect' means other variety of
>>>              Dialect           Mandarin          English
>>>   Others
>>>1980         64.4              25.9               9.3
>>>    0.3
>>>1990         5.6               67.9               26.3
>>>2000         2.2               53.8               43.2
>>>Language spoken most frequently by Chinese Primary One pupils at home
>>>(Education Ministry, ST Weekly, October 21 2000)
>>>A browse around the Ministry of Education website will find you the
>>>figures from other years, and ministerial comments on them.
>>>All of these statistics are subject to the usual warnings about self
>>>report and question asked. However, they are better, and more explained
>>>data than what Stegemann is offering us. The figure on Ethnologue cannot
>>>be taken seriously, as we do not know their origin (though I can work
>>>out most of them -- mostly old and misunderstood census data or
>>>respectable but ancient social surveys).
>>>I will give an example of something I hope even S will realise is an
>>>error in Ethnologue. Ethnologue gives this information: for Singapore as
>>>"National or official languages: Bengali, Mandarin Chinese, Malay,
>>>Tamil, English." NO WAY is (or ever has been, or ought to be, or in even
>>>the most patriotic Bengali's wildest dreams might be) Bengali a national
>>>or official language of Singapore. I have attempted to correct this (and
>>>other) gross errors in Ethnologue many times over the last decade.
>>>Another figure S might like to find from the Ministry of Education's
>>>site relates to the percentage passing Primary School Leaving exams (97%
>>>in 2004) and GCE O-Level exams at the end of secondary school. I think
>>>he will find that the proportions compare well with figures for similar
>>>educational stages in (for example) the UK.
>>>I would urge anyone out there who has not been to Singapore, and seen
>>>for themselves that practically everyone speaks English, to do a bit of
>>>webwork. Do a search for .sg websites and read a variety of texts.
>>>Listen to some radio stations, especially those with call-ins. You could
>>>start at:
>>>Of course S may have a different idea of 'good English' from me. I do
>>>not regard English as monolithic, but welcome dialectal variation. I
>>>also know that there is nowhere in the world where everyone develops
>>>high level skills in the same Standard variety. Even with a normative
>>>stance, though, I would argue that figures such as censal literacy rate,
>>>and standardised tests in English indicate that the proportion of the
>>>Singapore population under the age of 40 (since English medium education
>>>became near universal) who can perform Standard English is similar to to
>>>proportion who can perform Standard English in countries such as the UK
>>>and US.
>>>Must get on with my life.
>>>Leow Bee Geok (ed).2001.  Census of Population 2000. Statistical Release
>>>2@ Education, Language and Religion. Singapore: Singapore Department of
>>>*     *     *     *     *
>>>Anthea Fraser Gupta (Dr)
>>>School of English, University of Leeds, LS2 9JT
>>>NB: Reply to a.f.gupta at leeds.ac.uk
>>>*     *     *     *     *
>Melissa Perez-Heydrich

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