Check out our speakers for The Language Event in Penang on 16-17 December 2023:

Chavacano: History, Structure, Ideology and Status of the Spanish-based “Creole” of the Philippines

Carlos Yebra López

In this presentation, I will offer a panoramic view of Chavacano (also spelled Chabacano), traditionally conceptualised by scholars as the common name used for creole linguistic varieties with Spanish as the lexifier and Philippine languages as the adstrates. After a brief overview explaining the what, why, where and when of Chavacano, I will discuss the history of the language and its formation, its grammatical structure, the colonial, postcolonial and neocolonial ideologies surrounding it, and its current status. First, I will distinguish between the early emergence of Chavacano (1565-1718), its middle history (1718-1821) and its late history (1821 to present). Second, I will analyse its verb-subject-object structure, how to form the past, present and future tenses, and textual as well as audiovisual samples, with a focus on its similarities and differences vis-à-vis Spanish, as well as the influence of indigenous and endangered languages (e.g. Nahuatl). Third, I will discuss the colonial implications of the positive valuation of Spanish as a language of prestige, on the one hand, and the converse pejoration of Chavacano as a supposed form of corrupted Spanish, on the other. Lastly, I will examine the current vigour of Chavacano locally (in the Philippines) and globally, reviewing a number of online and offline revitalisation efforts.

A Comparison of Malay Dialects Spoken in Malaysia, Indonesia and Thailand

Brian Loo

The Malay language is spoken by over 200 million speakers across a huge area of Southeast Asia. From Southern Myanmar, down the Malay Peninsula to Singapore, from the south and east of Sumatera stretching across the Riau Archipelago to the Natuna Islands and coastal regions of Borneo, a huge range of Malay dialects exist. There are also creolised forms of Malay spoken far to the east: in Sulawesi, the Moluccas and various parts of Nusa Tenggara Timur, Indonesia, besides transplanted varieties that have spread as far as Sri Lanka and even South Africa. Varieties of Malay form the basis of the official languages of Malaysia, Indonesia and Brunei as well as the national language of Singapore. This presentation will focus on phonological and grammatical features of the various lesser-known Malay dialects spoken between Southern Myanmar and the Riau Islands and from Sumatera across the South China Sea to the west coast of Borneo.

Penang Hokkien

Timothy Tye

Penang Hokkien is a language spoken by over a million people on the northern part of Peninsular Malaysia. It is similar to Medan Hokkien. Both trace their roots to Chinese refugees who fled Zhangzhou in Fujian Province in the late 17th century. The language is also closely related to the Hokkien spoken in Singapore and Klang, whose ancestors were likewise refugees but from Quanzhou in Fujian Province. Penang Hokkien existed as a spoken language until 2013, when a homegrown writing system was finally created for it. In this presentation, I want to share the history of Penang Hokkien, culminating with the effort to create an effective and easy-to-learn writing system for the language.

The Endangerment of The Kristang Language

Sara Frederica Santa Maria

Bahaso Cino Pondok : An Insight into the Peranakan Dialect of Minang

Alexander The

Ever heard of Nasi Padang? The ubiqutuous selection of dish owes its name to the capital city of the West Sumatra province in Indonesia, home to the matriarchal Minang ethnic group that speaks the Minang language, one of the closest relative of Malay. The language is mainly spoken in Western Sumatra and nearby region in Indonesia, yet a substantial Minang speaking population also exists in the Negeri Sembilan state in Malaysia due to migration. In this presentation, we will dwelve further into an oft-forgotten dialect of Minang, the Pondok or Peranakan Minang which is commonly spoken by ethnic Chinese in West Sumatra that have adopted the language of their new homeland over centuries. The Pondok dialect not only incorporates loanwords from other languages such as Hokkien and Dutch, but also created new words that are not used by other Minang speakers. Join the presentation and learn more not only about the language, but also socio-historical aspects of the community and the wider Ranah Minang.

Why do you (and I) sound Malaysian? Pronunciation, intonation, and stress in Malaysian Mandarin

Steven Neoh

Perhaps you have seen those Youtube videos in which non-Malaysians dramatise their struggle to comprehend spoken Malaysian Mandarin. Or, perhaps if you’re visiting us, you will have had this same experience firsthand.
This is first and foremost a phonetic analysis-cum-demonstration of some of the most prominent features of Malaysian Mandarin, ranging from entering tones and missing retroflex consonants, to glottal stops and the characteristic “flat” tonal profile. We will use examples from words that you are likely to encounter in daily parlance, and explore some of the reasons for these variations.
Naturally, this will start to converge with the story of the “Chinese” in Malaysia, of our (diverse) southerly provenance and (diverse) linguistic heritage, and of our dualistic identity as ethnic 唐山 descendants but citizens of a multiracial postcolonial nation. In our discussion, we run into the enduring influence of Hokkien and Cantonese (amongst other languages), into the role of the education system, and in some ways into the Malaysian Chinese self-identity.
My family is Hokkien/English bilingual and I learned all of my Mandarin overseas before I later returned. Therefore, this is also quite a personal story of how, in my 20s, I started to connect the dots about my own community, through a lingua franca that I acquired elsewhere.

Introduction to Northern Malay

Wan Amirul

Prepare to embark on a linguistic journey through the enchanting realm of the Northern Malay dialect group, as we celebrate Penang’s role as the vibrant host city for this edition of The Language Event. Northern Malay, or natively known as “Loghat Utara” or “Pelet Utara” is widely spoken across states like Perlis, Kedah, Penang, and parts of Perak. Not to mention, this dialect transcends international borders, stretching all the way to Thailand’s Satun Province and even touching Kawthaung in southern Myanmar. Prepare to unravel its secrets as we delve into the dialect’s origins, its vast reach, and its fascinating nuances. The spotlight will shine on pronunciation rules, granting you the power to pass off as a local. In addition, basic phrases and sample sentences will also be the key focus areas of this presentation. But the exploration doesn’t stop there. We’ll unveil the subtle differences that distinguish various dialects within this linguistic family. Moreover, we’ll dive into the art of “oversimplification” – where everyday terms in Standard Malay take on a whole new life in the Northern dialect. To enrich your experience, we’ll draw comparisons, revealing the subtle differences between this dialect group, Standard Malay and the colloquial Kuala Lumpur dialect. This crash course isn’t just about learning words; it’s about embracing the essence of communication that shapes communities. Join us as we bridge cultures and languages, with Penang as our backdrop and the Northern Malay dialect as our guide. Your linguistic adventure begins here.

Terminologies in Baba Traditional Wedding

Chai Cheng (Cedric) Tan

The Baba Nyonya community emerged due to the acculturation of the early Chinese immigrants with the local customs and practices. To maintain their Chinese tradition in this new land of opportunity, the community continued to practice quaint Chinese customs and rites including amassing proper artefacts and accessories related to the wedding ceremony. The wedding ceremony is the epitome of the Baba Nyonya culture till 1930s before the World Depression reduced the wealth of many families. Added with the Anglicization of the committee, younger generation started to abandon this rite of passage for simpler Western style ceremony.
The Baba traditional wedding is now a rarely seen event today and is facing extinction as many experts related to this event have passed away. Coupled with the high cost involved and rarity of a number of artefacts, the wedding can be economically daunting to young couples to consider this wedding as an option when they tie the knot. Along with the know-how about the processes attached to each segment of the wedding, the Baba patois terminologies heavily utilized in this event face similar threat of disappearance. Some efforts have been taken to archive the wedding procedures but unfortunately were written in English. This presentation transports the audience into the realm of the Baba traditional wedding with photos attached to each procedure, setup, artefacts and costumes. Where possible, the Baba patois terminologies will be used with a note on the origin of the words attached. It is through this skillful utilization of original and local languages that the community was able to maintain their Chinese rites despite the loss of their ability to converse in their original Chinese dialect.

Native Australian Languages

Liam Williams Price

Native Australian languages are as varied as the vast continent. Come and learn about native language practitioners and language reclamation efforts. You’ll also get to experience an introductory lesson to Warlpiri, a language from Central Australia.

The Influence of Sanskrit Language and Culture on Bahasa Melayu

Abdul Musawwir Marian

This essay will highlight the historic impact and influence of Sanskrit on the Malay Language. Surprisingly, Sanskrit is the number 1 donor of loanwords into Malay, superseding even Arabic. This essay will look at the interesting ways Sanskrit has embedded itself into the Malay language; citing examples from Proper Nouns, Cultural and Religious ideas, as well as day-to-day words. After that the essay will examine the long-lasting impact Sanskrit has had on Malay language, and the layers of culture that still bear the mark of historic interaction. The essay will also take some time to “zoom out”, and look at SE Asia as a whole, and see the impact Indianization had on all nations in the area; not just Malay. To then counter this, the essay will briefly highlight the Austronesian family of which Malay is a part of. And this will leave some room for discussion on what a language is, and how we decide which family or groups languages fit into. Lastly, for the language lovers, the essay discusses what exactly the point of all these historic connections are; how examining a language more deeply can then make it more interesting to the learner and provide a variety of pathways for new learners to discover a new language.