Jedek language

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Native toMalay Peninsula
EthnicityMenriq; Batek
Native speakers
280 (2017)[1]
Language codes
ISO 639-3None (mis)

Jedek is an Aslian language from the Austroasiatic family first reported in 2017.[3] Jedek speakers describe themselves as ethnic Menriq or Batek to outsiders, but their language, although very closely related, is distinct from all other Aslian languages.[4]


Jedek speakers have no autonym (endonym). Nearby Aslian speakers, particular the Jahai and Menriq, refer to them as the Jdɛk [ɟᶽəˈdɛk˺].[4]


Jedek is spoken by about 280 people[5] in Sungai Rual, located on the Rual River just south of the town of Jeli in Jeli District, Kelantan state, northern Peninsular Malaysia. In the 1970s, the Malaysian government sponsored the resettlement of several bands of former foragers, both Jahai and Jedek speakers who roamed the middle reaches of the Pergau River, to the Sungai Rual area.[4] Today, the area comprises around three main hamlets and is inhabited by around seven bands, of which three are primarily Jahai-speaking, and the other four were primarily "Menriq/Batek", most probably Jedek.

The low number of Jedek speakers could lead it to being considered endangered, but several factors are ensuring intergenerational transmission of the language is not interrupted. Traditionally, Semang communities were highly nomadic and were accustomed to the breakup of groups to suit the particular conditions they were experiencing. The Semang also practice band exogamy, meaning that marriage between speakers of different languages is quite common. Due to frequent contact with surrounding communities, Semang are typically fluent in multiple Aslian languages, and sometimes an adjacent majority language like Malay or Thai. In addition, due to the settlement of multiple bands together, it is common for people born in Rual to marry others from Rual, leading to the intense amount of intermarriage between speakers of Jahai and Jedek, while it is also common for people to relocate to or from Rual for marriage due to the small pool of available adults, most commonly speakers of closely related languages like Jahai or Batek. In addition, the Semang have a strong tradition of maintaining their unique cultural and linguistic identity while undergoing constant contact and social change, so Jedek speakers are accustomed to transmitting their language to children in similar environments. The speaker population of Jedek has grown since the 1970s, and Jedek is used in all environments by speakers of all age groups. Living in such a multilingual environment means that the majority of Rual residents can speak or understand Jedek.

However, this sustained contact with other Aslian languages means Jedek is undergoing changes in morphology, grammar and structure. In addition, getting a paid job invariably means knowing the national language Malay, which surrounds the Aslian speech area. And although Jedek speakers have a positive attitude towards their language, the language is unrecognized by the Malaysian government, which regards the settlement area as Jahai-speaking. So far there has been very little language development, apart from some linguists attempting to create a Malay-based orthography for the language.[1]



Jedek has 9 vowels. All vowels have nasal equivalents, and Jedek demonstrates contrastive nasalization.[1]

Front Central Back
Close i ɨ u
Close-mid e o
Mid ə
Open-mid ɛ ɔ
Open a


Jedek demonstrates a typical Jahaic consonant inventory.[1]

Bilabial Alveolar Palatal Velar Glottal
Stop voiceless p t c k ʔ
voiced b d ɟ g
Fricative (ɸ) ç h
Nasal m n ɲ ŋ
Approximant l j w
Trill r

The voiceless bilabial fricative /ɸ/ is a marginal consonant that occurs only in word-final position

Nasals are prestopped in word-final position when preceded by an oral vowel. Nasal consonants also cause progressive nasalization of vowels.

The rhotic consonant varies in pronunciation from the alveolar trill /r/ to the voiced uvular fricative /ʁ/. How the speaker pronounces it is dependent partially on the speaker's age: younger speakers are more likely to pronounce it closer to /r/ while older speakers are more likely to have a pronunciation closer to /ʁ/.


  1. ^ a b c d Yager, Joanne; Burtenhult, Niclas (December 2017). "Jedek: A newly-discovered Aslian variety of Malaysia" (PDF). Linguistic Typology. 21. doi:10.1515/lingty-2017-0012 – via deGruyter.
  2. ^ Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin, eds. (2017). "Jedek". Glottolog 3.0. Jena, Germany: Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History.
  3. ^ "Language previously unknown to linguists discovered in Southeast Asia". ScienceDaily. 6 February 2018. Retrieved 10 February 2018.
  4. ^ a b c Yager, Joanne and Niclas Burenhult. 2017. Jedek: A newly discovered Aslian variety of Malaysia. Linguistic Typology. 21(3): 493-545. Retrieved 8 Feb. 2018, from doi:10.1515/lingty-2017-0012
  5. ^ "Unknown Language Discovered in Malaysia". Smithsonian. 9 February 2018. Retrieved 10 February 2018.