Malaysian Malay
Bahasa Melayu Malaysia
بهاس ملايو مليسيا
Standard Malay
Bahasa Melayu Piawai
بهاس ملايو ڤياواي
Pronunciation[baˈha.sə mə.la.ju mə'lej.sjə]
Native toMalaysia, Singapore, Brunei
SpeakersNative: Few (2022)[1]
L2: Spoken by the vast majority of those in Malaysia, although most learn a local Malay dialect or another native language first.
Early forms
Latin (Rumi)
Arabic (Jawi)[4]
Malaysian Braille
Manually Coded Malay
Malaysian Sign Language
Official status
Official language in
Regulated byDewan Bahasa dan Pustaka (Malaysian Institute of Language and Literature)
Dewan Bahasa dan Pustaka Brunei (Brunei Language and Literature Bureau)[5]
Majlis Bahasa Melayu Singapura (Singapore Malay Language Council)[6]
Language codes
ISO 639-3zsm
Countries where Malaysian Malay is spoken:
  Singapore and Brunei, where Standard Malay is an official language
This article contains IPA phonetic symbols. Without proper rendering support, you may see question marks, boxes, or other symbols instead of Unicode characters. For an introductory guide on IPA symbols, see Help:IPA.
Malaysian speaker

Malaysian Malay (Malay: Bahasa Melayu Malaysia), also known as Standard Malay (Bahasa Melayu piawai), Bahasa Malaysia (lit.'Malaysian language'), or simply Malay, is a standardized form of the Malay language used in Malaysia and also used in Brunei and Singapore (as opposed to the variety used in Indonesia, which is referred to as the "Indonesian" language). Malaysian Malay is standardized from the Johore-Riau dialect of Malay. It is spoken by much of the Malaysian population, although most learn a vernacular form of Malay or another native language first.[1] Malay is a compulsory subject in primary and secondary schools.[7]


In Malaysia

Article 152 of the Federation designates "Malay" (Bahasa Melayu) as the official language,[8] but the term bahasa Malaysia (lit.'Malaysian Language') is used in official contexts from time to time.[9] The use of the latter term can be politically contentious; in 1999 the Dewan Bahasa dan Pustaka rejected the publication of some short stories as the preface to the publication used the term bahasa Malaysia instead of bahasa Melayu.[10] Between 1986 and 2007, the term bahasa Malaysia was replaced by "bahasa Melayu". In 2007, to recognize that Malaysia is composed of many ethnic groups (and not only the ethnic Malays), the term bahasa Malaysia became the government's preferred designation for the national language.[9][11][12][13] However, both terms remain in use, as the terms Malay and bahasa Melayu are still very relevant or correct according Dewan Bahasa dan Pustaka and is used in Malaysian education.[14][15] The language is also referred to as BM.

In Brunei and Singapore

The national standard variety of Malay employed in Brunei largely follows the Malaysian standard; the main differences being minor variation in pronunciation and some lexical influence from Brunei Malay, the local non-standard variety of Malay.[16]: 72  In Singapore, the Malaysian standard form of Malay is largely followed, although with little differences in vocabulary, and pronunciation is similar to Indonesian language rather than the standard Johor-Riau pronunciation that is usually used in Standard Malay.[16]: 206

Writing system

Main article: Malay alphabet

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 Latin alphabet, known in Malay as Rumi (Roman alphabets), is prescribed by law as the official script of Malaysian Malay, and the Arabic alphabet called Jawi (or Malay script) is not legally prescribed for that purpose. Rumi is official while efforts are currently being undertaken to preserve the Jawi script and to revive its use in Malaysia.[17][18][19] The Latin alphabet, however, is still the most commonly used script in Malaysia, both for official and informal purposes.

Borrowed words

Main article: List of loanwords in Malay

The Malaysian language has most of its borrowings absorbed from Sanskrit, Tamil, Hindustani, Arabic, Persian, Portuguese, Dutch, Sinitic languages, 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.[20]


Main article: Malay grammar

Colloquial and contemporary usage

Main article: Bahasa Rojak

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

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

In addition, Arabic terms that is originally used in Standard Malay nowadays has been popularly changed where some of the words and pronunciations in the involved terms have been 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 and 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:

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. ^ a b Malaysian Malay at Ethnologue (25th ed., 2022) Closed access icon
  2. ^ Adelaar, K. Alexander (2000). "Malay: A Short History". Oriente Moderno. 19 (2): 234. JSTOR 25817713.
  3. ^ Mukhlis Abu Bakar (2019). "Sebutan Johor-Riau dan Sebutan Baku dalam Konteks Identiti Masyarakat Melayu Singapura" [Sebutan Johor-Riau and Sebutan Baku in the Context of the Singapore Malay Identity]. Issues in Language Studies (in Malay). 8 (2): 61–78. doi:10.33736/ils.1521.2019.
  4. ^ "Kedah MB Defends Use of Jawi on Signboards". The Star Online. 26 August 2008. Archived from the original on 29 October 2012.
  5. ^ Clynes, Adrian; Deterding, David (2011). "Standard Malay (Brunei)". Journal of the International Phonetic Association. 41 (2): 259–268. doi:10.1017/S002510031100017X. S2CID 146544336.
  6. ^ "Standard Malay made simple / Liaw Yock Fang - BookSG - National Library Board, Singapore".
  7. ^ "Soalan Lazim Berkaitan Dasar Memartabatkan Bahasa Malaysia Memperkukuh Bahasa Inggeris (MBMMBI)" [Frequently Asked Questions Related to the Policy to Uphold Bahasa Malaysia and to Strengthen the English Language (MBMMBI)]. Portal Rasmi Kementerian Pendidikan Malaysia (in Malay). Archived from the original on 11 September 2014. Retrieved 3 November 2013.
  8. ^ Federal Constitution of Malaysia  – via Wikisource.
  9. ^ a b Wong, Chun Wai; Edwards, Audrey (4 June 2007). "Back to Bahasa Malaysia". The Star Online. Retrieved 23 March 2022.
  10. ^ Tay, Eddie (October 2001). "Unsettling Ways of Exile". Quarterly Literary Review Singapore. 1 (1). Retrieved 2 October 2022.
  11. ^ "Mahathir Regrets Govt Focussing Too Much on Bahasa". Daily Express. 2 October 2013. Archived from the original on 12 July 2014. Retrieved 16 October 2013.
  12. ^ "Bahasa Rasmi". MyGovernment (in Malay). Retrieved 19 April 2021. Perkara 152 Perlembagaan Persekutuan menjelaskan bahawa bahasa Melayu yang dikenali juga sebagai bahasa Malaysia adalah bahasa rasmi yang tidak boleh dipertikai fungsi dan peranannya sebagai Bahasa Kebangsaan.
  13. ^ Encik Md. Asham bin Ahmad (8 August 2007). "Malay Language Malay Identity". Institute of Islamic Understanding Malaysia. Retrieved 19 April 2021.
  14. ^ Fernandez, Kathleen (1 June 2016). "The History of Bahasa Melayu / Malaysia: The Language of the Malay(sian) People". ExpatGo. Retrieved 19 April 2021.
  15. ^ Williamson, Thomas (2002). "Incorporating a Malaysian Nation" (PDF). Cultural Anthropology. 17 (3): 401. doi:10.1525/can.2002.17.3.401.
  16. ^ a b Steinhauer, Hein (2005). "Colonial History and Language Policy in Insular Southeast Asia and Madagascar". In Adelaar, Alexander; Himmelamnn, Nikolaus (eds.). The Austronesian languages of Asia and Madagascar. London: Routledge. pp. 65–86. ISBN 9780700712861.
  17. ^ "Malay". Baystate Interpreters. Retrieved 26 June 2019.
  18. ^ "Use of Jawi Should Be Encouraged, Not Condemned — Faidhur Rahman Abdul Hadi and Fatihah Jamhari". Malay Mail. 18 December 2014. Retrieved 26 June 2019.
  19. ^ "Khat to Be Included in School Curriculum". The Star. 30 July 2019. Retrieved 13 August 2019.
  20. ^ Sneddon, James N. (2003). The Indonesian Language: Its History and Role in Modern Society. Sydney: UNSW Press. ISBN 0-86840-598-1.

Further reading