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Sa'ban language

Native speakers
2,000 (2000)[1]
Language codes
ISO 639-3snv

Sa’ban is one of the remoter languages of Borneo, on the SarawakKalimantan border. The language is known as hmeu Sa'ban in the Sa'ban language.[3]


Sa'ban is a member of the Apo Duat subgroup of languages, which also includes Kelabit, Lun Bawang/Lundayeh and Tring.[4] Collectively, they belong to the North Sarawak subgroup of the Austronesian family.[5] Today, the Sa'ban people live in Long Peluan, Long Banga' and Long Balong in Sarawak, Malaysia. There are also Sa'ban groups in Kalimantan, Indonesia.[3]


The Sa'ban language has several sounds that are rare among the world's languages. These include voiceless nasal and liquid consonants[3] and a distinction between long and short vowels as well as long and short consonants. Some examples of words with voiceless nasals and liquids are given in the table below. They have a stative reading in contrast to long consonants:[3]

Voiceless Nasals and Liquids in Sa'ban
Voiceless Continuant (Stative) Long Consonant (Transitive)
ɹ̥ /hraək/ [ɹ̥ɹa:k] 'torn' /rraək/ [ɹa:k] 'to tear'
ɬ /hləu/ [ɬləu] 'correct' /lləu/ [ləu] 'to steer'
/hnau/ [n̥nʌu] 'opinion' /nnau/ [nʌu] 'to think'


  • Blust, Robert A. (1997-01-01). "Ablaut in Northwest Borneo". Diachronica. 14 (1): 1–30. doi:10.1075/dia.14.1.02blu. ISSN 0176-4225.
  • Blust, Robert (2001). ‘Language, Dialect and Riotous Sound Change: The case of Sa’ban’. In Graham W. Thurgood (ed.) Papers from the Ninth Annual Meeting of the Southeast Asian Linguistics Society, 249–359. Tempe: Arizona State University.
  • Clayre, Beatrice (1972). "A preliminary comparative study of the Lun Bawang (Murut) and Sa’ban languages of Sarawak". Sarawak Museum Journal 20: 40-41, 45-47.
  • Clayre, Beatrice (1994). ‘Sa’ban: a case of language change’. In Peter W. Martin (ed) Shifting Patterns of Language Use in Borneo, 209-226. Williamsburg VA: Borneo Research Council.
  • Clayre, Beatrice (2005). "Kelabitic languages and the fate of ‘focus’: evidence from the Kerayan". In I Wayan Arka & Malcolm Ross (eds.) The many faces of Austronesian voice systems: some new empirical studies, 17-57. Canberra: Pacific Linguistics.
  • Clayre, Beatrice (2014). ‘A preliminary typology of the languages of Middle Borneo’. In Peter Sercombe, Michael Boutin & Adrian Clynes (eds.) Advances in research on cultural and linguistic practices in Borneo, 123-151. Phillips, Maine USA: Borneo Research Council.
  • Clayre, I. F. C. S. (1973). "The Phonemes of Sa'ban: A Language of Highland Borneo". Linguistics. 11 (100). doi:10.1515/ling.1973.11.100.26. ISSN 1613-396X.
  • Omar, Asmah Haji (1983). The Malay Peoples of Malaysia and Their Languages. Kuala Lumpur: Art Printing Works.


  1. ^ Sa’ban at Ethnologue (18th ed., 2015)
  2. ^ Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin, eds. (2017). "Sa'ban". Glottolog 3.0. Jena, Germany: Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History.
  3. ^ a b c d CLAYRE, I. F. C. S. (1973). "THE PHONEMES OF SA'BAN: A LANGUAGE OF HIGHLAND BORNEO". Linguistics. 11 (100). doi:10.1515/ling.1973.11.100.26. ISSN 1613-396X.
  4. ^ Martin, Peter (1996). "A comparative ethnolinguistic survey of the Murut (Lun Bawang) with special reference to Brunei". In Martin, Peter; Oz̊óg, Conrad; Poedjosoedarmo, Gloria (eds.). Language Use and Language Change in Brunei Darussalam. Athens OH: Ohio University Press. pp. 268–279.
  5. ^ Blust, Robert (1997). "Ablaut in Northwest Borneo". Diachronica. 14: 1–30. doi:10.1075/dia.14.1.02blu.

External links

Kaipuleohone has archived written materials as well as audio recordings (RB1-001, RB1-003-A)

PHOIBLE Online phonemic inventories for Sa'ban