17 October 2010

kurul / matuka

I find borrowings into Brunei Malay fascinating.

My first-year students told me about the quiff of hair that was worn by Elvis: in Brunei Malay, it was known as a kurul. My dictionary lists it but does not show it as derived from English, even though it pretty obviously comes from curl. The derivation is not too surprising: although Brunei Malay can have an /r/ at the end of a word (banar 'true'; basar 'big', etc), /rl/ at the end of a word would not be good, so curl is broken into two syllables.

And then there is matuka ('motorcar'). Notice the absence of a schwa (/ə/) in the second syllable, which becomes /u/ in the three-vowel /i, a, u/ system of Brunei Malay. The only surprising thing about this one is that the first syllable is /a/ rather than /u/.