If I could nominate a “dialect of the 21st Century,” I would probably go with Singapore English, a native English dialect spectrum spoken in a region with few competitors (for nearly 1/3 of Singaporeans, English is the primary language spoken at home). This video, on a rather banal topic, incidentally provides a nice survey of different Singapore English speakers:
So what can we say here? For the most part, Singaporean accents seem non-rhotic, but this is not entirely consistent. Note, for example, that the announcer pronounces /r/ at the end of “more” at 2:07, but drops it in “important” a few seconds later. In this respect and several others, SE shares some similarities with Received Pronunciation or some type of international “Standard” English. It obviously differs in some ways, however: for instance, the diphthong in “goat” is fairly consistently pronounced as a monophthong.
As with London English, /l/ is sometimes vocalized at the end of syllables and ‘th’ occasionally becomes /f/. SE’s prosody has a vaguely Carribean flair, particularly in the way final, unstressed syllables get slightly more emphasis than many English speakers are used to. A few other surface-level resmemblances come to mind: Welsh, South African (particularly in the “pure” /i/ in words like ‘feet’), and sometimes Indian English (perhaps not coincidental since the country has drawn a large population from that sub-continent as well.
Given that Singapore is a small city-state, with many young people no doubt seeking education beyond its borders, it seems especially “vulnerable” to outside influences on its speech. For example, if you hear a hint of Australian English in the speech of pop star Dawn Wong (who speaks at 2:20), you probably aren’t imagining things; she was educated at the University of New South Wales.
It should be noted that much of the English heard in the above clip is not what is known as “Singlish” but rather a more “cultivated” dialect known as Standard Singapore English. Linguist Jakob Leimgruber notes the difference (emphasis mine):
In addition to Standard Singapore English (SSE), we have the vernacular, Colloquial Singapore English (CSE), often called ‘Singlish’ by speakers, government language planners, and, indeed, linguists. This is a variety of English that is very diﬀerent from the standard, and the following sections set out to describe its pronunciation and grammar. Singlish co-exists with SSE in a relationship that has been termed ‘diglossia’ (Ferguson 1959, Richards 1983, Gupta 1989, 1994), which essentially means that SSE is restricted in use to situations that are characterised by a high level of formality, whereas Singlish is used in all other instances.
This statement doesn’t entirely gel with my (admittedly limited) experience with Singapore English. In the same YouTube Channel that produce the previous clip, for instance, one finds this interview with Singaporean rapper Shigga Shay:
It strikes me that this young man is speaking an informal variant of Standard English, rather than the more creole-like Singlish. But the intricacies of Singaporeans’ relationship to English are rather new to me, and I’d love to hear from any Singaporeans willing to comment.