07 May 2014


This morning, I was reading an article on page 7 of Media Permata of 8 May 2014, and I came across this extract:

telah menerima aduan daripada orang awam mengenai kedai-
fan keluarga itu yang memerlukan bantuan

which might be glossed as:

have received complaints from the public about the pover-
ty of this family which needs help

When I got to kedai- fan, I was confused, as kedai means 'shop', and then I wondered what fan might mean.

Of course, I was mis-parsing it, as kedaifan means 'poverty', and it consists of daif ('poor') with the ke+an circumfix to convert an adjective into a noun. I would have thought that it would have been better to hyphenate it as kedaif-an rather than kedai-fan.

Looking through other cases of hyphenation in the same article, I found:

  • hu-kuman ('judgement')
  • un-tuk ('for')
  • penggu-naan ('use')
  • ka-wasan ('region')
  • se-lain ('other')
  • men-genalpasti ('identify')
  • tem-pat ('place')

The rule seems to be that a hyphen always occurs before a consonant. If there are two consonants, then the hyphen occurs between them; but if there is just one consonant, then the hyphen is inserted before it.

Now, this makes sense from a phonological perspective, where a single medial consonant tends to belong with the following syllable rather than the preceding one, as we prefer consonants to be in the onset of a syllable rather than its coda. But I still think that maintaining the morphological integrity of a word should sometimes be allowed to override this placement of a hyphen before a single consonant.