Tuesday, 12 November 2013

The use of Malaysian English lexical items in the IRC international

By : Mafuzah Aris, Syazril Izwann, Mohd Khairuddin Abdullah


INTRODUCTION

This research focuses on the lexical items of Malaysian corpus of English. According to Zaidan (1994), Malaysian English lexical items include Malaysian words (MW), Malaysian flavour (MF) words, and direct translation (DT) words. Malaysian words are words which are unique to Malaysians (dialect) and its use can only be found in Malaysia. Malaysian flavour words are words which are English words, but its use is localized. Other speakers of English would not use the words like they are used in Malaysia mainly because these words are very culturally biased. Direct translation words are the words which are translated from Malay, Indian or Chinese into English. The lexicon of ME is summarised in the table below:

Adapted from: Zaidan Ali Jassem, 1994

OBJECTIVE

The research aims to see whether the use of ME lexical items is understood and accepted at the international level by engaging in the IRC. Several ME lexical items are selected and used to find out whether the use of such words is understood and accepted.

RESEARCH DESIGN

In an effort to seek answers to the questions that have been raised by the researchers of this project, the researchers need to collect data. Only by collecting data, can the researchers be able to come to any sort of conclusion about the level of understanding and acceptability that non native speakers of Malaysian English might have towards the use of lexical items originating from Malaysian English in the IRC. Consequently, in an effort to collect the much needed data, the researchers of this project have decided to take to the field and experience for themselves the reactions that they would encounter if they were to use Malaysian English lexical items in the IRC.

THE INSTRUMENTS

In conducting this project, there are basically two types of instrumentation that are deemed necessary in order for the project to succeed. On one hand, a list of Malaysian English lexical items. This list serves the purpose of providing a pool of lexical items from which the researchers of this project will randomly use to gauge the attitude of non Malaysians towards their use. On the other hand, there is the need for a computer with Internet access. This computer will serve the purpose of providing the researchers with a way to get into the chat rooms where the Malaysian lexical items will be used.

THE SUBJECTS

The subjects in this research are simply non Malaysians who are speakers of the English language, regardless of the fact that the language might not be their first language. In the context of this research, there is also no need for the subjects to be of a specific gender or age. This is simply because of the fact that these two factors are of no importance. However, the subjects must be foreigners and not Malaysians because of the simple fact that Malaysians would be familiar with the lexical items that are to be used in this project. In addition, because of the fact that Malaysians would be familiar with the lexical items used, they would also in all likely show no reaction to the use of such lexical items.

THE PROJECT’S FINDINGS


Generally, it is believed that the use of the Malaysian English lexical items in the IRC is understood and accepted. The use of the Malaysian English lexical items is understood simply because most of the participants managed to respond accurately to what the researchers attempted to convey even though the researchers used Malaysian English. A lot of examples can be drawn out to justify the claim. For example:

1. B1: lines 27 – 28 (see Appendix ME)

In this example, it is clear that the respondents understood what the researchers meant by the use of ‘member’ and responded accurately to the question by stating that she had no Malaysian friends.

2. C1: lines 9 – 10

Here the researchers asked about the participant’s feeling over the loss of Holland in the world cup using the word ‘tension’. Amazingly, she understood what the researchers tried to ask and answered the question appropriately.

3. C1: lines 17 – 18

Although the researchers repeated the word ‘glamour’ twice, this did not resulted in the participant had no idea of what the researchers were trying to ask. Instead, she gave a very good response to the question by describing the items that she liked.

4. C1: lines 19 – 20

The researchers attempted to ensure that the response that was given by the participant in the previous example was not accidental. Therefore, once again they use doubled word ‘round’ to look into the response that would be given. Similar to the previous one, the respondent successfully answered the question posed.

5.C1: lines 24 – 25

In this instance, the researchers made use of the word ‘solid’ to test whether the participant could understand, then answering the speaker’s question. She responded well by claiming that she had that kind of body since she worked out everyday.

6. D1: lines 25 – 26

Similar to the first instance (B1), this participant managed to understand what the researchers meant by the word ‘member’. She frankly gave the answer ‘ no’ in answering the question.

7. D1: lines 32 – 33

In this example, it is clear that the participant understood the compliment ‘wowwww!!!! So power onelah’, that was given by the researcher when she responded to the response by trying to be humble ‘normal’.

On the other hand, there were several occurrences where the participants did not understand the use or meaning of the Malaysian English lexical items. This however did not impede the communication from continuing. For example, when they came across such expression, some of the participants actually took the initiative to ask for the meaning of such words. When they were given the explanation, they showed that they accepted the explanation given. There are a lot of examples that can be used to show this point, they are:

1. A1: lines 3- 6

In this example, this particular ‘chatter’ asked the researchers about the meaning of the phrase ‘shake leg’. As the researchers explained the meaning of the phrase, the participant later showed that she now understood what did the researchers mean by the use of the words when she responded ‘ahh.. I see’.

2. A1: lines 7- 12

In this instance, the researchers suggested a new meaning of the phrase ‘bird watching’ to the respondent when she failed to give the required answer. Realizing that the phrase now carried a new meaning, she tried to verify her assumption about the association of girls with birds at the speakers place. When she was asked later about any terms that were used to refer to boys, she claimed that there were no ‘special’ terms used to refer to boys. This shows that the participant accepted the use of phrase since she regarded the use of such phrase as ’special’.

3. B1: line 11- 18

Here, the participant faced a similar problem as the first respondent because she did not understand the use of the phrase ‘shake leg’. Therefore, she decided to ask for the meaning of the words. Making use of the meaning provided by the speakers, she then posed a question to the researchers on the same topic. She showed that she accepted the new meaning given by elaborating on her liking.

4. B1: lines 23-26

The use of “sky juice”, as predicted, caused the participant to fail in grasping the meaning. However, as the researchers explained the meaning of the word, the participant make an attempt to guess what did the researchers meant by the use of the words. She referred the words to ‘rain’. Then, she showed that she accepted the meaning of the words when she included the expression ‘…hahaha…’ which implied that she felt very easy with the explanation.

4. D1: lines 13- 16

Similar to the previous example, this particular participant also did not understand the meaning of the words ‘sky juice’. However, after being explained about the meaning of the words, she then indicated that she accepted the meaning. This is illustrated when she gave her personal views on ‘sky juice’ by stating that was ‘the best thirst quencher’.

6. D1: lines 4- 9

Here, the participant discovered that she did not understand the use of ‘so glamour one’. Later, she indicated that she accepted the use of the phrase when she asked for apology for not being able to understand the use of the words earlier.

7. D1: lines 67- 72

In this example, the participant asked the speakers about the use of ‘so action one’. She showed her acceptance on the use of the words when she borrowed the meaning of the words to deny the allegation made by the researchers about her.

Besides suggesting that they accepted the use of the Malaysian English lexical items, they also indicated that such a use did not deter them from having a casual type of conversation. For example, one of the participants has expressed her liking on the researchers. This could be due to the fact that, they use such a ‘unique’ expression to express their views. This is illustrated by the second respondent (B1) in line 50 who confessed

‘ I really like your company too

so I’m hoping to bump into you again’

This same participant was also found to be ‘generous’ because she offered her e-mail address to the speakers.(B1: lines 56& 60) when she realized that she could not continue to chat. This also indicates that she felt very easy and comfortable chatting with the researchers. In other words, she did not find it troubling for herself to understand and accept the use of the Malaysian English lexical items. In another case, the last participant (E1) indicated that she accepted the use of such lexical items by accepting the researchers’ invitation to play sports even though she was constrained by the physical location factor.

However, despite the numerous instances in which the participants of the research managed to understand and accept the use of Malaysian English lexical items in the IRC, there were exceptions. Basically, these exceptions can be divided into two categories. Firstly, there is the category in which the research participants could not understand the meaning of the Malaysian English lexical item used, and requested further clarification. Examples, of such instances are listed below:

1. A1: line 7 – 10

In this example, despite the fact that the ‘chatter’ actually accepted the use of such a lexical item, upon inquiry, the ‘chatter’ admitted to the researchers that she did not actually understand the meaning of the lexical item used. Thus, prompting the need for the researchers to have to explain to her the actual meaning of the lexical item.

2. B1: line 11 – 13

In this instance, the ‘chatter’ did not seem to mind the use of such lexical items. However, she revealed to the researchers her lack of understanding by nonchalantly asking why the researchers ‘shook their legs.’

3. B1: line 23 – 26

In this example, the ‘chatter’ is again confronted with the use of an unfamiliar lexical item. Here, she simply asks straight away what is the meaning of the lexical item. Once told of its meaning, the ‘chatter’ conveys her new found sense of understanding, and also presumably her sense of acceptance, in a very delighted tone.

4. D1: line 7 – 9

In this instance, the ‘chatter’ signals her lack of understanding by ending the question phrase with the use of multiple question marks. The researchers, obligingly provide her with the meaning of the lexical item. In a show of acceptance of the lexical items usage, the ‘chatter’ even goes to the extent of apologising to the researchers for her lack of understanding.

4. D1: line 14 – 16

As for this example, the ‘chatter’ opts for a different approach in signalling her lack of understanding. For she simply asks in a very direct manner, the meaning of the lexical item that she does not understand. Upon being provided with the lexical items meaning, the ‘chatter’ reveals her acceptance of the lexical items usage by using a compliment.

6. D1: line 36 – 37

With this example, the researchers not only have to accommodate the ‘chatters’ lack of understanding, but also for the very first time, the ‘chatters’ first hint of unacceptability for the use of such a lexical item. This ‘hint’ of unacceptability is assumed by the researchers to have manifested itself in the form of the capitalisation of all the letters in the phrase, “NO BORING BORING ONE.” This assumption is proven to correct a few lines later when the ‘chatter’ asked the researchers to just use plain English.

7. D1: line 45 – 46

Here, the ‘chatter’ not only reveals her lack of understanding, but also her displeasure of having to cope with the usage of such lexical items by using a multitude of question marks. Thus, it would only be logical to rationalise that the participant no longer finds the use of Malaysian English lexical items acceptable.

8. D1: lines 70, 83 and 88.

Again and again, the ‘chatter’ reveals her lack of understanding along with her dislike of the usage of such lexical items by using a multitude of question marks.

Secondly, there is also the category in which the research participants could not understand the meaning of the Malaysian English lexical items used, and simply avoided the matter of asking for further clarification by changing to new topic of conversation. Examples of such instances are listed below:

1. C1: lines 34 – 35

From this example, it is presumed that the ‘chatter’ tries to hide her lack of understanding by simply switching to a completely different topic. In the eyes of the researchers, this ploy of hers did not manage to achieve its objectives. However, because of the fact that the ‘chatter’ switches topics, the researchers are not able to determine whether or not she has accepted the use of the lexical item. This is simply because there is no response to analyse.

2. E1: lines 22 – 23

As for this particular example, the ‘chatter’ is again deemed to be trying to hide her lack of understanding by switching to a completely new topic. Once again, the researchers quickly catch on to this ploy of hers. As with the above example, the researchers are again unable to determine whether or not the ‘chatter’ finds the use of such lexical items acceptable simply because there is no response to analyse.

Besides that, There are also instances where the ideas or messages which the researcher tried to convey did not get across. Examples of such instances are listed below:

1. A1: lines 7 – 9

Here, we can see that the respondent took the meaning of “bird-watching” literally. The word was mentioned earlier, but she did not question it, assuming the meaning is watching birds, while the intended meaning was watching girls. However, when given a short explanation of the meaning of “bird watching” and asked of the names used in her place, she did not reacted negatively, and this signals acceptance.

2. C1: lines 30- 32

The subject understood the meaning of “tackle” as in the tackling skill in sports (for example, rugby or football). Perhaps, that is why she replied “depends where” which is unexpected and somehow funny.

3. D1: lines 48 – 52

From this example, we can see that the subject understood the word “crocodile” differently than the one intended by the researcher. She responded negatively (“Gross!!!”) to the word before the short explanation was given to her. Though she had accepted the meaning of the word after that, it is evident that the idea did not get across to her earlier.

4. D1: 57 – 60)

Here, again the idea did not get across. The subject hesitated to answer to the question “do you mind if I tackle you?”, and understood it differently than the one intended by the researcher. At this point, she started to be angry and seemed to be offended by the question. When asked to clarify her answer, she stated that she would mind and she is not “like that”. The researcher was actually trying to “make a pass at her” here, but in line 73, she stated that “what pass? I missed that”, showing very clearly that she did not understand the use of “tackle”.

Other than the exceptions mentioned above, there are also injection of makers to reflect paralinguistic makers, which of positive and negative nature. Paralinguistic makers of the positive nature can be seen in:

1. A1: lines 6 – 8

The chatter she responded “ah… I see”, which is signalling understanding to the explanation given by the researcher. This is clearly a positive response in the chat. However, in line 8, the subject indicated a negative attitude by inserting “@#$%” at the end of her question. Though the reason of her typing in the symbols is not clear, the symbols are usually used to show a response of a negative nature.

2. D1: line 5,

In this instance, the subject responded with a paralinguistic marker “Huh!!!!”, which has a negative connotation. It is evident here that the subject did not understand the phrase used and responded negatively to it. However, in the following lines, we can see that she accepted the word after given an explanation on it.

3. D1: line 39

From this line, the subject is displaying negative attitude when she inserted “@##$%**&^” after her question. Here, the symbols indicated that the subject was irritated and annoyed with the use of ME words, due to the fact that she could not understand most of them.

4. D1: line 49

The subject used “GROSS!!!!” in responding to the word “crocodile”, indicating irritation and disgust. It is clear here that she did not understand how the word is used and the connotation the word carries in Malaysia, and with her own understanding, was disgusted with the use of it. When researcher asked her if she knows the connotation of the word “crocodile” here, she promptly asked “WHAT?!!!!”, which evidently showing irritation and annoyance. However, after explaining what the word means, she responded well to the researcher’s chatting.

5. D1: line 58

When asked whether the researcher could “tackle” the chatter, she showed hesitation with “……..uh……yah” as she answered the question. Here, she was not sure of the meaning of the word “tackle” and thus, applied her own understanding to it. As expected, from the proceeding lines, it is evident that she misunderstood the word “tackle”.

6. D1: line 70

In this extraction, the subject asked for the meaning of “Action one” with several question marks. Starting from this point onwards, she asked for the meaning of ME lexical items with several question marks, such as in lines 83 and 88, as we can see “spare tire?????” and “blur?????”. We can say that the question marks are used to show irritation and annoyance because she could not understand the meaning of the words.

In short, we can say that the injections of paralinguistic markers which were used by the subjects reflected their attitudes, which could be of positive or negative nature.

SUMMARY OF FINDINGS

In general, we believe that the use of the Malaysian lexical items in the Internet Relay Chat as being understood and accepted. These two claims can be supported by a few number of instances during the course of interaction. First, we managed to engage in the IRC with a number of respondents who actually chatted with us. During the course, there were no instances of anybody who left in the middle of the interaction. In other words, these people continued to ‘chat’ with us for a certain period of time until we quitted or they said goodbye. Second, the use of the Malaysian English lexical items posed minimal difficulty to the respondents. This case is very unique as the words connote different meanings in Malaysian English compared to that of the Standard English. It is assumed that the use of the words was understood and accepted by at least, these groups of respondents who actually made use of the contexts to grasp the ideas conveyed by the researchers.

Among the Malaysian English lexical items that were used throughout the course of the interaction are those words that fall under the Malaysian Flavour words, Direct Translation words and words that are borrowed from the Malaysia context that have been accepted as the lexicon of Malaysian English.

The list of the words are listed below:  

Category 1 (Malaysian Flavour)
 
WORDS PLACE OF OCCURRENCE
1. Tension C1
2. Loaded C1
3. Glamour C1
4. Solid A1& E1
5. Terror C1
6. Tackle C1,D1&E1
7. Bird-watching B1& C1
8. Sky juice B1& D1
9. Member B1& E1
10. Power E1& D1
11. Boring D1
12. Blur D1
13. Spare tire D1
14. Action D1

Category 2 ( Direct Translation)
 
WORDS PLACE OF OCCURRENCE
1. Itchy C1& D1
2. Round C1
3. Shake leg B1& C1
4. Crocodile D1
5. Spare tire D1

Category 3 (Direct Translation)
 
WORDS PLACE OF OCCURRENCE
1. Stylo C1
2. One E1

IMPLICATIONS OF FINDINGS IN THE ELT METHODOLOGY

Since the finding suggests that the use of Malaysian English in terms of its lexical items was understood and accepted in the IRC domain, the use of Malaysian English should not be limited. Instead, it should be encouraged because it gives students opportunity to express their views in a more expressive manner. Feeling that they are not imposed to follow any standard, they will be able to talk more confidently.

Furthermore, this will also gives them the opportunity to gradually pick up the language. The stress should be focused on the fluency and not the accuracy. They should be encouraged to talk even their utterances are peculiar. As long as they are understood, they should not be constrained. This will give learners the confidence that they need to speak in the second language. Gradually over the time, they will start to learn about the correct forms of the language and become better second language users. However, the use of Malaysian English should not be suppressed because it gives a sense of identity to its users.

CONCLUSION
 
The positive result that was acquired in the course of the interactions, implies that users of the IRC are generally tolerant to the use of English in the cyber domain. Because the context of the interaction opens to anybody regardless of their origins and language, many are aware that the users of the IRC may not necessarily be native speakers of English. Instead, they realize that a lot of the users could be the second, third or foreign language speakers. Hence, a lot of them chat with open mind thus, becoming less concerned about the accuracy of the utterances. They are more interested to focus on the content of the interactions as they are more important. The same treatment that is adopted in the ‘world’ should be extended to the ESL classroom because it has the resemblance with the typical daily conversation. In addition, it also suggests that accuracy is only perceived as a secondary factor in communicating effectively.

However depending on the individuals that we ‘chat’ with, some might come across chatters who will be very concerned over the accuracy of the language. The failure to follow the norms may result in situation where one could be given negative remarks, and others. These then may lead to failure of communication where one may encounter those who do not understand the use of those the words. The situation can be aggravated if those participants refuse to accept the use of the Malaysian English lexical items.

Reference

Crystal, D. 1991. A Dictionary of Linguistics and Phonetics. Cambridge : Blackwell Dr.

Zaidan Ali Jassem. 1994. Malaysian English: A Sociolinguistics and TESL/TEFL Perspective. Kuala Lumpur : Pustaka Antara.

Siti Lailatun Abdul Shookor. 1990. The effectiveness of the KBSM English syllabus in dealing with word-stress and intonation patterns. Academic exercise. UKM

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