Malaysian language

The Malaysian language (Malay: bahasa Malaysia; Jawi: بهاس مليسيا‎) or Malaysian Malay (Malay: bahasa Melayu Malaysia) is the name regularly applied to the Malay language used in Malaysia (as opposed to the lect used in Indonesia, which is referred to as the Indonesian language). Constitutionally, however, the official language of Malaysia is Malay, but the government from time to time refers to it as Malaysian. Standard Malaysian is a normative register of the Johore-Riau dialect of Malay. It is spoken by much of the Malaysian population, although most learn a vernacular form of Malay or other native language first.[1] Malay is a compulsory subject in primary and secondary schools.[4]

bahasa Malaysia
بهاس مليسيا
Pronunciation[baˈhasə malajˈsiə]
Native toMalaysia
Native speakers
Spoken by the vast majority of those in Malaysia, although most learn a local Malay dialect or other native language first.[1]
Latin (Rumi)
Arabic (Jawi)[2]
Malaysian Braille
Bahasa Malaysia Kod Tangan
Official status
Official language in
Regulated byDewan Bahasa dan Pustaka (Institute of Language and Literature)
Language codes
ISO 639-3zsm


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 recognize 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] Moreover, the language is also referred to as BM or simply Bahasa.[6] English continues, however, to be widely used in professional and commercial fields and in the superior courts.

Writing system

The script of the Malaysian language is prescribed by law as the Latin alphabet, known in Malay as Rumi (Roman alphabets), provided that the Arabic alphabet called Jawi (or Malay script) is not proscribed for that purpose. Rumi is official while efforts are currently being undertaken to preserve Jawi script and to revive its use in Malaysia.[7][8][9] The Latin alphabet, however, is still the most commonly used script in Malaysia, both for official and informal purposes.

Borrowed words

The Malaysian language has most of its borrowings absorbed from Sanskrit, Tamil, Hindi, Persian, Portuguese, Dutch, Sinitic languages, Arabic and more recently, English (in particular many scientific and technological terms). Modern Malaysian Malay has also been influenced lexically by the Indonesian variety, largely through the popularity of Indonesian dramas, soap operas, and music.[10]

Colloquial and contemporary usage

Colloquial and contemporary usage of Malay includes modern Malaysian 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 linguistic purists in Malaysia, in their effort to uphold use of the prescribed standard language.

See also


  1. Malaysian at Ethnologue (18th ed., 2015)
  2. "Kedah MB defends use of Jawi on signboards". The Star. 26 August 2008. Archived from the original on 29 October 2012.
  3. Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin, eds. (2017). "Standard Malay". Glottolog 3.0. Jena, Germany: Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History.
  4. Ministry of Education: Frequently Asked Questions — To uphold Bahasa Malaysia and to strengthen the English language (MBMMBI) Archived 11 September 2014 at the Wayback Machine; access date 3 November 2013
  5. Wai, Wong Chun; Edwards, Audrey (4 June 2007). "Back to Bahasa Malaysia". The Star Online.
  6. Penggunaan Istilah Bahasa Malaysia Dan Bukan Bahasa Melayu Muktamad, Kata Zainuddin. BERNAMA, 5 November 2007
  7. "Malay". Retrieved 26 June 2019.
  8. December 2014, Published 4 years ago on 18. "Use of Jawi should be encouraged, not condemned — Faidhur Rahman Abdul Hadi and Fatihah Jamhari | Malay Mail". Retrieved 26 June 2019.
  9. "Khat to be included in school curriculum". The Star. Petaling Jaya. 30 July 2019. Retrieved 13 August 2019.
  10. Sneddon, James N. (2003). The Indonesian Language: Its history and role in modern society. UNSW Press.
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