Negative irrealis clauses in Malay/Indonesian and Sri Lankan Malay infinitives

Peter Slomanson


This article concerns establishing a plausible connection between the word jang(an) in colloquial Malay varieties and jang-, a form which negates infinitives, in the diasporic contact variety Sri Lankan Malay. The principal claim is that jang(an) marks irrealis modality in Southeast Asian Malay varieties, in which it is frequently (optionally) deployed in negative subjunctive-like embedded clauses. A related claim, dependent on the first of the two, is that the irrealis interpretation conveyed by jang(an) makes it a semantically plausible bridge from a Malay grammar with clausal symmetry to the grammar of Sri Lankan Malay. In Sri Lankan Malay, embedded clauses are frequently non-finite, with infinitives similarly conveying irrealis meaning. Sri Lankan Malay jang- is in complementary distribution with the affirmative infinitival prefix me-, which is also derived from a marker of irrealis modality (mau) in colloquial Southeast Asian Malay varieties.


Morphosyntax; language contact; negation; infinitive; modality.

Full Text:



Adelaar, K. Alexander. 1991. “Some notes on the origin of Sri Lanka Malay”, in: Hein Steinhauer (ed.), Papers in Austronesian linguistics 1, pp. 23-37. Canberra: Australian National University.

Bakker, Peter. 2000. “Convergence intertwining; An alternative way towards the genesis of mixed languages”, in: D.G.

Gilbers, J. Nerbonne, and J. Schaeken (eds), Languages in contact, pp. 29-35. Amsterdam: Rodopi.

Conners, Thomas and Claudia Brugman. 2014. “The event semantic role of the nasal prefix in Jakarta Indonesian”, in: I Wayan Arka and N.L.K. Mas Indrawati (eds), Argument realisations and related constructions in Austronesian languages, pp. 213-225. Canberra: Asia-Pacific Linguistics. [Papers from 12-ICAL, Vol. 2.]

Haspelmath, Martin. 1989. “From purposive to infinitive; A universal path of grammaticization”, Folia Linguistica Historica 10(1-2): 287-310.

Krauße, Daniel. 2017. “A description of Surabayan Javanese with special reference to its linguistic etiquette”. MA thesis, Goethe Universität.

Los, Bettelou. 2005. The rise of the to-infinitive. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Mahdi, Waruno. 2005. “Old Malay”, in: Adelaar K. Alexander and Nikolaus P. Himmelmann (eds), The Austronesian languages of Asia and Madagascar, pp. 182-201. London/New York, NY: Routledge.

Moro, Francesca. 2016. Dynamics of Ambon Malay; Comparing Ambon and the Netherlands. PhD thesis, Radboud Universiteit Nijmegen.

Moro, Francesca and Peter Slomanson. Forthcoming. “Heritage languages and the study of Malayo-Polynesian diasporas”, in: Alexander Adelaar and Antoinette Schapper (eds), The Oxford guide to the Malayo-Polynesian languages of Asia and Madagascar. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Nordhoff, Sebastian. 2009. A grammar of upcountry Sri Lanka Malay. PhD thesis, Universiteit van Amsterdam.

Paauw, Scott H. 2004. “A historical analysis of the lexicon of Sri Lanka Malay”. MA thesis, York University, Toronto.

Slomanson, Peter. 2008. “The perfect construction and complexity drift in Sri Lankan Malay”, Lingua 118: 1640-1655.

Slomanson, Peter. 2011. “Dravidian features in the Sri Lankan Malay verb”, in: Claire Lefebvre (ed.), Creoles, their substrates, and language typology, pp. 383-409. Amsterdam/Philadelphia, PA: John Benjamins.

Slomanson, Peter. 2018a. “The development of infinitival complementation, with or without language contact“, in: Mark Kaunisto and Paul Rickman (eds), Changing structures; Studies in constructions and complementation, pp. 197-213. Amsterdam/Philadelphia, PA: John Benjamins.

Slomanson, Peter. 2018b. “Cross-linguistic negation contrasts in co-convergent contact languages, in: Viviane Déprez and Fabiola Henri (eds), Negation and negative concord; The view from Creoles, pp. 289-311. Amsterdam/Philadelphia, PA: John Benjamins.

Smith, Ian R. and Scott H. Paauw. 2006. “Sri Lanka Malay; Creole or convert”, in: Ana Deumert and Stéphanie Durrleman (eds), Structure and variation in language contact, pp. 159-181. Amsterdam/Philadelphia, PA: John Benjamins.

Sneddon, James Neil. 1996. Indonesian; A comprehensive grammar. London/New York, PA: Routledge.

Stowell, Tim. 1982. “The tense of infinitives”, Linguistic Inquiry 13 (3): 561-570.



  • There are currently no refbacks.

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.

Free counters!

View My Stats