Syllable Structure

As with other varieties of Malay (Clynes & Deterding 2011), the syllable structure of Brunei Malay is CVC, where only V is obligatory. However, at the phonetic level, CGVC syllables may be heard, where G is an approximant. For example, in the passage kuat ‘strong’ is sometimes pronounced as [kwat]. Similarly, siapa ‘who’ is pronounced as [sjapa] and diurang ‘they’ is [djuraŋ], with two syllables rather than the underlying three.

In addition, satuju ‘agree’ and sakuat ‘as strong’ are pronounced as [studʒu] and [skwat] respectively, with no vowel between the initial /s/ and the plosive. This appears to be a recent innovation, as older speakers would have [a] in the first syllable of these two words. We could either say that Brunei Malay now allows initial clusters with /s/ followed by a plosive, as is proposed by Asmah (1983: 51) for Standard Malay to account for words such as stor ‘store’ that originate from English; or we can say that the vowel in the sa- prefix may be omitted in some circumstances. Here we prefer the latter analysis.

Asmah (1983: 52) notes that most words in the Austronesian languages are bisyllabic, though they may be longer as a result of affixation. Indeed, all the words chosen for the consonant and vowel word lists above consist of two syllables. In the passage, a number of words are longer as a result of prefixes; for example, batangkar ‘argue’ is ba+tangkar, maniup ‘blow’ is maN+tiup, and mamigang ‘hold’ is maN+pigang.