Malay languages

Malay languages
Spoken in South East Asia
Native speakers
Language family
Language codes
ISO 639-1 ms
ISO 639-2 may (B)
msa (T)
ISO 639-3 msa – Macrolanguage
individual codes:
btj – Bacanese Malay
mfb – Bangka
bve – Berau Malay
bvu – Bukit Malay
liw – Col
hji – Haji
jax – Jambi Malay
vkk – Kaur
meo – Kedah Malay
kvr – Kerinci
mqg – Kota Bangun Kutai Malay
kvb – Kubu
lce – Loncong
lcf – Lubu
mui – Musi
mfa – Pattani Malay
msi – Sabah Malay
vkt – Tenggarong Kutai Malay

The Malay languages are a group of closely related languages that developed from Malay outposts across Malaysia and Indonesia. They include Malay proper (Malaysian and Indonesian), Bacanese Malay, Bengkulu, Berau Malay, Cocos Islands Malay, Jambi Malay, Kedah Malay, Kota Bangun Kutai Malay, Loncong, Pattani Malay, Kelantanese Malay, Sabah Malay, Terengganese Malay, Tenggarong Kutai Malay, and Kedayan/Bukit Malay. (Brunei Malay is quite divergent from standard Malay and the rest of the Malay dialects and is mostly mutually unintelligible.)

See also Malay-based creole languages.



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. Bahasa Melayu 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 Riau dialect, there are many Malay dialects spoken in Indonesia Malay-based creole languages, divided into western and eastern groups. Western Malay is predominantly spoken in Sumatra, and known as Sumatran dialects, such as: Riau, Langkat, Palembang and Jambi. Minangkabau 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/ and Betawi as /kitɛ/.

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

Comparison of Malay varieties

A comparison of various varieties of Malay, plus three Para-Malay languages:

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

Language Sentence Spoken In
Varieties of Malay
Malay language (informal) Kau nak pergi mana dengan basikal tu?
Boleh aku ikut?
Standard Malaysian Malay (formal) Ke mana kamu mahu/hendak pergi dengan basikal itu?
Bolehkah saya ikut?
Standard Indonesian Malay (formal) Kamu hendak pergi ke mana dengan sepeda itu?
Bisakah/bisa saya ikut?
Indonesian (informal) Lu mau naik sepeda ke mana?
Boleh ikut nggak?
Jakarta (Indonesia)
Johor/Selangor dialect Kau nak pergi ke mane dengan basikal tu?
Boleh saye ikut?
Central and Southern States of Peninsular Malaysia including Pahang and Southern Perak
Bengkulu (Central Malay) Kau ndak pergi mano kek sepedo tu?
Aku bulih ikuik idak?
Bengkulu (Indonesia)
Jambi dialect Kau nak pergi ke mano naek sepedo tu?
Aku biso ikut dak?
Jambi (Indonesia)
Palembang dialect Kau nak pergi ke mano naek sepedo tu?
Aku pacak melok dak?
South Sumatra (Indonesia)
Bangka dialect Ka nek pergi ke mane naek ketangin tu?
Ku boleh ngikut dak?
Bangka Island (Indonesia)
Belitung dialect Ikam nak pergi ke mane naek ketangin tu?
Aku bisak ngikut ndak?
Belitung Island (Indonesia)
Banjar Malay Ikam/kawu handak tulak ka mana basapeda tu?
Bulih kada' aku umpat?
South Kalimantan (Indonesia)
Kedah dialect Hang nak pi mana naik gerek tu?
Aku ikut buleh dak?
Northern States of Peninsular Malaysia, Western part of Southern Thailand
Baling dialect Mu nok gi mana naik gerek tu?
Ku nak ikut buleh dak?
Eastern part of Kedah (Baling, Sik and Padang Terap), Yala, Pattani, Satun
Terengganu dialect Mung nok gi mane naik basikal?
Buleh ikut?
Terengganu (Malaysia)
Kelantan dialect Demo nok gi mano naik gerek tuh?
Buleh kawe ikut?
Kelantan (Malaysia), Eastern part of Southern Thailand
Perak dialect Mike nak ke mane naik sika tu?
Teman nak ngekor buleh?
Perak (Malaysia)
Penang dialect 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 beskal?
Buli sia ikut ka?
Sabah (Malaysia)
Pontianak dialect Mane kitak nak pergi naik sepeda tu?
Kamek bulih ikut tadak?
West Kalimantan (Indonesia)
Larantuka Malay Flores
Kutai Malay Nda pegi kemana besepeda tu ?
Kawa umpat ndi ?
East Kalimantan (Indonesia)
Para-Malay languages
Minangkabau Kau andak pai kama naiak kareto angin tu?
Den bulih ikuik indak?
West Sumatra (Indonesia), Negeri Sembilan (Malaysia)
Negeri Sembilan Malay Ekau nak poie mano naik basikal tu?
Boleh den ikut?
Negeri Sembilan (Malaysia)
Rawa Kao nak poie mano nek basika to?
Buleh ikoiyt ko indo?
Gopeng (Malaysia)

Word by word comparison (based on sentences above):

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 Malayan Malay (formal) ke mana kamu mahu pergi dengan basikal itu boleh kah saya ikut --
Malay language (informal) ~omitted~ mane ko nak pegi ngan basikal tu boleh ~omitted~ aku ikut --
Standard Indonesian Malay (formal) ke mana kamu 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
Singapore Malay ke mana awak hendak pergi dengan basikal itu boleh ~omitted~ saya ikut --
Johor/Kuala Lumpur dialect ke mane kau nak pergi dengan basikal itu boleh ~omitted~ saye ikut --
Bengkulu dialect ~omitted~ mano kau ndak pergi kek sepedo tu bulih idak aku ikuik --
Jambi dialect ke mano kau nak pergi ~substituted with 'naek'~ sepedo tu biso dak aku ikut 1:naek
Palembang dialect ke mano kau nak pergi ~substituted with 'naek'~ sepedo tu pacak dak aku melok 1:naek
Bangka dialect ke mane ka nek pergi ~substituted with 'naek'~ ketangin tu boleh dak ku ngikut 1:naek
Belitung dialect ke mane ikam nak pergi ~substituted with 'naek'~ ketangin tu bisak ndak aku ngikut 1:naek
Banjar Malay ka- -mana ikam/kawu handak tulak ba- sapeda tu bulih kada' aku umpat -
Kedah dialect ~omitted~ mana hang nak pi ~substituted with 'naik'~ gerek tu buleh dak aku ikut 1:naik
Baling Dialect ~omitted~ mano mu / dema nok gi ~substituted with 'naik'~ gerek tuh buleh dok ku / ambe ikut 1:naik
Terengganu dialect ~omitted~ mane mung nok gi ~substituted with 'naik'~ basikal ~omitted~ buleh ~omitted~ ~omitted~ ikut 1:naik
Kelantan dialect ~omitted~ mano demo nok gi ~substituted with 'naik'~ basika tuh buleh ~omitted~ kawe turuk 1:naik
Perak dialect ke mane mike nak ~omitted~ ~substituted with 'naik'~ sika tu buleh ~omitted~ teman ngekor 1:naik
Penang dialect ~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 dialect ~omitted~ mane kitak nak pergi ~substituted with 'naik'~ sepeda tu bulih tadak kamek ikut 1:naik
Minangkabau ka- -ma kau andak pai ~substituted with 'naiak'~ kareto angin tu bulih indak den ikuik 1:naiak
Negeri Sembilan ~omitted~ mano ekau nak poie ~substituted with 'naik'~ basikal 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

ISO 639

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 Usage
btj Bacanese Malay
mfb Bangka
bjn Banjar
bve Berau Malay
kxd Brunei
bvu Dayak Bukit Malay
pse Central Malay
coa Cocos Islands Malay
liw Col
dup Duano
hji Haji
ind Indonesian lingua franca in Indonesia, also used in East Timor
jak Jakun
jax Jambi Malay
vkk Kaur
- Kelantan Malay Malaysia - Kelantan
meo Kedah Malay
kvr Kerinci
mqg Kota Bangun Kutai Malay
kvb Kubu
lce Loncong
lcf Lubu
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 .
zlm Malay (individual language)
xmm Manado Malay
min Minangkabau
mui Musi
zmi Negeri Sembilan Malay
max North Moluccan Malay
orn Orang Kanaq
ors Orang Seletar
mfa Pattani Malay Thailand, Pattani Province
pel Pekal
msi Sabah Malay
zsm Standard Malay
tmw Temuan
vkt Tenggarong Kutai Malay
urk Urak Lawoi'

See also

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