- Malay language
Malay Bahasa Melayu
Malaysia (as Malaysian and local Malay)Christmas Island
Indonesia (as Indonesian and local Malay)
Brunei (as Melayu Brunei)
East Timor (as Indonesian)
Philippines (mostly in Tawi Tawi and Sulu)
Thailand (mostly in the southern provinces bordering Malaysia)
Native speakers 40 million native (incl. 23 million Indonesian); approx. 180 million total (90% Indonesian) (no date) Language family Standard forms Dialects Writing system
Malay alphabet (Latin script; official in Malaysia, Singapore and Indonesia; co-official in Brunei)Kawi and Rencong
Official status Official language in Malaysia
Recognised minority language in Indonesia (Local Malay enjoys the status of a regional language in Sumatra apart from the national standard of Indonesian)
Thailand (Malay is the language of the Muslim community in Southern Thailand)
Regulated by Dewan Bahasa dan Pustaka (Institute of Language and Literature;
Majlis Bahasa Brunei–Indonesia–Malaysia (Brunei–Indonesia–Malaysia Language Council – MABBIM) (a trilateral joint-venture)
Language codes ISO 639-1 ms ISO 639-2 may (B)
ISO 639-3 msa – Macrolanguage
zsm – Malaysian
ind – Indonesian
mhp – Balinese Malay
kxd – Brunei
coa – Cocos Islands Malay
lrt – Larantuka Malay
mfp – Makassar Malay
max – North Moluccan MalayMalaysiaIndonesiaCountries besides Malaysia and Indonesia where Malay is an official languageEast Timor, where Indonesian is an official languageAreas where Malay is spoken but has no official status
This page contains IPA phonetic symbols in Unicode. Without proper rendering support, you may see question marks, boxes, or other symbols instead of Unicode characters.
Malay is a major language of the Austronesian family. It is the official language of Malaysia (as Malaysian), Indonesia (as Indonesian), Brunei (as Melayu Brunei) and Singapore (as the national language and one of four official languages of Singapore). It is spoken natively by 40 million people across the Malacca Strait, including the coasts of the Malay Peninsula of Malaysia and southern Thailand, the eastern coast of Sumatra, and the Riau Islands in Indonesia, and has been established as a native language of part of western coastal Sarawak and West Kalimantan in Borneo.
In Malaysia, Singapore, Brunei, southern Thailand, and the southern Philippines it is called Bahasa Melayu "Malay language", and in Indonesia it has undergone a series of standardizations and modifications to form what is now called Bahasa Indonesia, "Indonesian language", and furthermore designated as Bahasa Nasional "National Language" and Bahasa Persatuan/Pemersatu "Unifying Language/Lingua Franca". However, in areas of central to southern Sumatra (mainly Riau) where the language is indigenous, Indonesians refer to it as Bahasa Melayu and designate it as one of their regional languages.
- 1 Origin
- 2 History
- 3 Classification and related languages
- 4 Writing system
- 5 Extent of use
- 6 Phonology
- 7 Grammar
- 8 Borrowed words
- 9 Basic phrases in Malay
- 10 See also
- 11 References
- 12 External links
There are many hypotheses as to where the Malay language originated. One of these is that it came from Sumatra island. The oldest inscriptions in Malay, dating from the end of the 7th century AD, were found on Bangka Island, off the southeastern coast of Sumatra (the Kedukan Bukit Inscription) and in Palembang in southern Sumatra. "Malayu" was the name of an old kingdom located in Jambi province in eastern Sumatra. It was known in ancient Chinese texts as "Mo-lo-yo" and mentioned in the Nagarakertagama, an old Javanese epic written in 1365, as one of the "tributary states" of the Majapahit kingdom in eastern Java.
The use of Malay throughout insular and peninsular Southeast Asia is linked to the rise of Muslim kingdoms and the spread of Islam, itself a consequence of growing regional trade. At the time of European colonization, the Johor-Riau Sultanate had ascendancy. Since the 15th century, the Johor-Riau dialect of Malay had been used as a lingua franca throughout the Malay Archipelago, as the similar dialect of Malacca had been used before it. When Johor-Riau was divided between British Malaya (Johor) and the Dutch East Indies (Riau), its language was accorded official status in both territories.
Indonesia pronounced Riau (Johor) Malay its official language (Bahasa Indonesia) when it gained independence. Since 1928, nationalists and young people throughout the Indonesian archipelago had declared Malay to be Indonesia's only official language, as proclaimed in the Sumpah Pemuda "Youth Vow." Thus Indonesia was the first country to designate Malay as an official language.
In Malaysia, the 1957 Article 152 of the Federation adopted Johor (Malacca) Malay as the official language (Bahasa Malaysia). The name "Malaysia", in both language and country, emphasized that the nation consisted of more than just ethnic Malays. In 1986 the official name was changed to Bahasa Melayu, but in 2007 it was changed back.
"Bahasa Melayu" was defined as Brunei's official language in the country's 1959 Constitution.
The Indonesian and Malaysian dialects of Malay are separated by some centuries of different vocabulary development, partly due to the influence of different colonial languages; Dutch in the case of Indonesia, formerly the Dutch East Indies, and English in the case of Malaysia, Singapore, and Brunei, which were formerly under British rule. However, Indonesia and Malaysia largely unified their previously divergent orthographies in 1972, and they along with Brunei have set up a joint commission to develop common scientific and technical vocabulary and otherwise cooperate to keep their standards convergent.
Some Malay dialects, however, show only limited mutual intelligibility with the standard language; for example, Kelantanese or Sarawakian pronunciation is difficult for many fellow Malaysians to understand, while Indonesian contains many words unfamiliar to speakers of Malaysian, some because of Javanese, Sundanese or other local language influence, and some because of slang.
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 Hokkien Chinese, which is mostly spoken in the former Straits Settlements of Penang and Malacca in Malaysia, and the Indonesian Archipelago.
The history of the Malay language can be divided into five periods: Old Malay, the Transitional Period, the Malacca Period, Late Modern Malay, and modern Malay.
Old Malay, the mother of modern Malay was influenced by Sanskrit, the lingua franca of Hinduism and Buddhism. The sanskrit loanwords can be found in Old Malay vocabulary. The earliest known stone inscription in the Old Malay language was found in Sumatra, written in Pallava variant of Grantha script and dates back to 7th century – known as Kedukan Bukit Inscription, it was discovered by the Dutchman M. Batenburg on 29 November 1920, at Kedukan Bukit, South Sumatra, on the banks of the River Tatang, a tributary of the River Musi. It is a small stone of 45 by 80 cm.
The earliest surviving manuscript in Malay is the Tanjong Tanah Law in post-Pallava characters. This 14th century pre-Islamic legal text produced in the Adityavarman era (1345–1377) of the Dharmasraya Kingdom, a Hindu-Buddhist kingdom that arose after the end of Srivijayan rule in Sumatra. The laws were for the Kerinci people who today still live in the highlands of Sumatra.
From the island of Sumatra, the Malay language spread to peninsular South-east Asia (later known as Malaya and subsequently known as west Malaysia). The Malay language came into widespread use as the trade language of the Sultanate of Malacca (1402–1511). During this period, the Malay language developed rapidly under the influence of Islamic literature. The development changed the nature of the language with massive infusion of Arabic, Tamil, Hindi and Sanskrit vocabularies. Under the Sultanate of Malacca the language evolved into a form recognizable to speakers of modern Malay.
One of the oldest surviving letters written in Malay is letters from Sultan Abu Hayat of Ternate, Maluku Islands in present day Indonesia, dated around 1521–1522. The letter is addressed to the king of Portugal, following contact with Portuguese explorer Francisco Serrão. The letters show sign of non-native usage. This is because the Ternateans were -and still are, using a completely different language as mother tongue: the Ternate language, a West Papuan language. They use Malay only as lingua franca for inter-ethnic communications.
Malay is a member of the Austronesian family of languages, which includes languages from Southeast Asia and the Pacific Ocean, with a smaller number in continental Asia. Malagasy, a geographic outlier spoken in Madagascar in the Indian Ocean, is also a member of this language family. Although each language of the family is mutually unintelligible, their similarities are rather striking. Many roots have come virtually unchanged from their common Austronesian ancestor. There are many cognates found in the languages' words for kinship, health, body parts and common animals. Numbers, especially, show remarkable similarities.
Within Austronesian, Malay is part of a cluster of numerous closely related forms of speech known as the Malay languages, which were spread across Malaya and the Indonesian archipelago by Malay traders from Sumatra. There is disagreement as to which varieties of speech popularly called "Malay" should be considered dialects of this language, and which should be classified as distinct Malay languages. The local language of Brunei, Brunei Malay, for example, is not readily intelligible with the standard language, and the same is true with some varieties on the Malay Peninsula such as Kedah Malay. However, both Brunei and Kedah are quite close.
The closest relatives of the Malay languages are those left behind on Sumatra, such as Minangkabau with 5.5 million speakers on the west coast.
Malay is normally written using the Latin script (Rumi), although an Arabic alphabet called Jawi also exists. Rumi is official in Malaysia, Singapore, and Indonesia. Rumi and Jawi are co-official in Brunei. Efforts are currently being undertaken to preserve Jawi in rural areas of Malaysia, and students taking Malay language examination in Malaysia have the option of answering questions using Jawi. The Latin script, however, is the most commonly used in Malaysia, both for official and informal purposes.
Historically, Malay has been written using various scripts. Before the introduction of Arabic script in the Malay region, Malay was written using Pallava, Kawi and Rencong script and these are still in use today by the Champa Malay in Vietnam and Cambodia. Old Malay was written using Pallava and Kawi script, as evident from several inscription stones in the Malay region. Starting from the era of kingdom of Pasai and throughout the golden age of the Sultanate of Malacca, Jawi gradually replaced these scripts as the most commonly used script in the Malay region. Starting from the 17th century, under Dutch and British influence, Jawi was gradually replaced by the Rumi script.
Extent of use
Malay is spoken in Malaysia, Indonesia, Singapore, parts of Thailand, and Brunei. Indonesia and Brunei have their own standards, Malaysia and Singapore use the same standard. The extent to which Malay is used in these countries varies depending on historical and cultural circumstances. Malay is the national language in Malaysia by Article 152 of the Constitution of Malaysia, and became the sole official language in West Malaysia in 1968, and in East Malaysia gradually from 1974. English continues, however, to be widely used in professional and commercial fields and in the superior courts. Other minority languages are also commonly used by the country's large ethnic minorities. The situation in Brunei is similar to that of Malaysia.
Unlike many of its neighbouring languages, such as Thai and Vietnamese, Malay is not a tonal language.
Malay has several phonemes found only in borrowed words (in parentheses below), principally from Arabic, Dutch, and English. Not all speakers distinguish all of them.
Table of consonant phonemes of Malay Bilabial Labio-
Dental Alveolar Post-
Palatal Velar Glottal Nasal m [m] n [n] ny [ɲ] ng [ŋ] Plosive p [p] b [b] t [t̪] d [d] k [k, ʔ] g [ɡ] ’ [ʔ] Affricate c [t͡ʃ] j [d͡ʒ] Fricative (f) [f, p] (v) [v, b] s [s] (z) [z, d͡ʒ] (sy) [ʃ, ʂ, sj] (kh) [x, k, h] h [h] Approximant y [j] w [w] Lateral l [l] Trill r [r, ʀ]
- /p/, /t/, /k/ are unaspirated, as in the Romance languages, or as in English spy, sty, sky. In final position, they are unreleased [p̚, t̪̚, ʔ̚], with final k being a glottal stop (see next). /b, d/ are also unreleased, and therefore devoiced, [p̚, t̚]. There is no liaison: they remain unreleased even when followed by a vowel, as in kulit ubi "potato skins", though they are pronounced as a normal medial consonant when followed by a suffix.
- In some words, glottal stop /ʔ/ can occur at the end of a word, where it is written ⟨k⟩: baik, bapak. Only a few words have this sound in the middle, e.g. bakso (meatballs). It may be represented by an apostrophe in Arabic derived words such as Al Qur'an.
- /t/ is dental, as in French, whereas /d/ is alveolar as in English.
- /tʃ, dʒ/ are pronounced with the tip of the tongue further forward than in English (alveolar), and without the lip rounding of English.
- /h/ clearly pronounced between like vowels, as in Pahang. Elsewhere it is a very light sound, and is frequently silent, as in hutan ~ utan "forest", sahut ~ saut "answer". (It is not, however, dropped when initial from Arabic loans such as hakim "judge".) In dialects which retain final /h/, it may engage in liaison, as in sudah itu [suda hitu] "after that".
- /r/ varies significantly across dialects. Its position relative to schwa is ambiguous: kertas "paper" may be pronounced [krəˈtas] or [kərəˈtas].
- The sequence /ŋɡ/ and /ŋk/ are written ⟨ngg⟩, ⟨ngk⟩.
Phonemes which occur only in Arabic loans may be pronounced distinctly by speakers who know Arabic. Otherwise they tend to be substituted for with native sounds.
Table of Arabic consonants Distinct Assimilated Example /x/ /k/, /h/ khabar, kabar "news" /ð/ /d/, /l/ reda, rela "good will" /zˁ/ /l/, /z/ lohor, zuhur "noon (prayer)" /ɣ/ /ɡ/, /r/ gaib, raib "hidden" /ʕ/ /ʔ/ saat, sa'at "hour"
Malay originally had four vowels, but in many dialects today has six. /ə/ is generally epenthetic, but cannot be predicted in some words, such as enam "six". /e, o/ are distinguished in English loan words, and also in many Indonesian dialects. In some dialects, /ai, au/ are pronounced as /e, o/.
Table of vowel phonemes of Malay Height Front Central Back Close i [i, e] u [u, o] Mid (e) [e, ɛ] e [ə] (o) [o, ɔ] Open a [a, ə]
In native Malay words, [i, u] and [e, o] are allophones. They may vary by locality, as in bugil "stripped" (Indonesia and northern Malaya) vs. bogel (southern Malaya).
In some parts of Peninsular Malaysia, especially in the central and southern regions, most words which end with the letter a are pronounced /ə/.
The sequences ai, au, and oi are diphthongs in open syllables. In closed syllables, however, as in air (water), the two vowels are pronounced in hiatus. In other words, pulau "island" and laut "sea" both have two syllables. Other vowel sequences, as in daerah "district" and siul "whistle", are always in hiatus. In some dialects in Indonesia, diphthongal /ai/ and /au/ are conflated with /e, o/.
Table diphthongs of Malay Orthography IPA ai [ai̯, e] au [au̯, o] oi [ui̯, oi̯]
Malay has light Stress which falls on either the final or penultimate syllable, depending on regional variations as well as the presence of the schwa (/ə/) in a word. Generally, the penultimate syllable is stressed, unless its vowel is a schwa /ə/. If the penult has a schwa, then stress moves to the ante-penultimate syllable if there is one, even if that syllable has a schwa as well; if the word is disyllabic, the stress is final. In disyllabic stress with a closed penultimate syllable, such as tinggal "stay" and rantai "chain"[clarification needed]
However, there is some disagreement among linguists on whether stress is phonemic (unpredictable), with at least one researcher suggesting that in some dialects there is no lexical stress at all.
Important in the derivation of Malay nouns and verbs is the assimilation of the nasal consonant at the end of the important derivational prefixes meng- /məŋ/ and peng- /pəŋ/. The pronunciation of this nasal matches the place of articulation of the following sound.
The nasal is dropped before sonorant consonants, the nasals /m, n, ɲ, ŋ/ and the liquids /l, r/. (It does not occur before approximants.) It is retained before and assimilates to obstruent consonants: labial /m/ before labial /p, b/, alveolar /n/ before alveolar /t, d, tʃ, dʒ/, and velar /ŋ/ before other sounds, velar /k, ɡ/ as well as /h/ and all vowels.
In addition, a voiceless obstruent, apart from /tʃ/ (that is /p, t, s, k/), is dropped. /s/ behaves oddly here, producing a palatal nasal /ɲ/ before dropping.
That is, meng- produces the following derivations:
Table of nasal assimilation root meng- derivation masak memasak nanti menanti layang melayang rampas merampas beli membeli dukong mendukong jawab menjawab gulong menggulong hantar menghantar root meng- derivation ajar mengajar isi mengisi pilih memilih tulis menulis cabut mencabut kenal mengenal surat menyurat
In Malay, there are four basic parts of speech: Nouns, verbs, adjectives, and grammatical function words (particles). Nouns and verbs may be basic roots, but frequently they are derived from other words by means of prefixes and suffixes.
Malay is an agglutinative language, and new words are formed by three methods. New words can be created by attaching affixes onto a root word (affixation), formation of a compound word (composition), or repetition of words or portions of words (reduplication).
Root words are either nouns or verbs, which can be affixed to derive new words, e.g. masak (to cook) yields memasak (cooks), memasakkan (cooks for), dimasak (cooked) as well as pemasak (a cook), masakan (a meal, cookery). Many initial consonants undergo mutation when prefixes are added: e.g. sapu (sweep) becomes penyapu (broom); panggil (to call) becomes memanggil (calls), tapis (to sieve) becomes menapis (sieves).
Other examples of the use of affixes to change the meaning of a word can be seen with the word ajar (teach):
- ajar = teach
- ajaran = teachings
- belajar = to learn
- mengajar = to teach
- diajar = being taught (intransitive)
- diajarkan = being taught (transitive)
- mempelajari = to study
- dipelajari = being studied
- pelajar = student
- pengajar = teacher
- pelajaran = subject
- pengajaran = lesson, moral of story
- pembelajaran = learning
- terajar = taught (accidentally)
- terpelajar = well-educated
- berpelajaran = is educated
There are four types of affixes, namely prefixes (awalan), suffixes (akhiran), circumfixes (apitan) and infixes (sisipan). These affixes are categorised into noun affixes, verb affixes, and adjective affixes.
Noun affixes are affixes that form nouns upon addition to root words. The following are examples of noun affixes:
Type of noun affixes Affix Example of root word Example of derived word Prefix pə(r)- ~ pəng- duduk (sit) penduduk (population) kə- hendak (want) kehendak (desire) juru- wang (money) juruwang (cashier) Infix ⟨əl⟩ tunjuk (point) telunjuk (index finger, command) ⟨əm⟩ kelut (dishevelled) kemelut (chaos, crisis) ⟨ər⟩ gigi (teeth) gerigi (toothed blade) Suffix -an bangun (wake up, raise) bangunan (building) Circumfix kə-...-an raja (king) kerajaan (kingdom) pə(r)-...-an
kerja (work) pekerjaan (occupation)
The prefix per- drops its r before r, l and frequently before p, t, k. In some words it is peng-; though formally distinct, these are treated as variants of the same prefix in Malay grammar books.
Similarly, verb affixes are attached to root words to form verbs. In Malay, there are:
Type of verb affixes Affix Example of root word Example of derived word Prefix bər- ajar (teach) belajar (to study) məng- tolong (help) menolong (to help) di- ambil (take) diambil (be taken) məmpər- kemas (tidy up, orderly) memperkemas (to arrange further) dipər- dalam (deep) diperdalam (be deepened) tər- makan (eat) termakan (to have accidentally eaten) Suffix -kan letak (place, keep) letakkan (keep) -i jauh (far) jauhi (avoid) Circumfix bər-...-an pasang (pair) berpasangan (in pairs) bər-...-kan dasar (base) berdasarkan (based on) məng-...-kan pasti (sure) memastikan (to make sure) məng-...-i teman (company) menemani (to accompany) məmpər-...-kan guna (use) mempergunakan (to utilise, to exploit) məmpər-...-i ajar (teach) mempelajari (to study) kə-...-an hilang (disappear) kehilangan (to lose) di-...-i sakit (pain) disakiti (to be hurt by) di-...-kan benar (right) dibenarkan (is allowed to) dipər-...-kan kenal (know, recognise) diperkenalkan (is being introduced)
Adjective affixes are attached to root words to form adjectives:
Type of adjective affixes Affix Example of root word Example of derived word Prefix tər- kenal (know) terkenal (famous) sə- lari (run) selari (parallel) Infix ⟨əl⟩ serak (disperse) selerak (messy) ⟨əm⟩ cerlang (radiant bright) cemerlang (bright, excellent) ⟨ər⟩ sabut (husk) serabut (dishevelled) Circumfix kə-...-an barat (west) kebaratan (westernized)
In addition to these affixes, Malay also has a lot of borrowed affixes from other languages such as Sanskrit, Arabic and English. For example maha-, pasca-, eka-, bi-, anti-, pro- etc.
In Malay, new words can be formed by joining two or more root words. Compound words, when they exist freely in a sentence, are often written separately. Compound words are only attached to each other when they are bound by circumfix or when they are already considered as stable words.
For example, the word kereta which means car and api which means fire, are compounded to form a new word kereta api (train). Similarly, ambil alih (take over) is formed using the root words ambil (take) and alih (move), but will link together when a circumfix is attached to it, i.e. pengambilalihan (takeover). Certain stable words, such as kakitangan (personnel), and kerjasama (cooperation), are spelled as one word even when they exist freely in sentences.
Reduplication (Kata Ganda) in the Malay language is mainly used for forming plurals. Sometimes, however, this is not the case. Reduplication may alter the meaning of the whole word, or change the usage of the word in sentences.
There are four types of words reduplication in Malay, namely
- Full reduplication (Kata Ganda Penuh)
- Partial reduplication (Kata Ganda Separa)
- Rhythmic reduplication (Kata Ganda Berentak)
- Reduplication of meaning
Full reduplication is the complete duplication of the word, separated by a dash (-). It is used in forming plurals. For example, buku (books) when duplicated form buku-buku (books), while the duplicated form of batu (stone) is batu-batu (stones). However, kipas-kipas (propellers) from the root word kipas (fan) is an exception as it alters the whole meaning of the word.
Partial reduplication also form plurals, such as dedaun (leaves) from the word daun (leaf). The words are usually not separated by spaces or punctuation, and is considered a single word.
The word batu (stone) can also be reduplicated rhythmically to form batu bata (bricks). These reduplications have the main purpose of altering the meaning of the word and can be in any form, either stuck together or separated. However, it can also form plurals such as in sayur-mayur (vegetables [bundled for the market]) from the root word sayur (vegetable/vegetables [what is found on plate]).
Another distinguishing feature of Malay is its use of measure words (penjodoh bilangan). In this way, it is similar to many other languages of Asia, including Chinese, Japanese, Vietnamese, Thai, Burmese, and Bengali.
Measure words are found in English two head of cattle, a loaf of bread, or this piece of paper, where *two cattle, a bread, and this paper (in the sense of this piece of paper) would be ungrammatical. The word satu reduces to se- /sə/, as it does in other compounds:
measure word used for measuring literal translation example buah things (in general), large things, abstract nouns
houses, cars, ships, mountains; books, rivers, chairs, some fruits, thoughts, etc.
'fruit' dua buah meja (two tables), lima buah rumah (five houses) ekor /ekor/ animals 'tail' seekor ayam (a chicken), tiga ekor kambing (three goats) orang human beings 'person' seorang lelaki (a man), enam orang petani (six farmers), seratus orang murid (a hundred students) biji smaller rounded objects
most fruits, cups, nuts
'grain' sebiji/ sebutir telur (an egg), sebiji epal (an apple), sebutir/ butiran-butiran beras (rice or rices) batang long stiff things
trees, walking sticks, pencils
'trunk, rod' həlai, lai things in thin layers or sheets
paper, cloth, feathers, hair
'leaf' kəping flat fragments
slabs of stone, pieces of wood, pieces of bread, land, coins, paper
'chip' pucuk letters, firearms, needles 'sprout' bilah blades: knives, spears 'lathe'
Less common are
bəntuk rings, hooks (with ringed 'eyes') 'curve' bidanɡ mats, widths of cloth 'breadth' kuntum flowers 'blossom' tangkai flowers 'stem' kaki long-stemmed flowers 'leg' urat threads, sinew 'fiber, vein' pintu houses in a row 'door' tangga traditional houses with ladders 'ladder' patah words, proverbs 'fragment' butir smallest rounded objects
smaller fruits, seeds, grains, rounds of ammunition, gems, points
'particle' commonly replaced with biji puntung stumps, stubs, butt ends
of firewood, cigarettes, teeth
stump potong slices of bread etc. 'cut' kərat 'fragment' utas nets, cords, ribbons carik things easily torn, like paper 'shred'
Measure words are not necessary just to say "a": burung "a bird, birds". Using se- plus a measure word is closer to English "one" or "a certain":
- Ada se-ekor burung yang pandai bercakap
- "There was a (certain) bird that could talk"
Common derivational affixes for nouns are peng-/per-/juru- (actor, instrument, or someone characterized by the root), -an (collectivity, similarity, object, place, instrument), ke-...-an (abstractions and qualities, collectivities), per-/peng-...-an (abstraction, place, goal or result).
Malay does not make use of grammatical gender, and there are only a few words that use natural gender; the same word is used for he and she or for his and her. Most of the words that refer to people (family terms, professions, etc.) have a form that does not distinguish between the sexes. For example, adik can both refer to a younger sibling of either sex. In order to specify the natural gender of a noun, an adjective has to be added: adik laki-laki corresponds to "brother" but really means "male younger sibling". There are some words that are gendered, for instance puteri means "princess", and putera means "prince"; words like these are usually absorbed from other languages (in these cases, from Sanskrit).
There is no grammatical plural in Malay. Thus orang may mean either "person" or "people". Plurality is expressed by the context, or the usage of words such as numerals, bəbərapa "some", or səmua "all" that express plurality. In many cases, it simply isn't relevant to the speaker.
Reduplication is commonly used to emphasize plurality. However, reduplication has many other functions. For example, orang-orang means "(all the) people", but orang-orangan means "scarecrow". Similarly, while hati means "heart" or "liver", hati-hati is a verb meaning "to be careful". Also, not all reduplicated words are plural inherently plural, such as orang-orangan "scarecrow/scarecrows", biri-biri "a/some sheep" and kupu-kupu "butterfly/butterflies". Some reduplication is rhyming rather than exact, as in sayur-mayur "(all sorts of) vegetables".
Distributive affixes derive mass nouns that are effectively plural: pohon "tree", pepohonan "flora, trees"; rumah "house", perumahan "housing, houses"; gunung "mountain", pegunungan "mountain range, mountains".
Quantity words come before the noun: səribu orang "a thousand people", beberapa pegunungan "a series of mountain ranges", beberapa kupu-kupu "some butterflies".
Personal pronouns are not a separate part of speech, but a subset of nouns. They are frequently omitted, and there are numerous ways to say "you". Commonly the person's name, title, title with name, or occupation is used ("does Johny want to go?", "would Madam like to go?"); kin terms, including fictive kinship, are extremely common. However, there are also dedicated personal pronouns, as well as the demonstrative pronouns ini "this, the" and itu "that, the".
- Personal pronouns
Notable among the personal-pronoun system is a distinction between two forms of "we": kita (you and me, you and us) and kami (us, but not you). The distinction is increasingly confused in colloquial Indonesian.
There are two major forms of "I", which are saya and aku. Saya is the more formal form, whereas aku is used with family, friends, and between lovers. Sahaya is an old or literary form of saya. Sa(ha)ya may also be used for "we", but in such cases it is usually used with sekalian or semua "all"; this form is ambiguous as to whether it means kami or kita. Less common are hamba "slave", hamba tuan, hamba datok (all extremely humble), beta "your servant" (in letters), patek (a commoner addressing a royal), kami (royal or editorial "we"), kita, təman, and kawan.
There are three common forms of "you", anda (formal), kamu (informal), and kalian "all" (commonly used as a plural form of you, slightly informal). Anda is used with strangers, recent acquaintances, in advertisements, in business, and when you wish to show respect (though terms like tuan "sir" and other titles also show respect), while kamu is used in situations where the speaker would use aku for "I". Anda sekalian is polite plural. Engkau (əngkau), commonly shortened to kau, and hang are used to social inferiors, awak to equals, and əncek (cek before a name) is polite, traditionally used for people without title. The compounds makcek and pakcek are used with village elders one is well acquainted with or the guest of.
There are a large number of other words for "I" and "you", many regional, dialectical, or borrowed from local languages. Saudara "you" (male) and saudari (female) (plural saudara-saudara or saudari-saudari) show utmost respect. Daku "I" and dikau "you" are poetic or romantic. Indonesian gua "I" and lu "you" are slang and extremely informal. In the state of Pahang, two variants for "I" and "you" exist, depending on location. In East Pahang, around Pekan, "kome" is used as "I" while in the west around Temerloh, "koi" is used. Interestingly, "kome" is also used in Kuala Kangsar, Perak, but instead it means "you". This allegedly originated from the fact that both the royal families of Pahang and Perak (whose seats are in Pekan and Kuala Kangsar respectively) were decendants of the same ancient line.
The common word for "s/he" and "they" is ia, which has the object and emphatic/focused form dia. Bəliau "his/her Honour" is respectful. As with "you", names and kin terms are extremely common. Colloquially, dia orang is commonly used for the plural "they"; in writing, məreka "someone", mereka itu, or orang itu "those people" are used for "they".
The informal pronouns aku, kamu, engkau, ia, kami, and kita are indigenous to Malay.
Common pronouns Person Malay English First person saya (standard, polite),
aku (informal, familiar)
I, me kami we, us: they and me, s/he and me kita we, us: you and me, you and us Second person anda (polite, formal),
kamu (familiar, informal)
you, thou, thee anda sekalian (formal),
you, y'all Third person ia ~ dia,
he, she, him, her ia ~ dia,
mereka, dia orang
- Possessive pronouns
Aku, kamu, engkau, and ia have short possessive enclitic forms. All others retain their full forms like other nouns, as does emphatic dia: meja saya, meja kita, meja anda, meja dia "my table, our table, your table, his/her table".
Possessed forms of meja "table" Pronoun Enclitic Possessed form aku -ku mejaku (my table) kamu -mu mejamu (your table) engkau -kau mejakau (your table) ia -nya mejanya (his, her, their table)
There are also proclitic forms of aku and engkau, ku- and kau-. These are used when there is no emphasis on the pronoun:
- Ku-dengar raja itu penyakit sopak. Aku tahu ilmu tabib. Aku-lah mengubati dia.
- "It has come to my attention that the Raja has a skin disease. I am skilled in medicine. I will cure him."
Here ku-verb is used for a general report, aku verb is used for a factual statement, and emphatic aku-lah meng-verb (≈ "I am the one who...") for focus on the pronoun.
- Demonstrative pronouns
There are two demonstrative pronouns in Malay. Ini "this, these" is used for a noun which is generally near to the speaker. Itu "that, those" is used for a noun which is generally far from the speaker. Either may sometimes be equivalent to English "the". There is no difference between singular and plural. However, plural can be indicated through duplication of a noun followed by a ini or itu. The word yang "which" is often placed before demonstrative pronouns to give emphasis and a sense of certainty, particularly when making references or enquiries about something/ someone, like English "this one" or "that one".
Pronoun Malay English ini buku ini This book, these books, the book(s) buku-buku ini These books, (all) the books itu kucing itu That cat, those cats, the cat(s) kucing-kucing itu Those cats, the (various) cats Pronoun + yang Example Sentence English Meaning Yang ini Q: Anda mau membeli buku yang mana?
A: Saya mau beli yang ini
Q: Which book do you wish to purchase?
A: I would like this one
Yang itu Q: Kucing mana yang makan tikusmu?
A: Yang itu!
Q: Which cat ate your mouse?
A: That one!
Verbs are not inflected for person or number, and they are not marked for tense; tense is instead denoted by time adverbs (such as "yesterday") or by other tense indicators, such as sudah "already" and belum "not yet". On the other hand, there is a complex system of verb affixes to render nuances of meaning and to denote voice or intentional and accidental moods. Some of these affixes are ignored in colloquial speech.
Examples of these are the prefixes di- (patient focus, frequently but erroneously called "passive voice", for OVA word order), meng- (agent focus, frequently but erroneously called "active voice", for AVO word order), memper- and diper- (causative, agent and patient focus), ber- (stative or habitual; intransitive VS order), and ter- (agentless actions, such as those which are involuntary, sudden, or accidental, for VA = VO order); the suffixes -kan (causative or benefactive) and -i (locative, repetitive, or exhaustive); and the circumfixes ber-...-an (plural subject, diffuse action) and ke-...-an (unintentional or potential action or state).
- duduk to sit down
- mendudukkan to sit someone down, give someone a seat, to appoint
- menduduki to sit on, to occupy
- didudukkan to be given a seat, to be appointed
- diduduki to be sat on, to be occupied
- terduduk to sink down, to come to sit
- kedudukan to be situated
Often the derivation changes the meaning of the verb rather substantially:
- tinggal to reside, to live (in a place)
- meninggal to die, to pass away (short form of meninggal dunia to pass on from the world)
- meninggalkan to leave (a place), to leave behind/abandon (someone/something)
- ditinggalkan to be left behind, to be abandoned
- tertinggal to be left behind
- ketinggalan to miss (a bus, train) (and thus to be left behind)
Forms in ter- and ke-...-an are often equivalent to adjectives in English.
There are no grammatical adjectives in Malay. Stative verbs are used for this purpose.
Malay Gloss English Remarks Hutan hijau forest be-green The forest is green as in French la forêt verdoie Mobil yang merah car that be-red The red car Dia orang yang terkenal sekali he/she person which be-(most)famous He/she is the most famous person Orang ini terkenal sekali person this be-famous very This person is very famous
Four words are used for negation in Malay, namely tidak, bukan, jangan, and belum.
- Tidak (not), often shortened to tak, is used for the negation of verbs and "adjectives".
- Bukan (be-not) is used in the negation of a noun.
Malay Gloss English Saya tidak tahu I not know I do not know Ibu saya tidak senang mother I not be-happy My mother is not happy Itu bukan anjing saya that be-not dog I That is not my dog
- Jangan (do not!) is used for negating imperatives or advising against certain actions. For example,
Jangan tinggalkan saya di sini!
- Don't leave me here!
- Belum is used with the sense that something has not yet been accomplished or experienced. In this sense, belum can be used as a negative response to a question.
—Anda sudah pernah ke Indonesia or Anda sudah pernah ke Indonesia belum?
- Have you ever been to Indonesia before, (or not)?
—Belum, saya masih belum pernah pergi ke Indonesia
- No, I have not yet been to Indonesia
Orang itu belum terbiasa tinggal di Indonesia
- That person is not (yet) used to living in Indonesia.
There are 16 types of function words in Malay which perform a grammatical function in a sentence. Amongst these are conjunctions, interjections, prepositions, negations and determiners.
There are two negation words in Malay, bukan and tidak. Bukan is used to negate noun phrases and prepositions in a predicate, whereas tidak is used to negate verbs and adjectives phrases in a predicate.
Subject Negation Predicate Lelaki yang berjalan dengan Birsilah itu
(That boy who is walking with Birsilah)
daripada/ dari teman/ sahabat penanya di Perancis/ Prancis
(from his penpal in France)
mengikuti peraturan sekolah
(obey school regulations)
Penguasaan Bahasa Melayunya
(His command of Malay language)
The negative word bukan however, can be used before verb phrases and adjective phrases if the sentence shows contradictions.
Subject Negation Predicate Contradiction Karangan Izwah
baik sangat/ sangat baik,
tetapi/ melainkan/ namun Izwah mendapat markah yang baik
(but Izwah received good marks)
Kilang/ Pabrik itu
menghasilkan kereta Kancil,
(producing Kancil cars)
sebaliknya menghasilkan Proton Wira
(instead is producing Proton Wira)
Adjectives, demonstrative pronouns, and possessive pronouns follow the noun they modify.
Malay does not have a grammatical subject in the sense that English does. In intransitive clauses, the noun comes before the verb. When there is both an agent and an object, these are separated by the verb (OVA or AVO), with the difference encoded in the voice of the verb. OVA, commonly but inaccurately called "passive", is the basic and most common word order.
Either the agent or object or both may be omitted. This is commonly done to accomplish one of two things:
- 1) Adding a sense of politeness and respect to a statement or question
For example, a polite shop assistant in a store may avoid the use of pronouns altogether and ask:
Ellipses of pronoun (agent & object) Literal English Idiomatic English Bisa dibantu? Can + to be helped? Can (I) help (you)?
- 2) Agent or object is unknown, not important, or understood from context
For example, a friend may enquire as to when you bought your property, to which you may respond:
Ellipses of pronoun (understood agent) Literal English Idiomatic English Rumah ini dibeli lima tahun yang lalu House this + be purchased five year(s) ago The house 'was purchased' five years ago
Ultimately, the choice of voice and therefore word order is a choice between actor and patient and depends quite heavily on the language style and context.
Word order is frequently modified for focus or emphasis, with the focused word usually placed at the beginning of the clause and followed by a slight pause (a break in intonation):
- Saya pergi ke pasar kelmarin "I went to the market yesterday" – neutral, or with focus on the subject.
- Kelmarin saya pergi ke pasar "Yesterday I went to the market" – emphasis on yesterday.
- Ke pasar saya pergi, kelmarin "To the market I went yesterday" – emphasis on where I went yesterday.
- Pergi ke pasar, saya, kelmarin "To the market went I yesterday" – emphasis on the process of going to the market.
The latter two are more likely to be encountered in the spoken language than in writing.
The Malay language has many words borrowed from Arabic (mainly religious terms), Sanskrit, Tamil, Persian, Portuguese, Dutch, certain Chinese dialects and more recently, English (in particular many scientific and technological terms).
Basic phrases in Malay
In Malaysia and Indonesia, to greet somebody with "Selamat pagi" or "Selamat sejahtera" would be considered very formal, and the borrowed word "Hi" would be more usual among friends; similarly "Bye-bye" is often used when taking one's leave. However if you're a Muslim and the Malay person you're talking to is also a Muslim, it would be more appropriate to use the Islamic greeting of ' Assalamualaikum '. Muslim Malays, especially in Malaysia, Singapore and Brunei, rarely use ' Selamat Pagi ' ( Good Morning ), 'Selamat Siang' (Good "Early" Afternoon), ' Selamat Petang ' or ' Selamat Sore ' as widely used in Indonesia ( Good "Late" Afternoon ) , ' Selamat Malam ' ( Good Evening / Night ) or 'Selamat Tinggal / Jalan ' ( Good Bye ) when talking to one another.
Malay Phrase IPA English Translation Selamat datang /səlamat dataŋ/ Welcome (Used as a greeting) Selamat jalan /səlamat dʒalan/ Have a safe journey (equivalent to "goodbye", used by the party staying) Selamat tinggal /səlamat tiŋɡal/ Have a safe stay (equivalent to "goodbye", used by the party leaving) Terima kasih /tərima kasih/ Thank you Sama-sama /sama sama/ You are welcome (as in a response to Thank You) Selamat pagi /səlamat paɡi/ Good morning Selamat petang /səlamat pətaŋ/ Good afternoon/evening (note that 'Selamat petang' must not be used at night as in English. For a general greeting, use 'Selamat sejahtera') Selamat sejahtera /səlamat sədʒahtəra/ Greetings (formal). Please note however that this greeting is rarely used and would be unheard of among Malays especially in Malaysia and Singapore. Its usage might be awkward for the receiver. Selamat malam /səlamat malam/ Good night Jumpa lagi See you again Siapakah nama awak/kamu?/Nama kamu siapa? What is your name? Nama saya ... My name is ... (The relevant name is placed in front. For example, if your name was Munirah, then you would introduce yourself by saying "Nama saya Munirah", which translates to "My name is Munirah") Apa khabar/kabar? How are you? / What's up? (literally, "What news?") Khabar/kabar baik Fine, good news Saya sakit I'm sick Ya /ja/ Yes Tidak ("tak" colloquially) No Ibu (Saya) sayang engkau/kamu (awak) I love you (In a more of a family or affectionate sort of love, e.g.: mother to daughter, the Mother addresses herself as "Ibu" (mother) or Emak (Mother) instead of "Saya" for "I". And the mother also uses the informal "engkau" instead of "awak" for "you".) Generally amongst ethnic Malays "engkau" is considered a coarse way of referring to someone and would never be used to refer to one's mother whereas it is appropriate for a mother to refer to her child as "engkau". Aku (Saya) cinta pada mu (awak) I love you (romantic love. In romantic situation, use informal "Aku" instead of "Saya" for "I". And "Kamu" or just "Mu" for "You". In romance, in immediate family communication and in songs, informal pronouns are used). Please note that in Malay language, appropriate personal pronouns must be used depending on (1) whether the situation is formal or informal, (2) the social status of the people around the speaker and (3) the relationship of the speaker with the person spoken to and/or with people around the speaker. For learners of Malay language, it is advised that you stick to formal personal pronouns when speaking Malay to Malays and Indonesians. You risk being considered as rude if you use informal personal pronouns in inappropriate situations. Saya benci awak/kamu I hate you Saya tidak faham/paham (or simply "tak faham" colloquially) I do not understand (or simply "don't understand" colloquially) Saya tidak tahu (or "tak tau" colloquially or "sik tau" in Sarawak) I do not know (or "don't know" colloquially (Minta) maaf I apologise ('minta' is to request i.e. "do forgive") Tumpang/numpang tanya "May I ask...?" (used when trying to ask something) (Minta) tolong Please help (me) ('Tolong!' on its own just means "help") Apa What Tiada/tidak ada Nothing
- The list of Malay words and list of words of Malay origin at Wiktionary, the free dictionary and Wikipedia's sibling project
- Differences between Malaysian and Indonesian
- Indonesian language
- Jawi, an Arabic alphabet for Malay
- Language politics
- List of English words of Malay origin
- Malay-based creole languages
- Malaysian English, English language used formally in Malaysia.
- Manado Malay
- Minangkabau language
- Rojak language
- Swadesh list of Malay words
- Varieties of Malay
- ^ a b Influences come mostly from Indonesian
- ^ "Ethnologue report for language code: zlm". Ethnologue.com. http://www.ethnologue.com/show_language.asp?code=zlm. Retrieved 2010-12-22.
- ^ "Ethnologue report for language code: ind". Ethnologue.com. http://www.ethnologue.com/show_language.asp?code=ind. Retrieved 2010-12-22.
- ^ "Kedah MB defends use of Jawi on signboards". The Star. 26 August 2008. http://thestar.com.my/news/story.asp?file=/2008/8/26/nation/22168989&sec=nation.
- ^ 10 million in Malaysia, 5 million in Indonesia as "Malay" plus 23 million as "Indonesian", etc.
- ^ Languages of Indonesia (Sumatra)
- ^ Penggunaan Istilah Bahasa Malaysia Dan Bukan Bahasa Melayu Muktamad, Kata Zainuddin. BERNAMA, 5 November 2007
- ^ "Bahasa Melayu Kuno". Bahasa-malaysia-simple-fun.com. 2007-09-15. http://www.bahasa-malaysia-simple-fun.com/bahasa-melayu-kuno.html. Retrieved 2010-12-22.
- ^ a b Sneddon, James N. (2003). The Indonesian language: its history and role in modern society. UNSW Press. pp. 62. ISBN 0868405981, 9780868405988. http://books.google.com/books?id=A9UjLYD9jVEC&pg=PA62.
- ^ Ethnologue 16 classifies them as distinct languages, iso3 kxd and meo, but states that they "are so closely related that they may one day be included as dialects of Malay".
- ^ Malay (Bahasa Melayu). Retrieved 30 August 2008.
- ^ "Malay Can Be 'Language Of Asean' | Local News". Brudirect.com. 2010-10-24. http://www.brudirect.com/index.php/2010102331853/Local-News/malay-can-be-language-of-asean.html. Retrieved 2010-12-22.
- ^ Salleh, Haji (2008). An introduction to modern Malaysian literature. Kuala Lumpur: Institut Terjemahan Negara Malaysia Berhad. pp. xvi. ISBN 978-983-068-307-2. http://books.google.com.ph/books?id=QTKtgVCUZ48C&printsec=frontcover#v=onepage&q&f=false.
- ^ http://email.eva.mpg.de/~gil/ismil/11/abstracts/Gil.pdf Gil, David. "A Typology of Stress, And Where Malay/Indonesian Fits In" (abstract only)
- ^ This is the argument for the nasal being underlyingly /ŋ/: when there is no place for it to assimilate to, it surfaces as /ŋ/. Some treatments write it /N/ to indicate that it has no place of articulation of its own, but this fails to explain its pronunciation before vowels.
- ^ This suggests that historically the /s/ became palatal: *men-surat /mənsurat/ → affricate /məntsurat/ → palatal /məɲtʃurat/ → /məɲurat/. Present-day /tʃ/ as in cabut would have had a more recent origin, as reflected also in its failure to drop like the others.
- ^ The root ajar retrieves a historic initial l after the suffixes ber- and pe(r)-.
- ^ M.B. Lewis, 1947, Teach Yourself Malay, §178
- ^ http://faculty.unitarklj1.edu.my/ALD0063/week/week6/MORFOLOGI/GOLONGAN%20KATA.doc
- Digital version of Wilkinson's 1926 Malay-English Dictionary
- The Extent of the Influence of Tamil on the Malay Language: A Comparative Study – Dr. T.Wignesan(This paper was given at the VIIIth World Tamil Studies Congress, held in the Tamil University in Tanjavur, India, on December–January 1994/95 Now published in the critical collection: T.Wignesan. Sporadic Striving amid Echoed Voices, Mirrored Images & Stereotypic Posturing in Malaysian-Singaporean Literatures. Allahabad: Cyberwit.net, 2008, xix–244p.)
- Dewan Bahasa dan Pustaka (Institute of Language and Literature Malaysia, in Malay only)
- Malay Online Web Application with 40 Interactive Free Lessons
- Malay–English Online Dictionary (from Malay to English only) from Webster's Dictionary
- Malay–English–Chinese Online Dictionary from Cari Internet
- Online Malay Text-to-Speech Demo
- The Malay Spelling Reform, Asmah Haji Omar, (Journal of the Simplified Spelling Society, 1989-2 pp. 9–13 later designated J11)
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