Malay language

From Academic Kids

Malay (بهاس ملايو, Bahasa Melayu)
Spoken in: Malaysia, Brunei, Singapore, southern Thailand, southern Philippines, adjacent parts of Indonesia
Region: Southeast Asia
Total speakers: 200-300 million
Ranking: 54
Genetic classification: Austronesian
  Western Malayo-Polynesian
      Local Malay
Official status
Official language of: Malaysia, Brunei Darussalam, Singapore
Regulated by: Dewan Bahasa dan Pustaka (Institute of Language and Literature)
Language codes
ISO 639-1ms
ISO 639-2may (B), msa (T)
See also: LanguageList of languages

The Malay language, also known locally as Bahasa Melayu, is an Austronesian language spoken by the Malay people who are native to the Malay peninsula, southern Thailand, Singapore, central eastern Sumatra, the Riau islands, and parts of the coast of Borneo. It is the official language of Malaysia and Brunei, and is one of four official languages of Singapore. It is also used as a working language in East Timor. It is practically the same as or mutually intelligible with Bahasa Indonesia, the official language of Indonesia, but differentiated in name for political reasons.

The official standard for Malay, as agreed upon by Indonesia, Malaysia and Brunei, is Bahasa Riau, the language of the Riau Archipelago, long considered the birthplace of the Malay language.

In Malaysia, it is known as Bahasa Melayu or Bahasa Malaysia, which means the Malay, or Malaysian, language. The latter term, which was introduced by the National Language Act 1967, was predominant until the 1990s, when most academics and government officials reverted to the older term, which is used in the Malay version of the Federal Constitution. Indonesia adopted a form of Malay as its official language upon independence, naming it Bahasa Indonesia. In Singapore and Brunei it is known simply as Malay or Bahasa Melayu. The reason for adopting these terms is political rather than a reflection of linguistic distinctiveness, as standard Bahasa Malaysia and Bahasa Indonesia are mutually intelligible. However, many Malay dialects are not as mutually intelligible: e.g. Kelantanese pronunciation is difficult even for some Malaysians to understand, while Javanese Malay tends to have a lot of words unique to it which will be unfamiliar to other speakers of Malay. The language spoken by the Peranakan (Straits Chinese, a hybrid of Chinese settlers from the Ming Dynasty and local Malays) is a unique patois of Malay and the Chinese dialect of Hokkien, which is mostly spoken in the former Straits Settlements of Penang and Malacca. The use of this interesting language is dying out, however, with the Peranakan now choosing to speak either Hokkien or English.

Malay is an agglutinative language, meaning that the meaning of the word can be changed by adding the necessary prefixes or suffixes. Root words are either nouns or verbs, e.g. masak (to cook) yields memasak (cooks, is cooking, etc.), memasakkan (cooks, is cooking, etc. [something]), dimasak (cooked - passive) as well as pemasak (cook - person), masakan (cooking, cookery). Many initial consonants undergo mutation when prefixes are added: e.g. sapu (sweep) becomes penyapu (broom); panggil (to call) becomes memanggil (calls, is calling, etc.), tapis (sieve) becomes menapis (sieves, is sieving, etc.)

Another distinguishing feature of Malay is its use of measure words (penjodoh bilangan).


Extent of use

The extent to which Malay is used in these countries varies depending on historical and cultural circumstances. Bahasa Malaysia became the sole official language of Malaysia in 1968, but English is still widely used, especially by the minority Chinese and Indian communities, and because of its importance as the language of international business, and the situation in Brunei is similar.

In Singapore, Malay was historically the lingua franca among people of different races and nationalities. Although this has largely given way to English, Malay still retains the status of national language and the national anthem, Majulah Singapura is entirely in Malay. Most residents of the five southernmost provinces of Thailand — a region that, for the most part, used to be part of an ancient Malay kingdom called Pattani — speak a dialect of Malay called Yawi (not to be confused with Jawi), which is similar to Kelantanese Malay, but the language has no official status or recognition.

By contrast, Bahasa Indonesia has successfully become the lingua franca for its disparate islands and ethnic groups, and because the colonial language, Dutch, is no longer spoken. (In East Timor, which was governed as a province of Indonesia between 1976 and 1999, Bahasa Indonesia is widely spoken, and recognised under its Constitution as a 'working language'.)

Borrowed words

The Malay language has many words borrowed from Arabic (in particular many religious terms), Sanskrit, Portuguese, Dutch, certain Chinese dialects and more recently, English (in particular many scientific and technological terms). Some examples follow:

  • bahasa - language (from Sanskrit)
  • bendera - flag (from Portuguese bandeira)
  • bihun - rice vermicelli (from Hokkien bi-hun)
  • bomba - fire brigade (from Portuguese bomba, "pump")
  • buku - book (from English)
  • duka - sadness (from Sanskrit dukkha)
  • dunia - world (from Arabic dunya)
  • gereja - church (from Portuguese igreja)
  • guru - teacher (from Sanskrit)
  • kamus - dictionary (from Arabic)
  • kaunter - counter or desk (from English)
  • keju - cheese (from Portuguese queijo)
  • komputer - computer (from English)
  • kongsi - share (from Hokkien kong-si)
  • limau - lemon (from Portuguese limo)
  • longkang - drain (from Hokkien long-kang)
  • manusia - human being (from Sanskrit mannushya)
  • mentega - butter (from Portuguese manteiga)
  • mee/mi - noodles (from Hokkien min)
  • roti - bread (from Sanskrit)
  • sains - science (from English)
  • sengsara - suffering (from Sanskrit samsara)
  • syariah - Islamic law (from Arabic)
  • sistem - system (from English)
  • suka - happiness (from Sanskrit sukkha)
  • tauhu - beancurd (from Hokkien tao-hu)
  • teh - tea (from Hokkien )
  • teko - teapot (from Hokkien tε-ko)
  • had - limit (from Arabic hadd)
  • waktu - time (from Arabic waqt)
  • kuda - horse (from Hindi kudh)
  • unta - camel (from Hindi unth)
  • tarikh - date (from Arabic tarikh)

Several Malay words have been borrowed into English. See the list of words of Malay origin at Wiktionary, the free dictionary and Wikipedia's sibling project.

Malay language has also heavily influenced the forms of colloquial English spoken in Singapore (Singlish) and Malaysia (Manglish).

Some simple phrases in Malay

  • Selamat datang - Welcome
  • Selamat pergi - Goodbye (lit. good going)
  • Terima kasih - Thank you
  • Sama sama - You are welcome
  • Selamat pagi - Good morning
  • Selamat tengah hari - Good afternoon (lit. ' good half day')
  • Selamat petang - Good evening (note that 'Selamat petang' must not be used at night as in English. For a general greeting, use 'Salam sejahtera')
  • Selamat malam - Good night
  • Jumpa lagi - See you again also as 'Sampai berjumpa kembali' - until we meet again
  • Apa khabar? - How are you? (lit. What is the news/message?)
  • Khabar baik - Fine, good (lit. The news/message is good.)
  • Saya sakit - I am ill
  • Saya sayang akan kamu - I love you (in a more of a family sort of love. e.g.: mother to daughter)
  • Saya cinta akan kamu(formal)/Saya cintakan mu(informal)- I love you (romantic love)
  • Saya tidak faham - I do not understand (this is a very direct expression that will not often be heard. It would be more likely expressed as Saya belum faham, I do not yet understand)
  • Saya tidak tahu - I do not know (likewise, this very direct. Usually expressed as: Saya belum tahu, I do not yet know)
  • (Minta) maaf - Sorry ('minta' is a request, like please ...)
  • (Minta) tolong - please help (me) (only 'tolong!' means just "help!")

See also

External link


Not to be confused with the Malayalam language, spoken in ms:Bahasa Melayu de:Malaiische Sprache eo:Malaja lingvo es:Idioma malayo fi:Malaijin kieli fr:Malais id:Bahasa Melayu ja:マレー語 nl:Maleis pl:Język malajski sv:Malajiska th:ภาษามาเลย์ zh:马来语


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