28 March 2013

Book on Brunei English

I just saw the announcement on Amazon of my book Brunei English: A New Variety in a Multilingual Society, written together with my colleague Salbrina Sharbawi and soon to be published by Springer.

Trouble is, how are people in Brunei going to buy it, given the lack of bookshops?

But you, dear reader, can get it directly from Amazon! And, at US$106.56, worth every cent!

Yes, alright, it does seem a bit expensive. I'm not sure if there will be a paperback version one day. Perhaps that will be a bit less expensive.

15 March 2013

Birds' Nests

This post has nothing to do with language, but never mind. Here is a picture of the bougainvillea in the window-balcony outside the guest bedroom in my apartment.

In the middle, you can see a birds' nest. We have had quite a few birds nesting in there, and we often wake up to the sound of little birds chirping, as we have nests outside our main bedroom as well.

But what is even more interesting is that a new bird has recently nested in the corner of the balcony, squeezing into a comfy spot between some flower pots and the corner: an owl. And now the baby has hatched, so it sits there waiting for its mother to bring it things to eat every day.

I haven't tried to provide a photograph, as I don't want to disturb it. But it is rather special to have an owl nesting outside one's window, no more than one metre away from where I am sitting at the computer and typing this.

13 March 2013

Lexical Doublets

There is a great fondness for paired expressions in Malay, otherwise known as lexical doublets. On page 5 of the Media Permata of 13 March 2013, in an article on rumours that circulate in cyber space, we are told that one particular rumour:

adalah palsu dan tidak benar sama sekali

which might be translated as:

is false and not true at the same time

Of course, English also has some lexical doublets, such as rules and regulations, due care and attention, and goods and chattels, but I suspect that they are mainly found in the legal domain and are less common in ordinary language. In fact, in English I would describe 'false and not true' as tautologous. But it seems to be fine in Malay.

12 March 2013


It is interesting to compare sentence length in English and Malay. Here is the final paragraph in an article from page 3 of Media Permata of 12 March 2013 about changes in the speed limit that have been introduced, quoting the Minister of Communications:

Beliau juga menyatakan bahawa perubahan itu juga adalah untuk keselesaan dan keselamatan pemandu kenderaan berat dan komersial di mana dari permerhatian yang dibuat, had laju yang ada pada masa ini telah banyak menyebabkan pemandu-pemandu kenderaan berat melanggar peraturan seperti memandu melebih had laju atau membawa lebih muatan kerana ingin cepat sampai serta mengaut keuntungan yang lebih.

This might be translated (rather badly as) as:

He also said that this change also was for the comfort and safety of drivers of heavy goods and commercial vehicles whereby from observations that have been made, the speed limit that exists at the current time too often causes drivers of heavy vehicles to break the rules such as driving over the speed limit or carrying too large a load because they want to be fast and grab a greater profit.

Obviously, this is excessively long in English, though it seems to work fine in Malay. And this illustrates the tolerance for long sentences in Malay. Note in particular the use of di mana in Malay as a general-purpose linking conjunction. I have translated this as whereby in the English, but we really don't use whereby like that.

One problem is that students often do use whereby in their written English, and this seems to be influenced by written Malay. I sometimes advise students never to use whereby ever again. It is quite a rare word in English, and its use by Bruneian students almost always creates sentences that are too long.