Semai

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A language of Malaysia

Alternate Names
“Central Sakai” (pej.), Sengoi, Seng’oi, Senoi
Population

10,000 (Bradley 2007b). Ethnic population: 42,400 (2008 JHEOA).

Location

Peninsular, Northwest Pahang and south Perak states, north Selangor State.

Language Maps
Language Status

3 (Wider communication). The lingua franca of the Malaysian Aslian military armed forces unit (Bradley 2007a).

Dialects

Jelai, Perak I, Perak II, Cameron (Cameron Highlands), Telom, Bidor, Betau, Lipis, Bil, Ulu Kampar (Kampar), Gopeng, Tanjung Malim, Parit, Tapah (Jalan Pahang). Some dialects not mutually intelligible (2006 T. Phillips).

Language Use

Vigorous. Cameron Highlands dialect is used on radio and is a school language (Bradley 2007a). Home, church, village. All ages. Positive attitudes. All also use Malay [zlm] (Bradley 2007a). Some also use Temiar [tea] (Bradley 2007a).

Language Development
Literacy rate in L1: 5%. Literacy rate in L2: 60%. Literacy in Semai growing. Taught in primary schools. Dictionary. Bible portions: 1951–2011.
Writing

Latin script [Latn].

Other Comments

‘Sakai’, slave. ‘Sengoi’, people, in Semai. West Semai more acculturated to Malay society than east Semai.