03 August 2012


In my previous post, I discussed the difference between anak yatim and orphan. My UBD colleague, Adrian Clynes, suggested a similar issue: my dictionary tells me that the Malay word balu is equivalent to the English widow, but in fact, that is not quite right, as balu can be used to refer to someone who is divorced, but in English widow never refers to a divorcee.

We can describe this difference in linguistic terms: balu has a broader meaning than widow. In other words, a cross-linguistic comparison suggests that balu is a superordinate term, while English has the two hyponyms, widow and divorcee.

Similar superordinate/hyponym comparisons between Malay and English show that Malay has the superordinate term tikus, while English has the hyponyms mouse and rat; and for the reverse pattern, English has the superordinate term rice while Malay has the hyponyms nasi, beras, and padi.