Asmah Haji Omar
Faculty of Linguistics
University of Malaya
Asmah Haji Omar is Professor Emeritus of the University of Malaya, where she has been Professor (Chair) of Malay Linguistics, Founder Dean of the Faculty of Languages and Linguistics, and Deputy Vice-Chancellor. Instrumental in the implememtation of the National Language Policy at the UM, Asmah was responsible for the changeover to Malay as official and main language of the university. She has worked on Malay communities, and on Malaysian aborigines and indigenous peoples of the Sabah and Sarawak. Asmah has also worked on the linguistics of the indigenous peoples of Malaysia, as well as the spread of Malay. Apart from books and articles, Asmah has produced two encyclopedias.
Language and Speaker Movement in the Malay World: as told in folk narratives
Research into various aspects of speech systems in indigenous communities in the Malay world provides a picture of a close relationship between them, one that shows that they originate from a single parent. The determination of this relationship belongs to historical-comparative linguistics with theories and methodologies useful in deriving information of the historical development of a family of languages, which includes the geographical direction of language development, hence movement, to a new place of distribution.
Language diffusion in the old days could not take place without the movement of the speakers who at the end of their migration opened up new settlements, i.e. new geolinguistic regions, giving identity to their group. Although language can store what has taken place in history, the single words and phrases used in isolation of context that have become data of historical linguistics can only relate part of the story of a particular language, i.e. its phylogenetic history. But the history of a language is much more than that; there are social, cultural, political, and geographical aspects of their being. Information of this nature of communities of the past are only available in folk narratives. This paper will examine those narratives in terms of the settlement and migration of the people, to see whether information therein agrees with linguistic data analyses.