12 December 2015

Berbahasa Satu

This is the central section of the mural on the front of the library building in the middle of Bandar Seri Begawan, the capital of Brunei.

The words say: Berbahasa satu, Berbangsa satu, Bernegara satu (One language, One race, One nation).

While this is not very encouraging for efforts at preserving minority languages, it is perhaps not unusual in countries around the world, where the desire to have a common language throughout the country is widespread. For example, there is a movement to establish English as the national language of the United States, even though there does not seem to be any real threat to the dominance of English despite the fears of some people that Spanish might one day replace English; and in Indonesia, establishment of Bahasa Indonesia as the national language even though it was originally the home language of virtually nobody has been a central national policy over the past few decades.

11 December 2015


In Malay, belas is the suffix given to numerals to indicate the numbers 11 to 19, so 11 is sebelas, 12 is dua belas, and so on.

Then there is the Malay word belasan, to refer to the age group 11 to 19. My dictionary gives the gloss for belasan tahun as 'teens'.

However, this is not quite right, as in standard English, the teens only start at 13, and people aged 11 and 12 are not teenagers.

I wonder if there is a shift of meaning of the word 'teenager' in Brunei English, influenced by the Malay word belasan?

One further influence might be from Chinese, as there is no easy translation of 十几岁 ('aged between 11 and 19') in English. It seems possible, therefore, that this shift in the meaning of 'teenager' is found quite widely in the region, including in Singapore.

05 December 2015


When I started out as an academic, I believed it was my duty to do research and publish it, but I found self-promotion tacky. Well, I guess that's all changed, and now I make things available on my website and on ResearchGate, just like everyone else. I accept that we have to promote our research, and we can't just sit back and hope that somehow people will find it.

Now, as part of my role as Webmaster for my Faculty, I have been tasked with creating and maintaining a 'News' page in the faculty website. (See here).

Is this the sort of thing an academic should be doing? Well, I suppose in the modern world where universities have to promote themselves, just like businesses, it probably is. And even if it does take time away from research, I have to accept that this sort of work is what we all have to do. (Anyway, it beats being on another committee!).

Maybe some people will find it interesting and useful, who knows.