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57 never before published Dusun folk tales added to State Library

Rosliah hands over a copy of Tangga Burisan om Tangon to Wong (centre) at the Sabah State Library in Luyang.

18th April, 2019


KOTA KINABALU: Ten copies of ‘Tangga Burisan om Tangon’ were added to the collection of books at the State Library in Luyang yesterday in efforts to preserve the dying Dusun language.

It is a compilation of 57 never before published folk tales from 12 Dusun sub-ethnics including the Talantang, Liwan, Kimaragang, Bundu, Garo, Tindal, Kadazan, Tobilung, Tagahas, Minokok, Labuk and Sungai that are native to the East.

Dr. Rosliah Kiting, a lecturer of the language at Universiti Pendidikan Sultan Idris (UPSI) in Perak took three years of her life to journey into interior districts and document the stories which if not for her would be lost in time.

The book received publishing funds from Sabah Rural Development Minister Ewon Benedick and has sold 700 out of 1200 copies since its pressing early February. The rest came from Rosliah and her team’s own pockets without the aid of grants or other funding.

“There is a high chance that the Dusun language might go extinct with the absence of preservationists from the younger generation,” says Rosliah.

She said currently there are only a handful of pure Dusun speakers and that number is more diminished in sub-ethnic dialects such as the Dumpas tribe from Telupid for example.

“It is common to observe Dusun families speak in Malay at home and even at the Tamu (market) where culture is supposed to blossom, the traders being Dusuns themselves would communicate with each other in Malay.

“Politicians during the Harvest festival would begin and end their speeches in Malay with the excuse of being multi-cultural. This sense of respect is honourable but please don’t inspire without even sparing a word of Kadazan Dusun in there,” she told reporters.

She added that despite the language being taught to an approximate 20 thousand new primary students per year, only four thousand secondary students get to pursue the language study since it becomes an elective subject at that level offered to only one or two classes.

“The problem is the language and its authenticity is dying with the current generation. They may be able to produce short stories in the language but might never be aware of its proper diction like the old timers.

She suggests parents make it a habit of having small chats with their children in the Dusun language and those with the writing capability to document as much Dusun stories as they can and submit them for publishing in hopes the language might have a chance to live on.

“For if the older generations alive today are gone, the language will be buried along with them,” she said. Meanwhile, State Library director, Wong Vui Yin said “Once you stop using a language, it will be lost forever and will never come back,” he said.

Wong had a few suggestions of his own which was to convert the books into an audio format so listeners might grasp its proper pronunciation which is also much more attractive to the current generation.

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