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FEL Grants: Supported projects

FEL regularly provides small grants to fund projects that revitalize and support the use of endangered languages. On this page you can see reports from a selection of the projects that we have supported. By joining FEL, you can support activities such as these.

Select a grantee, language, region, or year:





Grantee: Beatrice Clayre

Title: Development of Reading Materials

Country: Malaysia

Language(s): Sa’ban

Grantee: Beatrice Clayre

Year: 2014

Project summary

Sa’ban is a language spoken by a minority ethnic group living in the headwaters of the Baram River in Sarawak, Malaysia. The Sa’ban language, although related to languages such as Kelabit and Lun Dayeh has undergone remarkable sound changes over the years, which makes it difficult for people taught in the national language (Bahasa Melayu), to write or read their own language. The Sa’ban sound system includes voiceless nasal consonants, voiceless lateral and velar consonants and long consonants and vowels which contrast with short consonants and vowels.

The aim of the present project was to finance the printing of two illustrated dictionaries in Sa’ban in order to help the Sa’ban read and write their own language. The dictionaries take the form of trilingual wordlists in Sa’ban, Bahasa Melayu (the language of education and government) and English (to help schoolchildren learning English). The two dictionaries represent two stages. In the first one most words are nouns and each one is illustrated by a drawing. In the second there are fewer illustrations but many more words, including verbs, pronouns, prepositions, and opposites together with typical greetings and some conversation. Both books contain a description of the spelling system. The Sa’ban have used this grant money to print 600 copies of the second dictionary ‘Kamus Sa’ban si’ La’toon’ (ISBN 978-96-13100-0-7). In December 2015, the Sa’ban from Sarawak will have their biennial gathering with the Sa’ban from Kalimantan (Indonesia) and copies of the dictionary will be made available there.

Members of the wider community in Sarawak have been impressed by the dictionary, and one person involved with another minority group (Murik) has asked permission to use the Sa’ban dictionary as a model for preparing a dictionary for the Murik. Another comment came from Dr Poline Bala, Head of the Department of Anthropology and Sociology of the University of Malaysia (Kuching, Sarawak), who wrote “I really like the book and hope to use it as a template for other languages or groups.”

A page from the introduction to explain the spelling of Sa’ban
A page with words for family relationships
A page showing a labelled drawing of a typical; Sa’ban cooking hearth. This type of hearth is now being replaced by gas rings, with gas canisters brought up from the coast by the logging road.
Usat’s family reading the dictionary! This family lives down in Miri, so these two children will be brought up in a Malay speaking environment. Perhaps between their parents and the dictionary they will learn something of their own ethnic language.
Three generations of a Sa’ban family looking at the dictionary

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