Other languages have always influenced English

The use of Singlish has once more become a topic of debate.

Purists such as Madam Goh Beng Choo have claimed that Singlish words are too colloquial to be included in the canon of Standard English, and worry that it would dilute the standard of English in Singapore ("MOE: No penalty for using Singlish appropriately"; June 13).

It is a misconception that one authoritative version of English exists.

The English language evolves by absorbing the vocabulary of other languages it comes into contact with.

Beginning as a West Germanic language spoken by the Angles and the Saxons, it was influenced by the Latin of the Catholic Church, Old Norse of the Vikings and, finally, French from the Norman conquest.

Having thus evolved from repeated influence from other European languages, empire led to the English language becoming even more internationalised.

The conquest of India led to the assimilation of terms like "thug" and "bungalow", while "jumbo" and "banjo" were derived from African languages. Malaya's unique contribution to this process includes common words like "ketchup", "mandarin" and "amok".

English, therefore, has been uniquely open to co-opting the vocabulary of other languages.

The fact that a word may originate from a colloquial tongue or patois does not immediately preclude it from inclusion in English vocabulary.

In fact, many English loan words like "tory" and "whig" started out as colloquial terms, even insults, before being co-opted into formal discourse.

Why, then, is there an aversion to having colloquial Singlish terms being similarly adopted?

We have nothing to fear from the co-optation of Singlish words into the Standard English lexicon.

Rather, we should celebrate the inclusion, for it signals an increase in Singapore's global cultural influence.

Let us not be ashamed of uniquely Singaporean linguistic features, but celebrate them and allow them to co-exist with standard languages.

Ng Qi Siang