A dictionary of Eastern Penan

A dictionary of Eastern Penan

Language: Eastern Penan (ISO639-3:pez)
Depositor: Peter Sercombe
Location: Malaysia
Deposit Id: 0250
Grant id: FTG0001
Funding body: ELDP
Level: Deposit

Summary of deposit
The Penan language documentation project focuses on Eastern Penan. The Eastern Penan inhabit north eastern Sarawak (in East Malaysia) and the south of Negara Brunei Darussalam (Brunei). They number around 10,000 (Sellato and Sercombe 2007) and constitute a demographic and political minority in both Brunei and Malaysia. Until the early part of the 20th century, Eastern Penan were mainly hunter-gatherers, but most have now settled and become rice farmers (not always with success). They share a small number of cultural features with Western Penan but can otherwise certainly be considered a distinct ethnic group. For further details of the classification of Penan groups see Sellato and Sercombe (2007). Documentation includes word lists, stories, articles relating to Eastern Penan circumstances (especially, but not only, regarding language and language education). Gratitude is extended to all Eastern Penan, in particular those in the small settlement of Sukang in the southern part of Brunei, especially Luyah Anak Kaling who was unfailingly helpful in the face of questioning.

Group represented
The deposit contains contributions from Eastern Penan communities living in Sukang in the Southern part of Brunei and the village of Long Lamai in Sarawak.

Special characteristics
The aim of the word list is to meet the needs of Eastern Penan communities, especially school children, as well as academic researchers. Another aim is to create a data base of EP folk stories, as both a resource and record for Penan, as these are rapidly disappearing from people’s repertoires, as more Eastern Penan convert to Christianity and their pre-Christian folklore is seen as outmoded.

Deposit contents
The deposit contains 13 resources. The majority of these are academic papers about aspects of Eastern Penan culture including information concerning cosmology, ethnomedicine, multilingualism and education. A sketch grammar published in 2006 and a wordlist containing translations in English and Malay is included here. There are also two transcribed stories, one of which 'Suket Tokong Murid' contains an accompanying video. Maps of the areas historically inhabited by the Eastern Penan and various pictures of the community are also included in the collection.

Deposit history
The materials contained within the deposit were collected from 1996 to 2016. Peter has been working with Eastern Penan communities based in Brunei and Sarawak throughout this time

Other information
The Eastern Penan language variety is a member of the western branch of the Austronesian family of languages, the world’s largest language family. Its member languages occur in locations as far apart as Madagascar Island eastwards to the Central Pacific Ocean. Of the major or highest order sub-groups, Malayo-Polynesian comprises all the Austronesian languages spoken outside Taiwan. The origins and lineages of the Penan people and their language varieties remain unresolved issues, although the question of language affiliation is, it seems, less controversial. It is not intended to consider the origins of Eastern Penan in detail, but rather to present a range of the currently available arguments and evidence, as a means of eliciting the extent of current knowledge regarding Penan language varieties.

Acknowledgement and citation
Sercombe, Peter. 2018. A Dictionary of Eastern Penan. London: SOAS, Endangered Languages Archive. URL: https://elar.soas.ac.uk/Collection/MPI1171473. Accessed on [insert date here].


Collection online
Resources online and curated


Peter Sercombe
Affiliation: Northumbria University

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Showing 1 - 10 of 12 Items

Information regarding the Eastern Penan language. This article is an attempt to make up for the dearth of material on Eastern Penan, and it has a number of purposes. The first of these is to outline the position of the Eastern Penan language within the linguistic context of Central Borneo, considering the available evidence for Eastern Penan membership of the Kenyah language sub-grouping (within Austronesian). It goes on to consider available literature about various aspects of Eastern Penan; and then provides an introduction to the phonology and morphosyntax of this language.

Recorded on: Unspecified

This article depicts the environment of Penan in Sukang, in the southern part of Brunei, and describesways in which the Penan are affected by aspects of the context they inhabit, including national policies, in terms of language and social categorization.

Recorded on: 2010-01-01

Map of Sukang in relation to Brunei and Sarawak

Recorded on: Unspecified

A map indicating the areas which have historically been occupied by Penan groups

Recorded on: Unspecified

An analsyis of multilingualism among the Penan group living in the subdistrict of Sukang in southern Brunei. This article is primarily descriptive; findings suggest the language situation of the Penans is quite different from both that of their neighbors and other coastal-dwelling Bruneians. The paper, however, also tries to explain some of the reasons underlying Penans’ language attitudes, as well as knowledge and patterns of language use among the Penans.

Recorded on: 2003-01-01

Three young children at Sukang village on the Belait river in southern Brunei. The village has been settled since the 1960s having migrated from Mulu.

Recorded on: 1998-07-01

Pictures taken of Eastern Penan individuals in Sarawak and Brunei. Picture 1 shows a Penan walking from Long Beruang to Bario carrying a parang, blowdart quiver and poison gourd. Picture 2 shows 5 Penan from Pa'tik doing perception tests in Bario. Picture 3 shows a temporary Penan house just outside Bario in the Kelabit highlands, which is part of a squatter settlement. Picture 4 shows 2 Penan walking from Long Beruang to Bario, carrying hunting equipment. Picture 5 shows an elder in Long Lellang, he is holding an oreng (Penan flute)

Recorded on: Unspecified

A 34 page sketch grammar outlining the basic grammatical information of the Eastern Penan language. Information regarding the position of Eastern Penan in relation to other languages of Borneo and Autronesian languages is presented. A description of the phonology, morphosyntax and basic expressions of Eastern Penan is outlined.

Recorded on: 2006-01-01

A collection of basic vocabulary at Sukang village in Brunei. Translations are from English to Malay to Eastern Penan. This is yet to be finally edited. Towards the end there are words for body parts, flora and fauna. The word list was collected over a period of time from 1996 to 2006.

Recorded on: 1996-01-06

Story of a woman who turns into a python by not following traditional proscription. The story is second hand in that he was told this by Dayang Oho from Long Lamai, Sarawak when he was a child.

Recorded on: 1996-07-11