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  • North Borneo sourcebook: Vocabularies and functors by Jason William Lobel
  • Alexander D. Smith
Jason William Lobel. 2016. North Borneo sourcebook: Vocabularies and functors. PALI Language Texts: Southeast Asia. Social Science Research Institute. Honolulu: University of Hawaiʻi Press. xi + 274 pp. ISBN 978-0-8248-5779-0. $50.00, paper.

Jason Lobel's North Borneo sourcebook: Vocabularies and functors is a valuable collection of lexical data for 46 languages of northern Borneo. The volume is closely modeled after Reid (1971), and anyone familiar with this earlier work will see the obvious parallels. The data, 500 basic lexical items plus 94 "functors" for 46 languages of northern Borneo, were mostly gathered by Lobel himself. The exception is Bonggi, data for which were provided by Michael Boutin (1). As a data resource, the volume is a welcome addition to the growing field of Bornean linguistics. The book will be most useful for comparitavists, and those who need a resource for quick word look-ups and comparison between multiple languages. Absent from this volume are most morphological data and any sentence data, although the volume is intended to serve as a lexical resource, so the absence of morphological and sentence data is to be expected. It is worth noting that Lobel did record roughly 100 sentences for each language, but did not include them in the publication, likely to save space (1).

The book is organized into two parts: (i) Language Information and (ii) The Wordlists. The wordlist section is further subdivided into the main 500-item wordlist and the 94 functors, which include numerals (1–10, 11, 20, 30, 40, 100, 200, 1,000), adverbs of time, parts of the day, interrogatives, negators and existentials, adverbial particles, demonstratives, case markers, and personal pronouns.

The introduction contains basic information on the geographical location of languages in the volume, and an overview of subgrouping. The languages in the volume are spoken almost entirely in the Malaysian state of Sabah. A single language, Brunei Dusun, is spoken in Brunei Darussalam. Two, Kolod and Limbang Bisaya, are spoken in Sarawak. Several more, mostly Tidung varieties, are found in northern Kalimantan, Indonesia. Lobel presents a mostly noncontroversial subgrouping of the languages of northern Borneo that includes the Northeast Sabah and Southwest Sabah groups, themselves part of the larger North Borneo subgroup (see Blust 2010; Lobel 2013b; Smith 2017). Most of the languages, 40 out of 46, are Southwest Sabahan. The linguistic position of the remaining six languages—Idaan, Sungai Seguliud, Begak, Bonggi, Molbog, and Bulungan—is not clear-cut. While Blust (2010) and Smith (2017) group Bonggi with Idaan in Northeast Sabah and Molbog with Greater Central Philippines, Lobel groups Bonggi and Molbog together in a Molbog-Bonggi subgroup "whose exact linguistic position has yet to be determined" (3). He is careful to point out where the various proposals differ and, at any rate, the goal of the volume is not to argue for or against any specific subgrouping proposal, and he is quick to move on. Bulungan remains somewhat of a linguistic mystery, but its inclusion in this volume will hopefully lead to a fresh subgrouping hypothesis. Later in the introduction, the reader finds useful maps demonstrating the geographical position of all languages in the volume. These maps show how far south "Sabahan" languages extend into modern day Kalimantan. [End Page 261]

The first section, language information, closely resembles the section by the same name in Reid (1971). It contains basic data on the pronouns and functors in each language, where and when data were elicited, and where the language is spoken. Each language is given a single page, with data organized in tables. Unlike Reid (1971), Lobel does not include a list of phonemes for each language, but has included a much fuller data set of functors, which includes tables outlining short-form and long-form nominative pronouns, genitive pronouns, and oblique pronouns. He also includes a full set of demonstratives for each language, which may (depending on language specificities) include shortand long-form nominative, genitive, oblique, topicalized, and manner forms. A significant addition to the North Borneo sourcebook is case markers, listed for each language in both the Language Information and Wordlist...


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