--------- CHAPTER III ---------
LINGUISTIC DIVERSITY & VITALITY IN MALAYSIA
Voices are transmitted, and through the many vibrations, these ephemeral sound waves are stricken with the reality of death and decay. We see the sonorous and hear the bright, but have we witnessed the delicate beauty these soft voices emit?
Colours of the Hibiscus
LINGUISTIC DIVERSITY IN MALAYSIA
"Malaysia's fascinating right? You can never tell where a person is from and what they speak if you don't ask. It's like colours on a spectrum. You think you can label a colour, but they're always and nuanced and somewhat different if you look closely enough."
. . .
Over the next few days, we split up into our own groups in pursuit of potential informants. There was less hesitation in our voices when we reached out to passers-by, and less jittered fumbling when we opened up our stimuli files for elicitation. All this wandering around was exhilarating, for we were exploring a foreign territory, yet this foreign land provides just enough signages for the safe-zone boundaries to be easily identified. We managed to meet different UM students with immensely varied linguistic backgrounds and collected little anecdotes from them.
FROM OUR WAYFARERS...
"After a week of immersion in Malaysia, I have grown to know more about language diversity in the local community. I saw how different languages coexist and are used vividly. Through our interactions with the buddies we met at UM, we discovered Malay itself is a language with diverse features shared among many other languages. I’m grateful to have joined the field trip and studied those interesting languages in person." -- Yuki, HKU coursemate
Death and Decay
LINGUISTIC VITALITY IN MALAYSIA
To learn that a large number of languages in Malaysia were endangered was overwhelming. The more the wayfarers were immersed in the beauty of Malaysia's robust vibrancy, the further they were taken from the reality of death and decay of Malaysia's ethnic languages.
. . .
On the fifth day, a seminar on the linguistic landscape in Malaysia was arranged for us. The seminar was to be hosted by Dr Paolo Coluzzi and Dr Patricia Nora Riget. As our two hosts began to give their presentations, an air of solemnity and unspoken disquietude descended upon us, contrasting with the vigorous passion in their voices. The reality of death and decay hit us: many ethnic languages in Malaysia are slowly fading away and disappearing.
Our hosts gave us a primer on the linguistic repertoire of Malaysia, a comprehensive timeline of the language policies in Malaysia, and the chronicles of language preservation that have taken place. Yet one thing we have come to realize was that those efforts could not catch up with the pace of which language decay is taking place. There is no singular narrative either -- it was multi-sided, with countless rationales and factors to take into account.
“I personally believe that if not all, most of the minority languages should have some space in education, but I don’t see that coming very, very soon because of many reasons."
DR. PAOLO COLUZZI - Associate Professor at the Department of Asian and European Languages, UM
"If the language dies off, the culture will die off too. Because when you think about language, it’s not only a language that you use to communicate, but the language has a cultural part. The death of one language is the death of all the knowledge that the people have."
DR. PATRICIA NORA RIGET - Senior Lecturer at the Department of Asian and European Languages, UM