This to investigate phonological features of Tinglish. To

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After taking EG811 – World Englishes course, I personally interested in the intelligibility of the deviated phonological feature in Thing English, as known as Tinglish. Five related Tinglish readings – articles and book chapters – are reviewed in order to investigate phonological features of Tinglish. To consider the colloquial language use as a variety, it should be qualified by the three criteria of Kirkpatrick (2006, 2010 & 2011) –phonological features, syntactic use and communicative strategies. Beginning with phonological features, people in a particular community have to share the same errant way of pronouncing words. To illustrate, Thai people tend to pronounce /r/ as /l/ or /ei/ as /e/ (Wei & Zhou, 2002). Besides, grammatical anomalies have to be widely used such as the use of long units of modifiers in Thai English users (Trakulkasemsuk, Louw & Hashim, 2012). Finally, the communicative strategies have to be systematically established. To claim that Tinglish, sometimes known as Thai ways of using English, does exist, this paper hopes to reveal shared phonological features of Thai English users.
Several research studies have brought phonological features of Thai English vowels and consonants to light. Thai language is sophisticated in terms of its sound system. According to Thai three phonemic vowel lengths, Thai language consists of 21 phonemes of vowels which would directly affect the meaning of the word. Shortness and length of the vowels are relevant as it differs the meaning. In contrast, laxness and tenseness are distinctive in English.
Since Thai has more vowels than English does, the influence of the first language (L1) enhances Thais to hear and produce English vowels easily. Although there are some advantages, many studies (e.g. Trakulkasemsuk et al., 2012) show unintelligible pronunciations of Thai English. Thai long and short vowels are compatible with English tense and lax vowels to Thais’ knowledge; thus, Thai are likely to replace the vowel when pronouncing English words. The substitution usually results in unintelligibility of Thai English pronunciation as English short vowels would be pronounced longer and long vowels shorter (Abramson, 1974; Tsukada, 2008, 2009).
A huge gap between Thai and English consonants is quite obvious. The absence of many English consonants in Thai language leads to totally unintelligible English pronunciation of Thai English speakers. For the non-existent English consonants, like /t?/, /d?/, /?/, /ð/, /?/ and /?/, available Thai consonants will be substituted. A number of language deviations are presented in Table 1. Apart from the substitution of vowel sounds, final voiced consonants are typically unvoiced (Wei et al., 2002).
English vowels Thai vowels substitutions
/t?/, /?/ and /?/ /t??/ (aspirated voiceless fortis palatal stop with slightly affrication)
/d?/ /t?/ (weakly glottalized unaspirated voiceless fortis palatal stop)
/?/ /t/, /t?/ or /s/ (/t/is the most common.)
/ð/ /d/
/v/ /w/
/z/ /s/
Table 1: Thai vowels substitutions of English vowels (Trakulkasemsuk et al., 2012; Tsukada, 2008, 2009)
Further investigation has been done in some studies with the attempt to explain the causes of these problems (e.g. Bennui, 2017; Wei et al., 2002). The first reason is lexical borrowing. Normally, those directly borrowed words are used according to Thai perception of the words and are pronounced in Thai ways. Thus, Thais believe they understand the words and refuse to learn another intelligible pronunciation. The second reason is the aforementioned effects of L1 on English. To unintentionally make the words more unintelligible, Thai intonations are also applied into English pronunciations. Another interesting reason is attitude. Thai English learners feel embarrass to imitate a standard pronunciation as they do not want to be labelled as ‘show-offish’. The last reason lies in taking a teacher as a role model. A Thai style English pronunciation of the teacher yields negative effect on students due to the lack of chance to study English Phonics. Hence, students imitate their teacher’s pronunciation as the standard.
According to the acknowledged causes of unintelligible pronunciation, language teaching should be given more attention on. Providing pronunciation training-course to teachers could help ease the situation. Besides, teachers could be more confident in giving lectures in English so that students can help themselves checking their pronunciations. For Thai English learners, studying articulatory descriptions of the standard pronunciation would pave the way to master the target language. For the researchers, conducting a study and introducing a dictionary-like comparison would help diminish the problems.
Since this paper has spotlighted some phonological features of Thai English gathered from several studies, it is possible to answer the question about the status of Tinglish. In terms of pronunciations, more research studies regarding the constant of English used in Thai context should be explored. These could be the proof of the existence of Tinglish as a variety of World Englishes.
Abramson, A. (1974). Experimental phonetics in phonology: vowel duration in Thai. Pasaa: Notes and News about Language Teaching and Linguistics in Thailand, 4, 71-90.
Bennui, P. (2017). Speaking Tinglish for professional communication: a reflection of Thai
English used by tour guides along the Andaman sea. Silapakorn University Journal of Social Sciences, Humanities, and Arts, 17(3), 233-266.
Kirkpatrick, A. (2006). Oral communication and intelligibility among ASEAN speakers of English. In Foley, J. (ed). New Dimensions in the Teaching of Oral Communication. Singapore: RELC Anthology Series No. 47: 33-52.
Kirkpatrick, A. (2010). English as a Lingual Franca in ASEAN: Multilingual Model. Hong Kong: University of Hongkong Press.
Kirkpatrick, A. (2011). English as an Asian lingual franca and the multilingual model of ELT. Language Teaching, 44(2), 212-224.
Trakulkasemsuk, W., Louw, E.-L. & Hashim, A. (2012). English in Southeast Asia: Features, Policy and Language in Use. Amsterdam: John Benjamins.
Tsukada, K. (2008). An acoustic comparison of English monophthongs and diphthongs produced by Australian and Thai speakers. English World-Wide, 29(2), 194-211.
Tsukada, K. (2009). Durational characteristics of English vowels produced by Japanese and Thai second language learners. Australian Journal of Linguistics, 29(2), 287-299.
Wei, Y. & Zhou, Y. (2002, April). Insight into English pronunciation problems of Thai students. Paper presented at the Annual Meeting of the Quadruple Helix 8th. Retrieved from


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