*serampan* in Yokohama Pidgin English

Daniel Long dlong at bcomp.metro-u.ac.jp
Sun Nov 21 10:27:41 UTC 1999

The information about _senapan_ is very interesting.   It sounds like the best
bet for the origin of the Yokohama "pistol" term.  The Yokohama Pidgin was
relatively short-lived and probably was unstable in the sense of having some
degree of interpersonal variation.  It seems to me quite likely that the two
terms simply got mixed up, either by the people using the Pidgin in general,
or by the (English) author of the text I have.  Incidentally, I know of only
one additional supporting text, and it lists _serampang_ for the 'wrecked
ship' but doesn't mention a word for pistol.   The loans may have been
mediated by Chinese and undergone a sound change there, but a simple mix-up
seems likely.

Danny Long

Waruno Mahdi wrote:

> > '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,
> matchlock".
> 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.

Daniel Long, Associate Professor     tel  +81-426-77-2184
Japanese Language and Literature Dept.    fax  +81-426-77-2140
Tokyo Metropolitan University
1-1 Minami Osawa, Hachioji-shi, Tokyo  192-0397 Japan
mailto:dlong at bcomp.metro-u.ac.jp

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