Kelantan Malay vs. Pattani Malay
I’m smiling right now like this famous smile of Wau Bulan.
Alright, this is what makes me smile. I recently found some anomalies in my data. One of my female participants pronounces /kkabo/ (a beetle) quite differently from the other speakers. It sounds so strange to me. The voiced bilabial stop /b/ is almost devoiced. And there is a slight nasalization at the end of the second syllable /bo/. This is amusing. When I checked into the literature, I was surprised. It is actually a characteristic of Pattani Malay speakers! I didn’t see that one coming. Should I just treat it as the speaker’s idiosyncratic trait? I always believe that both Pattani Malay and Kelantan Malay share 98 percent of their linguistic corpus. I also believe that Pattani Malay is a subordinate of Kelantan Malay, not the other way around. Could I be wrong?
Which leads to another question – which dialect is more authentic or superior? Okay, this sounds so wrong. Almost suicidal. But it shouldn’t be a big deal. For one thing, aren’t they just the two sides of the same coin? Yes, I’m pretty sure about that. These two dialects of Standard Malay are just identical. 1dialect. Just like 1Malaysia.
“Be very careful when making that statement, Hilmi”, John began his lecture on me. “You should be aware of the contact effect. While the speakers of Kelantan Malay in Malaysia are exposed to Standard Malay through everyday mass media, the speakers of Pattani Malay in Thailand are always surrounded by Thai, a tone language. Don’t you see that?”
Well, I see that John might have a point, but I’m not convinced. So I called Nije – my linguistic guru.
“Mie, I can’t claim that Pattani Malay is a variety of Kelantan Malay. The history says that we are part of them. I’m sure we all have some Pattani blood!”
Nije is right. When he pronounces /bbiɣi/ (sheep), it sounds exactly like my anomalous data, having some influences from Pattani Malay.
Hungry for facts and evidence, I did some research on the history of Pattani Malay and, lo and behold, I found something that I had never expected. I have been so blind with history, despite living so close to the Pattani Region for the first fifteen years of my life. To begin with, since the 16th century, Kelantan used to be part of the Malay Sultanate of Patani Darussalam, which at that time was acknowledged as the supreme Malay Kingdom of the eastern peninsula. Most of the Kelantan chiefs were subject to Pattani, which clearly implies that Pattani was greater in power than Kelantan! How can I be so ignorant all this while?
Now, until the annexation of Pattani by Thailand under the infamous Anglo-Siamese Treaty in 1909, these two nations have been friends for so long. The presence of Thai power for the next 100 years has created tension among the Pattani Malays who keep resisting the assimilation policy imposed by the Thai government. No, tension is an understatement, it should be bloodshed. What happens these days, the insurgency and all that jazz, is reflected in a long history. But let’s not go into that since I’m only interested in the linguistic aspect of Pattani Malay. But again, it’s very difficult not to acknowledge the political influence on the use of this dialect.
You see, while the Pattani Malays have been undergoing a constant struggle between their roots and the mainstream culture in Thailand, the Kelantan Malays have been relatively blessed to be part of the Unfederated Malay States and the Federation of Malaya, and later, the proud nation of Malaysia (haven’t they?). But like the Pattani Malays, the Kelantan Malays have also been stubborn in keeping their traditions alive. This is apparent from many aspects, not only politically, but also linguistically.
Okay, can you see where I am leading now? Look, these two brethrens, the Pattani Malays in Thailand and the Kelantan Malays in Malaysia, have been doing exactly the same thing for so many years – resistance and opposition. The only difference is, there have been less shootings and bombings in Kelantan (maybe not literally).
So, after a century, it will be very stimulating to see what happens between Pattani Malay and Kelantan Malay. There are two important related questions to ponder upon:
1. Has the Thai government been successful in assimilating the Pattani Malays with Thai mainstream cultures, linguistically speaking? (If the answer is Yes, Pattani Malay might be moving farther from Kelantan Malay)
2. Have the Pattani Malays been successful in retaining their dialect despite the forced assimilation by the Thai government? (If the answer is Yes, Pattani Malay might be moving closer towards Kelantan Malay)
Oh, I forgot one more fact. There are currently 3 million speakers of Pattani Malay, while the number of Kelantan Malay speakers is lesser than that – 1.5 million. Half only. So it’s not fair to say that Pattani Malay is a variety of Kelantan Malay since the number could testify for the opposite hypothesis. And it’s not fair to say that Kelantan Malay is superior than the other, like I used to believe. And, mind you, there have been no detailed studies ever conducted by anyone to see the similarities or differences between Kelantan Malay and Pattani Malay. If I were to further my research into the comparative study between these two dialects, I could be the first one breaking the ice after a century. My research could be a breakthrough.
Whohoo.. My obsession with double consonants in Kelantan Malay is indeed larger than life!
Ewa bule… ewa bule…