1. What is the demography of the language?
Bidayuh is a language that is spoken in Malaysia and Indonesia. The language has different dialects namely Sembaan, Mbaan, Bimbaan, and Tringgus. The dialects are rich in the manner in which they pronounce their vowels, more so the central vowel. The regions in Malaysia where the Bidayuh is spoken in Malaysia are Sarawak, Bau Bidayuh, Kuching and the Kalimantan border between Malaysia and Indonesia. In Indonesia, people who speak Bidayuh live in West Kalimantan province. The name Bidayuh refers to inhabitants of the land. Traditionally, the people who speak this language were farmers and hunters.
2. What historical events led to the cultural threats that the language faces?
Language contact, urbanization, formal education system, lack of language prestige and intermarriages are some of the factors that pose a threat to Bidayuh language.
The cultural contact between people who speak the Bidayuh language and the Sarako people resulted in the two languages having some common phonetic features and some common vocabulary.
People who speak the Bidayuh language have lived in Sarawak for close to a thousand of years. Originally, the people who speak the Bidayuh language came from the western part of Borneo.
The closeness of Bidayuh speaking people to urban centers has posed a challenge to the language. Previously, Bidayuh communities enjoyed tranquility, but this has since changed. The language is under threat courtesy of modernity. Modernity has brought with it job opportunities that have forced Bidayuh speaking to migrate to urban areas where they have met non- Bidayuh speaking people such as Malays and Chinese who have eroded their command of the Bidayuh language. Given that Malay is the national language in Malaysia, Bidayuh speaking people have been forced to learn Malay. As a result, some of them are slowly losing grip in command of their language. It is not strange nowadays to come across young Bidayuh people who can hardly speak their indigenous language.
3. Does the language have a written tradition? If so, please elaborate on this.
Bidayuh language has a written tradition. Before the time that it ceased its operations in 1977, the Borneo Literature Bureau was one of the major agents that encouraged writing and publishing of material in the indigenous Bidayuh language. The Borneo Literature Bureau encouraged local people to write appropriate reading materials that could meet needs of local readers.
There is a Biyaduh- English dictionary that contains words in Biyaduh and their English translations. The original version of the dictionary was compiled by an individual known as Datuk William Nais. The Sarawak Gazette was started in 1870 by the Brooke government, and it was meant to disseminate official government information about current conditions and events. The language has written materials detailing its stories, pedagogy, hygienic practices and nutrition.
The language has written materials detailing its stories, pedagogy, hygienic practices and nutrition. However, at present, there is no literature written in Bidayuh that caters for very young children as well as beginning readers.
4. In what domains is/was the language used?
The language was used traditionally by the Bidayuh in daily interactions, to communicate at home and to communicate in village meetings and gatherings.
5. Does the language receive any institutional support from the government, private, or community-based organizations, or elsewhere?
The Bidayuh language has received institutional support from the government given that the language is under threat of extinction. In December 2000, courtesy of government support through a State planning unit, permission was granted to consultants to work in Sarawak implement the Biyaduh Language Development Project. The project was initiated to promote and preserve the Bidayuh language in schools, homes and Biyaduh communities. Goals of the project were to revitalize the Bidayuh language, develop a unified orthography that could be used by all dialects, expand magnitude of literature written in Bidayuh and ensure that Bidayuh language is taught in schools.
There are community-based organizations that have come with initiatives to salvage Bidayuh language from extinction. Efforts of Bidayuh headmasters, education officials and professionals led to the formation of Bidayuh Language Curriculum Committee that was supposed to ensure the development of Bidayuh language such as settling on a specific dialect that was supposed to be used by all Bidayuh speaking people so as to create a sense of oneness and unity among the Bidayuh speaking people.
There are private organizations that have come up with initiatives to salvage the Bidayuh language from extinction. Dayak Bidayuh National Association was formed in 1995 with the aim of ensuring that the Bidayuh language is continuously developed.
6. Are there any revitalization efforts for the language?
There are revitalization efforts for the language. The Bidayuh Language Development Project is a project that was initiated by the government of Malaysia to ensure that the Bidayuh language is revitalized. During the project, language consultants were involved, linguistic research was done, analysis of the grammar of different Bidayuh dialects was also done. Bidayuh language is a minority language that has no economic and political clout, and it is likely to crumble if no revitalization efforts are put in place.
7. According to your report, how would you classify the level of endangerment of the language according to Crystal pp. 20-21?
According to Crystal pp. 20-21, I would classify Bidayuh language as an endangered language.
Crystal, D. (2014). Language Death. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
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