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Thong Boi

About Me and My Language

About Thong Boi            Background of the Language            Recent and in-progress Projects            Links

My name is Erenst Anip (Lauw Tjin Ren). I am a second-year master student in Library and Information Science program at the University of Hawai'i Manoa. I have been a participant in this project for since fall 2006 semester (that's 10 semesters!) because I want to document the Thong Boi language of my mother's hometown on Bangka Island, Indonesia. I really enjoy this project thanks to the great support from the LDTC program and the wonderful people from the linguistics department in helping me and others to document our languages.
With their help, I have learned the knowledge and skills needed to document a language. Also, I managed to obtain funding from different sources in the University of Hawai'i system while keeping my eyes open on other funding opportunities. Lately, I have been able to present my project in academic conferences and network with fellow language advocates. Last but not least, I am calling linguists, linguistic students, or any language enthusiasts who are interested to help me in preserving this wonderful language. Thank you LDTC!  revised 28 April 2011

Your first name Erenst
Your last name Ruslan Anip
Contact Email erenst at gmail dot com
Preferred name(s) of your language Thong Boi
Alternative names Khek-Bangka, Bangka Boi, Bahasa Bangka
Language classification Sino-Tibetan language based on Hakka dialect (Ethnologue: HAK, ISO 639-3: hak)
Geographical areas where spoken Bangka (Southern part of Sumatra), Java, Jakarta (diaspora) [related to Taiwanese Hakka but not mutually intelligible]
Approximate number of monolingual speakers 0 (estimate)
Approximate number of fluent speakers 200,000-600,000 (estimate)
Other languages spoken in area/country Indonesian, Malay
Official language(s) in your country Indonesian
Language(s) used at school as a child Indonesian
Language(s) used by teachers today Indonesian
Do the representatives of neighboring ethnic groups learn to speak your language Yes
If the answer to the above question is yes, please specify Ethnic Malay also understand and speak the language in varying degrees.
Does your language have a widely accepted writing system? No
What type of orthography you use? Roman-based Indonesian alphabet
NUMBERS
one jit
two ngi
three sam
four si
five ng
six liuk
seven chit
eight pat
nine kiw
ten sip
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Background of the Language

The speakers of Thong Boi are of Chinese descent and are primarily located on Bangka Island, Indonesia. Un-official estimates of numbers for the speaker of this language are between 300,000-600,000. Thong Boi is a sinitic language which is closely related to Hakka, spoken in Guangdong Province, PRC.  There is no widely accepted standardized orthography for this language. People may sometimes use roman script to write Thong Boi but orthographies used are idiosyncratic.  Furthermore, the Indonesian government under Soeharto (1966-1997) banned Chinese culture and languages. The ban was lifted after Soeharto’s regime ended. Chinese culture and languages have gained momentum ever since. However, most native speakers of Thong Boi do not have a working knowledge of sinographs because of the anti-Chinese language and culture policy implemented by the previous regime.  The language did not have a chance to develop a widely accepted standardized roman-based orthography either.Therefore, materials written in Thong Boi are not readily accessible. 

The number of Thong Boi speakers is rapidly declining due to urbanization and authoritative encouragement to use Indonesian. As a growing number of young Thong Boi speakers migrate to urban areas(primarily Jakarta) to further their education but also lured by promising city life, the threat of extinction for this language increases as its use decreases. Outside of Bangka Island, most Thong Boi speakers switch to Indonesian, the official language of Indonesia, because majority of people in cities outside of Bangka cannot speak Thong Boi. This shift from Thong Boi to Indonesian is further facilitated by the fact that young speakers’ desire to adapt their identity as ordinary Indonesian by hiding their Chinese identity. Thong Boi is in a moribund state, with young speakers increasingly less likely to pass the language on to their children. Furthermore, even if Chinese descent from Bangka realized the importance of Chinese language, they would learn Mandarin instead of their own ethnic language.  Thus, its use may decline dramatically within a generation or two. Therefore, we are at a critical period where documentation of Thong Boi is crucial. As much as possible, we will be adding sinographic equivalents as reference. Because Chinese culture and languages have been experiencing a renaissance, the future generation of Chinese descents in Indonesia may become proficient in reading sinographs.  

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Recent and in-progress Projects:

Links
  • Language Documentation Portal -  a class project - this portal gathers all the pertinent links in language documentation and divided them into different categories.
  • Brochure about Thong Boi language (pdf), part of the 2007 University Research Council Undergraduate Summer Research Award.
  • Poster Presentation about Thong Boi (pdf), part of the 2007 University Research Council Undergraduate Summer Research Award.
  • Thong Boi Pop Song. Mr. Chin Kwet Chun is the only Thong Boi pop singer. One of our future project is to transcribe & translate his songs, one album worth. In the meantime, I have created a YouTube Playlist of his music videos: Thong Boi Khek Bangka Songs
  • Balijong Club Blog, a Belinyu Club initiated by the class of 1975 SMP St. Yosef Belinyu but open to people from Belinyu and other parts of Bangka. The blog contains entries, event announcements, and pictures.