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Documentation of the Sa’ban Language, Sarawak, Malaysia

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Approaching Long Banga. Photo by Charlotte Hemmings, 2017. Click on the image to access collection.

Language Sa’ban (ISO639-3:snv),
Depositor Charlotte Hemmings
Affiliation University of Oxford
Location Malaysia
Collection ID 0635
Grant ID ECF-2016-425
Funding Body Leverhulme Trust
Collection Status Collection online
Landing Page Handle


Summary of the collection

This collection includes audio and video materials collected as part of the Leverhulme Trust postdoctoral research project, ‘Information Structure in the Languages of Northern Sarawak’. The aim of the project was to combine documentation and description of three indigenous languages in Northern Sarawak, with research into the role that information structure plays in determining syntactic choices such as word order and voice choice.

The audio and video materials are subdivided into three main genres: elicitation; naturalistic text and stimuli. The elicitation materials include a Swadesh word list and elicitation sessions on information structure using the Questionnaire on Information Structure manual developed in Potsdam. The naturalistic text materials includes descriptions of cultural practices and traditions, a range of folk stories and some traditional songs. Finally, the stimuli materials include a retelling of the pear story video stimulus and six translations collected using a translation task.

Many of the recordings have been transcribed into a working orthography and translated into English using the ELAN software. Transcriptions and translations were discussed with community members and subsequently with Beatrice Clayre. Updated and amended transcriptions will be added in future.


Group represented

The Sa’ban of Northern Sarawak, Malaysia


Language information

Sa’ban is one of the smallest indigenous languages in Sarawak and is spoken by less than 2,000 speakers. It is a Western Austronesian language and most closely related to the Kelabit and Lun Bawang/Lundayeh languages. Long Banga is the main village in Sarawak where Sa’ban is spoken, though it is also home to Kelabit and Kenyah people and close to Penan settlements. There are also many speakers of Sa’ban in coastal towns such as Miri. There are several dialects of Sa’ban depending on the location where speakers originally migrated from. This collection includes samples of Pei’ Aloon Sa’ban as well as Pei’ Angau and Pei’ Rieu’.


Special characteristics

There are related collections for Kelabit and Lun Bawang collected as part of the same project. These contain comparable descriptions of culture and traditions, folk stories, elicitation on information structure, pear story retellings and translations of the unhappy rats translation task in Kelabit and Lun Bawang.

Subtitled videos of Kelabit, Sa’ban and Lun Bawang can be viewed on the project website:


Collection contents

The current corpus includes roughly 8.5 hours of recorded material in the Sa’ban language. These include elicitation, naturalistic text and stimuli materials.

The naturalistic text includes descriptions of culture and traditions; folk stories and songs. Many of these are transcribed and translated into English. The elicitation materials include word lists and elicitation relating to information structure. Finally, the stimuli material includes anything collected from multiple speakers using a specific task, such as a video to watch and retell or a text to translate. The pear story retellings and unhappy rats translations were also collected in Kelabit and Sa’ban. To find these collections, visit: LINK and LINK.


Collection history

The materials in this collection were collected over two short field trips between October-December 2017 and January-March 2019. They were collected by Charlotte Hemmings together with various members of the Sa’ban community as part of a Leverhulme postdoctoral research project exploring the role of information structure in determining syntactic choices in the languages of Northern Sarawak. More materials may be added to the collection in future.


Acknowledgement and citation

Users of any part of the corpus should acknowledge Charlotte Hemmings as the data collector and researcher. Individual speakers whose words and/or images are used should also be acknowledged by name along with any other contributors who helped transcribe and translate the data. This information can be found in the metadata for each recording. Finally, users should acknowledge the Leverhulme Trust, UK, as the funder of this research.

To refer to any data from the collection, please cite as follows:

Hemmings, Charlotte. 2020. Documentation of the Sa’ban Language, Sarawak, Malaysia. Endangered Languages Archive. Handle: Accessed on [insert date here].

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