The Info List - Iban Language

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The Iban language (jaku Iban) is spoken by the Iban, a branch of the Dayak ethnic group formerly known as "Sea Dayak" who live in the Malaysian state of Sarawak, the Indonesian province of West Kalimantan and in Brunei. It belongs to Malayic languages
Malayic languages
a Malayo-Polynesian branch of the Austronesian language family, and is related to Malay, more closely to Sarawakian Malay. It is thought that the homeland of the Malayic languages
Malayic languages
is in western Borneo, where the Ibanic languages remain. The Malayan branch represents a secondary dispersal, probably from central Sumatra
but possibly also from Borneo.[4] The Iban language is also a subject tested in PMR and SPM, the Malaysian public examination for Form 3 and Form 5 students respectively. Students comment that questions from these exams mostly cover the classic Iban language, making them a daunting task for many who are more fluent in the contemporary tongue. The language is mostly taught to students in rural areas with a majority Iban population, including Baleh (Kapit), Betong, Sri Aman, Saratok, Lubok Antu, Pelagus (Kapit), Pakan and Julau.


1 Dialects 2 Phonology

2.1 vowel

3 Writing system 4 Grammar

4.1 Personal pronouns 4.2 Possessive pronouns 4.3 Demonstrative determiners 4.4 Demonstrative pronouns 4.5 Adverbs

4.5.1 Demonstrative adverbs 4.5.2 Locatives 4.5.3 Manner

5 Examples

5.1 Number 5.2 Family 5.3 Day 5.4 Month

6 Sample phrases 7 Bible Translation 8 Word phrase 9 Sources 10 References 11 External links

Dialects[edit] The Iban can be subdivided into different sub-ethnic groups. Each of them speak in different dialects. The most formal, intermediate and working dialect is the Saribas (mainly Betong and Saratok), others such as Balaus, Sebuyaus, Ulu Ai, or Rejangs, which are mutually intelligible throughout Sarawak
region. With the exceptional of Iban Remun/milikin dialects which have a unique dialect, but still intelligible to Ibans from other districts. In West Kalimantan, dialects such as Bugaus, Seberuangs, Mualangs, Chengkangs, Sebarus, Daus are more disparate. Here are some examples of the differences in the various dialects spoken in Sarawak
and West Kalimantan, with their English equivalents:

Comparison between Sarawak
Iban and Mualang

English Balau (Sarawak) Mualang (Kalimantan)

Rooster Manuk Renyau

Smell Nyium Lulum

Stupid Tuyu, banga Mawa

Twins sapit Rakup

Window Penyinga/jenila Telingu'

Father Apai Mpai

Feel Asai Asa'

And Enggau Aba'

Animal Jelu Ibun

Arrange Tusun Tunsun, tipan

Breathe Seput Penyuan

Comparison between Standard Iban and Remun

English Standard Iban Remun/Milikin

No Enda Entai

See Meda Ngilau

Know Nemu Badak

Shirt Gari Kelatang

Run Belanda Belawa

Silence! Anang inggar Sengian

Stupid Beli'/Palui/bangka Labuan

No/Did not Nadai Entai

Tomorrow Pagila Pagi

Later Lagi/legi Ila

Mat Tikai Kelaya

Good Manah Nyelaie

-Sample phases in Iban Remun-

Entai ku ngilau - "Nadai aku meda." (I did not see it.) Entauk ku badak - "Enda ku nemu." (I don't know.)

Comparison between Standard Iban and Sebuyau

English Standard Iban Sebuyau/Kua'

You Nuan Kua'

Why Lapa Mentang

Stupid Tuyu, beli Banga

No Enda Adai

Later Lagi Ila

Tomorrow Pagila Pagi

Know Nemu Siba

To hurry Beguai/Berumban Temengat

Side dishes Engkayu Hempah

Come out Pansut Temenyul

Restless Kekasak Kekajal

Untidy Temerak Kemada

Like this Baka nya Baka nia

Causes Ngasuh Mela

Shocked Tekenyit Tekanyat

Slow Lubah Lumbu

Phonology[edit] vowel[edit]

Front vowel Central vowel Back vowel

close vowel i [i]

u [u]

half-close vowel e [e] ə [ɘ] o [o]

open vowel

a [a]

Writing system[edit] Although the Iban language is presently written using the Latin alphabet, an Iban syllabary was devised by Dunging anak Gunggu, who reportedly spent fifteen years from 1947 to 1962 devising the script.[5] Twenty generations before Dunging, which would represent approximately 400–600 years, an ancestor named Renggi also devised a script, but it was lost in a flood apparently. The Iban syllabary is published but is not widely distributed; recent efforts by Dr. Bromeley Philip of Universiti Teknologi MARA
Universiti Teknologi MARA
to promote and revitalize the use of script have resulted in the creation of digital fonts, a teaching program, and the transcription of several traditional folktales.[6] Grammar[edit] The prefix is used to show work or something action to be. The prefix is put in front of the verb. There are many prefixes used in Iban language. For example, gagai used in many style of prefix base on condition of the word.

Gagai - chase- Begagai - chasing each other Digagai - chased by Dipegagaika - being chased by many Tegagaika - outrun/-outpace Pengagai - the person who chases

Other examples:

Sayau - Love Dikesayauka - Was loved by Penyayau - Affection Kiruh - Busy Ngiruhka - to make someone busy- Pengiruh - preoccupied Pengiruh-ngiruh - really preoccupied Enjuk - give Berenjuk - giving each other (present) ngenjuk Dienjuk - gave (past) Deka ngenjuk - will be given (future) Pengenjuk - giver Kangau - call Bekangau - calling each other (present) Ngangau - calling (present) Dikangau - was called (past) Deka dikangau - will be called (future) Pengangau - caller

Personal pronouns[edit] Iban has separate words for inclusive and exclusive we, and distinguishes singular, dual, and plural.

singular dual plural

First-person exclusive aku kenduai iya kami

First-person inclusive aku tua kitai

Second person nuan, di seduai (di) kita

Third person iya seduai iya sida

Iban English

Aku I, me

Nuan/dik/kua' (glottalized -should not add 'k') You

Iya He/she/it/him/her

Tua (the two of us) We, us (including ourselves) 'Kami,kitai

Kita You all

Tua Both of us

Sida They

Seduai di Both of you

Seduai iya Both of them

Kenduai iya Both of me and him/her


Ke nuan - "for you" Ke aku - "for me" Ke kami - "for us" Bup aku - "My book" Bakih aku - "My friend" Apai aku - "My father" Gamal nuan - "Your look" Sulu nuan - "Your beloved" Sekula kami - "Our school" Ke pangan aku -"for my beloved" Ke anak aku - "for my child" Ari indai di - "From your mother" Ari bakih aku - "From my friend"

mostly pronouns are put after subjects Possessive pronouns[edit]

engku - "mine" enggi' di', enggi nuan - "yours" enggi iya - "his/her" enggi tua - "ours (both of us)" enggi sida - "theirs"

Sample phases:

baju tu engku - "This shirt is mine." Tu enggi nuan - "This is yours" Siti nyin enggi tua - "That one belongs to both of us"

Demonstrative determiners[edit] There are three demonstrative determiners in Iban. Tu "this, these" is used for a noun which is generally near to the speaker, nya "that, those" is used for a noun which is generally far from the speaker and "Nyin" which is the furthest from the speaker.

Pronoun Iban English

tu bup tu This book, these books

nya ukui nya That dog, those dogs

nyin bungai nyin That (furthest) flower(s)

These words can also act as demonstrative pronouns where they can stands on theirs own, replacing rather than modifying a noun. Example:

Nyamai tu. - This is good. Ok meh nya. - That's Ok. Peda di nyin dih. - Look at that.

Demonstrative pronouns[edit] In Iban, demonstrative pronouns are words that show which person or thing is being referred in relation to the location of the addressee to the speaker. There are three demonstrative pronouns in Iban depending on location to the speaker. They can only be used to refer to an addressee (human) and cannot be used to refer to inanimate objects.

Demonstrative pronouns

Space Form Gloss

Proximal iya tu this person

Medial iya nya that person

Distal iya nyin the other person (furthest)


Nama gaga iya tu baka nya?. - Why is this person acting in such a way? Kini ke iya nya tadi? - Where is he going? (Referring to the second closest person to the speaker) Ni iya nyin tadi dih? - Where is the other (person) one?.(referring to third person which is the furthest form the speaker)

Adverbs[edit] Demonstrative adverbs[edit] Demonstrative adverbs in Iban are closely related to the demonstrative pronouns in Iban grammar. For example, corresponding to the demonstrative pronouns are the adverbs such as kitu (= going here), kia (= "going there") and kin (= "going there (farthest)") equivalent adverbs corresponding to the demonstrative pronoun this are tu, nya and nyin.

Demonstrative adverbs

Space Form Gloss

Proximal kitu going here

Medial kia going there

Distal kin going there or going yonder


Kitu nuan. - Come here (you). Kini di kia? - Why are you going there? (Within the sight of the speaker) Aram kin tua. - Lets go there. (Referring to location far away from speaker)


Locative determiners

Space Form Gloss

Proximal ditu here

Medial dia there

Distal din there or yonder


Aku nganti nuan ditu. - I wait for you here. Aku nganti nuan dia. - I wait for you there. (not far from the speaker location). Din ku nganti nuan. - I wait for you there.(referring to a far place)

Manner[edit] Iban also has a set of adverbs referring to manner. They are a combination of baka (ke) ("like/as") and the abbreviated determiner forms tu, nya and nyin.

Locative determiners

Space Form Gloss

Proximal baka tu like this, this way

Medial baka nya like that, that way

Distal baka nyin like that, that way


Aku ka iya baka tu. - I want it to be like this. Nama di ngaga iya baka nya? - Why did you treat him like this? Uji gaga di baka ke nyin. - Try to do it like that.

Examples[edit] Number[edit]

Iban English

San One

Duan Two

Dangku Three

Dangkan Four

Dana/Tebak Five

Dia/Tunggul Six

Tuchung/Kusil Seven

Dalun/Kulat Eight

Dunggau/Kedu Nine

Dupuk/Kedat Ten


Iban English

Apai Father

Indai Mother

Aki Grandfather

Ini Grandmother

Aya Uncle

Ibu Aunt

Menyadi Siblings

Aka/Menyadi tuai Elder brother/Elder sister

Adi/Menyadi biak Younger brother

Ucu Grandchildren

Icit Great grandchildren


Iban English/Roman

Ensanus Day before yesterday

Kemari Yesterday

Saritu Today

Pagila Tomorrow

Lusa Day after tomorrow

Tulat 3 days later

Lupat The fourth day

Example: Tulat tua betemu - We'll meet again the third day. Ensanus ku bisi meda iya - I saw him two days ago. Month[edit] The Iban calendar is one month ahead of the Roman calendar as follows:

Iban English/Roman

Empalai rubai January

Emperega/Empekap February

Lelang March

Turun panggul April

Sandih tundan May

Tujuh June

Berenggang reban July

Kelebun August

Labuh benih September

Gantung senduk October

Chechanguk November

Pangka di labu(1st month in Iban calendar) December

Sample phrases[edit]

Nama berita nuan? - "How are you?" Sapa nama nuan? - "What is your name?" Berapa rega utai tu? - "How much is this?" Dini alai ___? - "Where is ___?" Ari ni penatai nuan? - "Where are you from?" Datai ari ___aku. - "I come from ___." Pukul berapa diatu? - "What is the time now?" Selamat lemai! - "Good evening!" Selamat ngalih ari - "Good afternoon" Selamat datai! - "Welcome!" Anang manchal! - "Don't be naughty!" Enda ulih datai - "Couldn't make it" Anang guai - "Hold on" "Wait a sec" Nadai ngawa nya/enda ngawa - "Nevermind/it does not matter" Nyamai, wai - "nice taste" Pulai/mupuk dulu - "going back" Aram bekelala tua - "Let's get to know each other" Pengerindu - "Love, Passion" Aku lelengauka nuan - "I miss you/I am missing you" Sapa enggau nuan? - "Who came/is with you?" Aku enggau ___ - "I came / went with ___; I am with ___" Alau dinga - "Please listen" ( Saratok
dialect) Anang inggar / ragak - "Silent, please" Kini ke nuan? - "Where are you going?" Mar amat! - "Too expensive/difficult" Tusah endar! - "Too difficult" Kapa nya! - "Couldn't care less/what is that for" Selamat pagi, Pengajar. - "Good morning, Teacher." Enda nemu aku tu - "I don't know" Aram ngirup mih kitai - "Let's we drink" Ka ke pasar ku pagila - "I want to go to the town tomorrow" Mupuk gawa aku - "I'm going to work" Ka tinduk aku - "I want to go to sleep/bed" Sapa kita ke manchal? - "Who is being naughty?" Bajik amat nuan - "You are pretty/beautiful (for women)" Sigat amat nuan - "You are handsome (for men)" Aku meruan sayauka nuan belama - "I will always loving you" Asai ke kala meda nuan - "I feel like that I have seen you before"

Bible Translation[edit] Apai kami di serega, kudus mih nama nuan, datai mih perintah nuan, jadi mih peneka nuan, baka ke dalam serega baka nya dalam bumi. Beri ke kami pengidup tiap hari. Ampun penyalah kami, baka kami ti ngampun orang ti salah ngelaban kami. Intu kami ari penguji, lepaska kami ari penyai. Laban nuan ti beempu perintah,enggau kuasa enggau mulia. Datai ke belama - lama iya. Amin. Translation: Our father in heaven, hallowed be your name. Thy kingdom come, on earth as in heaven. Gives us our daily bread. Forgive us of our sin, as we forgive those who sin against us. Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. For the kingdom, the power and the glory are yours. Now and forever. Amen. Word phrase[edit] Active verb sentence

Aku benung makai ikan guring - "I am eating fried fish" Apai Dom netak manuk ba dapur - "Dom's father is cutting the chicken in the kitchen" Indai meri aku RM100 kena meli barang dapur - "My mom gave me RM100 to buy to buy necessities"

Passive verb sentence

Ikan guring nya dempa aku - "That fried fish was eaten by me" Manuk nya ditetak Apai Dom ba dapur - "That chicken was cut by Dom's father in the kitchen" Aku diberi indai RM100 kena meli barang dapur - "I was given by mother RM100 to buy necessities"

Sources[edit] Anthony Richards, An Iban-English Dictionary. Oxford University Press, 1981. [Paperback reprint in the 1988 by Penerbit Fajar Bakti, Petaling Jaya. ISBN 967653384X] Otto Steinmayer, Jalai Jako' Iban, a basic grammar of the Iban language of Sarawak. Klasik Publishing House: Kuching, 1999. Renang Anak Ansali, Jaku Iban serta basa kitai. University of London Magazine, 2002. Kementerian Pelajaran Malaysia
/ Jabatan Pelajaran Sarawak
/Pusat Perkembangan Kurikulum KPM 2007 References[edit]

^ Hammarström (2015) Ethnologue
16/17/18th editions: a comprehensive review: online appendices ^ a b Iban at Ethnologue
(18th ed., 2015) Balau[1] at Ethnologue
(18th ed., 2015) ^ Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin, eds. (2017). "Iban". Glottolog
3.0. Jena, Germany: Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History.  ^ The Austronesians: historical and comparative perspectives. Peter Bellwood, James J. Fox, Darrell Tryon. ANU E Press, 2006. ISBN 1-920942-85-8, ISBN 978-1-920942-85-4 ^ http://www.theborneopost.com/2012/06/20/long-lost-iban-alphabet-script-found/ ^ http://www.uitm.edu.my/index.php/en/research-news/reviving-the-iban-alphabet

External links[edit]

Ator Sambiang Mass Baru: The Holy Eucharist in Iban (1980) Anglican eucharistic liturgy digitized by Richard Mammana

Iban language test of at Wikimedia Incubator

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