« Unknown language discovered in Southeast Asia », 06/02/2018, Lund University
A previously unknown language has been found in the Malay Peninsula by linguists from Lund University in Sweden. The language has been given the name Jedek.
“Documentation of endangered minority languages such as Jedek is important, as it provides new insights into human cognition and culture”, says Joanne Yager, doctoral student at Lund University.
“Jedek is not a language spoken by an unknown tribe in the jungle, as you would perhaps imagine, but in a village previously studied by anthropologists. As linguists, we had a different set of questions and found something that the anthropologists missed”, says Niclas Burenhult, Associate Professor of General Linguistics at Lund University, who collected the first linguistic material from Jedek speakers.
The language is an Aslian variety within the Austroasiatic language family and is spoken by 280 people who are settled hunter-gatherers in northern Peninsular Malaysia.
The researchers discovered the language during a language documentation project, Tongues of the Semang, in which they visited several villages to collect language data from different groups who speak Aslian languages.
The discovery of Jedek was made while they were studying the Jahai language in the same area.
“We realised that a large part of the village spoke a different language. They used words, phonemes and grammatical structures that are not used in Jahai. Some of these words suggested a link with other Aslian languages spoken far away in other parts of the Malay Peninsula”, says Joanne Yager.
Publication: Jedek: a newly discovered Aslian variety of Malaysia