29 June 2011

Borrowing the Malay plural system




"Romou-romou matoku lumuyung id pingasku
aiso pinoborosku, aiso tiso pinikianu ku"

(tears of my eyes, running down my cheeks, I had nothing to say, I didn't ask for a single thing)

"tusak-tusak do piginawaan
owongi oh koungkaladon"

(the flowers of love, they unfold with sweet fragrance)

These two excerpts are from two lovely Kadazandusun (KD) songs. And they are living examples of a growing phenomenon in the use of the KD plural; that is borrowing the system from Malay. It's hardly surprising, since Malay is the dominant language, and the younger generation can't help but become hybrid in their use of languages.


In Malay, plural words are mostly formed by full reduplication. Anak-anak, (children) barang-barang (things) etc. In the KD dialects that I know of (and I think I've heard quite a few although I do not claim to know all dialects), plural is indicated by the prefix 0ngo- (also realized as anga-) as in tangaanak (children), ongodungau (cats). Sometimes ongo-/anga- is used with t- in the front as in tangaanak.

Some people told me that there are instances of words that are fully reduplicated in KD like tanak-tanak (child) and tasu-tasu (dog). But based on my experience, this type of reduplication doesn't indicate plural. It is something else...something that people say when they want to downplay the importance of something, or when they want to be humble about something.

But, supposed there are really plural forms indicated by full-reduplication, I wonder which KD dialects would have that?

5 comments:

Uncle Lee said...

Hi Verone, very interesting. I love your eloquence.
And yes, even Englash today is a rojak of other languages.
Japanese too.

I must check out that 2 songs you mentioned.
Kopivosian do doungadau, poimuhok ko daa tomoimo, gompizon no iso nozou di ginavo nu.
Lee.

de engineur said...

you are right, a full reduplication normally does not indicate plurality, at least not in my hometown.
e.g.:
tanak-tanak (proper use: tanak-anak) - a state of being a child,

: ie nopo di tanak-anak oku poh nga asaru no yahai moi pinlositik do tombolog.

Justin said...

I don't speak Dusun but I'm trying to pick up. Not going to be easy me think because my brain is not as spongy as it used to be.

Anyway, what is it said about language being the soul of a culture or something like that? You can tell the mindset of a culture by its language. For example, certain words or expression exist in one language but not found in another language. That means the "concept" that exists in the former is absent in the latter.

If our KDM language is evolving, that's good cos it means there will be continuity but adopting a "system" from another language and discarding our own "system", I think that's unfortunate.

de engineur has given a good example of the way Dusun refer to "a state of being a child".

Anyway, I'm no linguist, just giving my thoughts on the matter.

Tina said...

Thank you for sharing this. I've never thought of how plurals are used in Dusun except the use of 'ogumu' before the noun! However, I've never come across plurals like tasu-tasu... that's so BM!

Verone said...

Hi Uncle Lee- thanks. Didn't know you know some Kadazan :) Good job!
De engineur- thanks for the example, glad somebody shares my sentiment :)
Justin- it is true that a language needs to do things like borrowing in order to survive. I suppose Dusun will survive this way. And I'm sure you'll be able to pick up some 'bazaar' Dusun too...As long as you understand what people say, that's good enough :)I started speaking only in my teens too. So far so good.
Tina- most native speakers never think about how their language works anyway :). I just happened to be in a position that I have to make it my business to think of it. It's quite fun LOL