Papiá

Kristang

Browse this section for a preliminary introduction on the Malacca Portuguese Settlement and the basics of Papiá Kristang - including the phonology, grammar, lexicon and writing system.

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In this section, we will look at the linguistic demographics of several ethnic language communities through interviews conducted with Malaysian students and infographs highlighting important statistics and language policies in Malaysia.

1. The Malacca Portuguese Settlement

2. Introduction to

Papiá Kristang

 

1 - The Timeless Village

THE MALACCAN PORTUGUESE SETTLEMENT

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>> OVERVIEW: THE MALACCAN PORTUGUESE SETTLEMENT  

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Malacca (alternatively spelled as Melaka) is located in southwest region of the Malay Peninsula, directly bordering the  Straight of Malacca (Bradley, 2007). Hosting a large variety of ethnic communities and historical relics, it was officially declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 2008 (Wong, 2018). The Portuguese Settlement is one of the many areas in Malacca that contributed to its rich historical context. The Portuguese Settlement, otherwise known as St. John's village, is home to the Kristang people. The Kristang people are of mixed Portuguese and Malaccan descent and boasts a population of around 54,000 worldwide, of which 37,000 of them are residing in Malaysia (Lonely Planet, 2020). 

The Malacca Portuguese Settlement is also the birthplace of the creole Papiá Kristang, which is otherwise known as Malaccan Creole Portuguese. It was originally derived from Portuguese as spoken on the west coast of India, but it has evolved to be laced with extensive local Malay lexical material (Bradley, 2007). In 2010, UNESCO has enlisted Papiá Kristang to be a severely endangered language with around 2,000 speakers left (Moseley, 2010). However, it is believed that the actual numbers of Kristang speakers left are half of this estimated figure and should be closer to less than 1,000 worldwide and 750 in Malaysia (Wong, 2016; Baxter, 2005).

 

Efforts dedicated to preserving Papiá Kristang have been on the rise in the past two decades. Not only has there been multiple dictionaries and grammars written on Papiá Kristang*, such as the works by Baxter, Silva, Pillai and Kajita, online multimedia initiatives such as the Facebook page Linggua de Mai - Bibe Persempre and the creation of the mobile application BibePortMal, have also been launched to counteract the rapid decay of the language. There are also several documentaries online covering the story of Papia Kristang.

(*) For further reference, the Open Language Archives Community (OLAC) initiative by the University of Pennsylvania and other collaborating universities has a section holding resources in and about Papia Kristang, including lexical resources, language descriptions and dictionaries. 

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2 - Introduction to Papiá Kristang

PHONOLOGY, GRAMMAR, LEXICON & WRITING SYSTEM

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PHONOLOGY

GRAMMAR

LEXICON

WRITING SYSTEM

 

>> THE PHONOLOGY OF PAPIA KRISTANG  

As there is no prescriptive, standardised way to speak the language, variations in pronunciation could be observed among different speakers. However, the general consensus for Papia Kristang's phonetic inventory is that there are 19 consonants and 8 vowels in the language (Baxter, 1988; Baxter, Chan & Pillai, 2015; Hancock, 2015).

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>> THE 19 CONSONANTS IN PAPIA KRISTANG (HANCOCK, 2015)​  

  • Plosives: /p/, /b/, /t/*, /d/*, /k/, /g/​

  • Affricates: /c/, /j/

  • Fricatives: /f/, /v/ (though highly infrequent and restricted in distribution), /s/, /z/

  • Nasals: /m/, /n/*, /ñ/, /ŋ/

  • Taps/trills: /r/*

  • Lateral: /l/*
    (*) These consonants are slightly retroflexed when spoken by the older generation

>> THE 8 VOWELS IN PAPIA KRISTANG (BAXTER, CHAN & PILLAI, 2015)​  

  • Vowels: /i/,  /e/~/ɛ/*,  /a/,  /ɔ/~/o/*,  /u/ and  /ə/
    (*) The status of /e/~/ɛ/ and /ɔ/~/o/ are unclear. It is believed that /e/ and /o/ are the more common representations. Particularly, for the case of /e/~/ɛ/, they are only said to be contrastive in one instance ( [pɛtu] 'chest or breast', vs. [petu] 'near' and are similarly represented by <é> orthographically. 

>> PROSODIC STRUCTURES OF PAPIA KRISTANG (BAXTER, 2013)​  

  • Kristang is syllable-timed. There are 2 major stress groups, namely tonic stress on 1.) the penultimate syllable (e.g. kaza 'house'), and 2.) the ultimate syllable (e.g. ku 'eat'). There are smaller stress groups such as antepenultimate stress and monosyllables.

  • There are 8 permissible syllabic structures in Kristang: Cnasal, V, CV, CCV, CCCV, VC, CVC, and CCVC. 

  • Diphthongs are allowed in Kristang. The 8 word-internal vowel sequences are: /au/, /ai/, /eu/, /oi/, /ui/, /iu/, /ua/, /iu/, /ua/, /iu/, and /ue/. 

For more examples on distribution and contrast of Kristang phonemes, c.f. Baxter 1988, pp. 20 - 23; and Baxter, Chan, and Pillai 2015, pp. 250, 255 - 262.

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>> THE GRAMMAR OF PAPIA KRISTANG  

Initially, Papia Kristang was speculated to be a broken form of Metropolitan or Medieval Portuguese without a grammatical system (Houston, 1893). However, with the current resources on hand, this myth could easily be refuted (Baxter, 1988). Kristang has a grammatical structure that parallels that of the Malay in many aspects, such as article and possessive structures.

>> THE ORGANIZATION OF KRISTANG GRAMMAR (BAXTER, 1988)  

  • Word order: SVO

  • Case marking: not present for subjects or non-human direct objects, preposition case-marking for direct human objects

  • 12 identified parts of speech in Kristang: articles, quantifiers, cardinal numerals, pronouns, nouns, adjectives, verbs, modals, relators, particles, interjections and verbs

>> NOUN & PRONOUNS IN PAPIA KRISTANG  

NOUNS

  • The 3 noun classes: common, proper and abstract nouns

  • Common nouns: used to denote classes of entities, but not a particular individual entity​​

    • Syntactically allowed to co-occur with adjectives, determiners and sometimes quantifiers

    • A small number of common nouns have grammatical gender that correspond to semantic gender (e.g. bel-q 'old woman' vs. bel-u 'old man'; alkubiter-a 'procuress' vs. alukbiter-u 'procuror')

    • Divided into count nouns (e.g. omi 'man', tri 'tiger') and noncount nouns (e.g. lama 'mud', agu 'water')​

  • Proper nouns​: denote particular individual entities

    • Syntactically do not take adjectives in the postmodifier position and do not have a recurring structure

    • Proper nouns can be semantically divided into personal items, calendar items, and geographical names​

  • Abstract nouns: denote immaterial entities​

    • Do not occur with postmodifiers or numerals​

PRONOUNS

  • There are 5 classes of pronouns in Papia Kristang: personal, indefinite, deictic, relative and interrogative

  • Personal pronouns: generally, personal pronouns are categorised according to 1.) their person distinction, and 2.) their number contrast. However, there are sub-distinctions among familiarity, generation, and social circles 

  • Indefinite pronouns: grammatically similar, to personal pronouns, but without person distinction
    • Two categories: humans (anybody, nobody), non-human​
    • "Whatever" and "whoever" are also counted as indefinite pronouns
    • Negative indefinite pronouns (nada, nggéng) only occur in negated clauses, but non-negative indefinite can occur in negated clauses
    • Repetition is used to form pronouns (e.g. sipa sipa 'anyone')

  • ​Relative pronouns: connect two clauses which have a noun phrase in common

    • The pronoun represents the noun phrase in the second clause

    • Occurs in initial position of the clause and is preceded by the shared noun phrase (e.g. ki 'that', keng 'who')

  • Interrogative pronouns: represent an unspecified noun phrase within the clause of which the identity is requested

    • 2 interrogative pronouns: 'what?', kéng 'who?

>> ADJECTIVES IN PAPIA KRISTANG  

  • Adjectives: semantically modifies the reference of a noun by attributing said noun with distinguishing properties

  • Semantic classification of adjectives: dimension, physical property, colour, human propensity, age, value, speed, position

  • Syntactic function of adjectives: both attributive and predicative, both may recur in structure

    • Attributive: modifies the head noun within the noun phrase (noun is predicate of such phrase)

      • Can co-occur with common nouns and abstract nouns

      • Example of adjective as attribute:
        aké  kaza   bedri,   eli  sa

        that  house  green,  3s  G
        'That green house is his'.

    • Predicative: singles out the qualities of the head noun and introduces the qualities as the principal emphasis of a clause

      • As predicates, similar to verbs, they may be negated, they may co-occur with TMA particles under certain conditions and be foregrounded when preceding the subject

      • Example of adjective as predicate:
        aké  kaza   ponta  kí      sa   klor?      aké  kaza    bedri

        that  house  end    what  G   colour    that  house  green
        'That end house, what colour is it? That house is green'.

>> VERBS IN PAPIA KRISTANG  

  • Verbs: depict actions, states and changes of state

  • Syntactic categorization: can be subcategorized into 1.) active, stative and change of state verbs; and 2.) intransitive and transitive verbs​​

ACTIVE, STATIVE & CHANGE OF STATE VERBS

  • Active verbs: semantically, they involve dynamic situations that are propelled by a continuous input of energy (e.g. parI 'give birth'). Syntactically, they can co-occur with all Tense-Mood-Aspect (TMA) markers and modal particles

  • Stative verbs: semantically, they refer to situations that can be maintained in a certain state unless otherwise altered (e.g. sabe 'know'). Syntactically, their co-occurrence with TMA markers and modals are restricted

  • Change of state verbs: semantically similar to stative verbs. Syntactically they fall between the restrictions of active and stative verbs (e.g. the change of state verb keré 'want' is semantically stative, yet it can co-occur with the non-punctual particle ta to refer to a state in process unlike other stative verbs

INTRANSITIVE & TRANSITIVE VERBS

  • Intransitive verbs: occur with only one obligatorily argument (i.e. the subject). Intransitive verbs can be classified into basic motion, activity, process, ambient, existential verbs

  • Transitive verbs:  take two core NPs (i.e. the subject and the direct object).

    • Most transitive verbs take on the subject and direct object NPs in relation to the verb only:

      • yo  ja  dali ku  eli
        Is   PF  hit   A   3s
        'I hit him'.

    • Some transitive verbs can take on an additional argument (i.e. indirect object), for example:

      • ​yo  ja  bendé  yo  sa  prau  ku Jeroni
        Is   PF  sell     
         Is   G  boat  R
        'I sold my boat to Jeroni'.

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>> THE KRISTANG LEXICON  

Historically, Papiá Kristang was mainly used for religious purposes and daily communication. The Kristang lexicon has been linked to many cultural practices, of which some of these traditions have disappeared (e.g. the festival of San Juang and the festival of Intrudu) or are in the process of disappearing (e.g. stori rainya 'traditional Kristang stories' and mata kantiga, which is a Kristang music tradition influenced by Portuguese folk music). 

The Kristang lexicon is observed to largely influenced by Portuguese, Dutch, Malay, English, Chinese & Indian, of which Portuguese has the largest influence with 95% of the Kristang vocabulary being Portuguese (Baxter 1995; Hancock 2009). The vocabulary of Papia Kristang is also highly recognizable to speakers of European Portuguese.  

>> EXAMPLES OF WORDS DERIVED FROM PORTUGUESE & DUTCH  (HANCOCK, 2009)​  

MODERN PORTUGESE

 

 

ARCHAIC PORTUGESE

 

DUTCH

>> EXAMPLES OF WORDS DERIVED FROM MALAY  

>> EXAMPLES OF WORDS DERIVED FROM ENGLISH  

>> EXAMPLES OF WORDS DERIVED FROM INDIAN  

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>> ORTHOGRAPHY & WRITING SYSTEM (BAXTER, 2004)  

Kristang is mostly an oral language and was never taught officially in schools, implying a lack of incentive for an orthography for functional purposes in the past. Due to a lack of standardised orthography, previously written literary materials had insignificant impact on community literacy or language maintenance (Baxter, 2004). There are three broad approaches to early orthographization of Kristang, which are namely 1.) a Portuguese based system; 2.) a mixed system of Portuguese, English and Malay; and 3.) A Malay-based system. 

Attempts in the 19th and 20th centuries to spell Kristang based on the Modern Portuguese system is based on a misconception that Kristang is a direct variety of Portuguese or a dialect of Portuguese, instead of a novel creole partially based on Old Portuguese with external influences. This type of spelling has generally been adopted missionaries, such as Rego (1942). Materials produced by Kristang speakers have also occasionally adopted this spelling system. Both the Portuguese-based system and the Malay-based system fail to capture and represent the sounds in Kristang consistently, and are intuitively intelligible for neither Kristang speakers and non-Kristang speakers.

The Malay-system is the closest to being a solution to the inconsistencies posed by the two other systems. It is first proposed by Hancock (1973), and has the advantage of being a system with which most speakers of Kristang are already familiar with. It ma easily be used since the phonological system of Malay and Papia Kristang are generally identical. Publications such as Baxter's "A Grammar of Kristang" (1988) and Marbeck's Ungua Andanza (1995) have followed this approach. Recent publications on Kristang have are also based on this system. 

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