Singapore just celebrated 50 years of formal nationhood on 9 August, capping a year of festivities and merrymaking to mark the success of a nation that prevailed against the odds. Much has been said about how Singapore got to where it is, and the peoples who helped achieve this, but I felt that a bit more had to be said about the less known communities who contributed just as much to the moulding of Singapore’s identity and place in the world. The Portuguese Eurasians for example, who have gifted to Singapore Debal Curry and the intriguing Kristang tongue which is hanging on by a thread as the country continues to progress. Or the language communities usually subsumed under the Malay community, such as the Javanese and the Minangkabau, some of whom continue to keep the memories of their different histories alive. Also tenaciously holding on are the Chinese Peranakans, who speak Baba Malay and wear their Kasut Manek (or beaded slippers) and Baju Kebaya in style, while resisting the relentless encroachment of the dominant Mandarin Chinese into their speech. All these groups have enriched the tapestry of the Singaporean nation, and the Issue 4 special feature offers just a peek into the hidden workings of these communities. Hopefully, this will tantalise your linguistic tastebuds and spur your interest in learning about them further.
Aside from the Special Feature, we continue to bring you stories and little nuggets of information about other linguistic topics that we hold dear to our hearts. We have an illuminating interview with Dr Bhajan Singh, one of the proponents for the formal study of five non-Tamil Indian languages in Sigapore. We also go a little bit into Frisian, the language that has been said to be the closest living relative English has in a big and scary world (oh my!). As with other issues, this one has been a labour of love from all the authors, editors, designers and any other person involved in making this baby a success, an almost one year old baby that keeps making us proud to have raised him. Here’s to many more anniversaries ahead!
Special Feature Editor for Unravel Issue 4