|Regions with significant populations|
|Malaysia||49,401 (2000 estimate)|
|Aboriginal Malay, Malay, Indonesian, Thai, English, French.|
|Ocean and Sea-based Spirituality (a form of Animism)|
|Related ethnic groups|
|Orang Laut, Orang Kallang, Orang Seletar, Orang Selat, Orang Gelam, Orang Asli and other Austronesian peoples|
The term Proto-Malay, which translates to Melayu asli (aboriginal Malay) or Melayu purba (ancient Malay), refers to the Mongoloids and Austronesian speakers from mainland Asia who moved to the Malay peninsula and Malay archipelago in a long series of migrations between 2500 and 1500 BC.
The Proto-Malays are believed to be seafarers knowledgeable in oceanography and possessing advanced fishing as well as basic agricultural skills. They moved around from island to island in great distances between New Zealand and Madagascar, and they served as navigation guides, crew and labour to Indian, Arab, Persian and Chinese traders for nearly 2000 years. Over the years, they settled at various places and adopted various cultures and religions as a result of acculturation and interracial and inter-tribal marriages with most of the people they come in contact with including with other Orang Asli tribes such as the Semang and Senoi peoples.
The Encyclopedia of Malaysia: Early History has pointed out three theories of the origin of the Proto-Malay:
- The Yunnan theory, Mekong river migration (first published in 1889). The theory of Proto-Malay originating from Yunnan is supported by R.H Geldern, J.H.C Kern, J.R Foster, J.R Logen, Slametmuljana and Asmah Haji Omar. Other evidence that supports this theory includes: stone tools found at Malay Archipelago which are analogous to Central Asian tools; similarity of Malay customs and Assam customs; and the fact that the Malay and Cambodian languages are kindred languages because the ancestral home of Cambodians originated at the source of Mekong River.
- The New Guinea theory (first published in 1965).
- The Taiwan theory (first published in 1997). For more information, see Austronesian languages.
Some historical linguists have concluded that there is scant linguistic basis for a Proto-/Deutero-Malay split. The findings suggests that the Proto-Malay and the Deutero-Malay peoples possibly belong to the same stock and origin. Previous theories suggested that the Deutero-Malays came in a second wave of migration, around 300 BCE, compared to the arrival of the Proto-Malays who came much earlier.
However, the linguistic-based theories presented above could probably be rendered obsolete and in need of revision due to new scientific evidence, presented by the Human Genome Organization (HUGO) through genetic studies of the Asian races, that points to a single Asian migration from South East Asia traveling northwards and slowly populating East Asia instead of the other way around; the latter theory which is more popularly adhered to as exemplified in some of the linguistic theories above. From these studies, it was also theorized that the South East Asian civilizations could possibly be much older compared to the widely researched and well documented East Asian ancient civilizations.[improper synthesis?]
- "Orang Asli Population Statistics". Center for Orang Asli Concerns. Retrieved 2008-02-12
- Neil Joseph Ryan (1976). A History of Malaysia and Singapore. London: Oxford University Press. pp. 4 & 5. ISBN 0-19-580302-7
- Karl Anderbeck, "Suku Batin - A Proto-Malay People? Evidence from Historical Linguistics", The Sixth International Symposium on Malay/Indonesian Linguistics, 3 - 5 August 2002, Bintan Island, Riau, Indonesia
- "Genetic 'map' of Asia's diversity". BBC News. 11 December 2009. Retrieved 24 November 2013.