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Kelabit Language

Kelabit is one of the remotest languages of Borneo, on the Sarawak–Kalimantan border, and spoken by one of the smallest ethnicities in Borneo, the Kelabit people. Kelabit is notable for having “a typologically rare series of true voiced aspirates” along with modally voiced and tenuis consonants but without an accompanying series of voiceless aspirates. It is the only language known to have this phonation contrast, which has been reconstructed for Proto-Indo-European (Source: Robert Blust, 2006, “The Origin of the Kelabit Voiced Aspirates: A Historical Hypothesis Revisited”, Oceanic Linguistics 45:311).

Common Expressions in Kelabit Language

*q = represent glottal stop in Kelabit Language. 

Basic Expressions  
Good morning Tabiq lekedtang
Good afternoon Tabiq beruhmalem
Good evening Tabiq dedtem
Good night Tabiq dedtem
How are you Ken dooq tiko? Kapeh tiko?
I am fine Dooq tuih
Nice to meet you Dooq pian kuh neh petuluh ngemuh
Thank you Terima kasih ngemuh/ Dooq selinuh muh
You are welcome Paad-paad
See you later Petulu beruh
Have a pleasant trip Dooq-dooq lawey narih
Good bye Dooq tudo narih/ Dooq udeng narih (to say to the person who stays – like selamat tinggal)
Monday Edto edteh
Tuesday Edto duweh
Wednesday Edto teluh
Thursday Edto epat
Friday Edto limeh
Saturday Edto enem
Sunday Edto Migu
One edteh
Two duweh
Three teluh
Four epat
Five limeh
Six enem
Seven tuduq
Eight waluh
Nine iwaq
Ten puluq
Sample conversations
Hello, good morning.  My name is __________. Hai. Tabiq lekedtang, ngadan kudih ________.
My name is _________. Ngadan kudih _________.
My name is ______. Where are you from? Ngadan kudih _________. Let ngapeh tebeyq kiko?
I am from _____? Let ______ keduih.
Where are you staying in Bario? Mudeng ngapeh iko ngi Bario?
I am staying at ______. Mudeng ngi ________ uih.
I hope you enjoy your stay in Bario. Repet ngemuh dooq udeng ngi Bario.
I am staying at ______.
I hope you enjoy your stay in Bario.
Thank You Terima kasih ngemuh
It’s nice meeting you. Dooq pian kuh neh petulu ngemuh
It’s nice meeting you too. Uih peh dooq pian kuh neh petulu ngen kiko.
Excuse me. Is there a shop near here? Mutuh dooq. Ken inan kedai muneng inih?
Yes. There’s one near here. Inan kedai muneng inih.
Can you tell me how to get there? Ken kereb ko mala kapeh uih mey nangey?
Take the first left and go straight on. It’s on the left. Ma’ih mey lipa kabing suk pu’un ih. Pengeh neh ngesu neh. Lipa pekabing neh nidih.
 Is it far? Ken mado dih?
It’s only about 5 minutes walk from her. Limeh minit tupu teh let nginih
Thank you. Terimas kasih ngemuh.
You are welcome Paad-paad.
Ordering a Meal  
Hi. How are you doing this afternoon? Ken dooq tiko beruhmalem kinih?
Fine, thank you. Can I see a menu, please? Mo, dooq tuih. Laq tebeyq uih ni’er menu muyuh dih?
Certainly, here you are. Mo, nih idih.
Thank you. What’s today’s special? Terima kasih ngemuh. Enun suk leng dooq main edto kinih?
 Chicken porridge Kikid la’al.
That sounds good. I’ll have that. Dooq mayu ain dih terun. Laq keduih ngen idih.
Would you like something to drink? Enun laq rupen muh?
Yes, coffee please. Laq mirup kupi keduih.
 The food was delicious. I’d like bill, please. Leng leng dooq main teh nuk kenen ih. Tudaq berey kuh belih dih?
Thank you.  That’ll be RM5. Limeh rigit tupu.
Here you are.
Thank you and have a good day. Terima kasih ngemuh. Repet ngemuh dooq udeng edto kinih.
Thanks, bye. Terima kasih. Petulu beruh.


Travelling to airport  
What time does your plane leave? Pukul tudaq kapal mudih nalan?
 It leaves at 10.00am. Pukul puluq lekedtang.
By what time do you want to be at the airport? Pukul tudaq iko laq medting ngi padang?
At least two hours before departure time. Duweh jam na’am teh kapal ih medting.
That means we have to leave the lodge by 7.15am. Rengaq kineh ih nalan neh tauh let nginih pukul 7.15 lekedtang.
I agree. I will be ready by 7.15am. Tu’uh tineh. Teminaq uih pukul 7.15 lekedtang.
Alright.  See you tomorrow at 7.15am. Mo, dooq teh. Petulu edto riak pukul 7.15 lekedtang.

Some Kelabit words:

to come – marih
to cook – nanek
to eat – kuman
to say – mala
to stand – mudu
to sit – tudo
to sleep – rudap
to smell – muen

Sample Conversation in Kelabit