Four tribal languages are now extinct in Sarawak, say linguist experts


The Borneo Cultures Museum in Kuching, which is a repository of irreplaceable collections, as well as a centre for both Sarawak and Borneo heritage, culture and language. Photo: The Star/N. Zulazhar Sheblee

Four tribal languages spoken by Sarawak ethnic groups are now extinct, according to Sarawak Dewan Bahasa dan Pustaka (DBP).

Sarawak DBP director, Abang Haliman Abang Julai said according to researchers, the tribal languages that are now extinct are Seru, Pegu, Bliun and Lelak.

"Maybe the speaker has migrated or is in a mixed marriage situation and so forth followed then by the diminishing number of the tribe’s community,” he said at the recent 2023 Sarawak Tribal Language General Database (PDUBSS) Workshop 2023.

Abang Haliman also said Sarawak DBP will be working with ethnic and race associations in Sarawak to record and document tribal languages which are almost extinct now.

He said he does not have the actual number of tribal languages that are now almost extinct in Sarawak but he believed that among the tribal languages that are vanishing are those from the Kejaman and Lakiput tribes.

"So, those who are present here (PDUBSS 2023) are representatives of the ethnic (tribal) groups and they get the opportunity to share the terms or words and we are here to record and store the recordings in our database,” he explained.

He also said they have managed to record between 5,000 and 6,000 Sarawak tribal words in their database this year.

Abang Haliman said apart from publishing a dictionary of the languages involved, Kuala Lumpur DBP will also take and discuss the words to be adapted into the national language.

"Our hope is that every ethnic group, especially in Sarawak has words (of their tribes) included in our national or official language,” he said.

He added that the 30 ethnic groups in Sarawak which have many tribal languages can feel that the national language is also theirs. - Bernama

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