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The Malay Language Landscape
Population of Malaysia: 25,274,133 (July 2008 est.)
Internet country code: .my
Internet users: 15.868 million (2007)
The Malay language is an Austronesian language spoken by the Malay people and people of other ethnic groups who reside in the Malay Peninsula, southern Thailand, the Philippines, Singapore, central eastern Sumatra, the Riau islands and parts of the coast of Borneo.
Malay is an official language of Malaysia, Brunei, and Singapore. In Indonesia and East Timor, the language is formally referred to as Bahasa Indonesia, which literally translates as "Indonesian language." It is also called Bahasa Kebangsaan (National Language) and Bahasa Persatuan/Pemersatu (Unifying Language) in Indonesia. In Malaysia, the language is now officially known as Bahasa Malaysia, ("Malaysian language".) Singapore, Brunei and southern Thailand refers to the language as Bahasa Melayu ("Malay language").
In Malaysia, the term Bahasa Malaysia, which was introduced by the National Language Act of 1967, was in use until the 1990s, when most academics and government officials reverted to "Bahasa Melayu," used in the Malay version of the Federal Constitution. According to Article 152 of the Federal Constitution, Bahasa Melayu is the official language of Malaysia. "Bahasa Kebangsaan" (National Language) was also used at one point during the 1970s.
Indonesia pronounced Malay its official language when it gained independence, calling it Bahasa Indonesia. However, the language had been used as the lingua franca throughout the archipelago since the 15th century. Since 1928, nationalists and young people throughout the Indonesian archipelago have declared it to be Indonesia's only official language, as proclaimed in the Sumpah Pemuda "Youth Vow."
Indonesian and Malay are separated by some centuries of different vocabulary development. Indonesian is distinct by its vocabulary from Malay as spoken in Malaysia, Singapore and Brunei, where the language is known simply as Bahasa Melayu. Bahasa Melayu is defined as Brunei's official language in the country's 1959 Constitution.
Some Malay dialects, however, show only limited mutual intelligibility with the standard language; for example, Kelantanese pronunciation is difficult even for some Malaysians to understand, while Indonesian has a lot of words unique to it that are unfamiliar to other speakers of Malay who are not from Indonesia.
The language spoken by the Peranakan (Straits Chinese, a hybrid of Chinese settlers from the Ming Dynasty and local Malays) is a unique patois of Malay and the Chinese Hokkien dialect, which is mostly spoken in the former Straits Settlements of Penang and Malacca.
Sources: CIA World Factbook and Wikipedia – Content available under GNU Free Documentation License Related Article: The Global Language Landscape – Languages in Use on the Internet
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