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Malaysian language

Bahasa Melayu
بهاس مليسيا
Native to Malaysia
Native speakers
few native speakers; spoken as a second language by most of the population[1]
Latin (Rumi)
Arabic (Jawi)[2]
Malaysian Braille
Bahasa Malaysia Kod Tangan
Official status
Official language in
Regulated by Dewan Bahasa dan Pustaka (Institute of Language and Literature)
Language codes
ISO 639-3 zsm
Glottolog stan1306[3]
Preschool in Pensiangan, Sabah with teaching materials for Malaysian

The Malaysian language (Malay: Bahasa Malaysia), or Standard Malay is the name regularly applied to the Malay language used in Malaysia. Constitutionally however, the official language of Malaysia is Malay but the government from time to time refers it as Malaysian. Malaysian is a standardised register of the Johore-Riau dialect of Malay. It is over 95% cognate with Indonesian. It has many native speakers, as it is spoken by most of the Malaysian population as a first language.[1] (Cf. Malay language.) It is a compulsory subject in primary and secondary school.[4]

The Malaysian name for the language is Bahasa Malaysia (literally "the language of Malaysia"). This term is occasionally found in English.


  • History 1
  • Writing system 2
  • Extent of use 3
  • Borrowed words 4
    • Colloquial and contemporary usage 4.1
  • See also 5
  • References 6
  • External links 7


Article 152 of the Federation designates Malay as the official language. Between 1986 and 2007, the official term Bahasa Malaysia was replaced by "Bahasa Melayu". Today, to recognise that Malaysia is composed of many ethnic groups (and not only the ethnic Malays), the term Bahasa Malaysia has once again become the government's preferred designation for the "Bahasa Kebangsaan" (National Language) and the "Bahasa Persatuan/Pemersatu" (unifying language/lingua franca).[5] The language is sometimes simply referred to as Bahasa or BM.[6]

Writing system

The Malaysian language is normally written using a Latin alphabet called Rumi, though an Arabic alphabet called Jawi also exists. Rumi is official while efforts are currently being undertaken to preserve Jawi script and to revive its use in Malaysia. The Latin alphabet, however, is still the most commonly used script in Malaysia, both for official and informal purposes.

Extent of use

The Malaysian language 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 such as Tamil, Mandarin, Cantonese, Hokkien and Hakka are also commonly used by the country's large Indian and Chinese ethnic minority populations.

Borrowed words

The Malaysian language has most of its words borrowed from Sanskrit, Tamil, Hindi, Persian, Portuguese, Dutch, certain Chinese dialects, Arabic and more recently, English (in particular many scientific and technological terms). Modern Malaysian is also heavily influenced by Indonesian. This phenomenon due to the invasion of Indonesian culture like Drama, Soap Opera, and the Indonesian song, and music.[7]

Colloquial and contemporary usage

Contemporary usage of Malay includes a set of slang words, and words that formed by mixing of Malay and English which is call Bahasa Rojak. Many of Malaysian today is more prefer to use this kind of language than Malay as their own national language. A Dutch linguist, Professor Win A. L Stokhof in one of the famous Kuala Lumpur newspaper which published on 2012 March 19, said:

"Malaysian language must becoming extinct, even the Malaysian people is not giving an honor to their own native language...."

In his presentation in Universiti Sains Malaysia, Georgetown, he said the same thing:

"A language may becoming extinct or disapperead, if the people is not giving an honor or they do not consider the language as that can unite the community in their country and feel embarrassed or unwilling to care for the correct use of their own native language"

"Malaysian doesn't like to using Malay. Their prefer to the English especially in formal occasion, although in the daily their using Malay instead...."

Malay modern vocabulary, which may not be familiar to the older generation, such as awek (girl), balak (guy) or cun (pretty). New plural pronouns have also been formed out of the original pronouns and the word orang (person), such as kitorang (kita + orang, the exclusive "we", in place of kami) or diorang (dia + orang, "they"). Code-switching between English and Malaysian and the use of novel loanwords is widespread, forming Bahasa Rojak. Consequently, this phenomenon has raised the displeasure of language purists in Malaysia, in their effort to uphold the proper use of the national language.

See also


  1. ^ a b Malaysian at Ethnologue (18th ed., 2015)
  2. ^ "Kedah MB defends use of Jawi on signboards".  
  3. ^ Nordhoff, Sebastian; Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin, eds. (2013). "Standard Malay".  
  5. ^ Back to Bahasa Malaysia. (4 June 2007). Retrieved on 19 October 2010.
  6. ^ Penggunaan Istilah Bahasa Malaysia Dan Bukan Bahasa Melayu Muktamad, Kata Zainuddin. BERNAMA, 5 November 2007
  7. ^ Sneddon, James N. "The Indonesian Language: its history and role in modern society".

External links

  • 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
  • The Malay Spelling Reform, Asmah Haji Omar, (Journal of the Simplified Spelling Society, 1989-2 pp. 9–13 later designated J11)
  • Pogadaev, V.A., Rott, N. V. Kamus Bahasa Russia – Bahasa Malaysia. Lebih kurang 30 000 perkataan. Moscow: Russky Yazik, 1986
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