Presentation is loading. Please wait.

Presentation is loading. Please wait.

Sociolinguistic consequences of language contact between multilingual communities in Sarawak, East Malaysia, Borneo Dr Norazuna Norahim Centre for Language.

Similar presentations

Presentation on theme: "Sociolinguistic consequences of language contact between multilingual communities in Sarawak, East Malaysia, Borneo Dr Norazuna Norahim Centre for Language."— Presentation transcript:

1 Sociolinguistic consequences of language contact between multilingual communities in Sarawak, East Malaysia, Borneo Dr Norazuna Norahim Centre for Language Studies Universiti Malaysia Sarawak 2nd Westminster Linguistics Conference Language–Contact–Change–Maintenance-and-Loss July, 2011

2 Objective of the paper Discuss language contact situations in multilingual communities in the south-western part of Sarawak, with examples drawn from two case studies: (i) contact between two major ethnic communities, Iban and Malay, in a “rural” setting, and (ii) language contact situation in an urban setting with reference to the Bidayuh, a minority community. Provides an alternative research framework to capture language choice patterns of multilingual communities.


4 Demography Speech communities under study are situated in Sarawak, East Malaysia on Borneo Island. Borneo, a linguistically and culturally heterogeneous island constitutes Sabah and Sarawak (East Malaysia), Brunei, and Kalimantan (Indonesia). (See Map 1 below. Taken from Ethnologue, 2009). Population Census 2010 estimated : ,420, Size: 124, 450 km2 Has more than 40 ethnic groups with own languages and distinct culture Ethnic composition: 3 large groups (which makes up approx. 76% of the population); 2 larger groups with more than 150,000 speakers; the remaining groups with less than 1,000 speakers (5.5%) who speak more than 25 languages

5 Misconceptions regarding ethnic categories
Ethnic name or labels for some ethnic groups were “externally imposed”. The naming of the groups as Iban, Bidayuh etc. were reinforced with the advent of the Westerners who for census purposes could not see the natives except in neat ethnic compartments (Asmah, 1983) Ethnic groups never had nomenclature to label themselves Groups identify themselves with the place where they live, e.g. a river basin, river or hill.

6 Misconceptions regarding ethnic categories
Much of the confusion is also contributed by previous categorisation on the basis of similar cultural attributes rather than linguistic groupings (Asmah, 1983). E.g. The people in the ethnic category Bidayuh is linguistically heterogeneous and speak “closely related languages” (not a single language). A misconception : Selako is categorised as Bidayuh but doesn’t speak Bidayuhic languages. Their language is Malayic.

7 Languages of Sarawak, and their relationship to one another
The linguistic boundaries can be indistinct, and for that matter, the neutral term “isolect” is preferred by linguists and anthropologists working on the groups. Published work on linguistic groupings may not always correspond to native speakers’ perceptions of their languages.

8 Languages of Sarawak, and their relationship to one another
Malay and Malayic languages (Selako). Family line: Malayo-Sumbawan, Malayic, Kendayan Iban and Ibanic languages (Remum, Sebuyau) Family line: Malayo-Sumbawan, Malayic, Ibanic Bidayuhic language family: Biatah, Bukar-Sadong, Jagoi-Singgai, and Tinggus-Sembaan. Family line: North Borneo, Bidayuhic. The Lara language spoken in Lundu has a more distance relationship with this group, and is closer to Bakati’, a Land Dayak language spoken across the border in Kalimantan. Melanau language family: Melanau Central, Daro-Matu, Kanowit-Tanjong, Melanau Sibu. Family line: North Borneo, Melanau-Kajang, Melanau Kajang language family: Bukitan, Kajaman, Lahanan, Sekapan, Sian, Ukit, Seru. Family line: North Borneo, Melanau-Kajang, Kajang.

9 Kayan-Kenyah language family
Kayanic languages: Kayan Baram, Kayan Rejang. Family line: North Borneo, North Sarawakan, Kayan-Kenyah, Kayanic, Kayan Proper language family lineage. Rejang Kayan speakers have limited comprehension of Baram Kayan. Kayanic-Kenyah (Long Wat and Sebop). Family line: North Borneo, North Sarawakan, Kayan-Kenyah, Kenyah, Kayanic Kenyah Mainstream. Family line: North Borneo-North Sarawakan, Kayan-Kenyah, Kenyah Murik. Family line: North Borneo-North Sarawakan, Kayanic, Murik Kayan Dayic - Kelabitic languages (Kelabit, Lun Bawang, Sa’ban, and Tring); Murutic language (Okolod Murut). Family line: North Sarawakan, Dayic, Kelabitic-Murutic Penan: Penan, Bah-Biau Family line: North Borneo, Rejang-Sajau Penan : Eastern and Western. Family line: North Borneo, North Sarawakan, Kayan-Kenyah. Eastern Penan related to Western Penan but not mutually intelligible. Punan Batu 1, North Borneo, Nearly extinct.

10 Majority and minority languages
Majority languages Iban is a majority language both in terms of number of speakers and ethnic population. It is the language of the largest ethnic community in Sarawak with estimated population of 738,700 (28.9%) and is a lingua franca in inter-ethnic interaction among rural population and in Iban-dominated areas. Malay is the language of the third largest ethnic community i.e. the Malay community with population of 572,000 (22.4%). It is a macro-language, and has a dominant role in the community; as the national and official language of Malaysia, and a language for inter-ethnic and intra- and inter-dialectal interactions. English, a global language, enjoys the status of a ‘prestigious’ language. Although Malay is the only language with official status, acquisition of English is highly encouraged for international dealings/transactions, and for communication with the outside world. Mandarin is not the mother tongue of any ethnic group in the community. Nonetheless, it is perceived as a language that has economic strength. The Chinese community is the second largest group (643,300 or 25.2%). The fact that Chinese is the economically stronger group in the community, acquiring Mandarin or dialects of Chinese may be perceived as an asset by certain members of the community.

11 Languages with lesser number of speakers
The Bidayuh and Melanau community – Each has population exceeding 100,000 speakers; Bidayuh with of population 204,800 (8%), and Melanau (143,500 or 5.6%). The mother tongues of these communities may be regarded as minority languages, largely because they remain as “community languages” i.e. they are only used within the community that speak them. These languages may survive in many years to come provided the traditional speech community remains intact. Studies on the Bidayuh language has shown that despite the numerical strength, the language is not safe on the vitality scale. For one thing, the language is heterogeneous, and mutual intelligibility between isolects in the Bidayuhic language family can be as low as 33% (Rensch,, 2006).

12 Linguistic minorities
A large number of languages in Sarawak are spoken by smaller communities with less than 10,000 speakers subsumed under the “other natives” category (144,400 or 5.6%). Many of these languages have little function outside the communities that speak them, and some are threatened languages, or already extinct.

13 Penan, Bah-Biau (450), Family line: North Borneo, Rejang-Sajau
EXTINCT LANGUAGES Lelak – A North Sarawakan language, spoken in Lower Baram, Teru and Sungai Bunen (at Loagan Bunut Lake) on Tinjar River. It has no known speakers Seru – A Melanau-Kajang language spoken in Kabong, 2nd Division of Sarawak. It has no known speakers ENDANGERED & CRITICALLY ENDANGERED LANGUAES: Kajang language family: Bukitan (290), Kajaman (500), Lahanan (350), Sekapan (750), Sian (50), Ukit (120). Seru, a language in this category is already extinct. Bintulu (4200); not similar with other languages and is an isolate with North Sarawakan Kayan-Kenyah Language Family: Long Wat (600), Murik (1,120); Sebob (1,730) Penan, Bah-Biau (450), Family line: North Borneo, Rejang-Sajau Western Penan (3,400) and Eastern Penan (6,455). Family line: Malayo-Polynesian, North Borneo, North Sarawakan, Kayan-Kenyah, Penan Punan Batu 1 (30), North Borneo, Nearly extinct. Kelabit and Dayic- Kelabitic language : Tring (550), Kelabit (2,140), Sa’ban (1,960) Okolod,: Dayic- Murutic language (1,580) Berawan-Lower Baram group: Narom (2,420), Kiput (2,460); Lelak is extinct Tabun language in Limbang (not identified by Ethnologue)

14 The Sociolinguistic Scenario
What does the literature on language shift says about the linguistic heterogeneity of the region ? The linguistic diversity is reduced with increasing number of languages reported to be either threatened and endangered, or shrinking in use in various domains. This phenomenon is also observed in many other parts of Borneo (c.f. Margaret Florey, 2011; Martin & Sercombe, 2010; Norazuna, 2010). The phenomenon of language shift is experienced by communities with smaller as well as larger number of speakers.

15 Linguistic ecology of Sarawak
Rapid socio-cultural and economic transformation over the last four decades. Infrastructure development and agricultural projects have reached the once remote villages. With tremendous improvement in accessibility, there is hardly a community that is completely isolated from outside influences. The cultural heritage of indigenous communities, which is closely linked to traditional occupation and way of life in previous environments, may not be retained in the wake of the transformation. The language choice patterns of communities have been altered to a greater or lesser extent by the impact of these changes in the linguistic ecology of the area.

16 How is the transformation affecting LC patterns of majority & minority speakers
MACRO-VARIABLES & MICRO-VARIBLES IN ASSESSING MINORITY SITUATION (EDWARD, 1992) Macro-variables are “indicative of features which are shared across large numbers of endangerment situations” and micro-variables are “characteristics which are unique to specific speech communities”. (Grenoble & Whaley, 1998:27). Micro-variables will account for the differences in the rate, outcome, and reversibility of language shift between communities, and that the existence of actual threats to the survival of a language depends on the circumstances of individual communities i.e. it is a function of the micro-variables.

17 Urban setting – The Bidayuh Predicament
The pressure to conform to major languages and urban norms of language use is greater. Susceptible to language shift due to proximity to the capital city Often the case, opportunity to speak the community language limited to “family domain” Recessive bilingual practice

18 Healthy Multilingualism – Iban-Malay contact in rural setting
Additive bilingual practice Norms of language use in interaction – community languages and local dialects Less pressure to speak major languages particularly English Generally, positive attitudes towards each other’s languages

19 Consequences of language contact
Language attitudes have changed over the years; To learn each other’s language was critical then (for older generation) for interaction inter-group interaction at the market place, and govermental transactions. This is not so, in recent times; community members share a common language i.e. Malay On the whole, bilingual practice is not recessive but addictive Although multilingualism is generally perceived positively by community members in Sebuyau, nevertheless the act of accommodating to the language of Iban interlocutors between peers among younger generation in inter-group interaction may not be perceived positively by Malay speakers.

20 Theoretical Framework
Edward’s (1992) Framework for typology of minority language Fishman’s (1972) domain analysis Gal’s (1996) speaker variation and implicational scaling technique Bilingual practise - Baetens Beardsmore 1982)

21 Theoretical Framework
The study utilised relevant literature in two inter-related fields: (i) the study of language choice and (ii) the study of social variation in language and linguistic change It adopts theories from the macro-sociological construct as well as the methods of observation from the interactional approach in data collection and analysis. From the study of social variation in language, this study applies the notion of “speaker variation in language choice” and the “implicational scaling” technique in its framework of analysis.

22 Methodological framework
Survey on language choice In-depth interview with the help of a questionnaire which includes (i) demographic background of the respondent, (ii) competency in languages and dialects and (iii) “patterns of choice” with various types of interlocutors, and in inter- and inter-group interactions. Participant observation of language choice behaviour of community members in various settings (coffee shops, wet market etc.) In-depth interview with community leaders – To obtain greater insights into the social, cultural, political and historical background (migration history, and settlement patterns) of the various communities under study. The cultural differences (e.g. ethnic pride) between groups, albeit in a subtle way are identified in these interviews.

23 The challenge In this setting, speaker is likely to have 3-4 languages at their disposal to choose from in a given social event/situation. Language choice at micro-level is primarily determined by (i) type of interlocutor and (ii) common language shared between participants in interaction

24 Variable in language choice studied
(i) the “interlocutor”- this factor may take precedence over other factors e.g. domain, topic etc. in determining patterns of choice, and (ii) speaker variables: social background of speakers e.g. age-group, profession, social circles. In these settings, interaction can be between monolingual and bilingual or between bilinguals, and speakers may engage in code-switching and code-mixing (c.f. Grosjean, 1982; Romaine, 1995).

25 Framework of Analysis Speaker variation and pattern of choice
It was posited that speakers may share the same language repertoire, but vary in patterns of language choice. Speakers differ in how they utilise languages in interaction, and this is primarily determined by language attitudes. Some speakers would have the tendency to use a particular language in most situations or in two out of the three main settings investigated; some would use major languages at the expense of the mother tongue, and some would employ a “diglossia-like” pattern of choice.

26 The contention is “speaker variables” rather than “social variables” (e.g. age, gender) as major variables in description of the process of language shift. Language shift is a gradual process, and it should be clear to the researcher before embarking on LSLM study. By employing the speaker variation framework, it was possible to identify the social profiles of speakers that are initiating changes in language choice patterns in this community and the motivations leading to shift.

27 The Bidayuh Predicament
The Bidayuh is the fourth largest ethnic group in Sarawak, and has a total population approximately 204,800 speakers. Despite the numerical strength, the Bidayuh community depicts one that is experiencing an on-going language shift. Members of Bidayuh community observed in this study are the educated ones (61 respondents), and they may speak at least three languages: Malay, English and Bidayuh or/and Chinese/Iban.

28 Dayak Bidayuh National Association (DBNA) and Bidayuh Graduate
The language choice patterns of educated Bidayuh have indicated the existence of a trend towards the use of English in this community. The “superiority” of the English language perceived as a language crucial for social mobility and economic advancement has motivated community members inculcate the use of English at home. This view has its roots in the changing mindset of members of the community. Bidayuh community leaders view advancement in education as fundamental to further socio-economic progress of the community. This view is promoted through various community activities anchored to two main organisations, Dayak Bidayuh National Association (DBNA) and Bidayuh Graduate Association (BGA). However, the trend has proven to be detrimental to the continuous survival of the community language in families of educated Bidayuh. It deprives Bidayuh c children in these families of the natural environment (i.e. the home) to acquire the Bidayuh language.

29 Evidences of language shift
Encroachment of Malay and English in the domain traditionally reserved for the use of the community language seems inevitable because of widespread occurrences of inter-ethnic and inter-dialectal marriages. A common language is needed not only between couples and their children within the core family, but also in communication among extended family members. These circumstances do not support retention of the mother tongue

30 Recessive bilingual practice
Recessive bilingualism; Assuming urban norms in social behaviour including language behaviour at the expense of the mother tongue. Ambivalent attitude of the Bidayuh speakers towards the Bidayuh language to symbolise ethnic identity. Many community members have come to view loosely the link between community language and one’s ethnicity particularly if they are less attached to the community. Community language is not essential for group membership.

31 Changes in norm of language use in home domain
The norm of language use in the home domain is changing, and is threatening inter-generational continuity of the Bidayuh language. The social norm whereby the community language is spoken to express solidarity with group members is changing for urban Bidayuh. This norm is only adhered to when they visit Bidayuh villages.

32 Societal bilingualism influence on individual practise
Societal bilingualism is a major influence on bilingual practice at the micro-level. Individual bilingual practice to a large extent is dictated by community norms. Community norms may be maintained through institutional norm enforcement agencies e.g. workplace, school, media etc. So, the use of language specific to a domain is a form of norm-enforcement. Minority communities has little choice in the matter but to succumb to norms of language use in various domains.

33 Summation The multifunction of Malay and English in this community has placed the community language in a disadvantaged position. Malay is assigned the status as the “national language” and English enjoys the status as a “prestigious” language in socio-economic sense. In addition, they are used as “linking languages” (Mulhausler, 1977:10) in inter-ethnic as well as inter-dialectal interactions. This “imbalance” in the language ecology of the region is partly a consequence of the national policies adopted in the typically ex-colonial countries which require a national language for unification purpose and a language of international standing for rapid economic growth. It is partly a consequence of widespread occurrence of mixed marriages, and unintelligibility between various isolects within the Bidayuh speech system which prevent community members from communicating in the Bidayuh language.

34 In view of these constraints in the use of the community language, it is proposed that perhaps the idea of having a single dialect for intra-ethnic interaction could be worked on. This move may reduce the community’s dependency on Malay and English in inter-dialectal communication although linguistic diversity of the Bidayuh speech system can be adversely affected. The Bidayuh has not agreed on which language to be developed as the standard. In recent times, the Bidayuh has started multilingual education project in the various Bidayuhic languages.

35 Summation Societal bilingualism can assert a greater pressure to linguistic assimilation by speakers and bilingual practice. The degree of individual bilingualism varies between speakers which is how languages are put to use by the speakers. The various forms of bilingual practice among individual speakers in communities reflect the attitudes and perceptions speakers have towards languages, which are also influenced by societal form of bilingualism.

36 Table 1.1: Edward’s (1992) framework for the typology of minority languages Note: * Literacy is added to the list of variables by Grenoble and Whaley Categorisation A Categorisation B Speaker Language Setting Demography 1 2 3 Sociology 4 5 6 Linguistics 7 8 9 Psychology 10 11 12 History 13 14 15 Politics/law/government 16 17 18 Geography 19 20 21 Education 22 23 24 Religion 25 26 27 Economics 28 29 30 The Media 31 32 33 *Literacy 34 35 36

37 Micro and Macro variables in language contact
Grenoble and Whaley (1988) have also stressed the importance of distinguishing between macro- and micro-variables in assessment of viability of a minority language. Grenoble and Whaley (1988) deliberate that the variables in the “speaker” and “language” column are “micro-variables”; they refer to features of an individual speech community. While the variables in the “setting” column are “macro-variables” i.e. features of the broader context where the community is located.

Download ppt "Sociolinguistic consequences of language contact between multilingual communities in Sarawak, East Malaysia, Borneo Dr Norazuna Norahim Centre for Language."

Similar presentations

Ads by Google