Moribund Language Preservation and Documentation in Sarawak with the Focus on Punan Language

Author: Zeckqualine Melai, Ivy Rigar (UNIMAS, Sarawak, Malaysia)
Speaker: Zeckqualine Melai, Ivy Rigar
Topic: Linguistic Anthropology
The (SCOPUS / ISI) SOAS GLOCAL CALA 2019 General Session


This study focuses on one of the moribund languages that is at the verge of extinction, known as Punan (in Sarawak). The emphasis of this language study is to pursue a small-scale study, which closely involved a small and limited study area of the Punan community in the longhouse of Punan Bah, Belaga. The fundamental aim of this paper is to uncover the confusion over the various terms used to refer to Punan’s ethnicity and language. In addition, this study also aims to document and preserve Punan language in order not to be extinct in the future. As a field-oriented research, respondents were selected based on several important criteria such as a native speaker, aged 40 years and above and a residence of Punan Bah area. The data were collected through interviews and voice recording. The data mainly covers the history and background of the Punan.

Linguistic data is collected on a list of words and transcribed into phonetics to illustrate the actual pronunciation sounds. The findings show the language and the races of Punan and Penan are two distinctive categories with their own respective identities. From the historical and background aspects of the Punan language, it is spoken in eight longhouses namely Punan Pandan, Punan Jelalong, Punan Mina, Punan Meluyou, Punan Bah, Punan Biau and Punan Sama. While linguistically, it is found that the Punan language has four main variations: daily spoken language, ukiet (folklore), u’a and setuo. Hence, the study contributed to the exposure and insights of the diversity of indigenous languages that exist in Sarawak.


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Keywords: Moribund, Language Preservation and Documentation