31 August 2016


In the new Gadong Health Centre, the walls of the waiting rooms are decorated with pictures and advice on healthy eating, ways to protect your teeth, and various other things. All of it is in Malay, except 'tips' in this heading (which might be translated as 'tips for healthy teeth for your children'):

I'm not sure why the English words 'tips' is used when there is a perfectly good Malay word petua. I don't think there is anything specialist or unusual about petua, so it seems strange to use the English word instead.

25 August 2016


My Malay dictionary tells me that platform is a word in Malay. But how is it pronounced?

I have often heard it said with an initial /f/ by newsreaders of Nasional FM in Brunei. Why would this be? Surely we would expect an initial /p/?

There seem to be three reasons why it might be pronounced with initial /f/:

  • The is no /f/ in Brunei Malay, with the result that words with initial /f/ borrowed from English tend to have /p/ instead. For example, 'file' becomes pail, 'fine' becomes pain, 'fashion' becomes pisin, and 'football' becomes putbul. Similarly for words from Arabic: 'faham' ('understand') becomes paham, and 'fikir' ('think') becomes pikir. It is possible that the newsreaders are so keen to avoid this kind of substitution when they are reading the news in Standard Malay that they overgeneralise and use /f/ when /p/ is actually expected.
  • It is possible that the /f/ later in platform influences the pronunciation of the initial consonant; so there is a kind of long-distance assimilation between the consonants.
  • Maybe people think there is some element of 'flatness' in 'platform', so this encourages speakers to start the word with /f/.

I don't know which of these factors is key. Maybe all three contribute to the occurrence of /f/ at the start of the word.