Language maintenance and shift in one Semai community in Peninsular Malaysia
This study investigates the reported language use of one bilingual Semai community, a linguistic minority in Peninsular Malaysia. The Semai is the largest indigenous group in the peninsular and the language, Semai, is generally an oral language. Semai bilingual speakers are faced with choices in language behaviour that will determine whether or not the Semai language will be maintained. Given the fact that the future of the Semai language depends on its actual use, this study was undertaken to examine the reported language use patterns and the factors that contribute to maintenance or shift in one Semai community. Data for this study were collected primarily through self-administered questionnaire as well as semi-structured interviews and participant observation.;Quantitative and qualitative analyses suggest that there are no gender and age effects in the reported pattern of language use and that the community is experiencing stable diglossia. While Semai functions as the in-group language, Malay is reserved for out-group communication and used in formal domains. Additionally, results show that there is intergenerational transmission of the language to the younger generation. The reported language use patterns in the sample population appear to suggest a trend towards maintenance. Findings in the study also reveal that respondents in the sample population have a high perception of Semai vitality and a positive attitude toward their language, which they perceive as being a substantial part of their cultural identity. These findings suggest that socio-psychological factors are important and contribute to maintenance efforts in the community. This study concludes by positing that demographic factors, the values and attitudes of the people and religious homogeneity found in the community play an important role in the maintenance of the Semai language.