Differences between Malay and Indonesian

Differences between Malay and Indonesian

The differences between Malay ("Bahasa Melayu" or "Bahasa Malaysia") and Indonesian ("Bahasa Indonesia") are slightly greater than those between British English and American English. They are mutually intelligible, but with differences in spelling, pronunciation and vocabulary.

For non native Indonesians and Malays, the languages seem similar, but for native users, the differences are disturbing when used for a deep verbal conversation or during written communication. These differences also affect broadcasting business in relation to foreign language subtitling, for example DVD Movies or TV cable subscriptions. In order to reach out to a wider audience, sometimes both Indonesian and Malaysian subtitles are displayed in a movie side by side with other language subtitles.


Before the 20th century, Malay was written in a modified form of the Arabic alphabet known as Jawi. After the 20th century, Malay written with Roman letters, known as Rumi, has almost completely replaced Jawi in everyday life. The romanisations originally used in Malaya (now part of Malaysia) and the Dutch East Indies (now Indonesia) reflected their positions as British and Dutch possessions respectively.

In Indonesia, the vowel in the English word 'moon' was formerly represented in Indonesian as "oe", as in Dutch, and the official spelling of this sound was changed to "u" in 1947. However, "oe" was retained in some proper names long after this. Similarly, until 1972, the initial consonant of the English 'chin' was represented in Bahasa Malaysia as "ch", whereas in Indonesian, it continued to follow Dutch and used "tj". Hence the word for 'grandchild' used to be written as "chuchu" in Malay and "tjoetjoe" in Indonesian, until a unified spelling system was introduced in 1972 (known in Indonesia as "Ejaan Yang Disempurnakan" or the 'Perfected Spelling') which removed most differences between the two varieties: Malay "ch" and Indonesian "tj" became "c": hence "cucu". Indonesian abandoned the spelling "dj" (for the consonant at the beginning of the word 'Jakarta') to conform to the "j" already in use in Malay, while the old Indonesian "j" for the semivowel at the beginning of the English 'young', was replaced with "y" as in Malay. Likewise, the velar fricative which occurs in many Arabic loanwords, which used to be written 'ch' in Indonesian, became "kh" in both languages.

Nevertheless, the old spelling is still encountered in some Indonesian names, such as the name of the first President, Sukarno (written as "Soekarno"), although the post-1972 spelling is now favoured. Other examples include "Achmad" and "Djojo" (pronounced as "Akhmad" and "Joyo" respectively).

Although the representations of speech sounds are now largely identical in the Indonesian and Malay varieties, a number of minor spelling differences remain, usually for historical reasons. For instance, the word for 'money' is written as "wang" in Malay, but "uang" in Indonesian, while the word for 'cake' is written as "kuih" in Malay, but "kue" in Indonesian.


Pronunciation also tends to be very different, with East Malaysia, Brunei and Indonesia speaking a dialect called "Bahasa Baku",Fact|date=April 2007 where the words are pronounced as spelt and enunciation tends to be clipped, staccato and faster than the Malay spoken in the Malay Peninsula, which is spoken at a more languorous pace. Many vowels are pronounced (and were formerly spelt) differently in Peninsular Malaysia: "tujuh" is pronounced (and was spelt) "tujoh", "pilih" as "pileh", etc., and many final "a"'s tend to be pronounced as schwas.


Vocabulary differences

Indonesian differs from Malay in having words of Javanese and Dutch origin although Indonesian based on Malay in Riau province ("Bahasa Melayu Riau"). For example, the word for 'post office' in Malay is "pejabat pos" (in Indonesian this means 'post officer'), whereas in Indonesian it is "kantor pos", from the Dutch word for office, "kantoor". There are also some Portuguese influences: in Indonesian, Christmas is known as "Natal", whereas Malay uses "Krismas", derived from English. There are also instances where the Malay version derives from English pronunciation while the Indonesian version takes its cue from Latin: compare Malay "kualiti", "kuantiti", "majoriti", "minoriti" and "universiti" with Indonesian "kualitas", "kuantitas", "mayoritas", "minoritas" and "universitas".

False friends

Besides vocabulary differences, there are also a number of false friends in both languages. As these words are in quite common use in either or both of the languages, misunderstandings can arise.


;Indonesian text sample: [From [http://id.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Ensiklopedia&oldid=335454 the article about Encyclopaedia on the Indonesian Wikipedia, version 15:14, 21 Agustus 2006] ] Ensiklopedia, atau kadangkala dieja sebagai ensiklopedi, adalah sejumlah buku yang berisi penjelasan mengenai setiap cabang ilmu pengetahuan yang tersusun menurut abjad atau menurut kategori secara singkat dan padat.

:Kata 'ensiklopedia' diambil dari bahasa Yunani; "enkyklios paideia" (polytonic|ἐγκύκλιος παιδεία) yang berarti kumpulan instruksi atau pengajaran yang lengkap. Maksudnya, ensiklopedia adalah sebuah sarana pendidikan lengkap yang mencakup semua bidang ilmu pengetahuan. Seringkali ensiklopedia disalahartikan sebagai kamus. Hal ini disebabkan karena ensiklopedia-ensiklopedia awal memang berkembang dari kamus-kamus.

;Malay text sample: [From [http://ms.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Ensiklopedia&oldid=48612 the article about Encyclopaedia on the Malay Wikipedia, version 21:41, 5 Oktober 2005] ] Ensiklopedia, ("encyclopaedia") atau kadangkala dieja sebagai ensaiklopedia, merupakan koleksi maklumat atau himpunan fakta mengenai setiap cabang ilmu pengetahuan yang tersusun menurut abjad atau menurut kategori secara singkat dan padat.

:Kata ensiklopedia diambil dari bahasa Yunani "εγκύκλιος παιδεία", "egkyklios paideia" ("a circle of instruction") yang bererti sebuah lingkaran atau pengajaran yang lengkap. Ini bermaksud ensiklopedia itu merupakan sebuah pendidikan sempurna yang merangkumi semua aspek ilmu pengetahuan. Seringkali ensiklopedia disalah ertikan sebagai kamus. Mungkin ini kerana ensiklopedia-ensiklopedia awal memang berkembang dari kamus.

;Translation:Encyclopaedia, or occasionally spelt as "ensiklopedi", was several books that contained the explanation about each branch of science that was compiled according to the alphabet or according to the category briefly and densely.

:The phrase 'Encyclopaedia' is taken from Greek; "enkyklios paideia" (ἐγκύκλιος παιδεία) that means a circle of instruction or a complete teaching.

:This means that the encyclopaedia is a complete education that included all the science circles. Often the encyclopaedia was mixed with the dictionary and early encyclopaedias actually started from dictionaries.


During the May 1998 Revolution, when calls for political reform or reformasi in Indonesia led to the resignation of President Suharto, Malaysian satirists Instant Cafe lampooned a government broadcast in which 'Malaysians are reminded that "reformasi" is an Indonesian word, which has no equivalent in Bahasa Melayu.'


External links

* [http://www.spellingsociety.org/journals/j11/malay.php The Malay Spelling Reform] , Asmah Haji Omar, (Journal of the Simplified Spelling Society, 1989-2 pp.9-13 later designated J11)

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