/h/ or /ʔ/

The inventory shown in Table 1 is adapted from Aini (2007, p. 12), though she additionally includes /h/. Jalin (1990) includes /h/ but excludes the glottal stop /ʔ/, while Yabit (1994) excludes /h/ but includes /ʔ/. It is important to include either /h/ or /ʔ/ in the inventory of phonemes, in order to distinguish between minimal pairs such as bulu (‘fur’) [bulu] which has an open final syllable that some analysts regard as ending with [h], and bulu’ (‘bamboo’) [buluʔ] with final [ʔ]. (In Standard Malay and Brunei Malay, these two words are the other way round, as buluh ‘bamboo’ has final /h/ but bulu ‘fur’ has none.) The consultant insists that final [h] rarely occurs, but the glottal stop can sometimes be quite salient (especially in slow speech), so here we prefer the analysis that includes /ʔ/ but excludes /h/.

Unfortunately, the distinction between bulu (‘fur’) and bulu’ (‘bamboo’) is not reflected in the orthography provided in the 7-dialect comparative wordlist published by the Brunei Language and Literature Bureau (DBP, 2011, p. 46) which gives the spelling of both words as bulu even though the pronunciation is shown differently: [buluʰ] versus [buluˀ]. To differentiate between words such as these, we deviate from the orthography suggested by DBP (2011) and use ’ at the end bulu’ to indicate a final /ʔ/, but we omit final ‘h’ in the orthography, even for borrowed words such as juba (‘cloak’) in the North Wind and the Sun passage which in Standard Malay is jubah.

Listen to bulu (‘fur’) and bulu’ (‘bamboo’):