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Tombonuwo language

Native toMalaysia
Native speakers
10,000 (2000)[1]
3,000 Lingkabau (2003)[1]
  • Lingkabau
Language codes
ISO 639-3txa

Tombonuwo (Tambonuo) is a Paitanic language spoken in the Pitas and Labuk-Sugut Districts of northwest Sabah.[3][4] Tombonuwo is apparently also the name



Labial Dental Alveolar Palatal Velar Uvular Glottal
Plosive p b t d g k ʔ
Fricative s
Nasal m n ŋ
Lateral l
Trill r
Semi-vowel w j

The phonemes /p, t, k, s, ʔ/ are voiceless. All other expressions are voiced.


Non-back Back
High i u
Non-high a o

/o/ is often pronounced as unrounded [ʌ].

/a/ is neutralized to [ʌ] in a pre-stressed syllable.



Sabahan languages are characterized by "focus" morphology, which marks a syntactic relationship between the predicate of a clause and the "focused" noun phrase of the clause[6] (see Austronesian alignment).

Tombonuwo has four focus categories, conventionally labelled "actor", "patient", "referent" and "theme".[7] Focus is marked by affixation on the verb.

  • Actor: -um- / m(u)-
  • Patient: -on (Present tense) / -∅ (Past tense)
  • Referent: -an
  • Theme: i-

Tense and aspect[7]

The only marked tense in Tombonuwo is past tense.

  • Past tense: n- (-in-)
  • Stative: o-
  • Perfective: ko-
  • Non-volitional past tense: n-o-
  • Accomplishment: n-o-ko-


  • Near the speaker: itu
  • Far from the speaker: iri
  • Medium distance from the speaker: ono


  1. ^ a b Tombonuo at Ethnologue (18th ed., 2015)
  2. ^ Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin, eds. (2017). "Tombonuo". Glottolog 3.0. Jena, Germany: Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History.
  3. ^ King, Julie (1984). The Paitanic language family. Languages of Sabah: a survey report. Canberra: Australian National University. p. 146. ISBN 0858832976.
  4. ^ Lobel, Jason William (2013). Philippine and North Bornean languages: issues in description, subgrouping and reconstruction (PDF) (PHD dissertation). Manoa: University of Hawai'i. p. 370.
  5. ^ King, John Wayne (1993). Tombonuwo phonemics. Phonological descriptions of Sabah languages. Kota Kinabalu: Sabah Museum. pp. 97–106. ISBN 9789839638059.
  6. ^ Boutin, Michael (1988). Problems in analyzing focus in the languages of Sabah. Borneo language studies I: Sabah syntax papers. Dallas: SIL. p. 54. ISBN 0883122146.
  7. ^ a b c King, John Wayne; Levinsohn, Stephen (1991). Participant reference in Tombonuo. Thematic continuity and development in the languages of Sabah. Canberra: Australian National University. p. 76. ISBN 0-85883-406-5.