Malaysian language

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This article is about the official language of Malaysia. For an overview of all languages used in Malaysia, see Languages of Malaysia.
Bahasa Melayu
بهاس مليسيا
Pronunciation [baˈhasə malajˈsiə]
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 Malaysia, but the government from time to time refers to 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.


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[edit]

Main article: Malay alphabet

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[edit]

The Malaysian language became the sole official language in West Malaysia in 1968, and in East Malaysia gradually from 1974.[clarification needed] 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[edit]

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 Indonesian drama, soap opera, and the Indonesian song, and music.[7]

Colloquial and contemporary usage[edit]

Main article: Bahasa Rojak

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 communities 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[edit]


  1. ^ a b Malaysian at Ethnologue (18th ed., 2015)
  2. ^ "Kedah MB defends use of Jawi on signboards". The Star. 26 August 2008. 
  3. ^ Nordhoff, Sebastian; Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin, eds. (2013). "Standard Malay". Glottolog. Leipzig: Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology. 
  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[edit]