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Kerinci language

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  • basê Kinci
  • basê Kincai
'Suhat incoung' (Incoung script), the original script of the Kerinci language
Pronunciationba.sə kiɲ.t͡ʃai̯
Native toIndonesia (Jambi, West Sumatra and Bengkulu)
Native speakers
254,125 (Jambi, 2000)[1]
  • Belui Air Hangat
  • Danau Kerinci
  • Gunung Kerinci
  • Gunung Raya
  • Pembantu Sungai Tutung
  • Sitinjau Laut
  • Sungai Penuh
Latin (Indonesian alphabet)
Language codes
ISO 639-3kvr
  Areas where the Kerinci language is predominantly spoken.
This article contains IPA phonetic symbols. Without proper rendering support, you may see question marks, boxes, or other symbols instead of Unicode characters. For an introductory guide on IPA symbols, see Help:IPA.

The Kerinci language (basê Kinci or basê Kincai) is an Austronesian language primarily spoken by the Kerinci people in Sungai Penuh, Kerinci Regency, and parts of Merangin and Bungo Regency in western Jambi,[2] as well as several hamlets in Mukomuko Regency in Bengkulu.[3] This language is also spoken by the Kerinci diaspora in other regions of Indonesia, such as West Sumatra and Java; as well as outside Indonesia, such as in Negeri Sembilan and Selangor in Malaysia.[4][5] The total number of Kerinci language speakers is estimated to be around 250,000 in 2000.[1] As an Austronesian language from the Malayo-Polynesian sub-group, the Kerinci language is also closely related to the Minangkabau and Jambi Malay languages spoken in neighboring regions.[6]

The Kerinci language exhibits very high diversity; it is estimated that there are 130 sub-dialects and seven main dialects, which are Gunung Raya dialect, Danau Kerinci dialect, Sitinjau Laut dialect, Sungai Penuh dialect, Pembantu Sungai Tutung dialect, Belui Air Hangat dialect, and Gunung Kerinci dialect.[7] Based on dialectometric calculations, the percentage difference between these seven dialects ranges from 51% to 65.50%. In comparison, the Kerinci language has a percentage difference ranging from 81% to 100% when compared to the Bengkulu and Minangkabau languages.[2]


The Kerinci language is one of the many varieties of the Malayic languages. Linguists believe that the Malay language—one of the varieties of the Malayic languages—originally derived from Proto-Malayic, which was spoken in the area stretching from West Kalimantan to the northern coast of Brunei around 1000 BCE. Its ancestor, Proto-Malayo-Polynesian, is estimated to have originated from Proto-Austronesian, which split around 2000 BCE due to the large-scale expansion of the Austronesian people into Maritime Southeast Asia from the island of Taiwan.[8]

The Kerinci language is a member of the Austronesian language family, which encompasses various languages in Southeast Asia, the Pacific Ocean, and as far as Madagascar, as well as some languages in mainland Asia. Uniquely, the Kerinci language also shares some phonemes with Austroasiatic languages.[9] The Malagasy language, Filipino, the indigenous languages of Taiwan, and Māori are also members of this language family. Although each language in this family is not mutually intelligible, their similarities are quite striking. Many basic words have remained almost unchanged from their common ancestor, Proto-Austronesian. There are numerous cognates found in basic words for kinship, health, body parts, and common animals. Even the words for numbers exhibit a remarkable level of similarity.[10]

Geographic distribution and usage[edit]

The Kerinci language is typically used by the Kerinci people who inhabit the Kerinci highlands and its surrounding areas, specifically the area around Kerinci Seblat National Park. Administratively, these areas are currently within the city of Sungai Penuh and Kerinci Regency, as well as parts of Merangin and Bungo Regency in Jambi. In Kerinci Regency, the Kerinci language is spoken in Pengasih Lama village in Bukitkerman district; Koto Tuo Ujung Pasir and Seleman village in Danau Kerinci district; Hiang Tinggi village in Sitinjau Laut district; Koto Lebu and Koto Lolo village in Pondong Tinggi district; Sungaiabu village in Kerinci district; Belui village in Air Hangat Timur district; as well as Mukai Tinggi and Sung Betung Ilir village in Gunung Kerinci district.[2] The Kerinci language is also spoken in small parts of neighboring West Sumatra and Bengkulu, specifically in South Solok Regency and Mukomuko Regency.[3] In addition, the Kerinci people has also migrated to the Malay Peninsula since the 19th century.[11] In Malaysia, the Kerinci language is mainly spoken in the west coast of the Malay Peninsula, such as Selangor, Kuala Lumpur, Perak, Negeri Sembilan, and Johor, due to their proximity to Sumatra.[12] However, the status of the Kerinci language in Malaysia is currently becoming threatened due to the process of gradual assimilation and acculturation with the language and culture of the local community, especially the local Malay community.[12]

In the Kerinci highlands, the Kerinci language stands as the predominant means of daily communication, effortlessly traversing both informal and formal settings throughout the region. However, its predominant use is informal, while Indonesian serves as the lingua franca in governmental institutions, education, and interethnic communication. As Indonesian usage continues to expand, fueled by increasing educational opportunities, it has become increasingly commonplace for Kerinci speakers to engage in code-switching between Kerinci and Indonesian, and vice versa.

The Kerinci language continues to hold significant importance among its speakers in Kerinci Regency and the city of Sungai Penuh in Jambi. Additionally, the Kerinci language also serves as a supporter of the local culture of the Kerinci community.[13] The presence of the Kerinci language in the midst of a growing multilingual and multiethnic society due to migration from other parts of Indonesia poses its own challenges for Kerinci language speakers. They are starting to master many languages, which influences the Kerinci language. The presence of other languages is gradually eroding the Kerinci language.[14] In response, efforts have been made by the government to preserve the usage of the Kerinci language. In Sungai Penuh, it is compulsory for students to enroll in Kerinci language courses as part of the school curriculum.[7] Additionally, the Jambi provincial government has initiated training programs for teachers aimed at enhancing their understanding and teaching skills while promoting the use of the Kerinci language. These programs include instruction in writing and reading using the Incung script, composing and reciting poetry in Kerinci, storytelling, delivering speeches, writing short stories, traditional songs, and solo comedy performances, all conducted in the Kerinci language.[15]


The number of dialects in the Kerinci language is disputed. This is because the boundaries of Kerinci language dialects have not been definitively determined due to the lack of specific research on the geographic boundaries of the Kerinci region.[16] According to Anwar et al. (1984), the Kerinci language is classified into three major dialect groups, namely the Upper Kerinci dialect (Kerinci Hulu), the Middle Kerinci dialect (Kerinci Tengah), and the Lower Kerinci dialect (Kerinci Hilir). Usman (1990), in his research report, suggests that there are two dialects in the Kerinci language, namely the "i" dialect and the "ai" dialect, each of which has its own sub-dialects. Furthermore, Amirruddin et al. (2003) state that there are approximately 177 dialects in the Kerinci language. The number of dialects corresponds to the number of villages (dusun) in Kerinci Regency.[16]

The Indonesian Agency for Language Development and Cultivation identifies approximately 130 dialects of the Kerinci language, consisting of seven major dialects, which are Gunung Raya dialect, Danau Kerinci dialect, Sitinjau Laut dialect, Sungai Penuh dialect, Pembantu Sungai Tutung dialect, Air Hangat dialect, and Gunung Kerinci dialect.[17][18] The Gunung Raya dialect is spoken in Pengasih Lama village in Bukitkerman District. The Danau Kerinci dialect is spoken in Koto Tuo Ujung Pasir village and Seleman village in Danau Kerinci District. The Sitinjau Laut dialect is spoken in Hiang Tinggi village in Sitinjau Laut District. The Sungai Penuh dialect is spoken in Koto Lebu village and Koto Lolo village in Pondong Tinggi District. The Pembantu Sungai Tutung dialect is spoken in Sungaiabu village in Kerinci District. The Belui Air Hangat dialect is spoken in Belui village, in Air Hangat Timur District. The Gunung Kerinci dialect is spoken in Mukai Tinggi village and Sung Betung Ilir village in Gunung Kerinci District.[18]

The Kerinci language dialects can be very different between villages even though they are very close, such as Tanah Kampung, Kemantan, and Dusun Baru, which are only separated by a river.[19] Administratively, these three villages belong to different districts and regencies. Dusun Baru Lempur and Kemantan are located in Kerinci Regency but are in different districts, while Tanah Kampung is part of Sungai Penuh. Although part of Sungai Penuh, the inhabitants of Tanah Kampung use a different dialect, specifically the Tanah Kampung dialect. Kemantan Raya is included in the Air Hangat Timur District of Kerinci Regency, where the community uses the Tanah Kemantan dialect. Meanwhile, Dusun Baru Lempur is in the Gunung Raya District of Kerinci Regency, and its inhabitants use the Dusun Baru dialect.[19] This dialect is not to be confused with another dialect spoken in Dusun Baru near the town centre of Sungai Penuh. Next to the latter Dusun Baru speech area, the Sungai Penuh dialect is spoken, separated by a market from Pondok Tinggi. In turn, the Koto Renah dialect is spoken only a market away from Pondok Tinggi, while Koto Keras is almost contiguous with Koto Renah.[20] The Kerinci dialect has various variations that differ in both phonological and lexical aspects among the dialects. However, the dialects are generally mutually intelligible with one another.[19] The Kerinci language is also known for its phonological variations, such as the sound [a] at the end position before [t]. In Sungai Penuh, [a] changes to [e], in Pondok Tinggi it becomes [uə], while in Lempur and Semurup it remains [a], and in Dusun Baru it changes to [o].[21] An illustration of phonological distinctions across Kerinci dialects can be observed in the pronunciation of the word "girl". In Sungai Penuh dialect, it may be pronounced as gadɔyh/gadeyh, in Tanjung Pauh as gadeh/gadyh, and in Koto Keras as gaduh/gadi.[13]

The following table compares several dialects spoken in the vicinity of Sungai Penuh (less than 7 kilometre from the town centre):[20]

Dialectal variation in Kerinci[22][a]
Rawang Sungai
Pauh Mudik

In addition, Kerinci language spoken in Malaysia has diverged from its original form and is no longer spoken as it is by native Kerinci speakers in Indonesia. The Kerinci language in Malaysia has been significantly influenced by local languages such as Malay, thus deviating from the Kerinci language spoken in the Kerinci region in Jambi.[23]



The table below illustrates the vowel inventories of the Pondok Tinggi dialect of Kerinci:[24]

Pondok Tinggi vowels[25]
Front Central Back
Close i u
Mid e ə o
Open a

Pondok Tinggi /e/ and /o/ in closed syllables have the allophones of [ɛ] and [ɔ], respectively.[26] The latter two vowels, however, are phonemic in the Sungai Penuh dialect.[27]

Sungai Penuh vowels[27]
Front Central Back
Close i u
Mid e ə o
Open-mid ɛ ɔ
Open a

Pondok Tinggi Kerinci has a rich inventory of diphthongs—that is, sequences of vowels within the same syllable that can be considered a single V segment.[28] Ernanda lists a total of 12 diphthongs for the Pondok Tinggi dialect, given in the table below according to whether the sequences are opening or closing (i.e., whether they are moving towards open/low vowels or closed/high vowels). Diphthongs /ia/ and /ao/ are only found in open syllables.[29]

Pondok Tinggi diphthongs[30]
Open syllable Closed syllable
Opening ia ia 'nothing'
ua ladua 'field.A'
ɟalua 'road.A'
gaguah 'handsome.A'
banuaʔ 'to give birth.A'
oa dəroa 'scattered.A’
guloa 'dish.A'
ɟəloah 'clear.A’
gəloah 'glass.A'
ea buŋea 'flower.A'
dadea 'chest.A'
təgeaʔ 'well-built.A'
deaʔ 'TAG'
Closing ai matai 'to die.A'
cucai 'to wash.A'
laŋaiʔ 'sky.A'
sihaih 'betel.A'
au kalau 'necklace.A'
cucau 'grandchild.A'
ambauʔ 'hair.A'
kukauh 'firm.A'
ae pakae 'to wear.A'
lantae 'floor.A'
kapaeh 'cotton.A'
kambaeʔ 'goat.A'
ao warnao 'color.A'
ɲatao 'real.A'
eu abeu 'ash.A'
sudeu 'spoon.A'
tədeuh 'shaded.A'
kəɟeuʔ 'to surprise.A'
ei cucei 'to wash.O'
pikei 'to think.O'
iteiʔ 'duck.O'
puteih 'white.O'
oi ganɟoi 'odd.A'
guloi 'to roll on.A'
baloiʔ 'to come back.A’
bətoih 'calf.A’
oi kayou 'wood.O'
tipou 'to cheat.O'
kukouh 'firm.O'
maŋkouʔ 'bowl.O'

Sungai Penuh dialect has a fewer inventory of contrastive diphthongs, with the total number of 7.[31]

Sungai Penuh diphthongs[27][32]
Open syllable Closed syllable
Closing ey bibey 'lips.A' kəleyh 'to see.A'
ew bucew 'to leak.A' tubewh 'body.A'
ɛw abɛw 'ashes.A' daɛwŋ 'leaf.A'
ɔy bəhɔy 'to give.A' gigɔyʔ 'to bite.A'
ow ow 'green.O' pəlowʔ 'to embrace.O'
ay kakay 'foot.A' kulayʔ 'skin.A'
aw kutaw 'louse.A' pəhawʔ 'belly.A'

All diphthongs appear only in final syllables.[27] Other Kerinci dialects may distinguish different sets of vowel phonemes; cf. Tanjung Pauh Mudik with 9 plain vowels and 7 diphthongs,[33] or Semerap with 7–8 plain vowels and 8 diphthongs.[34]


There are nineteen consonants in Pondok Tinggi Kerinci.[35] The table below illustrates the consonant inventory of Pondok Tinggi:[36]

Pondok Tinggi consonants[36]
Labial Alveolar Palatal Velar Glottal
Plosive voiceless p t c k ʔ
voiced b d ɟ ɡ
Nasal m n ɲ ŋ
Fricative s h
Lateral l
Trill r
Approximant w j ⟨y⟩

Sungai Penuh consonant inventory is identical to that of Pondok Tinggi with the addition of /z/,[31] which is a native phoneme (not borrowed) historically derived from medial /ŋs/ cluster, cf. Standard Malay kelongsong vs. Sungai Penuh kaluzɔŋ/kaluzon 'wrapper'.[37]


Within a word, the presence of a voiced obstruent (/b/, /d/, /ɟ/, or /ɡ/) that is not preceded by a homorganic nasal consonant alter its final rime. Words with a non-prenasalized voiced obstruent are labeled "G-words", while those that do not have such obstruent are called "K-words". This distinction is apparent in words that historically share the same final rimes, such as shown in the table below, with examples from Pondok Tinggi.[38]

K-words and G-words[39]
K-words G-words
*-i kakai
'to climb'
*-u malau
*-ah pindah
'to move'

As can also be seen from the examples given in the table above, the final vowel rimes in Pondok Tinggi G-words are generally higher than those in K-words.[40] The historical *-i corresponds to modern Pondok Tinggi -ai/-ei in K-words and -oi/-i in G-words, while historical *-u corresponds to -au/-ou in K-words and -eu/-u in G-words. The word pindah/pindoh, while having a voiced obstruent, is not counted as a G-word since the obstruent is preceded by a homorganic nasal. The word gunduah/gundoh, on the other hand, has another voiced obstruent that is not part of a homorganic nasal-obstruent sequence, so it still undergoes the change associated with a G-word.[39]

This process is still productive in modern Pondok Tinggi Kerinci. For example, if the passive prefix di- (which contains a voiced obsturent) is attached to a K-word, the word would turn into a G-word and changes its final rime. However, this change would be blocked if the initial consonant of the root is also an obstruent.[41]




'to take'

'to accompany'

'to hold'




'be taken'

'be alongside with s.o.'

'be held'

ambaiɁ/ambeiɁ {'to take'} → diamboiɁ/diambiɁ {'be taken'}

ihan/ihin {'to accompany'} → diihon/diihin {'be alongside with s.o.'}

paŋkau/paŋkou {'to hold'} → dipaŋkau/dipaŋkou {'be held'}

If a G-word loses its voiced obstruent due to prefixation, it would become a K-word and its final rime changes accordingly. This happens, for example, when the active prefix N- alters the initial obstruent of a root to a homorganic nasal.[42][b]





'to be angry at'

'to climb'

bəŋoih/bəŋihməŋaih/məŋeih {'to be angry at'}

dakoi/dakinakai/nakei {'to climb'}


Phrasal alternation[edit]


The Kerinci language has a number of affixes that can join with the base word to form an affixed word.[44] There are three types of affixes in Kerinci: prefixes, suffixes, and infixes. Similar to other Malayic languages, Kerinci words are composed of a root or a root plus derivational affixes. The root is the primary lexical unit of a word and is usually bisyllabic, of the shape CV(C)CV(C). Affixes are "glued" onto roots (which are either nouns or verbs) to alter or expand the primary meaning associated with a given root, effectively generating new words.


The prefixes commonly used in Kerinci include ba-, di-, N-, ta-, pa-, ma-, ka-, and sa-.[45] Examples showcasing the usage of the prefix ba- are shown below:

  • ba- + lahai 'run': balahoi 'to be running'
  • ba- + tanak 'livestock': batanak 'to raise livestock'
  • ba- + buloy 'fur': babuloy furry'
  • ba- + sataw 'one': basataw 'unite'

Examples showcasing the usage of the prefix di- are shown below:

  • di- + bli 'buy': dibli 'be bought'
  • di- + bene 'right': dibene 'be fixed'
  • di- + rusak 'damage': dirusak 'be damaged'
  • di- + saain 'rival': disaain 'be rivaled'

Examples showcasing the usage of the prefix N- are shown below:

  • N- + udud 'cigarette': ngudud 'to smoke'
  • N- + buka 'open': mukak 'to open'
  • N- + antak 'drop', 'send': ngantak 'to drop off'
  • N- + gawe 'do': ngawe 'to do'

Examples showcasing the usage of the prefix ta- are shown below:

  • ta- + panggang 'burn': tapanggang 'burnt'
  • ta- + panjang 'long': tapanjang 'longest'
  • ta- + pandak 'short': tapandak 'shortest'
  • ta- + lemak 'delicious': talemak 'most delicious'

Examples showcasing the usage of the prefix pa- are shown below:

  • pa- + tinggay 'tall': patinggay 'make taller'
  • pa- + mace 'read': pamace 'reader'
  • pa- + minan 'drink': paminan 'drinker'
  • pa- + malayh 'lazy': pamalayh 'lazy person'

Examples showcasing the usage of the prefix ma- are shown below:

  • ma- + lumpak 'jump': malumpak 'to jump'
  • ma- + pahalawh 'smoothen': mapahalawh 'to smoothen'
  • ma- + rapak 'get close': marapak 'to get close'
  • ma- + inak 'remember': mainak 'to remember'

Examples showcasing the usage of the prefix ka- are shown below:

  • ka- + lapo 'hungry': kalapo 'feeling hungry'
  • ka- + dingin 'cold': kadingin 'feeling cold'
  • ka- + ragun 'doubtful': karagun 'feeling doubtful'
  • ka- + teih 'up': kateih 'upstairs'

Examples showcasing the usage of the prefix sa- are shown below:

  • sa- + ilaêk 'good': sailaêk 'as good as'
  • sa- + dusen 'hamlet': sadusen 'entire hamlet'
  • sa- + paneh 'hot': sapaneh 'as hot as'
  • sa- + gantang 'bushel': sagantang 'a bushel'


In the Kerinci language, there is only one suffix, which is -lah.[46] Examples showcasing the usage of the suffix -lah are shown below:

  • Kainanlah jeleh-jeleh sebelum ngambik kaputusan. 'Think calmly before making a decision'
  • Datenglah sakalai-sakalai kumah kamai. 'Come to our house once in a while'
  • Biua woelah nyo nangaih luo kamar. 'Just let her cry outside the room'
  • Mamok kamai ielah gepeuk nga gdon tinggai. 'Our uncle is fat and tall'


There is only one infix in the Kerinci language, which is -ar-.[46] Examples showcasing the usage of the infix -ar- are shown below:

  • -ar- + ayei 'water': barayei 'watery'
  • -ar- + agi 'yeast': baragi 'yeasty'
  • -ar- + ameh 'gold': barameh 'golden'
  • -ar- + adeik 'younger sibling': baradeik 'have a younger sibling'


Reduplication in the Kerinci language can be divided into noun, verb, adjective and numeral reduplication.[47] There are three types of verb reduplication, which are verb-forming reduplication that means repetitive action, verb-forming reduplication that means doing something with enjoyment, and verb-forming reduplication that means mutual action. Examples of verb-forming reduplication that means repetitive action are shown below:

  • maco-maco 'to skim through'
  • manjat-manjat 'to climb around'
  • aloy-aloy 'to look around'

Examples of verb-forming reduplication that means doing something with enjoyment are shown below:

  • minan-minan 'to drink casually'
  • masak-masak 'to cook casually'
  • tidew-tidew 'to sleep casually'

Examples of verb-forming reduplication that means mutual action are shown below:

  • batangoyh-tangoyh 'to cry together'
  • baragoyh-ragoyh 'to share together'

There are two types of noun reduplication, which are noun-forming reduplication that means 'many' and noun-forming reduplication that means 'like' or 'resembling'. Examples of noun-forming reduplication that means 'many' are shown below:

  • anak-anak 'kids'
  • gloyh-gloyh 'glasses'
  • pisan-pisan 'bananas'

Examples of noun-forming reduplication noun-forming reduplication that means 'like' or 'resembling are shown below:

  • kudow-kudow 'horse'
  • umoh-umoh 'house'

There are three types of adjective reduplication, which are adjective-forming reduplication that denotes plurality, adjective-forming reduplication that indicates atmosphere, and adjective-forming reduplication that expresses condition. Examples of adjective-forming reduplication that denotes plurality are shown below:

  • gduê-gduê 'very large'
  • panja-panja 'very long'
  • putaêh-putaêh 'very white'

Examples of adjective-forming reduplication that indicates atmosphere are shown below:

  • bagduê-gduê 'on a large scale'

Examples of adjective-forming reduplication that expresses condition are shown below:

  • sakayk-sakayk 'frequently sick'
  • payah-payah 'persistently difficult'
  • pnak-pnak 'continuously exhausted'

There is only one type of numeral word reduplication, which is the numeral-forming reduplication that indicates formation. Examples are:

  • tigeê-tigeê 'three-three' or 'formation of three-three'
  • dueê-dueê 'two-two'


In the Kerinci language, noun can be divided into basic nouns, inflective nouns and derivative nouns.[48] Basic nouns are used when the word stands alone and is not modified. These basic nouns can occupy the positions of subject and object in a sentence, such as:

  • apuêk mley bajew 'dad is buying clothes'
  • nyo makan pisa 'he's a eating a banana'
  • anok toh gadoyh 'that child is a girl'
  • kakak minum ubuêk 'elder sibling is eating medicine'

Inflectional nouns are derived from basic words that undergo phoneme changes when the basic word is modified by another word, such as:

  • pisa dalon pingga 'banana on a plate'
  • pisan kunan toh dalon pingga 'that yellow banana is on a plate'
  • jawow sitow 'cow over there'
  • jawi putaêh sitow 'that white cow over there'

Derivative nouns are combinations of the prefix pa- with nouns, verbs, or adjectives, such as:

  • pa- + tani 'farm': patani 'farmer'
  • pa- + daguê 'trade': padaguê 'merchant' or 'trader'
  • pa- + tulayh 'writer': patulayh 'writer'
  • pa- + baceê 'read': pabaceê 'reader'

In addition, pluralization of nouns in the Kerinci language can be expressed by reduplication and numerals, such as:

  • sawoh-sawoh 'lots of farms'
  • umah-umah 'lots of houses'
  • duwo uha 'two person'
  • tujuh umoh 'seven houses'


Verbs are words that denotes an action performed by a noun, such as binen ('drink'), tidew ('sleep'), baceê ('read'), tulayh ('write') and agoyh ('give').[49] According to their forms, verbs can be divided into basic verbs, inflectional verbs, and derivative verbs. Basic verbs are generally used in imperative sentences, such as:

  • tulayhlah 'write it'
  • baceêlah 'read it'
  • agoylah 'give it'
  • tidewlah 'go sleep'

Inflectional verbs are basic verbs used as intransitive or transitive verbs. These verbs undergo phoneme changes from the basic verb. Inflectional verbs occur due to the combination of prefixes and basic verbs, such as:

  • nyo nulayh 'he is writing'
  • nyo manjak 'he is climbing'
  • nyo macaê 'he is reading'

On the other hand, Derivative verbs originate from the combination of prefixes /N-/, /ma-/, /ba-/, /di-/, and /pa-/ with nouns, adjectives, and numerals, such as:

  • mangkao 'to hack using a hoe'
  • babaoêk 'to get close with each other'
  • nakawk 'to scare'
  • malemah 'to weaken'


According to its form, adjectives in the Kerinci language are divided into basic adjectives and inflected adjectives.[50] According to their function, they can be classified into attributive and predicative functions. Adjectives can be modified by several modifiers, such as nya 'the....one', nya 'so....', sanat 'very', liwak 'very', laboyh 'more', palin 'most', and samo 'same'. Basic adjectives can be modified by modifiers, such as:

  • ita nya 'so black'
  • tingay nya 'so tall'
  • nya pandak 'the short one'
  • lebih tinggay 'taller'
  • nya barsoyh 'the clean one'
  • samo brot 'same weight'

Inflected adjectives are basic adjectives that undergo phonemic changes when modified by the modifier sangat or liwak, which both means 'very', such as:

  • sangat itan 'very black'
  • sangat bersih 'very clean'
  • liwak pande 'very short'
  • liwak tinggay 'very tall'


Numerals in the Kerinci language, like in standard Indonesian, can be divided into two main types: definite numerals and indefinite numerals.[51] Definite numerals are numerals that indicate a specific quantity, such as:

  • sataw 'one'
  • dueê 'two'
  • mpak 'four'
  • limao 'five'
  • limo pulaoh 'fifty'
  • limo ratawh 'five hundred'

Indefinite numerals are numerals that do not indicate a specific quantity, such as:

  • banyuêk 'many'
  • dikoyk 'little'

Definite numerals like pulaoh 'tens', ratowh 'hundreds', ribu 'thousands', and juta 'millions' when given the prefix ba- can be classified into indefinite numerals, such as: bapulaoh 'tens of', baratawh 'hundreds of', baribu 'thousands of', and bajuta 'millions of'. In its usage, numerals can have the form of cardinal numerals and ordinal numerals. The basic numeral words denoting units, such as: sataw 'satu', na 'enam', tujeuh 'tujuh', salapa 'delapan', and so forth, in inflected forms can be added with numeral words pulawh 'puluh', ratawh 'ratus', ribu 'ribu', jutea 'juta', like:

  • sapulawh 'ten'
  • duwo ratewh 'two hundred'
  • nan ribu 'six thousand'
  • sajuta 'one million'

Cardinal numerals can be used in reduplcation, such as:

  • sataw-sataw 'one by one'
  • dueê-dueê 'two by two'
  • tigeê-tigeê 'three by three'
  • na-na 'six by six'

Numerals can also be prefixed with /pa-/, such as:

  • padueê 'to make into two'
  • patigeê 'to make into three'
  • pampak 'to make into four'
  • pabanyuêk 'to make into many'


Personal pronouns in Kerinci consist of first person singular and plural pronouns, such as: akaw 'I', kamay 'we', kitao 'we'; second person singular and plural pronouns, such as: mpao 'you (male)' (younger than the speaker), kaaw 'you (female)' (younger than the speaker), ikao 'you' (same age as the speaker), kayao 'you' (older than the speaker).[52] In certain situations, the second person singular pronouns can be specified further by distinguishing levels and statuses, for example:

  • twao ('eldest sibling'), twaruwao ('eldest uncle), taruwao ('eldest aunt')
  • tngah ('second oldest sibling'), twarengah ('second oldest uncle'), tarengah ('second oldest aunt')
  • nsaw ('youngest family member'), twansaw ('youngest uncle'), tansaw ('youngest aunt')

For third person singular and plural pronouns, the following words are usually used: no 'he/she', diyuê 'he/she (respectful)', uha 'they'.

Examples of interrogative pronouns for objects or people in Kerinci language are: apo 'what', sapo 'who'.

Examples of demonstrative pronouns for objects are itoh 'that', ineh 'this'.


The Kerinci language has extensively borrowed words from other languages, particularly Minangkabau and Indonesian.[53] Indonesian is the national language of Indonesia and serves as the language of communication in official settings, such as government institutions and schools. As education levels rise, there is greater exposure to Indonesian, resulting in the Kerinci language increasingly absorbing loanwords from Indonesian. On the other hand, the significant number of loanwords from Minangkabau is due to historical contact between Kerinci and Minangkabau speakers. These two languages are not only spoken in contiguous areas, but from the beginning until now, many people from West Sumatra have migrated to Kerinci to establish businesses, work, and even marry native Kerinci speakers. Additionally, the Minangkabau language is commonly used by spoken in Sungai Penuh, the central trade hub in Kerinci. Almost all the shopkeepers in Sungai Penuh speak Minangkabau.[53] Lastly, the Kerinci language is also related to Jambi Malay, which serves as the lingua franca in eastern Jambi. It is estimated that up to 80% of Kerinci vocabularies has similarity with Jambi Malay.[6]

A small number of Kerinci vocabulary has also been influenced by Dutch, with words like uto ('car'), derived from the Dutch word auto, and potlot ('pencil'), derived from the Dutch word potlood.[54]

Below are examples of commonly used Kerinci vocabulary along with their Indonesian and English translations:


Number Kerinci Indonesian English
1 sataw satu one
2 dueê, duwo dua two
3 tigo tiga three
4 mpak empat four
5 limo, limao lima five
6 na, nan enam six
7 tujeuh tujuh seven
8 salapa, lapan delapan eight
9 sambilan sembilan nine
10 sapulawh sepuluh ten
11 sabloih sebelas eleven
20 duwo pulawh dua puluh twenty
50 limo pulawh lima puluh fifty
100 saratewh seratus one hundred
500 limo ratewh lima ratus five hundred
1000 saribu seribu one thousand
5000 limo ribu lima ribu five thousand
100,000 saratewh ribu seratus ribu one hundred thousand
1,000,000 sajuta, sataw juta sejuta, satu juta one million


Kerinci Indonesian English
ineh ini this
itoh itu that
siney sini here
sitow situ, sana sana
disiney disini over here
disitow disitu, disana over there
kahey kesini go here
kiyon kesitu, kesana go there
kidan kiri left
kanan kanan right
lateh atas up
bawah bawah down
hulu utara north
hilir selatan south
muare timur east
mudik barat west

Personal Pronouns[edit]

Kerinci Indonesian English
akaw, kaw aku, saya I, me
mpao dia he (younger than speaker)
kaaw dia she (younger than speaker)
ikao dia he/she (same age as speaker)
kayao dia he/she (older than speaker)
no, nya dia he/she (neutral)
kamay, kitao kami, kita we
uha mereka they

Interrogatives Pronouns[edit]

Kerinci Indonesian English
sapo siapa who
apo apa what
piyao kenapa, mengapa why
manao mana, dimana where
bilea, pabilea kapan when
manan gimana, bagaimana how
apea berapa how much
bileê bila, apabila if


Kerinci Indonesian English
umoh rumah house
bateu batu stone
ksek pasir sand
sawoh sawah farm
uto mobil car
potlot pensil pencil
sayow sayur vegetable
lantaê lantai floor
laook ikan fish
kpa kapal ship
kapaêh kapas cotton
kabewk kabut fog
dahuêh darah blood
bumoy bumi earth
anayn angin wind
ambaw rambut hair
bal bola ball


Kerinci Indonesian English
angkak angkat to carry
bankoyk bangun wake up
caboyk robek to tear
lahoy lari to run
gambuê gambar to draw
gawoê kerja to work
kampao kumpul to gather
tutawk tutup to close
dudeuk duduk to sit
janjoy janji to promise
inak inget to remember


Kerinci Indonesian English
tinggai tinggi tall
ilaok cantik beautiful
buhuak, buhok buruk bad
gmouk gemuk fat
banyeak banyak many
muhah murah cheap
baranoy berani brave
lemak enak, sedap delicious
lkeh cepat fast
talambat terlambat late
rajain rajin hardworking
maleh malas lazy
sakiek sakit sick
kreh keras hard

Sample Text[edit]

The following text is an excerpt from the official translation of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in Indonesian and Kerinci, along with the original declaration in English:

English[55] Indonesia[56] Kerinci
(Sungai Penuh Dialect)
Universal Declaration of Human Rights Pernyataan Umum tentang Hak Asasi Manusia Panyata Saduniê Pakarò Hak-Hak Manusiò
Article 1 Pasal 1 Pasal 1
All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood. Semua orang dilahirkan merdeka dan mempunyai martabat dan hak-hak yang sama. Mereka dikaruniai akal dan hati nurani dan hendaknya bergaul satu sama lain dalam semangat persaudaraan. Sadou manusiò dilahe mardikê dan nahouh darjat ugê hak-hak ngan samò. Galou uhang dibêhòi akang nga atei dan musti ideuk basamò uhang laain sarupò uhang badusanak.

Writing system[edit]

Government signs in Kerinci Regency and Sungai Penuh are now bilingual, featuring both Latin and Incung script

Historically, the Kerinci language was written in the Incung script (Suhat Incoung). The Incung script is the only known indigenous script discovered in central Sumatra, related to both the Lampung script, employed in the Lampung language, and the Rencong script, utilized in the Rejang language of southern Sumatra. Linguistically, incung means slanted or tilted in the Kerinci language.[57] This script is composed of straight lines, broken and tilted segments, and curves, written at a slight angle. The Incung script is a cultural heritage left by the ancestors of the Kerinci people. This script was used to document the history of the ancestors, literature in the form of romantic and sorrowful prose, customary agreements, and spells.[58]

There is a belief among the Kerinci people that the creation of the script and the birth of literature stem from a background of cultural manifestation encompassing nature, humanity, and divinity as a whole. Consequently, the literature of the Kerinci people written on buffalo horns, bamboo, bark, cloth, and paper is considered sacred and revered. This belief remains strong in the cultural life of the Kerinci community even today. Since the 19th century, these manuscripts have been regarded as sacred objects by the Kerinci people. The Incung script was still actively used by the Kerinci people until around 1825. With the onset of the 20th century and the spread of Islam into the Kerinci community, the use of the Incung script gradually dwindled as a means of written communication. This decline can be attributed to the growing influence of Islamic culture on the Kerinci community, leading to a shift away from the Incung script. Consequently, the Kerinci people have transitioned towards utilizing the Jawi script (also known as Arab-Malay) for written communication.[59]

There are now very few experts who can write and read the Incung script. As a result, these ancient manuscripts written in the Incung script are threatened with extinction and abandonment by future generations.[60] This may be due to a lack of interest in reading and studying them because the script is no longer familiar to people. Additionally, the manuscripts are kept and revered by their owners, leading to a lack of desire to read, study, internalize, and disseminate the contents and values contained within them. These manuscripts hold many moral, social, cultural, historical, educational, and other values. These values or knowledge are meaningful not only in the past and present but also for the future.

The manuscripts written in the Incung script are not only scattered in the homes of residents as sacred heirlooms but are also stored in the Jambi State Museum and the National Museum of Indonesia in Jakarta. Abroad, they are kept at Leiden in the Netherlands. Currently, in Jambi, there is growing interest and attention from certain parties and government agencies to preserve and study the Incung script. Efforts include transliterating the Incung script into Latin script, conducting research, teaching reading and writing of the Incung script in schools, and using the Incung script for naming government agencies and streets, among other initiatives.[61][15]

Presently, the Kerinci language is written in various scripts including the original Incung, Latin, and Jawi. Latin script has become the predominant choice due to its widespread usage across Indonesia. Incung is primarily reserved for cultural practices and rituals, whereas Jawi finds its niche in religious contexts or within Islamic educational institutions such as pesantren.[62]


The Kerinci community is esteemed for their adeptness in articulating meaning through expressions and idioms.[63] These linguistic nuances are commonly woven into communication among family members and throughout the community. They serve as vessels of wisdom, reflecting the community's deep-rooted knowledge of natural resource management and environmental stewardship. This wisdom is cherished and passed down through the ages, from elder to youth. Among the rich tapestry of Kerinci proverbs, one finds bajalan kincie karno ayiek, bagoyang dahan karno angin ('Walking mill because of water, swaying branches because of wind'), illustrating the concept of cause and effect. Another such proverb is apo digaduh pengayuh samo di tangan biduk samo di aek ('Sitting equal, standing equal'), symbolizing the principle of equal rights and responsibilities.[63] One other example is bak membelah betung, sebelah dipijak, sebelah lagi diangkat tinggi-tinggi ('Like splitting a bamboo, one part is stepped on while the other is lifted high'), interpreting a person who is willing to sacrifice others to achieve their goals. Pantun, a type of oral poetic form commonly found in the Malay world is also widespread in the Kerinci community.

Below is an example of a Kerinci pantun along with the Indonesian and English translation:[64]

Kerinci Indonesian English

Cinak ini ruponyo ahi
Patut nian buladang bawang.

Cinak ini ruponyo kami
Patut nian kami tibuang.

Tigo luhah tanah sikudung
Rumah gedang tempat berunding.

Kato alah sudah kami tilangsung
Kayo buralih ngan uhang lain.

Bukan rakit ngato nak pnoh
Buluh tirendam nak pnoh jugo.

Bukan punyakit ngato nak munoh
Rindu ngan dendam nak munoh jugo.

Tinggi nyo bukik samo di daki
Luhah ngan dalam samo ditempuh.

Tunggu lah kayo ranah kurinci

Bialah kami tibuang jauh.

Beginilah rupanya hari
Patut sekali berladang bawang.

Beginilah rupanya kami
Patut sekali kami terbuang.

Tiga lurah tanah sikudung
Rumah gadang tempat berunding.

Kata kita sudah sepakat
Anda beralih dengan orang lain.

Bukan rakit namanya jika penuh
Buluh terendam akan penuh juga.

Bukan penyakit yang akan membunuh
Rindu dan dendam akan membunuh juga.

Tinggi bukit sama didaki
Lurah yang dalam sama ditempuh.

Tunggulah kamu tanah Kerinci
Biarlah kami terbuang jauh.

Such is the day
It's worth cultivating onions.

So it is that we are
We are worth being discarded.

Three village chiefs in the land of Sikudung
Rumah gadang, a place for deliberation.

Our words have reached an agreement
You switched to someone else.

It's not a raft if it's full
The bamboo submerged will also be full.

It's not illness that will kill
Longing and resentment will kill too.

The hill's height is the same when climbed
The deep valley is traversed the same.

Wait for us, land of Kerinci.
Let us be cast away far.

The Kerinci language is also known for its folklore, which locally is known as kunaung.[65] Kunaung is considered one of the oral literary traditions; some can be simply narrated, sung, and there are also those accompanied by specific traditional musical instruments. The accompanying musical instruments for kunaung performances vary, with the most common being the rebana and drum, but there are also instances of flute and gong usage. Surprisingly, there are even kunaung performances solely accompanied by the sound of empty tin cans.[65] Kunaung storytellers are often incredibly skilled at expressing themselves according to the storyline; full of emotions, sadness, excitement, hatred, and humor. According to the tales, these ancient storytellers are guided or even possessed by spirits and fairies, allowing them to become deeply immersed in their narratives. They can articulate (or share) their stories fluently, making it seem as if the events are unfolding right before their audience's eyes.[65] Example of kunaung include Putri Kemilau Air Emas, Orang Mudo Si Jaru Pantang and Semegang Tunggal from Sitinjau Laut district, Bujang Suanggau and Bujang Buje from Sungai Penuh district, Si Jaru Panta, Si Kembang Payung Paya, Siyo-Siyo Kau Tupai, Puti Limo, Puti Cikkettung and Burung Kuwa from Danau Kerinci district), as well as Nyik Kileng from Gunung Kerinci district.[65]


  1. ^ Each of the Malay words in the table corresponds to two Kerinci forms: the absolute and oblique forms (on their usage, see #Phrasal alternation). Whenever two Kerinci forms are mentioned side by side in this article, the first or the upper form is always the absolute one.
  2. ^ Following the usual practice in Malay linguistics, both the root forms and the prefixed active forms are glossed as infinitives.[43]


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Further reading[edit]