Jahai is an Aslian language ( Mon-Khmer; Austro-Asiatic) spoken by around 1,000 hunter-gatherers in the mountainous areas of the Malay Peninsula. Jahai speakers form the largest ethnic group of a cluster of peninsular hunter-gatherer populations referred to generically as Semang. Characteristic features of the language include a rich system of vowel phonemes, a complex system of word formation involving processes of derivational affixation and reduplication, and a rich set pronominal and demonstrative distinctions. The basic word order is SVO. Jahai has an elaborate lexicon of smell words which have been described in the paper: “Odors are expressible in language, as long as you speak the right language”. Smell also features prominently in Jahai culture too, as described in “Olfaction in Aslian ideology and language”.
- Burenhult, N. (2005). A grammar of Jahai. Canberra: Pacific Linguistics.
- Burenhult, N., & Majid, A. (2011). Olfaction in Aslian ideology and language. The Senses & Society, 6, 19-29.
- Majid, A. (2013). Olfactory language and cognition. In M. Knauff, M. Pauen, N. Sebanz, & I. Wachsmuth (Eds.), Proceedings of the 35th annual meeting of the Cognitive Science Society (CogSci 2013) (pp. 68). Austin,TX: Cognitive Science Society.
- Majid, A., & Burenhult, N. (2014). Odors are expressible in language, as long as you speak the right language. Cognition, 130, 266–270