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Title: A sketch grammar of Seletar
Authors: Tan, Zhi Xuan
Keywords: Humanities::Language
Issue Date: 2022
Publisher: Nanyang Technological University
Source: Tan, Z. X. (2022). A sketch grammar of Seletar. Master's thesis, Nanyang Technological University, Singapore.
Abstract: The thesis presents a sketch grammar of Seletar, the language of the Orang Seletar. The Orang Seletar are one of the many Orang Asli (‘indigenous people’) of Malaysia and one of Singapore’s indigenous sea peoples (Orang Laut). The language is spoken by approximately 2,000 people in Johor Bahru, Malaysia. The research done on the Orang Seletar often lacks technical linguistic analysis based on natural speech, so the thesis hopes to fill this gap. The thesis covers phonology and morphosyntax up to the level of complex sentences. The analysis of Seletar shows that it is morphologically and syntactically similar to colloquial Malay varieties spoken by ethnic Malays (e.g. bare roots as opposed to affixed forms are preferred, some use of verbal N- prefix, frequent use of reduplication for word formation, various serial verb constructions, use of classifiers, use of kəna for the adversative passive, and clauses are juxtaposed without the use of subordinating and/or coordinating markers). Phonologically, the language exhibits more divergent features such as frequent reductions of syllables (e.g. [man] for ‘eat’ instead of Standard Malay (SM) makan, [jan] for ‘walk’ instead of SM jalan), reduction of homorganic nasal and stop clusters (e.g. [tuŋu] ‘wait’ instead of SM tuŋgu), prevalence of phonetic word final glottal stops (e.g. [kamiʔ] ‘1PL.EXCL’), retention of Proto-Malayic last syllable schwa (e.g. [dəŋə] from PM *dəŋər) and velar fricative [ɣ]. Sporadic nasalisation/denasalisation of some bilabial and alveolar stops was observed (e.g. [basə] for masa ‘time’; [deŋkay] for neŋkay ‘a term of endearment used by wives when addressing their husbands’). Some frequently used lexical items in Seletar have non-Malay origins, including but not limited to: personal pronouns am ‘1SG’ and ay ‘2’, demonstratives (i)ka ‘this’ and jə ‘that’, locative deictics sika ‘here’, gun ‘there’ and junsit ‘far’, negator ncak ‘NEG’, body parts kokot ‘hand’ and ɲok ‘body’, interrogatives ŋə/ŋa ‘why’ and anak ‘what’, and some animal terms bontuŋ ‘tiger’ and manok ‘chicken’. Some of these words are similar to those seen in Borneo languages and Aslian languages, while others are entirely unique to Seletar. The occurrence of these Borneoan words might indicate a historical presence of speakers of Borneoan languages in the peninsula. Seletar also has its own set of utterance-final discourse particles. The analysis presented here is primarily based on narrative texts and wordlists from three Orang Seletar that were collected through my own fieldwork in 2019 and recordings shared with me by Nature Classroom, a Malaysian eco-tourism and education enterprise. The appendix contains parsed and glossed Seletar texts and word lists. Apart from presenting a linguistic analysis, the thesis also collates information from various sources to outline a history of the Orang Seletar in the region and their relocation from Singapore to Malaysia. The thesis hopes to shed more light on the Orang Seletar population and their language, as well as to provide a written documentation of their traditional oral narratives.
Rights: This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License (CC BY-NC 4.0).
Fulltext Permission: open
Fulltext Availability: With Fulltext
Appears in Collections:SoH Theses

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