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

The Malaysian language (Malay: bahasa Malaysia, Jawi: بهاس مليسيا‎) or Malaysian Malay (Malay: bahasa Melayu Malaysia), is the name regularly applied to the standardized form of 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 stated as "Malay", but the term "Malaysian" or Bahasa Malaysia is used on official contexts from time to time. Malaysian 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 other native language first.[1] Malay is a compulsory subject in primary and secondary schools.[3]


Article 152 of the Federation designates Malay as the official language.[4] 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).[5][6][7][8] However, both terms remain in use.[9][10] The language is also referred to as BM, or simply Bahasa.

English continues to be widely used in professional and commercial fields and in the superior courts.

Writing system

Main article: Malay alphabet

Comparison of the Malay language written in Rumi and Jawi with other languages
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".
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.[11][12][13] 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, 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.[14]

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 / 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:

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 at Ethnologue (18th ed., 2015)
  2. ^ "Kedah MB Defends Use of Jawi on Signboards". The Star Online. 26 August 2008. Archived from the original on 29 October 2012.
  3. ^ "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.
  4. ^ Federal Constitution of Malaysia  – via Wikisource.
  5. ^ Wong, Chun Wai; Edwards, Audrey (4 June 2007). "Back to Bahasa Malaysia". The Star Online.
  6. ^ "Mahathir regrets govt focussing too much on Bahasa". Daily Express. Kota Kinabalu. 2 October 2013. Archived from the original on 12 July 2014. Retrieved 16 October 2013.
  7. ^ "Bahasa Rasmi" (in Malay). Malaysian Administrative Modernisation and Management Planning Unit. 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.
  8. ^ Encik Md. Asham bin Ahmad (8 August 2007). "Malay Language Malay Identity". Institute of Islamic Understanding Malaysia. Retrieved 19 April 2021.
  9. ^ Fernandez, Kathleen (1 June 2016). "The history of Bahasa Melayu / Malaysia: The language of the Malay(sian) people". Retrieved 19 April 2021.
  10. ^ Williamson, Thomas (August 2002). "Incorporating a Malaysian Nation" (PDF). Cultural Anthropology. 17 (3): 401. doi:10.1525/can.2002.17.3.401.
  11. ^ "Malay". Baystate Interpreters. Retrieved 26 June 2019.
  12. ^ "Use of Jawi Should Be Encouraged, Not Condemned — Faidhur Rahman Abdul Hadi and Fatihah Jamhari". Malay Mail. 18 December 2014. Retrieved 26 June 2019.
  13. ^ "Khat to Be Included in School Curriculum". The Star. 30 July 2019. Retrieved 13 August 2019.
  14. ^ Sneddon, James N. (2003). The Indonesian Language: Its History and Role in Modern Society. Sydney: UNSW Press. ISBN 0-86840-598-1.

Further reading