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Narratives of Malaysian Indigenous Peoples: A Historical Linguistic Study of Their Migration and Settling Down

ASMAH HAJI OMAR is a Malaysian linguist. She is an emeritus professor at the Academy of Malay Studies, University of Malaya.

DBP (First published, 2023)
341 pages including Bibliography and Index


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ISBN: 9789834935979 Product ID: 37541 Subjects: , Sub-subjects: , , , ,

Narratives of Malaysian Indigenous Peoples: A Historical Linguistic Study of Their Migration and Settling Down explore the values of folklores with the belief that myths and legends came into being from events that occurred in real life, with the concern on the movement of people in history and their settling down in regions where they are now. Folk narratives are stories or tales of a particular group of people that have been handed down orally from generation to generation. The tales are of various genres: animal stories, fairy tales, simple folk stories of life in their villages, epics of kingdoms, biographies, and such like. These stories are of value to linguists in terms of the language used, the regions where the stories were supposed to take place, encounters between peoples of different ethnic groups in various situations, movements of people from place to place in their migration, and finally their settling down in ‘countries’ which they ‘opened’ for their people. All these means that discussions on the subject matter are focused on two perspectives, time and space, which in general belong to historical linguistics. These narratives are rich with information not just in answering the questions “from Where, to Where, and How”, but also provide answers to questions pertaining to factors behind their leaving their erstwhile places of domicile, choosing and making a home in a particular place, or moving on even after having established what they considered as their negeri (Malay), menua (Iban), daleh (Kayan), and poemogunan (Kadazan), to start a new one.

In achieving the objective of writing this book using folk narratives as a source of information, two types of interpretation have been applied. One is interpretation by identifying tangible and concrete evidence from various disciplines, such as archeology, anthropology, geology, historical geography, historical records, and literary Writings; the other is interpretation through the historical comparative method in linguistics. Hence, the title of this book, Narratives of Malaysian Indigenous Peoples: A Historical Linguistic Study of Their Migration and Settling Down. Most stories of ancient people in the Malay world do not appear in documents which would readily be accepted by historians. This stance is rooted in the epistemology of History as an academic discipline, according to which the history of a particular place or people has its beginning only when there is a written document, however brief, giving a particular time frame if not a particular date. Following this epistemology, a big chunk of the history of a people who receive a writing system much later than their activity of ‘opening a country’, is lost. In a bigger context, the losers are not just particular groups, but the nation as a whole.

An interesting outcome of this study of Malaysian indigenous narratives is the homeland of the people. There have been theories of the original homeland of the Austronesians, and particularly of the people of the Malay Archipelago. But this present study shows that not a single indigenous group of Malaysia says that their ancestors were from outside Southeast Asia. What they are telling us through their narratives is that they are truly Malaysian indigenous peoples, and that they have always been in their homeland, that is, the islands of the Malay Archipelago, the Malay Peninsula, and parts of mainland Southeast Asia. Their early ancestors did not transmigrate from any locality outside these regions. Although the writing of this book is guided by the epistemology of historical linguistics, the way the text is presented should be easily comprehended by anyone who is able to read English. The narratives cited and retold in the text should be interesting not just to the people t0 whom the narratives belong, but to others as well. There is a possibility that a majority of the indigenous peoples are still unaware of their past history as told in the narratives.


1. Narratives and Indigenous History
Narratives and History
Concepts of ‘Tanah’ and ‘Negeri’
Approaches in the Study of People Movement in Folk Narratives
The Indigenous Groups and Their Languages
Contents of Narratives
Factors Leading to the Migration of the Indigenous Peoples
• Push Factors
• Pull Factors

2. Sarawak: People and Language Movement
Penan Narratives
Punan Narratives
Tatau and Lugat Narratives
Bukitan (Baketan) Narratives
Kajang Narratives: Sihan, Lahanan, Kejaman, Sekapan
Iban Narratives
Selakau Narrativas
Bidayuh Narrativas
Kayan Narratives
Kenyah Narratives
Narom-Kiput Narratives
Kelabit Narratives
Lun Bawang Narratives
Melanau Narratives
Narratives of the Tanjong, Kanowit, Ukit, Seru, Bellun, Segalang, Rejang
Sarawak Malay Narratives

3. Sabah: People and Language Movement
Dusunic and Paitanic Subgroups: Relationship within the Dusun Subfamily
Kadazan, Dusun, Kadazandusun
Kadazan/Dusun Narratives
Orang Sungai Narratives
Paitan Narratives
Murut Narratives
Bajau Narratives
Suluk Narratives
Ilanun Narratives
Bisayah Narratives
Malay and Kedayan Narratives

4. The Malay Peninsula: People and Language Movement
Austroasiatic Orang Asli Narratives: Negrito, Senoi
• Senoi Narratives
• Mah Meri Narratives
Austronesian Narratives of the Malay Peninsula
Narratives of Orang Asli Malays: Jakun and Temuan
Narratives of Mainstream Malays
• Narratives from Srivijaya Inscriptions
• Narratives from Sejarah Melayu
• Narratives from Hikayat Merong Mahawangsa
• Narratives from Al-Tarikh Salasilah Negeri Kedah

5. Narratives as Windows to the Past
People Movement and Settling Down
Indigenous Narratives and Homeland Theories
Settlers of Foreign Origin
Linguistic Diversity and Social Conductivity
Types of Interpretation Applied Conclusion


Weight0.404 kg
Dimensions21.5 × 14 × 1.8 cm




Year Published


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