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Jakarta Field Station > Collaborative Projects > Traditional Jambi Malay

Traditional Jambi Malay

Outside Scientists:
Peter Cole [external link], University of Delaware
Gabriella Hermon [external link], University of Delaware

Outside Research Assistant:
Yanti, University of Delaware

MPI Scientist:
Uri Tadmor

This project studies Traditional Jambi Malay, an endangered Malay variety spoken in Jambi Province in southeast Sumatra, Indonesia. The PI/co-PIs are Peter Cole and Gaby Hermon of the University of Delaware, and Uri Tadmor of the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology. The are assisted by Yanti, former research assistant at the Jakarta Field Station and native of Jambi, who is currently pursuing a doctoral program at the Univesity of Delaware.

The Malay language originated in Sumatra, and dozens of Malay dialects are spoken on the island, none of which have been well described. Most native speakers of Malay live in Sumatra, many more than in Malaysia, for example. Yet there is not even one thorough grammatical description of a Sumatran Malay dialect. One of the expected results of this project would be the first detailed description of such a dialect.

Traditional Jambi Malay is an ideal dialect for a study, because Jambi is widely considered to be original locus of Malayu/Melayu (the Malay-Indonesian term for ‘Malay'). It was from Jambi--and later from Palembang--that Malay spread throughout much of Southeast Asia. Thus, Jambi is an important key to understanding the complex diasystem of hundreds of Malay dialects. While Jambi Malay as a whole is not in immediate danger of extinction, conservative varieties of the language are being rapidly replaced by an urban koine, which is spreading from Jambi City. As a result of the koineization process, many of the distinctive features of Jambi Malay have been lost in Jambi City. As this process spreads to the hinterland, Traditional Jambi Malay will eventually cease to exist.

In addition to grammatical description of Traditional Jambi Malay, the long-term results of this project are expected to include:

  • Documentation of the language in the form of a computerized database of texts linked to digital recordings in a variety of genres, including narratives, conversations on various topics, songs, poems, riddles, jokes, and ritual texts.

  • Two volumes, consisting of oral history and folk tales respectively, to be published locally for the benefit of the community. These volumes could be used for the muatan lokal, the ‘local component' that should be integrated into national school curricula according to Indonesian Department of Education directives.

  • An automatically generated glossary of Traditional Jambi, which in the second stage of the research (beyond the present proposal) could be expanded into a full-fledged dictionary.

  • A series of theory oriented studies based on the data.

    This collaborative project is made possible by funding from the U.S. National Science Foundation, grant number BCS0444649, and from the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology.

    Last modified: 20 May 2005
    Location: jambi_malay.php.html