15 January 2017

Playing extracts

One of my problems with this blog is allowing you to hear extracts of speech. While I can make pictures and videos available, speech seems to be more problematic. But let's see if the following code enables you to listen to this recording of the 'North Wind and the Sun' passage in Brunei Malay:

It seems to work! In future, maybe I'll be able to make more speech extracts available.

10 January 2017

Diphthongs in Brunei Malay

In my previous post, I discussed the number of monophthong vowels in Brunei Malay and suggested there are just three: /i, a, u/.

How about diphthongs? How many diphthongs does Brunei Malay have?

Some people would say three, [ai], [au], [oi]. Illustrative words are:

  • garai ('food stall')
  • palau ('dazed')
  • baloi ('worthwhile')

However, note that these three diphthongs can only occur at the end of a word. In cases in which they occur in the middle of a word (e.g. kain 'cloth', daun 'leaf'), these words actually have two syllables, so we can say there is a sequence of two monophthong vowels.

If a diphthong can only occur at the end of a word, with no following consonant, then we might say that it is a monophthong followed by an approximant. If words such as yang ('which') and wang ('money') can start with an approximant, we can also say that garai and palau end with an approximant.

On this basis, we analyse the three words above as: /garaj/, /palaw/ and /baluj/. So there are no diphthongs in Brunei Malay.

For further discussion of diphthongs in Brunei Malay and the chance to listen to these words, see here.

08 January 2017

Brunei Malay Vowels

How many vowels are there in Brunei Malay?

The simple answer is: three. /i/, /a/, /u/. However, things are not quite so simple. Indeed, the Brunei Malay dictionary (published by the Dewan Bahasa dan Pustaka Brunei) shows prefixes with 'e' (indicating pronunciation as [ə]). As a result, while beli (to buy) is shown as bali in Brunei Malay, its prefixed form is shown as membali.

Is this right? If Brunei Malay only has three vowels, how can prefixes have [ə]? Shouldn't the prefixed form be mambali?

The problem is that the vowel in the prefix is often not as open as [a], especially among young speakers (perhaps influenced by Standard Malay, which has six vowels, including /ə/).

Here is a plot of the three vowels, measured from the reading of a short text by a young female speaker:

Note the substantial overlap between /a/ and /u/, much of which is caused by this prefix. If we plot the prefix separately, here shown as 'e', then the overlap is reduced:

However, in some cases the prefix is produced with a more open vowel, so there seems to be substantial variation.

For more information on the pronunciation of Brunei Malay and the chance to listen to the recordings on which the analysis was based, see here.