Singapore Voices

Singapore Voices

A project of DIHA

Partner Institution


2009 – 2011

Description / Summary of Project

The linguistic landscape of Singapore has always been vibrant, with its long history as a trading port, and its start as a population of immigrants from many countries. 25 or more languages have been documented as being spoken by the Singaporean population in the decades up till after independence in 1965. However, in recent years, the number of speakers of minority languages has been dwindling at an alarming rate. Singapore Voices is a project that aims to capture these disappearing languages and bring awareness of the importance of language maintenance and preservation to the public in an accessible, meaningful way.

The collaboration between linguists, photographers and sound designers produced sensitive, expressive presentations of interviews with 8 elderly speakers of minority languages in Singapore – Tamil, Malayalam, Telugu, Teochew, Hokkien, Hakka, Hainanese and Baba Malay. Lifesize portraits of interviewees are erected on glass panels, and audiences are invited to interact with the displays through touch sensors on the hands and shoulders, which trigger sound excerpts of the interviews. The portraits are translucent, representing the disappearance of these languages. Audiences are guided to see themselves through the image of the older person, and reflect on the loss of language and channels of communication.

The future major aim of Singapore Voices is to be able to digitally archive these sound and video clips towards the creation of a digital database and corpus of all languages spoken in Singapore.

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Posted on

September 1, 2016

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