22 May 2012


The pronunciation of names in different languages is always interesting. The morning, on the 8:00 RTB radio news, I heard the announcer state that Prince Sufri, the President of the Brunei Olympic Committee, has gone to Budapest, but he pronounced it with [f] rather than the expected [p] at the start of the final syllable.

This is quite easy to explain: Malay has no [f], except in borrowed words such as faham ('understand') and fikir ('think') from Arabic and filem ('film') and fail ('file') from English. But it is common for people in Brunei (and elsewhere in the Malay-speaking world) to pronounce faham with an initial [p], in effect nativising the pronunciation. To avoid this, some speakers are very careful to make sure they pronounce the [f] correctly. And then occasionally they extend it, and they end up using [f] where in fact it is not expected. We call this "overgeneralisation".