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  • Print publication year: 2013
  • Online publication date: July 2013

6 - Conclusion: the variety as a structural unit


The preceding chapters have highlighted the problems of analysing the interaction between Singlish and Standard English as diglossic, with similar problems encountered in the continuum approach. Furthermore, the data show that the usual variety-based approach to this variation is flawed, or at least unsatisfactory in its explanatory power. This chapter recapitulates these issues, and thematises the use of the ‘variety’ as a structural unit in fields such as sociolinguistics, contact linguistics, and World Englishes.

Codes, varieties, and code-switching

So far, terms such as code, variety, and subvariety have been used as near-synonyms when talking about SgE. Matthews (2007) offers definitions for each, saying that a variety is ‘any form of language seen as systematically distinct from others’, and that a code is ‘any language or distinct variety of a language, whether or not it is actually thought of as a code in any illuminating sense’. This may need a bit of clarification. In sociolinguistics, variety is a term that is used widely, and came about initially to avoid the loaded terms accent, dialect, and language. The problems in identifying language boundaries along a dialect continuum, for instance, are well known. It is, therefore, convenient to use variety not just for every dialect making up the continuum, but also for the superimposed standardised ones. The same holds true for code, but works at an even more abstract level: it can be applied not just to varieties of language as we normally understand it, but also to any means of communication, such as, for example, the Morse code (Matthews 2007: 62).

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