Malayan languages

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RegionMalay Archipelago
Language codes
ISO 639-1ms
ISO 639-2may (B)
msa (T)
ISO 639-3msainclusive code
Individual codes:
mfb – Bangka
bjn – Banjar
pse – Bengkulu
bve – Berau
bvu – Bukit
kxd – Brunei
liw – Col
dup – Duano'/Orang Kuala
hji – Haji
ind – Indonesian
jak – Jakun
jax – Jambi
vkk – Kaur
meo – Kedah
kvr – Kerinci
mqg – Kutai Kota Bangun
kvb – Kubu
lce – Loncong
lcf – Lubu
zsm – Malaysian
min – Minangkabau
mui – Musi
orn – Orang Kanaq
ors – Orang Seletar
mfa – Kelantan-Pattani
pel – Pekal
tmw – Temuan
vkt – Kutai Tenggarong
zmi – Negeri Sembilan
Glottolognucl1733  Malayan[1]
vehi1234  Vehicular Malay[2]

The Malay or Malayan languages are a group of closely related languages spoken by Malays and related peoples across Brunei, Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, Southern Thailand, and the far southern parts of the Philippines. They have traditionally been classified as Malay, Para-Malay, and Aboriginal Malay, but this reflects geography and ethnicity rather than a proper linguistic classification. The Malayan languages are mutually intelligible to varying extents, though the distinction between language and dialect is unclear in many cases.

Para-Malay includes the Malayan languages of Sumatra. They are: Minangkabau, Central Malay (Bengkulu), Pekal, Musi (Palembang), Negeri Sembilan (Malaysia), and Duano’.[3]

Aboriginal Malay are the Malayan languages spoken by the Orang Asli (Proto-Malay) in Malaya. They are Jakun, Orang Kanaq, Orang Seletar, and Temuan.

The other Malayan languages, included in neither of these groups, are associated with the expansion of the Malays across the archipelago. They include Malaccan Malay (Malaysian and Indonesian), Kedah Malay, Kedayan/Brunei Malay, Berau Malay, Bangka Malay, Jambi Malay, Kutai Malay, Loncong, Pattani Malay, and Banjarese. Menterap may belong here.

There are also several Malay-based creole languages, such as Betawi, Cocos Malay, Manado Malay and Sabah Malay, which may be more or less distinct from standard (Malaccan) Malay.


The extent to which Malay and related Malayan languages are used in the countries where it is spoken varies depending on historical and cultural circumstances. Malay is the national language in Malaysia by Article 152 of the Constitution of Malaysia, and became the sole official language in West Malaysia in 1968, and in East Malaysia gradually from 1974. English continues, however, to be widely used in professional and commercial fields and in the superior courts. Other minority languages are also commonly used by the country's large ethnic minorities. The situation in Brunei is similar to that of Malaysia.

In Singapore, Malay was historically the lingua franca among people of different nationalities. Although this has largely given way to English, Malay still retains the status of national language and the national anthem, Majulah Singapura, is entirely in Malay. In addition, parade commands in the military, police and civil defence are given only in Malay.

Most residents of the five southernmost provinces of Thailand — a region that, for the most part, used to be part of an ancient Malay kingdom called Pattani — speak a dialect of Malay called Yawi (not to be confused with Jawi), which is similar to Kelantanese Malay, but the language has no official status or recognition.

Owing to earlier contact with the Philippines, Malay words — such as dalam hati (sympathy), luwalhati (glory), tengah hari (midday), sedap (delicious) — have evolved and been integrated into Tagalog and other Philippine languages.

By contrast, Indonesian has successfully become the lingua franca for its disparate islands and ethnic groups, in part because the colonial language, Dutch, is no longer commonly spoken. (In East Timor, which was governed as a province of Indonesia from 1976 to 1999, Indonesian is widely spoken and recognized under its Constitution as a 'working language'.)

Besides Indonesian, which developed from the Malaccan dialect, there are many Malay dialects spoken in Indonesia, it is divided into western and eastern groups. Western Malay varieties is predominantly spoken in Sumatra and Borneo, which itself is divided into Bornean and Sumatran Malay, some of the most widely spoken Sumatran Malay varieties are Riau Malay, Langkat, Palembang Malay and Jambi Malay. Minangkabau, Kerinci and Bengkulu are believed to be Sumatran Malay descendants. Meanwhile, Jakarta dialect (known as Betawi) also belongs to the western Malay group.

The eastern dialects are spoken in the easternmost part of the Indonesian archipelago and include: Manado dialect Manado Malay (in north Sulawesi) and Maluku, North Maluku and Papua dialects.

The differences among both groups are quite observable. For example, the word 'kita' means "we, us" in western, but means "I, me" in Manado, whereas "we, us" in Manado is 'torang' and Ambon 'katong' (originally abbreviated from Malay 'kita orang' (means "we people"). Another difference is the lack of possessive pronouns (and suffixes) in eastern dialects. Manado uses the verb 'pe' and Ambon 'pu' (from Malay 'punya', meaning "to have") to mark possession. So "my name" and "our house" are translated in western Malay as 'namaku' and 'rumah kita' but 'kita pe nama' and 'torang pe rumah' in Manado and 'beta pu nama', 'katong pu rumah' in Ambon dialect.

The pronunciation may vary in western dialects, especially the pronunciation of words ending in the vowel 'a'. For example, Malaysian pronounce 'kita' (inclusive we, us, our) as /kitə/, Kelantan and Southern Thailand as /kitɔ/, Riau as /kita/, Palembang as /kito/, Betawi and Perak as /kitɛ/.

Batavian and eastern dialects are sometimes regarded as Malay creole, because the speakers are not ethnically Malay.

Comparison of Malay varieties[edit]

A comparison of various varieties of Malay, plus three Para-Malay languages and one Aboriginal Malay language:

English = Where are you going on this bicycle? May I go with you?

Language Sentence Spoken In
Varieties of Malay
Standard Court Malay (formal) Ke mana engkau hendak pergi dengan kereta angin itu?
Bolehkah saya ikut?
Ancient Malacca-Johor-Riau
Standard Malaysian Kamu mahu pergi ke mana dengan basikal itu?
Bolehkah saya ikut?
Standard Indonesian (formal) Anda mau pergi ke mana dengan sepeda itu?
Bolehkah saya ikut?
Batavian Mao spèdahan ke manè?
Nèbèng bolé, kagak?
Jakarta (Indonesia)
Johor/Selangor/Singapore/Riau Archipelago Malay Kau nak pergi ke mane dengan basikal tu?
Boleh saye ikut?
Central and Southern States of Peninsular Malaysia including Selangor and Johor, and basis of the standard Malaysian language.
Bengkulu Kau ndak pergi mano kek sepedo tu?
Aku bulih ikuik idak?
Bengkulu (Indonesia)
Jambi Malay Kau nak pergi ke mano naek sepedo tu?
Aku biso ikut dak?
Jambi (Indonesia)
Musi Nak pegi mano kau bekereto tu?
Tobo melok pacak dak?
South Sumatra (Indonesia)
Bangka Malay Ka nek gi mane naek ketangin tu?
Ku boleh ngikut dak?
Bangka Island (Indonesia)
Belitung Malay Ikam nak pergi ke mane naek ketangin tu?
Aku bisak ngikut ndak?
Belitung Island (Indonesia)
Banjar Ikam/kawu handak tulak ka mana basapeda tu?
Kawakah aku umpat?
South Kalimantan (Indonesia), Northern Perak (Malaysia)
Kedah Malay Hang nak pi mana naik gerek tu?
Aku ikut buleh dak?
Northern States of Peninsular Malaysia, Western part of Southern Thailand
Baling Malay Mu nok gi mano naik gerek tu?
Ku nak ikut buleh dak?
Eastern part of Kedah (Baling, Sik and Padang Terap), Yala, Pattani, Satun
Terengganu Malay Mung nok gi mane naik basika tu?
Buleh dok ambe ikok?
Terengganu (Malaysia), Easternmost part of Pahang, Northeast Johor, Riau Islands (Indonesia)
Kelantan-Pattani Malay Demo nok gi mano naik gerek tuh?
Buleh kawe ikuk?
Kelantan (Malaysia), Eastern part of Southern Thailand, Northern Terengganu
Pahang Malay Awok nok kone naik sike tu?
Boleh tok kome/koi/kas/kawan/kawas ikut?
Entire Pahang (Malaysia)
Perak Malay Mike nak ke mane naik sika tu?
Teman nak ngekor buleh?
Perak (Malaysia) except the northern part of Perak
Penang Malay Hang nak pi mana naik basikal tu?
Aku ikut boleh tak?
Penang and Northern Perak (Malaysia)
Brunei Malay Kan kamana kau babiskal tu?
Bulih ku ikut?
Brunei Darussalam and Labuan
Sarawak Malay Ke sine kitak maok make basikal?
Boleh sik kamik ngekot?
Sarawak (Malaysia)
Sabah Malay Mana ko mo pigi sama itu/tu bés(i)kal/bosikol?
Buli s(i)a ikut( ka)?
Sabah (Malaysia) and also Labuan
Pontianak Malay Mane kitak nak pergi naik sepeda tu?
Kamek bulih ikut tadak?
West Kalimantan (Indonesia)
Makassar Malay Mau ko/ki' ke/pergi mana bawa' itu sepeda (kah)?
Bisa Jeka' Ikut?
South and West Sulawesi, especially Makassar language area southern South peninsula of Sulawesi (Indonesia)
Kutai Malay Nda pegi kemana besepeda tu?
Kawa umpat ndi?
East Kalimantan (Indonesia)
Para-Malay languages
Minangkabau Pai kama jo kareta angin tu?
Bulih indak den ikuik?
West Sumatra, the western part of Riau and Jambi, the western coast of Aceh and North Sumatra, the northern part of Bengkulu (Indonesia), Negeri Sembilan and Kuang, Selangor (Malaysia)
Negeri Sembilan Malay Ekau nak poie mano naik basika tu?
Boleh den ikut?
Negeri Sembilan (Malaysia)
Rawa Kao nak poie mano nek basika to?
Buleh ikoiyt ko indo?
Gopeng (Malaysia)
Aboriginal Malay languages
Temuan Ajih nak pegik manak terenjai dengan mesikal tuk?
Bulih akuk ekot nyap?
Pahang, Negeri Sembilan, Selangor and Johor (Malaysia)

Word by word comparison (based on sentences above)[edit]

Language/dialect Ke Mana Kamu Mahu Pergi Dengan Basikal Itu Boleh -kah (atau tidak) Saya Ikut Extra Words
English proximate literal translation to where you want to go with bicycle that can/may or not I follow 1:to ride, 2:"question particle"
Standard Malaysian Malay (formal) ke mana kamu/awak mahu pergi dengan basikal itu boleh kah saya ikut --
Malay language (informal) ~omitted~ mane kau/ko nak pegi ngan basikal tu boleh ~omitted~ aku ikut --
Standard Indonesian (formal) ke mana kamu/anda(when talking to strangers) mau pergi dengan sepeda itu bisa kah saya ikut --
Indonesian (informal) ke mana lu mau ~omitted~ ~substituted with 'naik'~ sepeda tu boleh nggak ~omitted~ ikut 1:naik
Batavian ke manè ~omitted and already understood in the context~ mao ~omitted~ ~omitted and subtituted by the suffix '-an' on the word 'spèdè'~ spèdè tu bolé nggè ~omitted~ nèbèng 1:naik
Singapore Malay (formal) ke mana awak hendak pergi dengan basikal itu boleh ~omitted~ saya ikut --
Singapore Malay (informal) ~omitted~ mane kau/ko nak gi ngan basikal tu boleh ~omitted~ aku ikut --
Johor/Selangor Malay ke mane kau nak pergi dengan basikal itu boleh ~omitted~ saye ikut --
Bengkulu Malay ~omitted~ mano kau ndak pergi kek sepedo tu bulih idak aku ikuik --
Jambi Malay ke mano kau nak pergi ~substituted with 'naek'~ sepedo tu biso dak aku ikut 1:naek
Palembang Malay ~omitted~ mano kau nak pegi be- kereto tu pacak dak tobo melok -
Bangka Malay ke mane ka nek pergi ~substituted with 'naek'~ ketangin tu boleh dak ku ngikut 1:naek
Belitung Malay ke mane ikam nak pergi ~substituted with 'naek'~ ketangin tu bisak ndak aku ngikut 1:naek
Banjar ka- -mana ikam/kawu handak tulak ba- sapeda tu kawa kah aku umpat -
Kedah Malay ~omitted~ mana hang nak pi ~substituted with 'naik'~ gerek tu buleh dak aku ikut 1:naik
Baling Malay ~omitted~ mano mu / dema nok gi ~substituted with 'naik'~ gerek tuh buleh dok ku / ambe ikut 1:naik
Terengganu Malay ~omitted~ mane mung nok gi ~substituted with 'naik/nge'~ basika tu buleh dok ambe ikok 1:naik/ghetek
Kelantan-Pattani Malay ~omitted~ mano demo nok gi ~substituted with 'naik/ngey'~ basika tuh buleh dok kawe turuk 1:naik
Pahang Malay ~omitted~ kone awok nok gi ~substituted with 'naik/ngan'~ sike tu boleh tok kome/koi/kas/kawan/kawas ikut 1:naik
Perak Malay ke mane kome/mike nak ~omitted~ ~substituted with 'naik'~ sika tu buleh ~omitted~ teman ngekor 1:naik
Penang Malay ~omitted~ mana hang nak pi ~substituted with 'naik'~ basikal tu boleh tak aku ikut 1:naik
Brunei Malay ka- -mana kau ~omitted~ ~omitted~ ba- -biskal ~omitted~ bulih ~omitted~ ku ikut 2:ah
Sarawak Malay ke sine kitak maok ~omitted~ make basikal ~omitted~ boleh sik kamik ngekot --
Sabah Malay ~omitted~ mana ko mo pigi sama beskal itu buli ka sia ikut --
Pontianak Malay ~omitted~ mane kitak nak pergi ~substituted with 'naik'~ sepeda tu bulih tadak kamek ikut 1:naik
Makassar Malay ke mana Kau ko / ki' (You Want) pergi / pigi sama sepeda itu bisa kah saya / Jeka' (If I) ikut 1:naik, 2:Jeka', 3:Bawa'
Minangkabau ka- -ma kau nio pai jo kareta angin tu buliah ndak den ikuik --
Negeri Sembilan Malay ~omitted~ mano ekau nak poie ~substituted with 'naik'~ basika tu boleh ~omitted~ den ikut 1:naik
Rawa ~omitted~ mano kao nak poie ~substituted with 'nek'~ basika to buleh ko indo ~omitted~ ikoiyt 1:nek
Temuan ~omitted~ manak ajih nak pegik ~substituted with 'terenjai'~ basikal tuk bulih nyap akuk ekot --

ISO 639[edit]

In ISO 639-1 there is 'ms', ISO 639-2 there are two codes: 'may'/'msa'. In ISO 639-3, 'msa' is defined as a "macrolanguage".

Code Name Native Speakers Usage
msa Malayan languages 281,000,000 Nusantara
btj Bacanese Malay 6 Indonesia - Bacan
mfb Bangka 340,000 Indonesia - Bangka-Belitung
- Bangkok Malay 5,000 Thailand - Bangkok, offshoot of Kelantan-Pattani language
bjn Banjar 3,500,000 Indonesia - South Kalimantan (native)

Malaysia - Mainly in Perak, Selangor, Pahang and Johor

bve Berau Malay 11,000 Indonesia - East Kalimantan (Berau regency)
kxd Brunei 270,000 Main lingua franca of Brunei; also spoken in the northern parts of Sarawak (city of Miri, Malaysia and the towns of Limbang and Lawas of the Limbang Division), Labuan and the western parts of Sabah (districts of Papar, Malaysia, Kuala Penyu, Beaufort, Malaysia and Sipitang) (Malaysia)
bvu Dayak Bukit Malay Indonesia
pse Central Malay 1,600,000 Indonesia - Bengkulu
coa Cocos Islands Malay 1,100 Australia - Cocos (Keeling) Islands

Malaysia - Sabah

liw Col 150,000 Indonesia - Bengkulu
dup Duano 16,000 Indonesia - Riau

Malaysia - Johor

hji Haji 18,000 Indonesia - Lampung
ind Indonesian 43,000,000 Official language of Indonesia and also a major lingua franca, also used as a working/secondary official language in East Timor
jak Jakun 25,000? Malaysia - Johor and Pahang
jax Jambi Malay 1,000,000 Indonesia - Jambi
vkk Kaur 40,000 Indonesia - Bengkulu
meo Kedah Malay 2,600,000 Malaysia - Western part of Kedah (Langkawi, Kubang Pasu, Alor Setar, Pokok Sena, Pendang, Yan, Sungai Petani, Kulim, Bandar Bharu, parts of Padang Terap), Perlis, Penang, Northern part of the state of Perak Thailand - Satun, Trang, Songkhla, Krabi, Phang Nga, Phuket, Ranong, Phattalung, Yala

Myanmar - Taninthayi Indonesia - Jaring Halus, Langkat regency, North Sumatra (descendants of Kedahan migrants in the late 19th century)

- Reman Malay 400,000? Malaysia - Eastern part of Kedah (Baling, Sik, Padang Terap, parts of Kulim, Kubang Pasu and Pendang), Northeastern part of the state of Perak (Hulu Perak and Larut, Matang and Selama)

Thailand - Mostly in Yala and Songkhla

kvr Kerinci 290,000 Indonesia - Jambi (in Sungai Penuh and Kerinci Regency)
mqg Kota Bangun Kutai Malay 300,000 Indonesia - East Kalimantan
kvb Kubu 10,000 Indonesia - Jambi and South Sumatra
lce Loncong 420 Indonesia - Bangka-Belitung
lcf Lubu 30,000 Indonesia
mly Malay (individual language) Code was retired 2008-02-18, Split into: Standard Malay [zsm], Haji [hji], Papuan Malay [pmy] and Malay (individual language) [zlm]. Note: pmy is not part of the macrolanguage.
- Perak Malay 1,400,000 Malaysia - Perak, the main dialect spoken in the state with high concentration of native speakers in the state capital, Ipoh
zlm Malay (individual language)
- Pahang Malay ? Malaysia - Pahang
xmm Manado Malay 850,000 Indonesia - Manado, North Sulawesi
min Minangkabau 5,500,000 Indonesia - West Sumatra, lingua franca in the western coast of Aceh and North Sumatra, Indonesia

Malaysia - Negeri Sembilan, eastern regions of Hulu Langat and Gombak (Selangor) and Rawa in Perak

zmi Negeri Sembilan Malay 700,000? Malaysia - Negeri Sembilan, a variant of the Minangkabau language
max North Moluccan Malay (Ternate) 700,000 Indonesia
mui Musi or Palembang Malay 3,100,000 Indonesia - Palembang, South Sumatra
orn Orang Kanaq 80 Malaysia - Johor
ors Orang Seletar 1,500 Malaysia - Johor and Singapore
mfa Kelantan-Pattani Malay 5,000,000 Malaysia - Kelantan, also spoken in neighbouring Besut and Setiu (Terengganu) and in northernmost areas of Kuala Lipis (Pahang).
Thailand - Pattani Province, Narathiwat Province, Yala Province and southern Songkhla Province.
pel Pekal 30,000 Indonesia
- Sarawak Malay 680,000 native speakers and 1.2 Million as their second or third language Malaysia - Sarawak
msi Sabah Malay (pidgin) 3,000,000 speakers mainly as a second or third language Malaysia - Sabah and Labuan
zsm Malaysian/Standard Malay 32,000,000 as L2 Standard language in Brunei, Malaysia and Singapore
tmw Temuan 23,000 Malaysia - Pahang, Selangor, Malacca, Johor and Negeri Sembilan
vkt Tenggarong Kutai Malay 300,000 Indonesia
- Terengganu Malay 1,100,000 Malaysia - Terengganu, also spoken in neighbouring Kuantan (Pahang) as well as Mersing (Johor)
urk Urak Lawoi' 5,000 Thailand - Phuket and Krabi


  1. ^ Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin, eds. (2017). "Nuclear Malayic". Glottolog 3.0. Jena, Germany: Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History.
  2. ^ Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin, eds. (2017). "Vehicular Malay". Glottolog 3.0. Jena, Germany: Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History.
  3. ^ Ethnologue 16 also lists Col, Haji, Kaur, Kerinci, Kubu, Lubu'.

See also[edit]