*serampan* in Yokohama Pidgin English

Waruno Mahdi mahdi at FHI-Berlin.MPG.DE
Sat Nov 20 17:59:57 UTC 1999

> fune    haiken   serampang nai roosoku
> ship     see      crash    not  candle

This usage does let a borrowing of the colloquial Malay item seem
It should be noted though, that the colloquial word that is reflected
in the contact forms of Malay only means "doing something recklessly,
roughly" or (not in all contact dialects) also "be involved in a
glancing collision" (i.e. not a head-on crash, but a side-long
bump, like what the "Titanic" did to the iceberg).
This latter occurs e.g. in Dutch usage, though even here, it is not
the most frequent meaning for the use of that word (which is "reckless

Another point to note, is perhaps, that Japanese _r_ may reflect an _r_
as well as an _l_, whereas _l_ is the regular Tagalog and Cebuano reflex
of _r_ in loans from Malay (also Sanskrit loans which were mostly probably
acquired via Malay). So, the mere fact tha Japanese has _r_ instead of _l_
does NOT indicate, that the immediate donor was Malay rather than e.g.

> 'pistol'
> cheese eye serampan
> chiisai    serampang
> small        spear

This seems less likely, because, the meaning "spear" for Malay
_serampang_ is not a feature of the contact varieties of Malay I
referred to. One possibility, of course, is that it is a loan from
Tagalog. But, at the moment, I am subjectively more inclined to
consider the possibility that it reflects Malay _senapan_ (also
doublet _senapang_) and means "rifle, any long-barreled gun for
hand firing (i.e. not cannons etc., and also not pistols, revolvers
etc.)". It is an early loan from  Dutch _snaphaan_  "flintlock,

The only problem is the reflexion of _n_ as _r_ in the Yokohama
form. _n_ / _l_ alternation does occur in doublets of some colloquial
Malay words, but I'm not aware of _senapan_/_senapang_ having an _l_
doublet (in some dialects of Vietnamese and Chinese there is free
variation in pronouncing either _n_ or _l_, and the feature also
occurs in some other languages in Indochina, I think; as long as
we don't know who mediated the loans, this must perhaps also be kept
in mind). On the other hand, it is the prefered word for "long-barreled
gun, rifle" in colloquial Malay (the standard term _bedil_, a loan
from Tamil, was used much less frequently in colloquial speech and
practically did not occur in some of the contact dialects). It is
possible that the loan from Dutch into Malay took place in the
Moluccas, or at least that the word was more frequently used for
that meaning in the Moluccas than in the West of Indonesia (where
_bedil_ was more frequent). The Dutch East India Company recruited its
first indigenous soldiers mainly in the Moluccas (particularly Ambonese
and Creoles). Ambonese Malay had a very significant influence on
various contact Malay dialects (Barracks Malay, Service Malay) and
probably also on the language of sailors.

Regards,   Waruno

Waruno Mahdi                  tel:   +49 30 8413-5411
Faradayweg 4-6                fax:   +49 30 8413-3155
14195 Berlin                  email: mahdi at fhi-berlin.mpg.de
Germany                       WWW:   http://w3.rz-berlin.mpg.de/~wm/

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