Mah Meri language

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Mah Meri
Besisi, Betise’
Native toMalaysia
RegionMalay Peninsula
EthnicityMah Meri
Native speakers
3,675[1] (2008)
Language codes
ISO 639-3mhe
Glottologbesi1244

Mah Meri, also known as Besisi, Cellate, Hma’ Btsisi’, Ma’ Betisek, and “Orang Sabat” (pejorative term),[2] is an Austroasiatic language spoken in the Malay Peninsula. Along with Semaq Beri, Semelai and Temoq, Mah Meri belongs to the Southern Aslian branch of the Aslian languages.[1] Mah Meri is the only remaining Aslian language spoken in a coastal area (on the coasts of Negeri Sembilan and Selangor) and its speaker population is 3,675 as recorded at the Orang Asli Museum in Gombak.[1] A dictionary of the Mah Meri language has been compiled by Nicole Kruspe.[3][4]

Phonology[edit]

Vowels[5][edit]

Register 1 vowels
Front Central Back
-round +round
High i     ĩ

ɨ̞

ɯ     ɯ̃ u     ũ
Mid High e     ẽ

ə     ә̃

o     õ
Mid Low ɛ     ɛ̃ ɔ     ɔ̃
Low a     ã
Register 2 vowels
Front Central Back
-round +round
High ɯ̤
Mid High

ə̤

Mid Low ɛ̤ ɔ̤
Low

Voice Register[5][edit]

There are two voice registers in Mah Meri:
Register 1: Register 1 vowels have a clear tense voice quality, shorter duration and lower pitch. Register 1 vowels also have fewer phonotactic restrictions.
Register 2: Register 2 vowels are laxer, longer and higher in pitch. Register 2 vowels also have a slight breathy voicing.

Consonants[5][edit]

Bilabial Labial-
velar
Denti-
alveolar
Alveolar Alveolo-
palatal
Palatal Velar Glottal
Plosive p     b t             d k     g ʔ
Aspirated Plosive pʰ       tʰ       kʰ      
Nasal m̥     m n̥     n ɲ̊     ɲ ŋ̊     ŋ
Tap         ɾ
Fricative s         h        
Affricate tɕ     dʑ
Aspirated Affricate tɕʰ        
Approximant ʍ     w j       ɰ
Lateral Approximant l̥     l

Grammar[edit]

Syntax[4][edit]

In Mah Meri, modifiers and demonstratives occur after the head as shown in examples (1) and (2) while prepositions occur before the head as shown in example (3).

(1)

dṳk

house

naleʔ

old

dṳk naleʔ

house old

'old house'

(2)

lɘmɔl

man

horoʔ

old

ke

that

lɘmɔl horoʔ ke

man old that

'that old man'

(3)

haʔ

LOC

mbɘri

forest

haʔ mbɘri

LOC forest

'in the forest'

For transitive clauses, Mah Meri generally follows an Agent-Verb-Object (AVO) order as shown in example (4), but a Verb-Agent-Object (VAO) order is more common during natural discourse as shown in example (5).

(4)

hŋkiʔ

3

tomboʔ

punch

lɘmɔl

man

ke

that

hŋkiʔ tomboʔ lɘmɔl ke

3 punch man that

'He punched that man.'

(5)

lɘpas

after

ke

that

nɔŋ,

PST:PROX

ʔeʔə̤t

1SG

kɘdeʔ,

hide

kaye

see

hŋkiʔ

3

ʔeʔə̤t

1SG

lɘpas ke nɔŋ, ʔeʔə̤t kɘdeʔ, kaye hŋkiʔ ʔeʔə̤t

after that PST:PROX 1SG hide see 3 1SG

'After that, I hid, (lest) he see me.'

For intransitive clauses in Mah Meri, both Subject-Verb (SV) and Verb-Subject (VS) orders are possible as shown in examples (6) and (7) respectively.

(6)

ʔeʔə̤t

lSG

nimbol

come.from

bawaw

sea

nɔŋ

PST:PROX

ʔeʔə̤t nimbol bawaw nɔŋ

lSG come.from sea PST:PROX

'I came from the sea just now.'

(7)

lɛp

enter

do

water

haʔ

LOC

tə̤k

ear

lɛp do haʔ tə̤k

enter water LOC ear

'Water got into (my) ear.'

Morphology[4][edit]

Morphology in Mah Meri is exclusively through prefixation and infixation.

Semi-productive derivations[edit]

1. Detransitivizing N- 'DTR'

The prefix n- is attached to monosyllabic verbs and the vowel from the final syllable is reduplicated into the vowel position.
Example: 'to do' → nɛ-bɛ 'doing, doer'
For disyllabic verbs, the initial consonant is replaced by a homorganic nasal.
Example: plɘt 'to extinguish' → m:ɘlɘt 'extinguishing'

2. Transitive focus ka- 'TR'

The prefix ka- only applies to indigenous monosyllabic verbs.
Example: jɛt 'to follow' → ka-jɛt 'to follow someone or something', cɔʔ 'to go' → ka-cɔʔ 'to go to someone or a place'

3. Distributive < l > 'DISTR'

The infix < l > applies to disyllabic intransitive verbs of position or state and also some verbs of motion.
The infix is inserted into the initial syllable and a schwa replaces to well to correct syllable structure.
Example: kancɛw 'to be naked' → kɘlancɛw 'many naked (people)'.
If the penultimate syllable CV is a palatal stop plus schwa, the < la > infix is applied instead.
Example: jɘkɘʔ 'to sit motionless' → jɘ-la-kɘʔ 'many sitting motionless'

Regular productive derivations[edit]

1. Iterative sɘ-RDP-root 'ITER'

The prefix is attached to the initial constituent of reduplicated bases to express iteration.
Example: sɘ-nake-nake (ITER-RDP-that) 'that one over and over again'

2. Happenstance tɘ- 'happ'

The prefix tɘ- expresses a) an inadvertent event and b) ability or inability when used in a negated clause.
Example: tɘ-ka-ca 'happen to eat'

3. Middle voice bɘ- 'MID'

The prefix bɘ- is applied to either verbal or nominal roots to express an attributive or possessive function.
Example: bɘ-dṳk 'having a house'

Language Endangerment and Vitality[edit]

According to Ethnologue,[2] the language status of Mah Meri is '6b: Threatened', referring to the situation whereby the language is used for face-to-face communications within all generations, but is losing users. This status is based on Lewis and Smino's (2010)[6] Expanded Graded Intergenerational Disruption Scale (EGIDS).

A study by Coluzzi, Riget & Wang (2017)[7] on language use and attitudes across 4 different Mah Meri villages on Carey Island suggests that while Mah Meri is still holds a strong and positive status in the community, there is a possibility of a complete language shift towards Malay in the future due to lesser usage of Mah Meri amongst the younger generation.

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c Benjamin, Geoffrey (2012). The Aslian languages of Malaysia and Thailand: an assessment. In Stuart McGill & Peter K.Austin (eds) Language Documentation and Description, vol 11. London: SOAS. pp. 136-230
  2. ^ a b "Mah Meri". Ethnologue: Languages of the World. Retrieved 28 March 2020.
  3. ^ "Nicole Kruspe". Lund University Research Portal. Retrieved 28 March 2020.
  4. ^ a b c Kruspe, N., & Zainal, A. (2010). A Dictionary of Mah Meri as Spoken at Bukit Bangkong. Oceanic Linguistics Special Publications, (36), Iii-410. https://www.jstor.org/stable/25822793
  5. ^ a b c Kruspe, N., & Hajek, J. (2009). Mah Meri Journal of the International Phonetic Association, 39(2), 241-248. doi:10.1017/S0025100309003946
  6. ^ Lewis, M. Paul; Simons, Gary F. (2010). "Assessing endangerment: Expanding Fishman's GIDS". Revue roumaine de linguistique. 55 (2): 103–120. Retrieved 28 March 2020.
  7. ^ Coluzzi, Paolo; Riget, Patricia Nora; Xiaomei, Wang (2017). "Language vitality among the Orang Asli of Malaysia: the case of the Mah Meri on Telo' Gunjeng (Carey Island, Selangor)". International Journal of the Sociology of Language. 2017 (244): 137–161. doi:10.1515/ijsl-2016-0060.

External links[edit]