11 October 2010


I have previously discussed borrowings into Brunei Malay (here), especially the ways they undergo unexpected phonological change.

Some of my students told me about an interesting one that has me baffled: kutin (from English 'tin'). Why does it have 'ku' on the front?

The use of an extra syllable can be explained, as there is a strong tendency in Malay for bisyllabic roots. But why 'ku'? I have no idea.

My UBD colleague, Adrian Clynes, suggests that /ku/ is a particularly unstable sequence at the start of a word. For example kucing /kutʃiŋ/ ('cat') is ucing in Brunei Malay; but note this involves the loss of an initial /k/, not the addition of one. So the extra /ku/ at the start of kutin remains a mystery.

Maybe the word is not borrowed after all, though the colleagues I have asked all seem to believe that it is.