27 November 2016

Brunei-Malaysia Forum

In my previous post, I discussed the tendency for local news reports to highlight the participation of members of the Royal Family or other dignitaries in events that they attend. It is similar for reports about conferences or seminars, in which the Guest of Honour is invariably mentioned, and also the Keynote Speakers, but the other individual presentations may get less coverage. Furthermore, there are usually lots of pictures of people, but I think it would be more interesting to see a few charts or other details from some of the presentations.

In preparing a 'News Item' for our Faculty website regarding our recent Brunei-Malaysia Forum (see here), I faced a quandary: should I show a picture of all the important people lined up, as is the usual practice? Or should I focus more on the contents of some of the presentations?

In the end, I adopted a compromise: I included the obligatory picture of the important guests:

But, after that, I showed some Figures from student presentations, two from UBD students and two from the University of Malaya.

The first is from the presentation by Blessing Gweshengwe of UBD entitled 'Is there congruity between the conventional poverty measures & contemporary conceptualisation of poverty?'

The second is from the presentation by Mahazril ‘Aini Yaacob and Dr Siti Hajar Abu Bakar of the University of Malaya entitled 'Can we own a home? Road to independent living'

The third is from the presentation by Nur Muhammad Sufi Bin Redzwan of UBD entitled 'A Comparison of Rhoticity between Brunei and Singapore English'.

Finally, this figure is from the presentation by Manimegalai A/P Ambikapathy and Assoc. Prof. Dr. Hasmah Zanuddin of the University of Malaya entitled 'Visual Framing of the “Lahad Datu” conflict coverage in Malaysian mainstream newspapers'.

(If you want to know more about these presentations, you'll have to access the website.)

I hope that, by starting with a picture of important people and then focusing on student presentations, I have achieved a balance but also managed to celebrate the participation of students.

22 November 2016

Performance at ISB

On page 1 of Media Permata of 18 November 2016, there are the following two pictures with a four-line caption below them, describing the performance of a band at ISB:

On page 1 of the Borneo Bulletin on the same day, there are two similar pictures (one of them is clearly shared with Media Permata) describing the same event.

Though the event is the same, there are some interesting differences in the text describing it. Here is the Malay version in Media Permata:

Yang Teramat Mulia Pengiran Muda ‘Abdul Muntaqim dan Yang Teramat Mulia Pengiran Anak Muneerah Muneerah Madhul Bolkiah kelmarin berkenan berangkat menyaksikan persembahan pencaragam Armada ke-7 Tentera Laut Amerika Syarikat (AS) dan Angkatan Bersenjata Diraja Brunei (ABDB) di Teater Sekolah Antarabangsa Brunei (ISB). Berangkat sama ialah Yang Amat Mulia Pengiran Anak ‘Abdul Haseeb dan Yang Amat Mulia Pengiran Anak Raqeeqah Raayatul Bolqiah. – Berita Lanjust di Muka 3

And here is the English version in the Borneo Bulletin:

Some 800 students enjoyed an electrifying performance by the US Navy 7th Fleet Band, supportedby the Roya Armed Forces (RBAF) Band, yesterday, at the International School Brunei (ISB) Theatre. Among those who attended the musical performance were Yang Teramat Mulia Pengiran Muda ‘Abdul Muntaqim ibni Duli Yang Teramat Mulia Paduka Seri Pengiran Muda Mahkota Pengiran Muda Haji Al-Muhtadee Billah and Yang Teramat Mulia Pengiran Anak Muneerah Muneerah Madhul Bolkiah binti Duli Yang Teramat Mulia Paduka Seri Pengiran Muda Mahkota Pengiran Muda Haji Al-Muhtadee Billah – (Full Report on Page 3)

The main differences between them are as follows:

  • The Malay version foregrounds the royal prince and princess; in contrast, the English version only introduces them in the second sentence.
  • The Malay version has a shorter version of their names, not listing their father's name; in contrast, the English version gives their full names, including their father: ibni/anak Duli Yang Teramat Mulia Paduka Seri Pengiran Muda Mahkota Pengiran Muda Haji Al-Muhtadee Billah.
  • The Malay version lists two additional royal attendees: Yang Amat Mulia Pengiran Anak ‘Abdul Haseeb and Yang Amat Mulia Pengiran Anak Raqeeqah Raayatul Bolqiah; in contrast, the English version does not.
  • The Malay version only mentions the royal attendees; in contrast, the English version states that 800 students enjoyed the performance.
  • The Malay version omits any comment on the quality of the performance; in contrast, the English states that it was 'electrifying'.

Given the importance of the Royal Family in Brunei, it is not surprising that the Malay version foregrounds the attendance of the prince and princess. And it is also not surprising that more royal persons are listed in the Malay version.

The shortening of the names in the Malay but not the English is a little surprising. Perhaps that was done to ensure there was enough space to include the extra two people.

18 November 2016

Borrowings into Malay

On page 13 of the Media Permata of 18 November, there is a short article (sourced from the Malaysian Bernama organisation) with the heading:

Jangan terlalu banyak guna kata pinjaman - Dr Rais Yatim

which can be translated as:

Don't use too many borrowed words - Dr Rais Yatim

Dr Rais Yatim is a Malaysian politician, and he was making a speech urging the avoidance of borrowed words primarily from English. It is rather ironic, therefore, that the article includes the following words of Malay, all of which are borrowed from English: proses, sistem, buku, akademi, and tradisional.

Is it possible to avoid borrowings entirely? Are there indigenous words that could have been used instead of these borrowings? I suspect it is not possible to avoid all borrowings. But perhaps he is right that people should try to avoid using too many, and they might be encouraged to use an indigenous word when there is a suitable candidate.

An alternative viewpoint is that borrowings into Malay don't matter. Maybe one of the strengths of Malay is its ability to absorb words from other languages (a bit like English, really). So perhaps, instead of decrying too much borrowing, we should celebrate the ease with which Malay borrows words from English.

The Streisand Effect

The Streisand Effect describes a situation where efforts to prevent access to data have the opposite effect and actually increase access to that data. (It arises from an incident in 2003 when Barbara Streisand tried to prevent people from accessing photographs of her beach-front property; but as a result of her efforts, lots and lots of people now access those photographs. See the Wikipedia article, which helpfully shows a nice picture of Barbara Streisand's house.)

On page 1 of the Media Permata of 18 November 2016, there is an article with the headline:

Laporan meganews306 tidak benar

which might be translated as:

The report on meganews306 is not true

The article states that a report on the website www.meganews360.com about His Royal Highness Prince 'Abdul Malik is not true. Now, I have no idea what this report is about, so I suppose I'd better go to the website and find out.

This raises a question about what we should do when inaccurate reports are published. Should we try to deny them, and thereby incur the risk of making the report more widely known? Or should we keep quiet and let the inaccurate report remain unchallenged? I have no answer to this dilemma.

03 November 2016

Initialisms in Malaysia

I have previously mentioned the frequent occurrence of Malay-English initialisms in Brunei (e.g. here). Here are some Malay-English initialisms from a single article on page 6 of the 2 November 2016 edition of Berita Harian, a newspaper published in Kota Kinabalu, Sabah. See if you can figure out what the English expansion of each initialism is:

  • Jawatankuasa Kira-kira Wang Negara (PAC)
  • Teknologi Maklumat dan Komunikasi (ICT)
  • Makmal Pengurusan Nilai (VML)
  • Persekitaran Pembelajaran Maya (VLE)

All of them except ICT had me stumped, and I had to search the Internet to figure them out. Here are the answers:

  • PAC : Public Accounts Committee
  • ICT : Information and Communication Technology
  • VML : Value Management Lab
  • VLE : Virtual Learning Environment

I guess they are not a problem if you see them often and so become familiar with them. But they had me stumped, and it was hard for me to understand the article without being able to expand them.

01 November 2016


Just like most universities around the world, academics at UBD are judged by their publications, and in particular by the number of times they are cited. And Scopus is the key platform for determining these things.

The problem with Scopus is that it focuses on journal articles and tends to overlook books, and for the social sciences, books and book chapters can be vitally important. But quite beyond that, Scopus is seriously flawed

I recently checked my Scopus listing, and I was surprised to see a book review shown. Now, I write quite a lot of book reviews, often in top journals, but they have never been shown in Scopus before. So it was a nice surprise to see this one listed. The screen shot of my three most recent Scopus entries is shown here:

However, on looking more closely, I realised that it is not actually a book review; it is a corrigendum to a book review.

What happened is this: I wrote a book review and it was published in the Journal of the International Phonetic Association. Subsequently, it was discovered that I had typed the name of one of the editors wrongly, and in the next issue of the journal, a correction was published (a corrigendum). And that is what is listed in Scopus!

How awful is that? I make a mistake, and as a result I get an extra listing in Scopus!

I considered deleting it, but then I thought that it is such a neat illustration of how awful Scopus is that I'll just leave it.