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Malay language

The Malay language also known locally as "Bahasa Melayu" is the mother tongue of the Malay people who are native to the Malay peninsula, southern Thailand, Singapore and parts of Sumatra. It is the official language of Malaysia, and Brunei, and one of the four official languages of Singapore. It is also used as a working language in East Timor.

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 Malaysia or Malaysian language, even though it is, in fact, Malay. Similarly, 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 Bahasa Malaysia and Bahasa Indonesia are in fact versions of the same language. An exception would be the dialect spoken in the Malaysian state of Kelantan, which has very difficult intelligibility with other forms of Malay. 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 Melaka. The use of this interesting language is dying out however, with the Peranakan now choosing to speak 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. Generally the root word tends to be a verb with quantitative prefixes added to nouns which are root words.

Table of contents
1 Differences between Bahasa Malaysia and Bahasa Indonesia
2 Extent of use
3 Loan Words
4 Some simple phrases in Malay

Differences between Bahasa Malaysia and Bahasa Indonesia

The differences between the two are comparable to the differences between British English and American English. Both are mutually intelligible, but with differences in spelling and vocabulary. Bahasa Indonesia differs from Bahasa Malaysia in having words of Javanese and Dutch origin. For example, the word for 'post office' in Bahasa Malaysia is "pejabat pos", whereas in Bahasa Indonesia it is "kantor pos", from the Dutch word for office, kantoor. The sound 'u' (as in 'moon') is represented in Bahasa Indonesia as 'oe', as in Dutch, hence the spelling of the name of first the President, Sukarno as Soekarno. Similarly, the sound 'ch' is represented in Bahasa Malaysia as 'c', whereas in Indonesian, it has until recently followed Dutch, and used 'tj', although this is less common. Hence the word for 'brand' or 'stamp' is written as cap in Bahasa Malaysia and tjap in Bahasa Indonesia. Pronunciation also tends to be very different, with East Malaysia and Indonesia speaking a dialect called Bahasa Baku, where the words are pronounced as spelt and enunciation tends to be clipped, staccato and faster than the Malay spoken in the Malay Peninsula which tends to pronounce the final 'a' in words as a schwa and is spoken at a more languorous pace. (Kepada (meaning: for) is pronounced in Baku as 'kepaDAH' and in Peninsula Malay as 'kePAde')

MarchMac - from EnglishMaret - from Dutch Maart
AugustOgosAugustus - from Dutch
tickettiketkarcis - from Dutch kaartje
pharmacyfarmasiapotik - from Dutch apotheek
restaurantrestoranrumah makan - literally ''eating house
televisiontelevisyentelevisi- from Dutch televisie
universityuniversitiuniversitas - from Dutch universiteit

Extent of use

The extent to which Bahasa 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. 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 a province of Indonesia between 1976 and 1999, it is widely spoken, and recognised under its Constitution as a 'working language'.) In Singapore, Malay was historically the lingua franca among people of different races, but this has given way to English, but it retains the status of national language, and the national anthem, Majulah Singapura is entirely in Malay. In southern provinces of Thailand, Malay is spoken but has no official status or recognition.

Loan Words

The Malay language has many words borrowed from Arabic, Sanskrit, Portuguese and more recently, English:

Loan words from Malay in English include 'sarong' 'orangutang' (from orang utan or 'wild man'), and amok (wild), as in 'to run amok'. The term 'bint' for a young woman, from binte (daughter of) was used by British soldiers in colonial Malaya, but is now obsolete. Malay has also heavily influenced the forms of colloquial English spoken in Singapore, (Singlish) and Malaysia (Manglish).

Some simple phrases in Malay

Not to be confused with the
Malayalam language, spoken in India.