Encyclopedia of Language and Education

2008 Edition
| Editors: Nancy H. Hornberger

Small Worlds: The Language Ecology of the Penan in Borneo

  • Peter G. Sercombe
Reference work entry
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-0-387-30424-3_230


Borneo Island sits astride the equator, is 750,000 km 2 in area, and had an estimated population of 15 million people at the beginning of the twenty‐first century. It is divided politically among Brunei Darussalam (hereafter Brunei), Indonesian Kalimantan and the East Malaysian states of Sarawak and Sabah.

The ethnonym Penan is used here generically to refer to those in Borneo who were, have been or, in a few cases, continue to live as nomadic hunter–gatherers, i.e. people whose economies are based on hunting wild game, fishing and gathering uncultivated plant foods, without plant or animal domestication other than dogs (cf. Lee and Daly, 1998). This article provides a brief socio‐cultural outline of the Penan. This serves as an introduction to the language ecology of the congeries of Penan people in the East Malaysian state of Sarawak (124,450 km 2, population approximately 2.18 million, capital Kuching) and the independent sultanate of Brunei (5,765 km 2, population...


Penan Community Formal Education Language Policy National Language Educational Provision 
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© Springer Science+Business Media LLC 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  • Peter G. Sercombe
    • 1
  1. 1.English Language CentreUniversity of NorthumbriaNewcastle upon TyneUK