Cocos Islands Malay
Basa Pulu Cocos/Basa Pulu Keling
Native toAustralia, Malaysia
RegionCocos (Keeling) Islands, Sabah
Ethnicity4,000 in Malaysia (2000)[1]
Native speakers
(1,100 in Australia cited 1987)[1]
Language codes
ISO 639-3coa
ELPCocos Islands Malay

Cocos Malay is a post-creolized variety of Malay, spoken by the Cocos Malays of Home Island, Christmas Island, and those originally from the Cocos Islands currently living in Sabah.[1]

Cocos Malay derives from the Malay trade languages of the 19th century, specifically the Betawi language,[2] with a strong additional Javanese influence. Malay is offered as a second language in schools, and Malaysian has prestige status; both are influencing the language, bringing it more in line with standard Malay.[3] There is also a growing influence of English, considering the Islands having been an Australian territory and globalization drifting modern terms into the daily parlance. In 2009, Cocos Malay students were prohibited from using their own language and failure to comply resulted in punishment in the form of "speaking tickets" which meant that they were required to carry out cleaning duties in school.[4] However, this form of language restriction ended by 2011.[5]


It has the following characteristics:



Vowels Table[7]
Front Central Back
High i u
Mid e ə o
Low a


Consonants Table[7]
Bilabial Dental Alveolar Post-
Palatal Velar Uvular Glottal
Plosive &
p       b t̪               d tʃ     dʒ k       g       (ʔ)
Nasal         m         n       ɲ         ŋ
Fricative s               ʁ       (h)2
Approximant         w       j

There are three ways in which Cocos Malay differs from Standard Malay and Indonesian:[7]

  1. The uvular [ʁ] which always occurs intervocalically is present in Coco Malay but not in Standard Malay or Indonesian.
  2. Certain consonants, [f v ʃ z], which occur in Standard Malay are not present in Cocos Malay.
  3. With regard to the [h] amongst the three languages, the [h] in Cocos Malay is often dropped as per the Betawi language especially in the world-initial position. Examples include:
Standard Malay Cocos Malay English Gloss
[ˈhisap˺] [ˈisap˺] 'suck'
[ˈhuta̪ n] [ˈuta̪ n] 'forest'
[ˈhiduŋ] [ˈiduŋ] 'nose'
[ˈhaus] [ˈaus] 'thirsty'


  1. ^ a b c Cocos Islands Malay at Ethnologue (18th ed., 2015)
  2. ^ Wurm, Mühlhäusler, & Tryon, Atlas of languages of intercultural communication in the Pacific, Asia and the Americas, 1996:686
  3. ^ Ansaldo, 2006. "Cocos (Keeling) Islands: Language Situation". In Keith Brown, ed. (2005). Encyclopedia of Language and Linguistics (2 ed.). Elsevier. ISBN 0-08-044299-4.
  4. ^ Bunce, Pauline (2012). Out of Sight, Out of Mind… and Out of Line: Language Education in the Australian Indian Ocean Territory of the Cocos (Keeling) Islands. Multilingual Matters. pp. 37–59. ISBN 978-1-84769-749-3.
  5. ^ Welsh, Alistair (2015). "Cocos Malay language since integration with Australia". Shima: The International Journal of Research into Island Cultures. 9 (1).
  6. ^ Alexander Adelaar, 1996. "Malay in the Cocos (Keeling) Islands 1996".
  7. ^ a b c Soderberg, Craig D. (2014). "Cocos Malay". Journal of the International Phonetic Association. 44 (1): 103–107. doi:10.1017/S0025100313000364.