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Documentation of Malaccan Portuguese Creole


Malaccan Portuguese Creole (MPC) is an endangered language spoken by people of Portuguese descent. Currently, the largest concentration of MPC speakers is in the Portuguese Settlement in Malacca (or Melaka) in the central part of Peninsular Malaysia with an estimated population of 1000 people who are largely Roman Catholic. In the early 1930s, a settlement for people of Portuguese descent in one location on the coast of Melaka was established by two Catholic priests, Father Alvaro Manuel Coroado and Father Jules Pierre Francois, hence the MPC name of the settlement: Padri sa Chang or Priests� Land (O�Neill, 2008). This enclave is popularly known as Kampung Portugis (Portuguese Village) in Malay (the national language of Malaysia). The Settlement is a popular tourist destination with numerous restaurants serving Malaccan Portuguese food. There is also a museum showcasing artefacts, images and clothes related to the history and culture of the community. The costumes and dances that tourists typically associate with the community tend to be those introduced in the fifties by a Portuguese priest (Sarkissian, 2005). The hybrid of Portuguese-imported music and dance and more traditional elements of song and dance such as the mata kantiga and branyo are part of the uniqueness of this community, as are celebrations such as Intrudu (a water festival marking the beginning of Lent) and Festa San Juang (Feast St John) and Festa San Pedro (Feast of St Peter). MPC is a Portuguese based creole that can be traced back to the arrival of the Portuguese in Melaka in 1511. The intermarriage between the Portuguese and locals resulted in a hybrid community whose descendants continue to exist in Malaysia (see Baxter, 2005). The number of speakers of Malaccan Portuguese Creole has declined over the years, and even in a contained area like the Portuguese Settlement most community members under the age of forty are not fluent in MPC. Sociolinguistic studies have shown that there is evidence of language shift to English at the Settlement (David & Noor, 1999; Pillai, Soh & Kajita, 2012; Sudesh, 2000). The language itself is showing evidence of disappearing lexical items, uses of Malay and English forms (Baxter 2012), and variation in pronunciation (Chan & Pillai 2012), which are signs of language loss. Despite this, MPC is among the last Portuguese-based Creoles still in active use in the East and there is an immediate need to document the language and its inherent culture. Whilst there have been efforts to keep this language alive through the publication of dictionaries and phrasebooks (e.g. Baxter and de Silva, 2005; Marbeck, 2004, 2012), there is a need for an accessible archiving of the language and insights into the people and their culture. It is also important that the community is involved in providing the audio and video data and agree to have it shared. The collection at http://elar.soas.ac.uk/deposit/pillai2012malaccan includes video and audio recordings conducted at the Portuguese Settlement from 2011. The audio and video files are paired with time-aligned orthographic transcriptions in MPC and their English translations which were carried out by a native speaker consultant. The transcriptions are largely based on the spelling conventions suggested in Baxter and de Silva (2005). This archive is still a work in progress and will be amended periodically as they are checked by other native speaker consultants. More data will be added in 2013.


For more information on the research, Please contact: PROF. DR. STEFANIE SHAMILA PILLAI
Last Update: June 02, 2017