28 September 2010

baucar, pancit, mancis

In my previous post, I suggested that borrowings into Brunei Malay often undergo substantial phonological change, while those into Standard Malay are usually more direct. However, there are exceptions: baucar ('voucher'), pancit ('punctured') and mancis ('match') are not at all transparent.

First, baucar. The initial /v/ of English becomes /b/ in Malay because /v/ is not a native sound in Malay. However, some borrowings do maintain the /v/, including visa and vasksin ('vaccine'). I'm not sure what the difference is. Perhaps baucar has been in the language for longer, so it has become more nativised. My colleague, Adrian Clynes, suggests it may also be because baucar is a common word, while only people who travel abroad need visas, and vaksin is a medical term.

Then there's pancit. This one caught me out when I saw it in the newspaper, even in the context of a car stuck on the shoulder of the highway; but once you realise that the final /t/ comes from the -ed suffix in English, maybe it's not so strange after all.

Finally, mancis. This seems to come from the plural, 'matches', which perhaps makes sense as we rarely see matches on their own. But where does the /n/ come from? That has me baffled.