SOAS Research Online

A Free Database of the Latest Research by SOAS Academics and PhD Students

[skip to content]

Shaiful Bahri, Radzi (2000) Malay humorous tales: Performance, corpus of oral texts and its study. PhD thesis. SOAS University of London. DOI:

[img] PDF - Submitted Version
Download (26MB)


Like other societies, the Malays enjoy stories which make them laugh. Numerous stories appear and are transmitted by word of mouth when people are gathered at leisure. They bring laughter and joy to teller and audience. The stories usually portray the characters' clumsiness, slow-wittedness, or cunning in their escapades. Up to the present, the subject matter of these stories has never been fully examined. Further studies have mainly focused on the traditional type of humorous tales, their classification, and functions and have based these examinations solely on written texts. This study seeks to investigate the current practice of the performance of humorous tales in Malay society. It will focus on the roles played by the narrator and audience in order to enliven the performance. In this connection, it is essential to look at the background of the storytelling tradition; the whole corpus of the Malay humorous tales : traditional, modem and contemporary type of tales; also other aspects related to the performance ; techniques of delivery, setting, the audience's reception, and the narrator's background (status in the community; personality; level of education; and the way in which they acquired their fund of stories). The introduction of four different types of classification systems - based on themes, heroes, modes of creation; and plots, - shows that the tales consist of a variety of themes; heroes; tales, and actions performed by the heroes respectively. The thematic classification in particular will give an alternative classification scheme which could fit numerous tales that exist in oral form. It also shows why the Malay are fascinated by this kind of tales; who are the butt of humour; why they are targeted; and what laughable actions they perform. The poetic values of Malay humorous tales are evident through their linguistic and literary features. In linguistic terms, the storytellers use colloquial Malay, classical Malay, Malay dialects and some foreign language to execute their repertoire. Literary features take the form of storytelling techniques, which include repetitions, insertion of poetic verses, and shortening phrases. The combination of these linguistic and literary features, reveals that even such colloquial presentation also possesses its own stylized forms of delivery. Discussion of poetics also includes an analysis of the tales' devices of humour and their functions. On the basis of the classification schemes, especially the classification of heroes and plots, it appears that incongruity, ambiguity, absurdity, surprise and a combination of several such elements are the devices of humour that provoke Malays to laughter. Such stories are used to express elements of didacticism in negative terms; for socializing purposes; to represent a form of social and political criticism; to enhance self-respect and arouse a sense of national awareness and integrity.

Item Type: Theses (PhD)
SOAS Departments & Centres: SOAS Research Theses > Proquest
DOI (Digital Object Identifier):
Date Deposited: 16 Oct 2018 15:16

Altmetric Data


Download activity - last 12 monthsShow export options
Downloads since deposit
6 month trend
6 month trend
Accesses by country - last 12 monthsShow export options
Accesses by referrer - last 12 monthsShow export options

Repository staff only

Edit Item Edit Item