Kenaboi language

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search
Native toMalaysia
RegionNegeri Sembilan
Extinctattested c. 1880
Language codes
ISO 639-3xbn

Kĕnaboi is an extinct unclassified language of Negeri Sembilan, Malaysia that may be a language isolate or an Austroasiatic language belonging to the Aslian branch. It is attested in what appear to be two dialects,[1][2] based on two word lists of about 250 lexical items collected around 1880 by D.F.A. Hervey that are cited in Blagden (1906).


Around 1880, Hervey collected his Kenaboi lexicon in Alor Gajah, Melaka from speakers living in Gunung Dato', Rembau District, which is a small inland mountainous area in southern Negeri Sembilan. Based on the ethnonym, the Kenaboi may have originated from the Kenaboi River valley of Jelebu District, northern Negeri Sembilan (Hajek 1998). Today, the Orang Asli of Negeri Sembilan are primarily Temuan speakers.


Hajek (1998)[2] proposes that Kenaboi is a mixed language of both Aslian and Austronesian origins, with Kenaboi (dialect 1) having a higher proportion of Austroasiatic words than Kenaboi (dialect 2). Kenaboi (dialect 1) also has many words of unknown origin, such as mambu 'white' and par 'water'. Hajek (1998) speculates that the lexical aberrancy of Kenaboi 1 may due to the fact that Kenaboi 1 was a special taboo language, while Kenaboi 2 was the regular non-taboo language. The lexicon of Kenaboi 1 is 47% Austroasiatic, 27% Austronesian, and 26% unclassified out of a total of 216 words.[2]

Hammarström, et al.[3] note in Glottolog that Kenaboi is best considered to be a language isolate, and do not consider arguments of Kenaboi as a taboo-jargon (argot) to be convincing. Blagden (1906) considers Kenaboi as an isolate unrelated to Austroasiatic and Austronesian.

Rasa, another extinct language documented in Skeat & Blagden (1906) near Rasa in Ulu Selangor, also has many words of uncertain origin (Phillips 2012: 257-258).[4]

See also[edit]

Other Southeast Asian languages with high proportions of unique vocabulary of possible isolate origin:


  1. ^ Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin, eds. (2017). "Kenaboi". Glottolog 3.0. Jena, Germany: Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History.
  2. ^ a b Hajek, John. 1998. "Kenaboi: An extinct unclassified language of the Malay Peninsula." Mon–Khmer Studies: A Journal of Southeast Languages 28: 137–49.
  3. ^
  4. ^ Phillips, Timothy C. 2012. Proto-Aslian: towards an understanding of its historical linguistic systems, principles and processes. Ph.D. thesis, Institut Alam Dan Tamadun Melayu Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia, Bangi.

Further reading[edit]

  • Benjamin, Geoffrey. 2006. Hervey's 'Kenaboi': lost Malayan Language or forest-collecting Taboo Jargon?. Singapore.
  • Hajek, John. 1996. The Mystery of the Kenaboi: A First Report. Royal Institute of Linguistics and Anthropology. (International workshop on South-East Asian studies; No. 11. (The study of) endangered languages and literatures of South-East Asia).
  • Skeat, W. W. and C. O. Blagden. 1906. Pagan Races of the Malay Peninsula. London: Macmillan. 928+923pp. (2 vols.)