In fact, the Malay language is a group of dialects that are closely related to each other, but for which linguists consider to be separate dialects.
Yet, these idioms are quite close to each other. It is spoken in East and South Sumatra, as well as in the Riau Islands, Borneo and the Malay Peninsula. It is also spoken by the indigenous population of Singapore and the southern Thai provinces of Yala, Pattani, Narathiwat and Songkhla. These populations refer to themselves as "Malay".

Because of this extent, the origin of Malay is still subject to debate. However, linguists now accept that its cradle is the West part of the island of Borneo.

Official language

Malaysia, Indonesia, Brunei and Singapore speak it officially. Less officially, East Timor also speaks it, as well as parts of Thailand. Despite its spread, Malay is a quite unified language.

So many names

As this part of the world is densely populated, almost 300 million people speak it. Thus, this makes it one of the main languages spoken in the world. Also, depending on where people speak it, we give it different names.

Also, Court Malay Standard is another way to call Malay. This, because the sultanates of Malacca and Johorit highly considered it as the literary standard, during the pre colonial period. So, Malacca, Johor or Riau Malay also refers to this language and allows to highlight it from other variants of Malay.

Although they are separate languages, we can consider some of its variants as direct dialects because close enough to Standard Malay. Plus, there are also several Malay commercial and creole dialects, based on a lingua franca derived from standard Malay. As well as Macassar Malay which seems to be a mixed language.

Elite Translation Spread of the Malay language and Malay alphabet in Jawi and Latin

Malay vs Bahasa

First, Bahasa and Standard Malay share 80% of their vocabulary.

Second, while Malay is very similar to Bahasa Indonesia, there are some differences. However, both can understand each other. And this, even if Bahasa borrowed from English, Dutch, Portuguese and regional dialects such as Javanese. That is where the main differences lie.

But in terms of speech, the difference is in the accent. Indeed, with the accent, we can locate the region of the speaker. For the other 20%, a word can have a different meaning, with the accent, in another region of the Malay world. Actually, the strong nationalism between the two nations is what is holding back the progress of a common language.

What changes!

While Malay now uses the Latin script, it used the Arabic's one, which gave rise to the script called Jawi. But even before that, speakers used an Indian script. The oldest texts in Old Malay, found on the island of Bangka and in South Sumatra, date from the end of the 7th century.

Linguists think the transition from an Indian script to the Arabic script in the 14th century. Indeed, they found two Muslim tombstones from that period in the Acey province. These were written in Malay, but in two scripts. On one side, an Indian script. On the other, Arabic. To that, they found other stones of the same type, dating back to the same period, in Malaysia. Then, the Latin script replaced Jawi in the 1950s. People used it before, from 1928, but its spelling was different. Finally, the spelling reform in 1947 allowed it to become the one used.

Thanks to another reform in 1972. Malay and Bahasa now share a common spelling. However, that did not take into account most surnames.

Elite Translation Very Old Malay carved on stone