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Jakarta Field Station > Collaborative Projects > Documentation of Kenyah

Documentation of Kenyah

Collaborating Institution:
Culture Sector, UNESCO Jakarta Office [external link]

MPI Scientist:
Antonia Soriente

Documentation and description of Kenyah and Penan languages in East Kalimantan

The objective of this project, is to document, describe and preserve two endangered Kenyah languages, Lebu' Kulit and Òma Lóngh and a Penan language, Penan Benalui all spoken in the Province of East Kalimantan in Indonesia. Previous fieldwork has consisted almost exclusively of wordlists. Yet a comprehensive description of Kenyah and Penan languages can only be achieved once textual data has been collected in at least some isolects, so an analysis can be made of its morphology and syntax. Recording Kenyah and Penan isolects in electronic form, transcribing the recordings, and describing their structure will not only be a boon to Austronesian studies and to general linguistics, but may also instill a pride of the language among its speakers, and encourage them to preserve their cultural and linguistic heritage. This, in turn, will be a small addition to international efforts to preserve the world's cultural and linguistic diversity.

One of the projects co-funded by the Culture Unit of UNESCO office, Jakarta, in 2004/2005 entails of recording various types of texts, including oral literature and oral history; transcribing texts with the assistance of native consultants; analyzing the texts to produce linguistic studies; and last but not least, making texts available to members of the community on audio cassettes as well as in written form. Poems, songs, music, and dances performed by members of Lebu' Kulit and Òma Lóngh communities have been video recorded. Finally, automatically generated glossaries of Lebu' Kulit and Òma Lóngh have been produced, with a view to producing dictionaries of the isolects in the future.


Soriente, Antonia (ed.) 2006. Mencalèny & Usung Bayung Marang: a collection of Kenyah stories in the Òma Lóngh and Lebu' Kulit languages. Jakarta: Atma Jaya Univ. Press.

Soriente, Antonia 2006. "Uma' Kulit: a Kenyah or Kayan language?" in Linguistik Indonesia 24,1:71-81.

Soriente, Antonia 2006. "Mencalèny & Usung Bayung Marang: A Kenyah Language Documentation project in East Kalimantan." in Reflections in Rivers. Festshrift for Prof. J.T. Collins. Pontianak: Stain Press: 65-96.


The first output of this documentation project is the publication of a book containing 15 stories in the two languages titled Mencalèny & Usung Bayung Marang. A collection of Kenyah stories in the Òma Lóngh and Lebu' Kulit languages mainly meant for the use of the community. The next step will be the detailed analysis of the linguistic data to be displayed in a reference grammar of the two languages.

Last modified: 25 Jan 2008, Leipzig, Germany