Let me introduce you to those who came before me

Now it is very well established that in Brunei there are 7 indigenous groups which are recognised and seen as the ‘genuine’ Brunei Malays, namely, Melayu Brunei, Kedayan, Tutong, Dusun, Murut, Belait, and the Bisaya (arranged in no particular order).

Some of you might know that I am a member of the indigenous group Tutong. Basically that means that my father or my mother, or both, came from the Tutong district. That is simple enough to understand, right?

However, what some people might not know is that within the Tutong community, though very close-knitted, are further divided into several sub-groups. This is not officially or politically recognised of course, for various reasons. For example, those from Kampung Keriam are generally seen as one group, those from the Kampung Tanjung Maya and Kampung Lamunin are seen as another and those from Kampung Penanjong are seen as yet another.

The distinction is usually made by speakers of the language by listening to subtle differences of accents in the indigenous language, aptly named: Basa Tutong. For example, those from the Kampung Keriam/Penanjong tend to speak the language faster and in a more sing-songy way (belandih) as opposed to the softer, slower and relaxed Kampung Tanjong Maya/Lamunin accent.

Of course these are observations only from my own experiences, others might feel differently. Perhaps sometime in the future I might delve into this matter further and substantiate this with some research.

Anyway, my mother, though is also from Tutong, and is considered a member of the Tutong group, speak a language totally different from the regular Basa Tutong. This is because she is actually from the coastal area of the district, a quaint little village called Kampung Danau. Its language is much more similar to the Dusun language because her community is geographically near to them instead of the other Tutong speakers. Some members from other parts of Tutong sometimes refer to their language as “Basa Penyatong“.

So those from Kampung Danau basically refer to themselves as “Sang Jati“, literally meaning “our people”.

Uno berito*? (How are you?)

Munchoi! (Good!)

* The “r” sound is pronounced as you would in the French word “fromage”.

It’s fun really, learning and using the words. But I am afraid, my mother and my aunties are probably the last generation where Basa Jati is used as the first language. From my generation onwards, unless some families engage in actual language planning in the home, I’m afraid in 100 years, the language will cease to exist.

Ah well, that is just simply… life. For now, I’m just happy that kuji malap basa jati (I can speak my own language).


11 thoughts on “Let me introduce you to those who came before me

  1. Ming… jaie pun malap pebasa jati!!! Kediok-kediok plang tu.Jaie sama Ejah bah pebasa jati li opis. hehe pebaik tah senginan-senginan, asal aro. Jaie itih andi brapa pandai pebasa..

    Ok, seriously Im having difficulty thnkng of d words, but yes like u, I understand the language. When mom speaks basa jati, we speak in malay in return. Oh well… hehe


  2. When I first knew that a pair of siblings of whom are my friends are from Tutong, I was amazed by this whole other language. I thought it was something that they used at their home, for their household, I didn’t realize it was actually a language on its own!


  3. yes tina, it is a recognised polynesian language with its own system or grammar, sounds, yada yada yada. hehe. you can say those from Tutong, are primarilly legally trilingual! 🙂

    jida,munchoi na malap basa jati. li dombo miun belajar? eseh eksen nda tau. hahha. andi jaie pernah kerongow ijun pebasa jati. pusa jaie warna purak. unogat. rat diso no mok dalai jaie tih. (biar merepek asalkan becakap)


  4. Quite coincidently, mau, my dad comes from Danau, and has that accent when he speaks Tutong/Dusun, which is the reason for the r that I have in my speech. My dad’s family generally speak more Dusun than Tutong though.


  5. The Danau system is a language rather than just an accent Amie, unlike the Penanjong and Tanjong Maya ones. BTW, you still can learn the language, it’s not like you’re old or anything. It’s not that hard. It’s still polynesian which means that it has a lot of similarities to Malay. Seize the day!


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