Belait
Lemeting
Native toBelait, Tutong (Brunei), Sarawak (Malaysia)
RegionBrunei, Malaysia
EthnicityBelait people
Native speakers
(undated figure of 1,000 in Brunei)[1]
700 in 1995
Language codes
ISO 639-3beg
Glottologbela1260
ELPBelait

Belait, or Lemeting, is a Malayo-Polynesian language of Brunei and neighbouring Malaysia. It is spoken by the Belait people who mainly reside in the Bruneian Belait District. There were estimated to be 700 speakers in 1995.[2]

Classification

Belait is related to the Miri, Kiput and Narum languages of Sarawak. It is considered part of the Lower Baram subgroup of North Sarawak languages.[3]

Dialects

There are four mutually-intelligible dialects of Belait.[4] These are spoken in two main regions:

Two distinct dialects of Belait – Metting and Bong – are spoken within the Mungkom village, Kiudang.[4] There are very few speakers of any of the dialects.

Phonology

General references on Belait phonology include Martin (1990) on Metting Belait[4][5] and Noor Alifah Abdullah (1992) on Labi Belait.[4][6] This sketch is based on the Metting dialect. Other dialects may vary in their phonology and lexicon.

Consonants

Labial Apical Laminal Dorsal Glottal
Nasals m n ɲ ŋ
Plosives voiceless p t c k ʔ
voiced b d ɟ g
Fricatives s ʁ h
Laterals l
Glides w j

Vowels

Metting Belait has five monophthong vowels /i, u, e, o, a/. There is one diphthong /iə/.

The phoneme /e/ is realised as [ə] in non-final syllables, and as [ɛ] and [e] in final syllables.[4]

Syllable Structure

Lexical roots are disyllabic. Final syllables are typically (C)V((C)C). Non-final are typically ((C)C)V(C).[4]

Grammar

Word Classes

The major word classes in Belait are verbs and nouns. The two classes can be distinguished by their distribution, form and function. For example, verbs are negated with the form (e)ndeh and nouns with the form kay':

(1)

pra'=yeh

rain=DIST

nga'

already

salit,

be.hard,

ndeh

NEG

ana'

able

umaw'

AV.make

padi

paddy

pra'=yeh nga' salit, ndeh ana' umaw' padi

rain=DIST already be.hard, NEG able AV.make paddy

'The rain has become hard, [we] are not able to grow rice'

(2)

kad

tarsier

macim

like

blabiw,

rat

kay'

NEG

blabiw

rat

kad macim blabiw, kay' blabiw

tarsier like rat NEG rat

'The tarsier is like a rat, but it is not a rat'

There are also several closed functional classes:

Basic Clause Structure

Belait is head-initial. This means that head nouns precede possessors and other modifiers. They also precede relative clauses.[4] Most clauses consist of a predicate and a subject. The subject can either follow or precede the predicate. Hence, word order is flexible.[4]

(3)

pading=yeh

sword=DIST

lassaw'

hot

pading=yeh lassaw'

sword=DIST hot

'The sword was hot'

(4)

nengngay'=nyeh

UV.throw=3S

pading=yeh

sword=DIST

lay'

to

mi'

at

dile'

sea

nengngay'=nyeh pading=yeh lay' mi' dile'

UV.throw=3S sword=DIST to at sea

'He threw the sword into the sea'

Predicates can be Verb Phrases (VP), Noun Phrases (NP) or a Prepositional Phrase (PP). Non-subject arguments of a verbal predicate occur immediately after the verb.[4]

Verbal Predicates

The head of a verbal predicate is the verb. There are two main types of verbs in Belait: intransitive and transitive. Intransitive verbs only have a single subject argument. They do not have any voice morphology on the verb. In contrast, transitive verbs occur in two different voices: Actor Voice (AV) and Undergoer Voice (UV). The two constructions are illustrated below:[4]

AV:actor voice UV:undergoer voice

(5)

idih

people

unnah

before

kuman

AV.eat

salang

charcoal

idih unnah kuman salang

people before AV.eat charcoal

'The people before [first ancestors of the Belait] ate charcoal'

(6)

brejin

durian

kinan=lew

UV.eat=3P

abey'

complete

brejin kinan=lew abey'

durian UV.eat=3P complete

'The durian was all eaten up by them'

In the AV construction in (5) the subject is the Actor, i.e. idih unnah 'the people before'. In the UV construction in (6) the subject in the Undergoer, i.e. brejin 'durian'. In both cases, the subject comes before the predicate. The undergoer voice typically has perfective semantics. The actor voice tends to be used in other contexts.[4]

References

  1. ^ Belait at Ethnologue (16th ed., 2009)
  2. ^ Martin, Peter W. 1995. 'Whither the indigenous languages of Brunei Darussalam?' Oceanic Linguistics 34:44–60
  3. ^ Blust, Robert. 1997. 'Ablaut in Western Borneo'. Diachronica XIV:1–30.
  4. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k Clynes, Adrian. 2005. 'Belait'. In Nikolaus P. Himmelmann & Alexander Adelaar (eds.) The Austronesian Languages of Asia and Madagascar. Abingdon: Routledge.
  5. ^ Martin, Peter W. 1990. Notes on the Phonology of Belait. Unpublished MS.
  6. ^ Noor Alifah Abdullah. 1992. Struktur bahasa Belait. Unpublished BA Thesis, Department of Malay Language and Linguistics, Universiti Brunei Darussalam.