Some account of Princes Island

[From 13 January 1771]

Princes Island as it is calld by the English, in Malay Pulo Selan, and in the language of its inhabitants Pulo paneitan, is a small Island situated in the Western mouth of the streights of Sunday; it is woody, and has no remarkable hill upon it, tho the English call the small one which is just over the anchoring place the Pike. This Island was formerly much frequented by India ships of many nations but especialy English, who have of late forsaken it on account it is said of the Badness of its water, and stop either at North Island, a small Island on the Sumatra Coast without the East Entrance of the Streights, or at New Bay, a few leag[u]es only from Princes Island, at neither of which places however any quantity of refreshments can be procurd.

Its cheif produce is water, which is situated in such a manner that if you are not carefull in filling high enough up the Brook it will inevitably be brackish, from which circumstance alone I beleive it has got a Bad name with almost all nations; Turtle, of which however its supplys are not great, so that if a ship comes second or third in the season she must be contented with small ones, and no great plenty of them — as indeed was in some measure our case; we bought at very various prizes according to the humour of the people, but altogether I beleive they came to about 1 halfpenny or 3/4 a pound. They were of the Green kind, but not fat or well flavourd in any degree as they are in most other parts, which I beleive is in great measure owing to the people keeping them sometimes very long in crawls of Brackish water, where they have no kind of food given to them. Fowls are tolerably cheap, a dozen of large ones sold when we were there for a Spanish Dollar which is /5d a peice. They have also plenty of Monkeys and small deer (moschus pygmaeus) the largest of which are not quite so big as a new faln Lamb, and another kind of Deer calld by them Munchack about the size of a sheep; the monkeys were about 1/2 a dollar 2/6, the small deer /2d, the larger, of which they brought down only 2, a rupee or 2s/. Fish they have of many various kinds which are sold by hand as you can bargain, we found them however always tolerably cheap. Vegetables they have, Cocoa nuts a dollar for 100 if you chuse them or 130 if you take them as they come; Plantanes Plenty, some water melons, pine apples, Jaccas, Pumkins, also Rice cheifly of the mountain sort which grows on dry land, Yams and several other vegetables all which are sold reasonably enough.

The inhabitants are Javans whose Radja is subject to the Sultan of Bantam, from whoom they receive orders and to whoom they possibly pay a tribute, but of that particular I am not certain. Their customs I beleive are very much like those of the Indians about Batavia, only they seem much more jealous of their women, so much so that I never saw one the whole time of our stay except she was running away full speed to hide herself in the woods. Their Religion is Mahometanism but I beleive they have not a Mosque upon the Island; they were however very strict in the observance of their Fast (the same as the Ramdan of the Turks) during which we hapned to come: not one would touch victuals till sun set or even chew their Betele, but 1/2 or an hour before all went home to cook the kettle nor would they stay for any thing but view of extrordinary profit.

Their food was nearly the same as the Batavian Indians, adding only to it the nuts of the Palm calld Cycas circinalis with which on the Coast of New Holland some of our people were made ill and some of our hogs Poisond outright. Their method of preparing them to get out their deleterious qualities they told me were first to cut the nuts into thin slices and dry them in the sun, then to steep them in fresh water for three months, afterwards pressing the water from them and drying them in the sun once more; they however were so far from being a delicious food that they never usd them but in times of scarcity when they mixt the preparation with their rice.

Their Town which they calld Samadang consisted of about 300 houses; great part of the old town however was in ruins. Their houses were all built up on pillars 4 or 5 feet above the ground. The Plan of that of Gundang, a man who seemd to be next in riches and influence to the king, will give an Idea of them all: it was walld with boards, a luxury none but the king and himself had, but in no other respect differd from those of the midling people except being a little longer.

The walls were made of Bamboo platted on small perpendicular sticks fastned to the Beams; the floors were also of Bamboo, Each stick however laid at a small distance from the next so that the air had a free passage from below, by which means these houses were always cool; the thach of Palm leaves was always thick and strong so that neither rain nor sunbeams could find entrance through it.

When we were at the town there were very few inhabitants there; the rest livd in Ocasional houses built in the rice feilds where they watchd the crop to prevent the devastations of Monkies, birds, &c. These occasional houses are smaller than those of the town; the posts which support them also instead of being 4 or 5 feet in hight are 8 or 10, otherwise the divisions &c. are quite the same.

Their dispositions as far as we saw them were very good, at least they dealt very fairly with us upon all occasions: Indian like however, always asking double what they would take for whatever they had to dispose of. This however producd no inconvenencees to us who were us'd to this kind of trafick.

In making out Bargains they were very handy and supplyd the want of small money reasonably well by laying together a quantity of any thing, and when the price was settled dividing it among each other according to the proportion each had brought to the general stock. They would sometimes change our money, giving 240 doits for a Spanish dollar, that is 5s/ sterling, and 92, that is 2s/ sterling for a Bengall Rupee. The money they chose however was doits in all small bargains; dubblecheys they had but wer[e] very nice in taking them.

Their Language is different both from the Malay and Javan; they all however speak Malay.

Princes Island Java Malay English 
Jalma Oong Lanang Oran Lacki Lacki a man 
Becang Oong Wadang Parampuan a woman 
Oroculatacke Lari Anack a child 
Holo Undass Capalla the head 
Erung Erung Edung the Nose 
Mata Moto Mata the Eyes 
Chole Cuping Cuping the Ears 
Cutock Untu Ghigi the teeth 
Beatung Wuttong Prot the belly 
Serit Celit Pantat the Backside 
Pimping Poopoo Paha the thigh 
Hullootoor Duncul Lontour the Knee 
Metis Sickil Kauki the Leg 
Cucu Cucu Cucu a Nail 
Langan Tangan Tangan a hand 
Ramo Langan Jari Jaring a finger 

These specimens of Languages so near each other in situation I chose to give together and selected the words without any previous choise as I had wrote them down on a paper, that the similar and dissimilar words might Equaly be seen. As for the parts of the Body which I have made the subject of this and all my specimens of Language, I chose them in preference to all others as the names of them are easily got from people of whose Language the enquirer has not the least Idea. What I call the Javan is the Language spoke at Samarang, a days journey from the seat of the Emperor of Java. I have been told that there are several other languages upon the Island but those I had no opportunity of collecting words from, meeting with no one who could speak them.

The Princes Islanders call their langu[a]ge Catta Gunung, that is the Mountain Language, and say that it is spoken upon the mountains of Java from whence their tribe originaly came, first to New Bay a few leagues only off and from thence to Princes Island, driven there by the quantities of Tygers. The Malay, Javan and Princes Island all have words in them either e[x]actly like, or else plainly deriving their origin from the same source with others in the Language of the South Sea Islands: this is particularly visible in their Numbers, from whence one should at first be enclind to suppose that their learning at least had been derivd originaly from one and the same source. But how that strange problem of the numbers of the Black inhabitants of Madagascar, so vastly similar to those of Otahite, could have come to pass surpasses I confess my skill to conjecture. The numbers that I give overleaf in the Comparative table I had from a Negro slave Born at Madagascar, who was at Batavia with an English ship, from whence he was sent for merely to satisfie my curiosity in the language. There being much fewer words in the Princes Island language similar to S. Sea words is oweing in great measure to my not having taken a sufficient quantity of words upon the spot to compare with it.


South Sea Malay Java Princes Island 
1. Matta Majta Moto Mata an Eye 
2. Maa Macan Mangan to eat 
3. Einu Menum Gnumbe to drink 
4. Matte Matte Matte to kill 
5. Outou Coutou a louse 
6. Euwa Udian Udan Rain 
7. Owhe  Awe  Bambu cane 
8. Eu Sousou Sousou a Breast 
9. Mannu  Mannu Mannuk a bird 
10. Eyea Ican Iwa a fish 
11. Uta Utan inland 
12. Tapoa Tapaan the foot 
13. Tooura Udang Urang a lobster 
14. Eufwhe Ubi Uwe Yams 
15. Etannou Tannam Tandour to bury 
16. Enammou Gnammuck a Muscheto 
17. Hearu Garru Garu to scratch 
18. Taro Tallas Talas cocos roots 
19. Outou  Sungoot the mouth 
20. Eto Tao sugar cane 

S. Sea Malay Java Princes Isle Madagascar 
1. Tahie Satou Sigi Hegie Ifse 
2. Rua Dua Lorou Dua Rua 
3. Torou Tiga Tullu Tollu Tellou 
4. Haa Ampat Pappat Opat Effats 
5. Rima Lima Limo Limah Limi 
6. *Wheney Annam Nunnam Gunnap Ene 
7. Hetu Tudju Petu Tudju Fitou 
8. Waru Delapan Wolo Delapan Walou 
9. Iva Sembilan Songo Salapan Sivi 
10. Ahouroo Sapoulou Sapoulou Sapoulou Fourou 
11. Matahie Sabilas Suvalas 
12. Marua Dubilas Roalas 
20. Tahie Taou Duapoulou Rompoulou 
100. Rima Taou Saratus Satus Satus 
200. Mannu dua ratus Rongatus 
1000. Lima mannu Soreboo Seawo Seawo 
2000. Mannu Tine 

* N.B. in the Island of Ulietea 6 is calld ono.

The Madagascar language has also som[e] words similar to Malay words, as ouron the nose, in Malay Erung Lala, the tongue Lida Tang, the hand Tangan Taan, the ground Tanna.

From this similitude of language Between the inhabitants of the Eastern Indies and the Islands in the South Sea I should have venturd to conjecture much did not Madagascar interfere; and how any Communication can ever have been carried between Madagascar and Java to make the Brown long haird people of the latter speak a language similar to that the Black wooly headed natives of the other is I confess far beyond my comprehension—unless the Egyptian Learning running in two courses, one through Africa the other through Asia, might introduce the same words, and what is still more probable Numerical terms, into the languages of people who never had any communication with each other. But this point requiring a depth of knowledge in Antiquities I must leave to Antiquarians to discuss.