Ambonese Malay

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Ambonese Malay
RegionMaluku Islands
Native speakers
(250,000 cited 1987)[1]
1.4 million L2 speakers
Malay Creole
  • East Indonesian
    • Ambonese Malay
DialectsPapuan Malay?
Language codes
ISO 639-3abs

Ambonese Malay or simply Ambonese is a Malay-based creole language spoken on Ambon Island in the Maluku Islands of Indonesia. It was first brought by traders from Western Indonesia, then developed when the Dutch Empire colonised the Maluku Islands. This was the first example of the transliteration of Malay into the Latin script and it was used as a tool by missionaries in Eastern Indonesia. Malay has been taught in schools and churches in Ambon, and because of this it has become a lingua franca in Ambon and its surroundings.

Christian speakers use Ambonese Malay as their mother tongue, while Muslims speak it as a second language as they have their own language. Muslims on Ambon Island particularly live in several areas in the city of Ambon, dominant in the Salahutu and Leihitu Peninsulas. While in the Lease (/leɪ-a-seɪ/) Islands, the Christian Ambonese-speaking community is dominant in parts of Haruku, Saparua and Nusa Laut islands. Ambonese Malay has also become lingua franca in Buru, Seram, Geser-Gorom and the south-western Maluku Islands, though with different accents.

While originally based on Malay, Ambonese Malay has been heavily influenced by European languages (Dutch and Portuguese) as well as the vocabularies or grammatical structures of indigenous languages. It is famous for its melodious accent. Muslims and Christian speakers tend to make different choices in vocabulary. Papuan Malay, a Malay creole spoken on the Indonesian part of New Guinea, is said to be derived from Ambonese Malay or Manado Malay or a mixture of both.


Pronouns and person markers[edit]

In Ambonese Malay, personal pronouns typically have a full form, as well as another one or more shortened and/or variant forms.[3] The pronouns vary in terms of number - singular and plural, as well as clusivity, such as exclusive forms which exclude the addressee and inclusive forms which include the addressee. Such distinction is relatively typical of Austronesian languages. The following table provides a summary of all the pronouns found in Ambonese Malay:

Personal pronouns [3]

Person Clusivity Singular Plural
Full (and variant) form Short form Full (and variant) form Short form
1st person Exclusive Beta bet; be Bat'ong (dialectical form recorded at Booi, Saparua Island)
Inclusive Kat'ong tong
2nd person Ose


os; se


Dorang dong
3rd person

3rd person neuter


Ontua; Ongtua; Antua; Angtua Akang

di; de

ont'o; ant'u; ant'o kang; ang

Dorang dong


A number of observations can be made from the pronouns of Ambonese Malay which demonstrate etymology of certain pronouns:

1) A number of pronouns are historically compounded. They are:

  • Bat'ong

Derives from beta 'I (1SG) + orang 'people; man' [3]

  • Kat'ong

Derives from *kita 'we (1PL) + orang 'people; man' [3]

  • Dorang

Derives from dia 'he; she; it (3SG) + orang 'people; man' [3]

2) The 2nd person singular form ose is derived from the Portuguese pronoun voce, meaning 'you; thou'.[3]

3) The 2nd person singular form ale is derived from a vernacular language.[3]


Similarly to other Austronesian languages, such as Malay and Indonesian, the 2nd person singular and one of the 3rd person singular pronouns in Ambonese Malay vary in their degree of politeness. They are summarised in the following table:[3]

Person Politeness marking Full singular form Short singular form
2nd Markedly impolite

Used in familiar and intimate relationships and when no outspoken respect needs to be expressed

Expresses intimacy. Used among peers, or to people of lower status.






3rd Markedly polite. Used by people of younger age to refer to adults and by adults to refer to people of equal or higher social rank. Ontua; ongtua; antua; angtua

It is also important to note that although in Ambonese the 1st person singular form beta is the standard form, in Classical Malay, it is used only by royal persons speaking to equals of rank.[3]

Syntactic positions[edit]

As previously mentioned, Ambonese pronouns consist of a full and one or more variant form. Full forms occur in every syntactic position. Variant form have a more restricted distribution and may be functionally different.[3] The following table summarises the set of full personal pronouns plus (in brackets) their variant forms according to context and syntactic function:

Personal pronouns and their syntactic function [3]

Person One-word sentence Subject Object (of verb or prep.)
1S beta beta (bet; be) beta
2S ose (os; se)


ose (os; se)

ale (al)

ose (os; se)





antua (etc.) ontua (etc.)

dia (di; de)

antua (etc.) ontua (etc.) akang


antua (etc.) ontua (etc.) akang (kang; ang)

1P kat'ong kat'ong (tong) kat'ong
2P dorang (dong) dorang (dong) dorang (dong)
3P dorang (dong) dorang (dong) dorang (dong)

From this table it follows that two factors determine whether a personal pronoun can be shortened: syntactic construction and syntactic position:

  • Except for the first person singular beta, first person plural kat'ong and third person singular dia, all pronouns can be shortened in one-word sentences. Third person singular neuter akang cannot form a one-word sentence altogether.[3]
  • In clauses all personal pronouns in Subject position may be shortened, except for third person singular neutral akang.[3]
  • In clauses all personal pronouns in Object position may be shortened, except for first person singular beta, first person plural kat'ong, second person ale and third person singular dia.[3]
  • Likewise, as preposition object all personal pronouns except for beta, ale, kat'ong and dia may be shortened.[3]

These facts show that se, os 'you', dong 'you', ont'o, ant'o, ant'u 'he; she' and dong 'they' have developed into doublets which are functionally (but not semantically) on a par with their full forms, while other short forms (bet, al, kang, ang) are phonological variants with a more restricted distribution.[3]

It is also important to note a number of syntactic variations within the functions of personal pronouns in Ambonese:

1) The 3rd person single dia 's/he; it' can be shortened to di or de when it is in Subject position, or when it is head of a Noun Phrase (NP) in object position.[3]

2) The 3rd person single antua (and angtua, ontua, ongtua) is also a modifier of head nominals in a phrase, thereby adding an aspect of deference. It adds a feature respect.[3]


   (1) Ant'o Onggo
        3S O.
        Mr. Onggo [3]
   (2) Antua parangpuan sana tu
        3S woman yonder that
        the woman overthere [3]

3) The third form, akang, is a neater pronoun 'it', which also functions as a determiner. This form links up with the demonstratives ini and itu for deictic reference: it occurs as a single attribute before nouns, and in combination with postnominal tu.


   (1) Akang barang tu
        3Sn things that
        those goods [3]
   (2) Akang gunting di mana?
        3Sn scissors where
        Where are the scissors?[3]

4) The short form of dorang, which is dong, also functions as a modifier in NPs to create collective plurals.[3]


   (1) mama dong
        mother 3P
        mother and the others (i.e. the children, her family, friends, etc.)[3]
   (2) Okto dong
         O. 3P
         Okto and people who are like him [3]

   (3) Anis dong
        A. 3P 
        Anis and his friends [3]


Reduplication with personal pronouns is not frequent. The following examples denote a concept "referent of pronoun plus persons who are alike":[3]


   (1) De seng datang lia kat'ong-kat'ong
        3S not come see Red#1P
        He doesn't come to visit people like us [3]
   (2) Macang ose-ose bagini seng bisa dapa akang
         kind Red#2S like this not can get 3Sn
         People like you now can't get it [3]


Ambonese Malay has phonemic word stress, by which is meant that the position of stress within a word is unforeseeable (van Minde 1997, p. 21) . Van Minde (1997, p. 22) uses the term “lexically reduplicated morphemes” which means that both of the roots that compose the morpheme contain an important (e.g. stressed) syllable. However, in the case of duplicated monosyllables, neither of the roots are perceptible as regards stress. Each accent on the syllables will be marked even if the morpheme is made up of a duplicated monosyllable. The reason being is to differentiate them from morphemes that are monomorphemic (van Minde 1997, p. 22). Examples of this would be (p. 22):

/g’igi/ ‘tooth’; /pomp’om/ in: /s’agu pomp’om/ k.o sago-cake roasted in cartridge-cases.

Compare the examples with the following (p. 23):

/’ eleK’ eleK/ ‘oil-lamp made from glass jar’; /t’omit’ omi/ k.o. cherry-like fruit.

Wordstress is the only different feature in a number of minimal pairs (p. 23):

/b’acaŋ/ Bacan (island) - /bac’aŋ/ k.o. fruit;
/p’araŋ/ ‘machete’ - /par’aŋ/ ‘war’;
/t’are/ ‘to attract s.t.’ - /tar’e/ ‘tight

Vowel phonemes[edit]

Ambonese contains 5 vowel phonemes as illustrated in the chart (van Minde 1997, p. 24):

Vowel system

Front Central Back
High i u

· Mid

· Low

e a o
Unrounded Unrounded Rounded

Ambonese Malay do not have phonemic glottal stop /ʔ/ but phonetically the glottal stop is noticed word-initially, morpheme-initially after a vowel, and morpheme-medially between like vowels (van Minde 1997, p. 24). Examples are (p. 24):

/’ose/ [ʔ’ ose] ‘you’;
/baku’atur/ [baku#ʔ’atur] ‘to arrange with one another’

In addition, there might be borrowed words from other indigenous languages, there is individual variation, and [ʔ] is occasionally heard (van Minde 1997, p. 24):

/pa’isal/ [paʔ ‘isal] = [pa’isal] k.o. small proa;
/n’oul. [n’oʔul] = [n’oul] k.o. fish 

Nasalised vowels happen expectedly before nasal consonants belonging to the same syllable. Due to this, van Minde considers nasalization as a “phonetic phenomenon”. He gave some examples as well (1997, pp. 24–25):

/’aNboŋ/ [ʔ’ām.bõŋ] ‘Ambon; Ambonese’;
/kaNp’iNjaŋ/ [kãm.p’ĩñ.jãŋ] ‘churchbell’

Nasalisation is invalid past syllable-boundaries like for example (p. 24-25):

/an’ioŋ/ [ʔa.n’i.yõŋ] ‘rolled up cloth to support load carried on head’
/ba#’aNbur/ [ba. ʔ’āmbur] ‘to strew, scatter (repeatedly)

High front unrounded /i/[edit]

According to van Minde (1997, p. 25), the high front unrounded vowel /i/ is always perceived as [i], and it always take place in non-final and final closed and open syllables. /i/ in final syllables (whether they are open or closed) can be replaced by /e/ however this only applies in some polysyllabic morphemes. Though /i/ can be replaced by /e/, it does not work in reverse thus it can’t be said the conflict between these two phonemes is negated in that position and environment (van Minde 1997, p. 25).

Besides position and stress, further restrictions on the alternation /i ≈ e/ is given in two phonological rules (PR). The change in final unstressed syllables of polysyllabic morphemes is not attested in (van Minde, 1997 p. 25):

PR1: final syllables ending in /s/;

PR2: open final syllables when the penultimate syllable contains /u/ or /i/

Van Minde (1997, p. 25) regards /i/ as a ‘heavy phoneme’ wherever there is a change /i ~ e/, which means in environments that are different from those interpreted by PR1 and PR2. The definition of ‘heavy phoneme’ is defined as “consists of one or more optional distinctive features in addition to the basic distinctive features, whereas a basic phoneme consists of basic distinctive features only” (Ebeling 1967; Stokhof 1975). Van Minde deduces that /i/ is a heavy phoneme in environments excluded by PR1 and PR2; /e/ being its basic phoneme and [relative highness] is a voluntary feature. Examples are given in the following (p. 25):

/katiNd’isaŋ/ [katĩnd’isāŋ] ‘to talk or rave while sleep’
/ir/ [ʔir] ‘drunk’ 
  • closed final syllables (p. 26):
/k’ukis/ [k’ukis *k’ukes] ‘biscuit’
/kac’il/ [kac’il *kac’el] ‘small’
  • open final syllables (p. 26):
/p’uti/ [p’uti *p’ute] ‘white’
/h’ari ≈ h’are/ ‘day’

Mid front unrounded vowel /e/[edit]

The mid front unrounded vowel /e/ is perceived as [e] (or [ē] due to nasalization). Examples are followed (p. 26):

/b’esi/ [b’esi] ‘iron/steel’
 /b’erkaT/ [b’erkat-] ‘divine blessing’

The phonemic status of /e/ versus /i/ is attested by the followed minimal pairs (p. 26):

/’ina/ ‘mother’ - /’ena/ ‘tasty, delicious’
/p’ici/ ‘to peel’ - /p’eci/ ‘mud’ 

The examples illustrated distinctly that /i/ is resistant to /e/ in morpheme-final syllables, hence the change /i ≈ e/ in final syllables under the previous restrictions stated in the phonological rules cannot be clarified as neutralization (van Minde 1997, pp. 26–27).

Low central vowel /a/[edit]

The low central vowel in Ambonese Malay is perceived as [a] (or [ā] due to nasalization). Examples are followed (p. 27):

/’añer/ [ʔ’añer] ‘bad fishy smell’
/kal’apa/ [kal’apa] ‘coconut’

The minimal pairs attest the resistance between /a/ and /i/ (p. 27):

/s’atu/ ‘one’ - /s’itu/ ‘there’
/bal’a/ ‘to split s.t.’ - /bal’i/ ‘to buy s.t.’

The opposition between /a/ and /e/ is shown by the presented minimal pairs (p. 27):

/cak’a/ ‘to strangle s.o.’ - /cak’e/ ‘(vulg) to eat, stuff o.s.’
/b’aca/ ‘to read’ - /b’eca/ ‘pedicab’

High back rounded vowel /u/[edit]

/u/ happens in non-final and final closed and open position. This high back rounded vowel is always perceived as [u] (or [ũ] due to nasalization). However, /u/ in final unstressed syllables (whether open or closed) consistently alternates with /o/ when in certain polysyllabic morphemes (van Minde 1997, p. 27). In addition, not all /o/ in this position and environment alternates with /u/, thus these two phonemes are not balanced. According to van Minde (1997, p. 27), the change /u ≈ o/ in final unstressed syllables of polysyllabic morphemes is not proven in (p. 27):

PR3: open final syllables when the penultimate syllable have /u/ or /i/

This situation is alike to the change between the high and mid front vowels /i ≈ e/, where /u/ is seen as a heavy phoneme, /o/ as the basic phoneme and [relative phoneme] is the optional feature. The following examples prove this assertion (p. 28):

/t’obu/ [t’obu] ≈ /t’obo/ [t’obo] ‘sugar cane’
/’uNpaŋ/ [ʔ’ ũmpãŋ] ‘bait’
  • Closed final syllables (p. 28):
/c’aNpur ≈ c’aNpor/ ‘to mix’
/c’abuT ≈ c’aboT/ ‘let’s go!’
  • Open final syllables (p. 29):
/tapar’egu ≈ tapar’ego/ ‘to do s.t. hurriedly’
/cap’atu ≈ cap’ato/ ‘shoe’ 
  • Minimal pairs shown to the resistance between /u/ and /i/ (p. 29):
/k’utu/ ‘louse’ - /k’uti/ ‘snap’
/g’ula/ ‘sugar’ - /g’ila/ ‘mad’ 
  • The resistance between /u/ and /e/ can be shown by (p. 29):
/b’ulaŋ/ ‘moon, month’- /b’elaŋ/ in: /aruNb’ aI b’elaŋ/ k.o. large proa
The resistance between /u/ and /a/ is attested by:
/’uru/ ‘to massage’ – /’aru/ ‘Aru Islands’

Mid back rounded vowel /o/[edit]

The mid back rounded vowel /o/ is seen as [o] (or [õ] due to nasalization). Examples are followed (p. 29):

/’oraŋ/ [‘orãŋ] ‘man, human being’
/b’odo/ [b’odo] ‘stupid’
  • The minimal pair show the phoneme status of /o/ vis-à-vis /i/ (p. 30):
/b’oŋko/ ‘bowed (of persons)’ – /b’eŋko/ ‘bend sideways (of persons)’ 
  • The phoneme status of /o/ against /a/ is shown by (p. 30):
/kat’oŋ/ ‘we’ - /kat’ aŋ/ ‘crab’ 
  • The resistance between /o/ and /u/ is proven by (p. 30):
/h’ori/ ‘to wander about’ – /h’uri/ ‘having lost its original shape’

Archiphoneme /U/[edit]

Archiphoneme /U/ is proposed in unstressed position after a vowel other than /u/ and instantly before a syllable or morpheme boundary by van Minde (1997). This is because there is no opposition between /u/ and /w/ in this environment (p. 31):

/l’aUtaŋ/ [l’autãŋ] ‘deep-sea’

The second reason propoed by van Minde (1997, p. 32) is that /U/ occurs after a consonant and directly before a stressed vowel (p. 32):

/bU’aya/ [bu’aya] ‘crocodile’

Nevertheless, not every pattern /Cw’V/ is collateral by a sequence /CU’V/ (p. 32):

/swaK/ [swak-] ‘weak, feeble’

Archiphoneme /I/[edit]

This results from the neutralization of the resistance /i/-/y/ in unstressed position after a vowel or instantly before a stressed vowel (p. 32):

/m’uI/ [m’ui, muy] ‘aunt’ 
  • Van Minde (1997, p. 32) showed some examples of /I/ before a stressed vowel:
/I’a/ [I’a, iy’a] ‘yes (formal)’
/bI’asa/ [bi’asa] ‘normal, usual’ 
  • The resistance of /i/ and /y/ is shown by (p. 33):
/t’iU/ [t’iyu] ‘uncle’


There are 19 consonants phonemes and 4 consonant archiphonemes in Ambonese Malay and they are charted below (van Minde 1997, pp. 40–41):

Consonant system



Labial Alveolar Palatal Velar Glottal
Voice - + - + - + - + - +
Archiphoneme P T N K
Stop p b t d c j k g
Nasal m n ñ ŋ
Fricative f s h
Lateral, trill l, r
Semivowel w y

Archiphonemes /P, T, K, N/[edit]

These archiphonemes is a consequence from the neutralization of the opposition between /p/- /b/, /t/-/d/, and /k/-/g/ respectively in two positions and under certain conditions (van Minde 1997, p. 40):

1. Frequency of /P, T, K/ is especially high in word-final position. Most words with /P, T, K/ in this position are borrowed words from Dutch (van Minde 1997, p. 41). This is due to the many words of Malay origin to have lost final stops *p, *t, *k, or *ʔ. Example: *tutup > tutu ‘to close’.

Wordfinally the archiphonemes /P, T, K/ have a voiceless unreleased realization. Examples are shown (p. 41):

/keP/ [kep-] ‘notch, nick’ (<Dukeep)
/’aNbaK/ [ʔ’ãmbak-] ‘character, habit’

A significant number of polysyllabic words with non-final stress have a doublet without final /P, T, K/ in non emphatic speech (p. 41):

/r’unuT ≈ runu/ ‘fibroid material growing on palm trees’

In addition, van Minde (1997, p. 42) states that /P, T, K/ are “heavy archiphonemes” in this position and environment.

2. The archiphonemes /P, T, K/ have a voiceless unreleased realization in syllable-final position right before a stop, a nasal, fricative /s/, or the lateral /l/. Example is shown (p. 42):

/b’aKso/ [b’ak-so] ‘(Chinese) meatball’

Archiphoneme /N/ is also developed from the neutralization of the opposition between /m, n, ñ/ and /ŋ/ before their own homorgonaic obstruents /l/ (van Minde 1997, p. 42). Example is followed (p. 42):

/naNl’ohi/ [nãnl’ohi] Nanlohi (clan name)


The voiceless and voiced stops of the series /p, b, t, d, c, j, k, g/ are found in word-medial position and word-initial. /p, b/ are bilabials, /d/ is an apico-alveolar, /c, j/ are laminal-palatals, /t/ is an apico-alveodental, /k, g/ are dorsal-velars. Relevant (near) minimal pairs are shown below (van Minde 1997, pp. 43–44):

  • p: b /t’aNpa/ ‘place stop’; /t’aNba/ ‘to add s.t.’
  • p: t /p’aku/ ‘nail’; /t’aku/ ‘afraid’
  • p:d /b’apa/ ‘term of address’; /bad’a/ ‘skin powder’
  • p:c /p’ipi/ ‘cheek’; /p’ici/ ‘to give money’
  • p:j /p’ari/ ‘ray (fish)’; /j’ari/ ‘finger’
  • p:k /p’ele/ ‘to obstruct’; /k’ele/ ‘to press under arm’
  • p:g /p’araŋ/ ‘machete’; /g’araŋ/ ‘salt’
  • b:t /b’aru/ ‘new’; /t’aru/ ‘to place’
  • b:d /b’apa/ ‘term of address’; /d’apa/ ‘to obtain’
  • b:c /b’ole/ ‘may’; /c’ole/ ‘bodice’
  • b:j /b’aNbaŋ/ ‘to warn’; /j’aNbaŋ/ ‘beard’
  • b:k /b’ore/ ‘posionous extract’; /k’ore/ ‘to fumble’
  • b:g /b’aru/ ‘new’; /g’aru/ ‘to scratch’
  • t:d /t’ulaŋ/ ‘bone’; /d’ulaŋ/ ‘wooden tray’
  • t:c /t’ari/ ‘dance’; /c’ari/ ‘to search’
  • t:j /t’ari/ ‘dance’; /j’ari/ ‘finger’
  • t:k /t’anaŋ/ ‘to plant’; /k’anaŋ/ ‘right (side)’
  • t:g /t’ali/ ‘rope’; /g’ali/ ‘to dig’
  • d:c /d’aro/ ‘from’; /c’ari/ ‘to search’
  • d:j /d’aro/ ‘from’; /j’ari/ ‘finger’
  • d:k /d’aki/ ‘dirt’; /k’aki/ ‘foot’
  • d:g /d’oti/ ‘to work magic’; /g’oti/ ‘trough for preparing sago’
  • c:g /c’ari/ ‘search’; /j’ari/ ‘finger
  • c:k /coK/ ‘choke’; /koK/ ‘owl’
  • c:g /c’ili/ ‘chili’; /g’ilig’ili/ ‘tickle’
  • j:k /j’aNji/ ‘to agree’; /k’aNji/ ‘starch’
  • j:g /j’aga/ ‘to keep watch’; /g’aga/ ‘beautiful’
  • k:g /k’araŋ/ ‘coral’; /g’araŋ/ ‘salt’

In certain lexical items there is an unexplained change between the voiceless stop and its homorganic voiced counterpart (van Minde 1997, p. 44):

/cigulu/ = /jigulu/ ‘riddle’


The nasals /m, n, ñ, ŋ/ are separated on the basis of the following (near-) minimal pairs (van Minde 1997, pp. 44–45):

  • m:n /m’ani/ ‘bead’; /n’ani/ ‘bamboo hoe’
  • m:ñ /m’adu/ ‘honey’; /ñ’adu/ ‘brother/sister in-law’
  • m:ŋ /m’ana/ ‘where’; /ŋ’ana/ ‘(inter.) gee!’
  • n:ñ /ne/ in /b’ubur ne/ k.o. porridge; /ñe/ in” /m’uka m’acaŋ ñe/ ‘look disappointed’
  • m:ŋ /’ina/ ‘mother’; /’iŋa/ ‘to remember’
  • ñ:ŋ /t’aña/ ‘to ask’; /t’eŋa/ ‘middle’

The prevalence and functional load of these nasal contrasts differently. They take place word-initially and word-medially before vowels. However, in the environment of word-initially, the functional load of /ñ/ and /ŋ/ is low. Examples are shown (van Minde 1997, p. 45):

/ñ’amu/ [ñ’amu] ‘mosquito’
/ñoŋ/ [ñõŋ] ‘term of address for boys’

In morpheme-final position, nasals other than /ŋ/ are barely proven and thus van Minde (1997, p. 46) finds it hard to find minimal pairs that are different in morpheme-final nasal phoneme.


The labio-dental fricative /f/ takes place only in borrowed words and in words of unknown origin. Examples are shown (van Minde 1997, p. 46):

/f’ader/ [f’ader] ‘term of address for men’

The alveolar fricative /s/ happens in word-initial, -medial, and –final position. Examples are shown (p. 47):

/saw’aI/ [saw’ai] ‘awry’
/rab’us/ [rab’us] ‘to boil’

The glottal fricative /h/ takes place word-medially and word-initially. However, in the use of interjections such as /ih/ ‘Hey!’ and /ah/ ‘Oh no!’- /h/ occur word-finally (van Minde 1997, p. 47) .

Also, word-medial /h/ is optional in certain words; when /h/ is removed between like vowels, one of the two adjacent vowel segments is also deleted. Examples are illustrated below (p. 47):

/bah’asa/ ≈ /basa/ ‘language’
/mas’ohi/ ≈ /mas’oI/ ‘mutual aid’


The liquids /l/ and /r/ take place in word-initial, -medial, -final position, just like the alveolar fricative /s/. Example is shown (van Minde 1997, p. 48):

/t’ari/ [t’ari] ‘dance’


The semivowels /w/ and /y/ happen in word-initial and word-medial position before a vowel. Example are shown below (van Minde 1997, p. 48):

/hay’al/ [hay’al] ‘to flirt’
/kal’uyu/ [kal’uyu] ‘shark’



  • Beta pung nama Ahmad = My name is Ahmed
  • Ose su tau Ahmad pung maitua? = Do you know Ahmed's wife?
  • Jang bakudapa deng dia dolo, dia ada gagartang deng ose = Don't meet with him for a moment, he's angry with you.
  • Susi dong pung kaka mo pi kamari = Susi's brother will come
  • Ini beta kasi akang voor ose = This is for you.
  • Ale badiang jua, beta cumang mo tipu-tipu Tuang Ala = Shut up, I am tricking God (for joking)
  • Beta seng tau = I don't know

Ambonese word samples:

  • Beta = I
  • Ose, Ale = you (ose is derived from the Portuguese voce)
  • Dia = he, she
  • Akang = (may) it
  • Katong = we (cut from kita orang)
  • Dong = they (cut from dia orang)
  • Kamong, kamorang = you (pl) (cut from kamu orang)
  • Antua = he, she (respectful form)
  • iyo = yes
  • seng = no
  • bakubae = peace
  • nanaku = pay attention to something
  • su = already (indicating something has already happened or has been done)


  1. ^ Ambonese Malay at Ethnologue (18th ed., 2015)
  2. ^ Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin, eds. (2017). "Ambonese Malay". Glottolog 3.0. Jena, Germany: Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History.
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w x y z aa ab ac Minde, D. (1997). Malayu Ambong (p. 68). Leiden, the Netherlands: Research School CNWS

External links[edit]


  • Ethnologue. (2015). Malay, Ambonese. Retrieved 8 May 2015, from
  • Nordhoff, Sebastian; Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin, eds. (2013). "Ambonese Malay". Glottolog. Leipzig: Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology.
  • Minde, D. (1997). Malayu Ambong. Leiden, the Netherlands: Research School CNWS.