Languages of Malaysia

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Languages of Malaysia
Distribution of Malaysia Families Languages.png
The distribution of language families of Malaysia shown by colours:
     Malayic
     Bornean
     Aslian
     Land Dayak
     Sama–Bajaw
     Philippine
     Creole
     Areas with multiple languages
Official languagesMalaysian, English (recognised, official in Sarawak)
National languagesMalay
Indigenous languages(West Malaysia: Baba Malay, Batek, Chitty Malay, Cheq Wong, Duano’, Jah Hut, Jahai, Jakun, Kedah Malay, Kelantan-Pattani Malay, Kenaboi, Kensiu, Kintaq, Kristang, Lanoh, Mah Meri, Malaysian Mandarin, Malaysian Tamil, Minriq, Mintil, Mos, Negeri Sembilan Malay, Orang Kanaq, Orang Seletar, Pahang Malay, Perak Malay, Ple-Temer, Rawa Malay, Sabüm, Semai, Semaq Beri, Semelai, Semnam, Southern Thai, Temiar, Temoq, Temuan, Terengganu Malay, Wila')
(East Malaysia: Abai, Bahau, Bajaw, Balau, Belait, Berawan, Biatah, Bintulu, Bonggi, Bookan, Bruneian/Kedayan Malay, Brunei Bisaya, Bukar Sadong, Bukitan, Coastal Kadazan, Cocos Malay, Daro-Matu, Dumpas, Dusun, Eastern Kadazan, Gana’, Iban, Ida'an, Iranun, Jagoi, Jangkang, Kajaman, Kalabakan, Kanowit, Kayan, Kelabit, Kendayan, Keningau Murut, Kinabatangan, Kiput, Klias River Kadazan, Kota Marudu Talantang, Kuijau, Lahanan, Lelak, Lengilu, Lotud, Lun Bawang / Lundayeh, Mainstream Kenyah, Maranao, Melanau, Molbog, Momogun, Murik Kayan, Narom, Nonukan Tidong, Okolod, Paluan, Papar, Punan Batu, Remun, Sa'ban, Sabah Bisaya, Sabah Malay, Sama, Sarawak Malay, Sebop, Sebuyau, Sekapan, Selungai Murut, Sembakung, Seru, Serudung, Sian, Suluk, Sungai, Tagol, Timugon, Tombonuwo, Tring, Tringgus, Tutoh, Ukit, Uma’ Lasan)
Main foreign languagesEnglish, Cantonese, Hainanese, Hakka, Hokchew, Hokkien, Indonesian, Malayalam, Mandarin Chinese, Punjabi, Tamil, Telugu
Sign languagesMalaysian Sign Language
Common keyboard layouts
Flag of Malaysia.png
Life in Malaysia

The indigenous languages of Malaysia belong to the Mon-Khmer and Malayo-Polynesian families. The national, or official, language is Malay which is the mother tongue of the majority Malay ethnic group, however English may take preference in many settings and is spoken by the majority of the population. The main ethnic groups within Malaysia comprise the Malays, Chinese and Indians, with many other ethnic groups represented in smaller numbers, each with its own languages. The largest native languages spoken in East Malaysia are the Iban, Dusunic, and the Kadazan languages. English is widely understood and spoken in service industries and is a compulsory subject in primary and secondary school. It is also the main language spoken in most private colleges and universities. English may take precedence over Malay in certain official contexts as provided for by the National Language Act, especially in the states of Sabah and Sarawak, where it may be the official working language.

Malaysia contains speakers of 137 living languages,[1] 41 of which are found in Peninsular Malaysia.[2] The government provides schooling at the primary level in each of the three major languages, Malay, Mandarin and Tamil. Within Malay and Tamil there are a number of dialectal differences.[3] There are a number of Chinese languages native to the ethnic Chinese who originated from southern China, which include Chinese from Guangzhou, Fujian provinces, and the Hakka Chinese.

Malay[edit]

The official language of Malaysia is known as Bahasa Melayu. It is a standardised form of the Malay language.[4] There are 10 dialects of Malay used throughout Malaysia.[3] Malay became predominant after the 1969 race riots.[5] A variant of the Malay language that is spoken in Brunei is also commonly spoken in East Malaysia.

Other indigenous languages[edit]

Citizens of Minangkabau, Bugis or Javanese origins, who can be classified "Malay" under constitutional definitions may also speak their respective ancestral tongues. The native tribes of East Malaysia have their own languages which are related to, but easily distinguishable from, Malay. Iban is the main tribal language in Sarawak while Dusun and Kadazan languages are spoken by the natives in Sabah.[6] Some of these languages remain strong, being used in education and daily life.[3] Sabah has tenth sub-ethnic languages, Bajau, Bruneian, Murut, Lundayeh/Lun Bawang, Rungus, Bisaya, Iranun, Sama, Suluk and Sungai. There are over 30 native groupings, each of which has its own dialect. These languages are in danger of dying out, unlike the major ones such as Kadazandusuns which have developed educational syllabuses. Iban also has developed an educational syllabus.[7] Languages on the peninsula can be divided into three major groups, Negrito, Senoi, and Malayic, further divided into 18 subgroups.[3] The Semai is used in education.[7] Thai is also spoken in northern parts of the peninsula, especially in Northern Kedah and Langkawi, Perlis, Northern Perak, Northern Terengganu, and Northern Kelantan.[8]

English[edit]

Malaysian English, also known as Malaysian Standard English (MySE), is a form of English derived from British English, although there is little official use of the term except with relation to education. It shows some differences in word usage from British English as well as influences from local languages, and is usually spoken with a distinctive accent. Malaysians however also use a kind of pidgin English called Manglish. It is marked by many loanwords from Malay, Chinese, and Tamil as well as grammatical features similar to those language that are not present in other forms of English.[9] Most Malaysians are conversant in English.

Chinese language and regiolects[edit]

As a whole, Standard Chinese (Mandarin) and its Malaysian dialect are the most widely spoken forms among Malaysian Chinese, as it is a lingua franca for Chinese who speak mutually unintelligible varieties; Mandarin is also the language of instruction in Chinese schools and an important language in business.[3]

As most Malaysian Chinese have ancestry from the southern provinces of China, various southern Chinese varieties are spoken in Malaysia (in addition to Standard Chinese (Mandarin) which originated from northern China and was introduced through the educational system). The more common forms in Peninsular Malaysia are Hokkien, Cantonese, Hakka, Hainanese, and Hokchew.[8] Hokkien is mostly spoken in Penang, Northern Perak and Kedah whereas Cantonese is mostly spoken in Ipoh and Kuala Lumpur. In Sarawak, most ethnic Chinese speak Hokkien, Hokchew, or Hakka while Hakka predominates in Sabah except in the city of Sandakan where Cantonese is more often spoken, despite the Hakka origins of the Chinese residing there.

As with Malaysian youths of other ethnicities, most Chinese youth are multilingual and can speak at least three languages with at least moderate fluency - Mandarin, English, and Malay, as well as their Chinese regiolect and/or the dominant Chinese regiolect in their area. However, most Chinese regiolects are losing ground to Standard Chinese, due to the prestige of Standard Chinese and its status as language of instruction in school. Some parents speak exclusively in Putonghua/Guoyu/Hanyu/Huayu with their children. Some of the less-spoken regiolects, such as Hainanese, are facing extinction.

Tamil[edit]

Tamil and its Malaysian dialect are used predominantly by Tamils, who form a majority of Malaysian Indians.[10] It is especially used in Peninsular Malaysia.

Other South Asian Languages[edit]

South Asian languages such as Bengali, Hindi, Punjabi, Malayalam, Sinhala and Telugu are also spoken.

Creoles[edit]

A small number of Malaysians have Eurasian ancestry and speak creole languages, such as the Portuguese-based Malaccan Creoles.[11] A Spanish-based creole, Zamboangueño, a dialect of Chavacano, has spread into Sabah from the southern Philippines.[12]

Sign languages[edit]

Sign languages include Malaysian Sign Language and the older Selangor Sign Language and Penang Sign Language. No sign language is used in the education of the deaf. Instead, Manually Coded Malay is used.

List of languages[edit]

A sign showing common languages in Malaysia: Malay, English, Chinese, and Tamil
Language Code Speakers Region Family
Baba Malay mbf 12,000 Melaka Malay creole
Batek btq 1,000 Pahang, Kelantan, Terengganu Aslian (Austroasiatic)
Chitty Malay ccm 300 Melaka Malay creole
Cheq Wong cwg 460 Pahang Aslian (Austroasiatic)
Duano' dup 4,000 Johor Malayic (Austronesian)
Jah Hut jah 4,191 Pahang Aslian (Austroasiatic)
Jahai jhi 1,000 Kelantan, Perak, Pahang Aslian (Austroasiatic)
Jakun jak 28,000 Pahang, Johor Malayic (Austronesian)
Jedek - 280 Kelantan Aslian (Austroasiatic)
Kedah Malay meo 2,600,000 Kedah, Penang, Perlis, Perak Malayic (Austronesian)
Kelantan Malay mfa 1,500,000 Kelantan, Terengganu Malayic (Austronesian)
Kenaboi xbn extinct Negeri Sembilan Unclassified
Kensiu kns 259 Kedah Aslian (Austroasiatic)
Kintaq knq 110 Aslian (Austroasiatic)
Kristang mcm 2,200 Melaka Portuguese creole
Lanoh lnh 240 Perak Aslian (Austroasiatic)
Malay (Malaysian) msa, zlm, zsm 20,000,000 nationwide Malayic (Austronesian)
Mah Meri mhe 3,000 Selangor Aslian (Austroasiatic)
Manglish - - mostly in urban centres like Kuala Lumpur English creole
Minriq mnq 270 Kelantan Aslian (Austroasiatic)
Mintil mzt 180 Pahang Aslian (Austroasiatic)
Negeri Sembilan Malay zmi 500,000 Negeri Sembilan, Melaka Malayic (Austronesian)
Orang Kanaq orn 80 Johor Malayic (Austronesian)
Orang Seletar ors 1,500 Johor Malayic (Austronesian)
Pahang Malay zlm-pah - Pahang Malayic (Austronesian)
Perak Malay mly-per 1,400,000 Perak Malayic (Austronesian)
Rawa Malay - - Perak Malayic (Austronesian)
Sabüm sbo extinct Perak Aslian (Austroasiatic)
Semai sea 44,000 Pahang, Perak Aslian (Austroasiatic)
Semaq Beri szc 2,000 Pahang, Terengganu Aslian (Austroasiatic)
Semelai sza 4,100 Pahang, Johor Aslian (Austroasiatic)
Semnam ssm 670 Perak Aslian (Austroasiatic)
Southern Thai sou 70,000 Kedah, Kelantan Tai (Tai-Kadai)
Temiar tea 15,000 Pahang Aslian (Austroasiatic)
Ten'edn/Mos tnz 370 Aslian (Austroasiatic)
Temoq tmo - Pahang Aslian (Austroasiatic)
Temuan tmw 23,300 Selangor, Pahang, Negeri Sembilan, Melaka Malayic (Austronesian)
Terengganu Malay zlm-inl, zlm-coa 1,100,000 Terengganu, Pahang, Johor Malayic (Austronesian)
Wila' - extinct Penang Aslian (Austroasiatic)
Abai - - Sarawak North Bornean (Austronesian)
Bahau bhv 19,000 Sarawak Kayan-Murik (Austronesian)
Bajaw bdr 436,672 Sabah, Labuan, Sarawak Sama-Bajaw (Austronesian)
Balau blg 5,000 Sarawak Malayic (Austronesian)
Belait beg - Sarawak North Bornean (Austronesian)
Berawan zbc, zbe, zbw 3,600 Sarawak North Bornean (Austronesian)
Biatah bth 72,000 Sarawak Land Dayak (Austronesian)
Bintulu bny 4,200 Sarawak North Bornean (Austronesian)
Bonggi bdg 1,400 Sabah North Bornean (Austronesian)
Bookan bnb 1,700 Sabah North Bornean (Austronesian)
Brunei Malay kxd - Sabah, Sarawak, Labuan Malayic (Austronesian)
Brunei Bisaya bsb 60,000 Sarawak North Bornean (Austronesian)
Bukar Sadong sdo 49,000 Sarawak Land Dayak (Austronesian)
Bukitan bkn 860 Sarawak North Bornean (Austronesian)
Coastal Kadazan kzj 60,000 Sabah North Bornean (Austronesian)
Cocos Malay coa 5,000 Sabah Malay creole
Central Dusun dtp 140,000 Sabah North Bornean (Austronesian)
Daro-Matu dro 7,600 Sarawak North Bornean (Austronesian)
Dumpas dmv 1,100 Sabah North Bornean (Austronesian)
Dusun kzt, tdu, ktr 36,000 Sabah North Bornean (Austronesian)
Eastern Kadazan dtb 20,600 Sabah North Bornean (Austronesian)
Gana' gnq 1,000 Sabah North Bornean (Austronesian)
Iban iba 790,000 Sarawak Malayic (Austronesian)
Ida'an dbj 10,000 Sabah North Bornean (Austronesian)
Iranun ill - Sabah Philippine (Austronesian)
Jagoi sne 29,000 Sarawak Land Dayak (Austronesian)
Jangkang djo 37,000 Sarawak Land Dayak (Austronesian)
Kajaman kag 500 Sarawak North Bornean (Austronesian)
Kalabakan kve 2,200 Sarawak North Bornean (Austronesian)
Kanowit kxn 200 Sarawak North Bornean (Austronesian)
Kayan (Baram) kys 13,400 Sarawak Kayan-Murik (Austronesian)
Kelabit kzi 5,963 Sarawak North Bornean (Austronesian)
Kendayan knx - Sarawak Malayic (Austronesian)
Keningau Murut kxi 7,000 Sabah North Bornean (Austronesian)
Kinabatangan dmg, ruu, low 10,000 Sabah North Bornean (Austronesian)
Kimaragang kqr - Sabah North Bornean (Austronesian)
Kiput kyi 2,500 Sarawak North Bornean (Austronesian)
Klias River Kadazan kqt 1,000 Sabah North Bornean (Austronesian)
Kota Marudu Talantang grm 1,800 Sabah North Bornean (Austronesian)
Kuijau dkr 7,910 Sabah North Bornean (Austronesian)
Lahanan lhn 350 Sarawak North Bornean (Austronesian)
Lelak llk extinct Sarawak North Bornean (Austronesian)
Lengilu lgi 3 Sarawak North Bornean (Austronesian)
Lotud dtr 20,000 Sabah North Bornean (Austronesian)
Lun Bawang lnd 16,000 Sarawak North Bornean (Austronesian)
Lundayeh xkl 9,125 Sabah North Bornean

(Austronesian)

Mainstream Kenyah xkl 50,000 Sarawak North Bornean (Austronesian)
Maranao mrw - Sabah Philippine (Austronesian)
Melanau mel, sdx 110,000 Sarawak North Bornean (Austronesian)
Minokok mqq 2,000 Sabah North Bornean (Austronesian)
Molbog pwm 6,700 Sabah North Bornean (Austronesian)
Murik Kayan mxr 1,120 Sarawak Kayan-Murik (Austronesian)
Narom nrm 2,420 Sarawak North Bornean (Austronesian)
Nonukan Tidong tid 20,000 Sabah North Bornean (Austronesian)
Okolod kqv 5,000 Sabah North Bornean (Austronesian)
Paluan plz 5,500 Sabah North Bornean (Austronesian)
Papar dpp 500 Sabah North Bornean (Austronesian)
Penan pez, pne 13,000 Sarawak North Bornean (Austronesian)
Punan Batu pnm 30 Sarawak North Bornean (Austronesian)
Remun lkj 3,500 Sarawak Malayic (Austronesian)
Rungus drg 60,000 Sabah North Bornean (Austronesian)
Sa'ban snv 2,000 Sarawak North Bornean (Austronesian)
Sabah Bisaya bsy 21,000 Sabah North Bornean (Austronesian)
Sabah Malay msi - Sabah Malay creole
Sama ssb, sml, sse - Sabah Sama-Bajaw (Austronesian)
Sarawak Malay zlm-sar 600,000 Sarawak Malayic (Austronesian)
Sebop sib 1,730 Sarawak North Bornean (Austronesian)
Sebuyau snb 9,000 Sarawak Malayic (Austronesian)
Sekapan skp 750 Sarawak North Bornean (Austronesian)
Selungai Murut slg 1,200 Sabah North Bornean (Austronesian)
Sembakung sbr 2,000 Sabah North Bornean (Austronesian)
Seru szd extinct Sarawak North Bornean (Austronesian)
Serudung srk 350 Sabah North Bornean (Austronesian)
Sian spg 50 Sarawak North Bornean (Austronesian)
Sungai abf 500 Sabah North Bornean (Austronesian)
Sugut Dusun kzs 240,000 Sabah North Bornean (Austronesian)
Tatana' txx 21,000 Sabah North Bornean (Austronesian)
Tausug tsg 209,000 Sabah Philippine (Austronesian)
Tagol mvv 50,000 Sabah North Bornean (Austronesian)
Timugon tih 9,000 Sabah North Bornean (Austronesian)
Tombonuwo txa 13,000 Sabah North Bornean (Austronesian)
Tring tgq 550 Sabah North Bornean (Austronesian)
Tringgus trx 850 Sabah North Bornean (Austronesian)
Tutoh ttw 600 Sarawak North Bornean (Austronesian)
Ukit umi 120 Sarawak North Bornean (Austronesian)
Uma' Lasan xky 6,000 Sarawak North Bornean (Austronesian)

Other languages recognised as "Bumiputera"[edit]

Estimated number of speakers in Malaysia as of 2017:[13]

Language Code Speakers Family
Acehnese ace 82,000 Chamic (Austronesian)
Banjarese bjn 26,000 Malayic (Austronesian)
Buginese bug 141,000 South Sulawesi (Austronesian)
Cham cja 13,000 Chamic (Austronesian)
Javanese jav 649,000 Javanese (Austronesian)
Kerinci kvr Malayic (Austronesian)
Mandailing btm Northwest Sumatran (Austronesian)
Minangkabau min Malayic (Austronesian)

Malaysian Chinese languages[edit]

Estimated number of speakers in Malaysia as of 2017:[13]

Language Code Speakers Family
Cantonese yue 1,415,000 Sino-Tibetan
Foochow fzho 260,000 Sino-Tibetan
Hakka hak 1,752,000 Sino-Tibetan
Hainanese nan 380,781 Sino-Tibetan
Hokkien nan 1,928,000 Sino-Tibetan
Mandarin cmn 1,000,000 Sino-Tibetan
Min Bei mnp 389,000 Sino-Tibetan
Teochew nan 1,017,000 Sino-Tibetan

Malaysian Indian languages[edit]

Estimated number of speakers in Malaysia as of 2017:[13]

Language Code Speakers Family
Gujarati guj 29,000 Indo-European
Hindi hin 58,000 Indo-European
Bengali Ben 79,000 Indo-European
Malayalam mal 172,000 Dravidian
Punjabi pan 66,000 Indo-European
Tamil tam 1,851,000 Dravidian
Telugu tel 115,000 Dravidian
Urdu urd 14,000 Indo-European

Foreign languages[edit]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Ethnologue report for Malaysia". Ethnologue.com. Retrieved 18 October 2010.
  2. ^ "Ethnologue report for Malaysia (Peninsular)". Ethnologue.com. Archived from the original on 10 May 2011. Retrieved 18 October 2010.
  3. ^ a b c d e Kamila Ghazali. "National Identity and Minority Languages". UN Chronicle. Archived from the original on November 2, 2012. Retrieved 4 September 2013.
  4. ^ Constitution of Malaysia:Article 152
  5. ^ Barbara Watson Andaya; Leonard Y. Andaya (15 September 1984). A History of Malaysia. Palgrave Macmillan. ISBN 978-0-312-38121-9.
  6. ^ K. Alexander Adelaar; Nikolaus Himmelmann (1 January 2005). The Austronesian Languages of Asia and Madagascar. Psychology Press. pp. 397–. ISBN 978-0-7007-1286-1.
  7. ^ a b Luke Rintod (30 November 2010). "Speak up, native language champions urged". Free Malaysia Today. Retrieved 4 September 2013.
  8. ^ a b "Malaysia". Cia.gov. Retrieved 26 October 2010.
  9. ^ Lim Chin Lam (14 October 2011). "Primer on Manglish". The Star.
  10. ^ Barbara A. West (1 January 2009). Encyclopedia of the Peoples of Asia and Oceania. Infobase Publishing. ISBN 978-1-4381-1913-7.
  11. ^ "Malaysian Creole Portuguese: Asian, African or European?". 17. University of Texas. 1975: 211–236. JSTOR 30027570.
  12. ^ Susanne Michaelis (2008). Roots of Creole Structures: Weighing the Contribution of Substrates and Superstrates. John Benjamins Publishing. ISBN 90-272-5255-6.
  13. ^ a b c "Country: Malaysia". Joshua Project.

External links[edit]