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Monthly Photos June 2013

Photos taken by ILCAA staff and associates are posted here once a month; most of them are taken during their field research in Asia and Africa.

(The copyright belongs to the photographers.)

Multilingualism seen in station names

We find three kinds of script system in the station name indications of subway (MRT) in Singapore: Latin script, Chinese script and Tamil script.
It is because Singapore has four official languages: Malay (the national language), English, Mandarin Chinese and Tamil, the former two being written in Latin script.

As for the etymology of the station names written with these scripts, around half of them are English names, around 20% are of Malay origin, and far less come from Hokkien and other Chinese dialects. The names of Indian origin are extremely rare. I could not find instances other than Dhoby Ghaut. Perhaps the name comes from Hindi, not Tamil. It is interesting that the proportion of origins of the names does not correspond to that of ethnic makeup (around three quarters are Chinese, 13% are Malay, and 9% are Indian).

Incidentally, Chinatown, a famous sightseeing spot, is written as 牛車水 (cow-carriadge-water) with Chinese characters. There is no correspondence between English and Chinese names. Since I first read it I have been wondering why it is so called. It is said to be due to the fact that it was the center of water supply from where the water was conveyed to various places by cow carriages.

18 MAR 2013
Chinatown Station, North East MRT Line, Singapore
Photograph by Hideo SAWADA

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