Anthropological and linguistics articles from University of Western Australia

Monday, December 10, 2007

Bundu Dusun by Saskia Marina Hewitt Linguistics 3312

Linguistics 3312 Assignment 1

Bundu Dusun

Bundu Dusun is a minority language spoken by the Bundu Dusun people group in Sabah, East Malaysia.1 Bundu Dusun is one of a number of dialects of the Kadazandusun language, which is Austronesian.
The full classification for Bundu Dusun is: Austronesian, Malayo-Polynesian, Northwest, Sabahan, Dusunic, Dusun, Central.2
There are 70,000 speakers of Bundu Dusun,3 which is spoken along the west coast of Sabah4 (See map).

The primary religion of the Bundu Dusun people group is Christian, at about 70% of the population.1

Although there has been some work done on the Dusunic language group (Appel, for example, and the sources he mentions - see reference 4), Bundu Dusun itself does not appear to have been the subject of special study by many, although Shelley Harrison does mention it in his draft paper on Dusunic languages.5

An orthography for Kadazandusun has been established and was standardised in 1985, and an existing grammar and dictionary was updated to a trilingual Dusun-Malay-English dictionary.6 There are also a few other resources to be found on the web, such as a Kadazandusun travel phrase book and a teach-yourself-Kadazan book. However no such resources can be found for Bundu Dusun specifically.

Among the people who speak the Kadazandusun language there has been a fair amount of conflict in terms of identity, surfacing in the issue of the people group/language name. Should they be called the Dusun or the Kadazan? This issue was brought to a head when a standardised form of the language was going to be taught in schools, and the various people in the committee could not agree on a name for the language to be taught, much less how to standardise the language and orthography. This was resolved by the melding of the two names together, however the people speaking and learning this language still call themselves a variety of names, including Kadazan, Dusun, and Kadazandusun. The language currently being taught in Sabah schools is a standardised version of the language so the Bundu Dusun dialect is subsumed under this although it is not itself taught.6

Tension between the various peoples speaking this language as they have responded to pressures to standardise, and as they have struggled to keep their languages alive, has been a major issue in the recent history of these peoples.6 The continuing effect of this, plus the teaching in schools of a standardised dialect, and the presence of two dominant languages - Malay and English - has no doubt changed the Bundu Dusun dialect and the spheres in which it is used.

1. Joshua Project’s Bundu Dusun page at:

2. Ethnologue report on Central Dusun at:

3. Ethnologue report on Malayan languages at:

4. Appel, G., 2004. “The Dusun Languages of Northern Borneo”

5. Shelley’s draft paper at:

6. Lasimbang and Kinajil. “Changing the Language Ecology of Kadazandusun: The Role of the Kadazandusun Language Foundation” at:

Also: Lasimbang and Kinajil. “Building Terminology in the Kadazandusun
Language” at:


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