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 variety 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 standard form 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.[3]

bahasa Malaysia
بهاس مليسيا
Pronunciation[baˈhasə mə'lejsiə]
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 Perpaduan/Penyatu (unifying language/lingua franca).[4] Moreover, the language is also referred to as BM or simply Bahasa.[5] English continues, however, to be widely used in professional and commercial fields and in the superior courts.

Writing systemEdit

Comparison of the Malay language written in Rumi and Jawi with other languages
Traffic signs in Malaysian: Warning sign "Level crossing" and regulatory sign "Stop".

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.[6][7][8] The Latin alphabet, however, is still the most commonly used script in Malaysia, both for official and informal purposes.

Borrowed wordsEdit

The Malaysian language has most of its borrowings absorbed from Sanskrit, Tamil, Hindustani, 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.[9]

Colloquial and contemporary usageEdit

Colloquial and contemporary usage of Malay includes modern Malaysian vocabulary, which may not be familiar to the older generation, such as:

  • Awek (means girl, in place of perempuan).
  • Balak (means guy, in place of jantan).
  • Cun (means pretty, in place of cantik / jelita).

New plural pronouns have also been formed out of the original pronouns popularly nowadays and the word orang (person), such as:

  • Korang (kau + orang, the exclusive "us", in place of kalian / kamu semua (or hangpa / ampa in Kedah)).
  • Kitorang (kita + orang, the exclusive "we", in place of kami).
  • Diorang (dia + orang, the exclusive "they", in place of mereka (or depa in Kedah)).

In addition, Arabic terms that is originally used in Standard Malay nowadays has been popularly changed where some of the words / pronunciations in the involved terms has being added by the local conservative Muslims by disputing the terms suggested by the Dewan Bahasa dan Pustaka (DBP), claiming that the involved terms with implementation of the additional words / pronunciations is the real correct terms as same as stated in the Qur'an, where it is predominantly used by the local Muslim netizens in the social medias nowadays. The several involved terms in comparison to Standard Malay that is popularly used, such as:

  • Ramadhan (means the holy fasting month, in place of Ramadan).
  • Aamiin (means asking Him to verify the prayer (Du'a); real term is Ameen, in place of Amin).
  • Fardhu (means obligatory (in Islam), in place of Fardu).
  • Redha (means accepting, in place of Reda).
  • Mudharat (means harm, in place of Mudarat).
  • Dhaif (means poverty, in place of Daif).
  • Zohor (means mid-day or noon time, in place of Zuhur).
  • Hadith (means Prophet (Mohamed) terms or speeches, in place of Hadis).

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 alsoEdit


  1. ^ a b 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. ^ 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
  4. ^ Wai, Wong Chun; Edwards, Audrey (4 June 2007). "Back to Bahasa Malaysia". The Star Online.
  5. ^ Penggunaan Istilah Bahasa Malaysia Dan Bukan Bahasa Melayu Muktamad, Kata Zainuddin. BERNAMA, 5 November 2007
  6. ^ "Malay". Retrieved 26 June 2019.
  7. ^ 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.
  8. ^ "Khat to be included in school curriculum". The Star. Petaling Jaya. 30 July 2019. Retrieved 13 August 2019.
  9. ^ Sneddon, James N. (2003). The Indonesian Language: Its history and role in modern society. UNSW Press. ISBN 9780868405988.

External linksEdit

Further readingEdit