The History of Malay Language

Having scanty patience to write by hand, I would rather write the duplicated form of "berkata-kata" as "berkata2"

However, it's a pity the written form "berkata2" has become part of history of Malay language...

For the sake of young Malaysians, I have included a sample of spelling system from the days of your parents. can you young ones see how much bahasa Malaysia has changed in just one generation?

Adab Sopan Menulis Surat Kiriman

Menulis surat kiriman ia-lah satu seni dan sa-bagai satu seni hendak-lah ia di-pelajari supaya dapat kita membuta-nya dengan sempurna dan berjaya.

Sa-lain daripada mengetahui chara2 menulis surat kiriman yang gbaik, ya'ani mengikut ka'edah atau peratoran yang tertentu kita hendak-lah juga menjaga beberapa adab sopan yang berhubong dengan menulis surat kiriman. Kita mesti-lah sentiasa menganggap bahawa sa-puchok surat yang kita kirimkan kapada sa-saorang itu ada-lah sa-bagai menggantikan diri kita sendiri bertemu dan menyampaikan berita kapada orang yangkita kirimkan surat itu.

Apabila kita pergi menemui sa-saorang sama ada orang itu tidak kitak kenali, atau pun sa-orang sahabat tentu-lahkita terpaksa memakai pakaian yang lengkap, kemas dan berseh. Jika pakaian kita tidak lengkap saperti yang biasa kita pakai maka kita akan di-anggap kurang menghormati orang yangkita temui itu dan mungkin di-kechap biadab. Oleh yang demikian itu kita patuu mengetahui beberapa adab sopan yang berhubong dengan surat kiriman serta meng'amalkan-nya.

Pertama sa-kali kertas yang kita gunakan untok menulis surat kiriman hendak-lah sesuai dengan jenis surat yang kita tulis itu. Mithal-nya, jika kita menulis surat kapada sahabat-handai, kenalan dan kaum keluarga kita sendiri elok-lah kita guna-kan kertas khas untok menulis surat kiriman yang terjual di-kedai2--sama ada berwarna puteh atau berwarna lain--saperti kehijau2an atau kebiru2an, ia-itu sa-barang warna yang lembut dan sedap di-pandang. Kertas2 itu biasanya bergaris kerana surat2 kapada sahabat-handai, kenalan, dan kaum keluarga lebeh sesuai di-tulis dengan tangan, ya'ani di-tulis dengan pen, tidak di-taip. Surat2 jawatan dan perniagaan pula lebeh sesuai "di-tulis" dengan mesin-taip dan kertas yang di-gunakan pula hendak-lah daripada kertas taip -- ia-itu tidak ada bergaris, dan warna-nya tidak lain daripada puteh. Mutu kertas itu biar-lah elok --jangan terlampau nipis melayang, dan jangan guna-kan kertas jenis kembang, ia-itu apabila di-tulis dengan dawat tulisan-nya mengembang. Jika surat itu untok dikirimkan dengan pos udara gunakan-lah kertas nipis khas untok tersebut.

Sarong surat yang di-gunakan pula molek-lah sa-padan dengan kertas tulas: ya'ani jika kertas tulis itu biru muda, maka sarong surat-nya pun biru muda; jika kertas tulis itu hijau muda, sarong suratnya pun hijau muda. Saiz sarong surat itu pun jangan terlampau kechil atau terlampau besar. Di-kedai2 ada terjual sarong2 surat yang sa-padan dengan kertas tulis. Kertas tulis itu sa-elok2nya di-tulis pada sa-belah muka sahaja.

Ini akan memudahkan si-penerima surat membacha-nya, tambahan pula sa-belah surat itu di-masokkan ka-dalam fail. Dan jangan-lah menulis surat dengan pensel sahaja. Warna dawat yang elok di-gunakan ia-lah biru atau hitam. Warna hijau mungkin menyakitkan mata; warna merah jangan di-gunakan. Apabila surat itu selesai di-tulis lipat-lah ia baik2, ya'ani jangan herot-berot ikut suka hati sahaja. Surat itu jangan-lah di-lipat terlampau banyak kali--sa-elok2-nya dua kali, sa-lebeh2-nya tiga kali.

Then imagine the chasm between Bahasa Malaysia today and the earliest written Malay 1,500 years ago. In fact, history Malay language is divided into four periods:

Old Malay ( 682 - 1500 C.E. )

Also known as Bahasa Melayu Kuno , it was written in the ancient writings of Rencong, Pallava, and Kawi. Even the Jawi script during this period was used extensively with Sanskrit.

Early Modern Malay (1500-c1850)

The prominence of Malacca which embraced Islamic faith made Malay into a language used in the spread of Islam. Malay underwent radical changes with:

a. infusion of Arabic, Persian and Hindi Vocabulary.
b. introduction of Arabic rhetorical style.
c. Changes in grammar based on oral speech.

Portuguese conquest of Malacca in 1511 and subsequent persecution of moslems contributed to the rise of Bintan island.

The 17th century also saw the emergence of the great Romances or Hikayat as the Malays recorded their experiences, religious laws and oral literature in Jawi script. Sir Richard O. Winstedt categorized the hikayat as Bahasa Melayu Klasik.

Late Modern Malay ( c1850 - 1957 )

Late Modern Malay incorporates loan words from Portuguese, Dutch and English. apart from Islam, it has also become a tool to proselytize Christianity as a result of translation of the bible into Malay by Dutch scholars.

On the Riau island of Penyengat Malay scholar Raja Ali Haji complete the first pro-Arabic Malay Grammar book icalled Bustanul-Katibin.

It was the dawn of commercialized printing press, the publication of first Malay language newspapers in Roman alphabet and Arabic scripts.

Zainal Abidin bin Ahmad, better known as the respected Malay scholar Za'ba codified Malay grammar into the three-volume "Pelita Bahasa Melayu" in 1941. He also modified the Jawi spelling system. It can be said that pre-independence Malay language was very much influenced by Za'ba's work.

Japanese occupation of the Malay world during World War II hastened independent movements. this led to liberation of Malaya from British colonists,  and Malay language elevated to the status of national language.

Contemporary Malay ( after 1957 )

Malaysia, Indonesia and Brunei set up national language planning agencies in an effort to draw their versions of Malay together. They tried something called " Ejaan Melindo" but it was too impractical.

In 1959, Indonesia and Malaysia signed an agreement to standardize the Malay spelling system of both countries. Why is this necessary ? Indonesia's Romanized writing has been influenced by the Dutch whereas Malaysia, the British system. They named this unified system "Melindo", an acronym for Bahasa Melayu and Bahasa Indonesia.

Some of the adjustments affecting the Malaysian language are as follows:

1. The consonant "ch" is spelled as "c"
e.g. contoh instead of chontoh
cuaca instead of chuacha
percaya instead of perchaya

2. The consonant "ng" becomes "ŋ"
e.g. sayang is written as sayaŋ
nganga is written as ŋaŋa
sangat is written as saŋat

3. The consonant "ny" becomes "ɲ "
e.g. nyanyi is written as ɲaɲi
sunyi is written as suɲi
punya is written as puɲa

4. The diphthong "ai" becomes "ay"
e.g. pandai is written as panday
sungai is written as sungay

5. The diphthong "au" becomes "aw"
e.g. pulau is written as pulaw
kalau is written as kalaw

6. The diphthong "oi" becomes "oy"
e.g. amboi is written as amboy
seroi is written as seroy

So that was Melindo spelling, a system that was never executed...

Indonesia's confrontation against Malaysia held back this project for a while in 1963. As relationship between these two countries normalized in 1966, this enabled further steps towards standardization of a common spelling system implemented in 1972.


Frankly, I am glad there is no exact equivalent in Malaysian language to the expression above. People were asking this question back in 1951 about a middle-age lawyer who took over the leadership of UMNO. Pretty soon they were looking at the most powerful man in the country: Tunku Abdul Rahman sold his expensive cars and properties to finance the campaigns of his political vision. He worked like mad, living and sleeping on trains and was often home only one day a month. In 1955, he reaped a landslide victory in the general election, subsequently elevated to the position of the Chief Minister of Malaya under British, then the first Prime Minister of independent Malaya in 1957 and Malaysia in 1963.

His background was far from ordinary. He was a little boy who was carried to school on shoulders. Indeed he was a Tunku or the Malaysian language for 'prince', who lived a luxurious life with his 44 royal siblings . The Tunku was born as the seventh son of the Sultan of Kedah and his sixth wife, a Siamese. At the age of 15, the Kedah state government granted him scholarship to study law in Cambridge. Instead of lectures, the young Tunku attended mostly dances and incurred traffic violations. Consequently, he failed his bar exams.

So the prince had to work-lah. He began his civil service intially holding minor posts then mostly as a district officer. Apparently his touch for the people began to manifest at this point.For instance, there was a mosque named Rahmaniah after him as a gesture of appreciation for his personal participation in the construction work as a manual labourer. Even the Japanese intruders found him to be useful and retained his service as a district officer during Japanese occupation of Malaya. The Tunku made good use of his favoured position to help hide escapees from Japanese death camps and to keep in contact with British guerilla units - secretly.

By the way, the Tunku had come into contact with the Malayan independent movement on his return to England to complete his law degree after the war. There he began a politically active life and met many supporters, including his future deputy , Abdul Razak. He came back, joined UMNO, built a political following in his home Kedah. That is to say, he was already an influential, experienced and mature civil servant when he replaced Dato' Onn Jaafar as the President of UMNO. As for the people who had never heard of him ...I presume they didn't understand our Malaysian language because the Tunku wrote patriotic articles through a magazine called Watan published in Alor Star in 1946, of which he was also the editor.

His Personality

Would you like to have 70 children in your house...or work place? The Tunku had that many in his Prime Minister's residence - children of his servants. Diplomats in a conference with the Tunku had often seen a child wandering into the sitting room and onto his lap. Does this open your eyes to the kind of man Tunku was?

" I'm a lazy man," the Tunku told a journalist of TIME in an interview, as he described one youthful escapade. Of course, the journalist wrote it down-lah while a worried aide was watching but Tunku just chuckled: " It's too late now." Perhaps it was his charisma with people that moved the journalist to comment Tunku as " One of the most relaxed, cheerful and modestly friendly cover subject."

As I am enlightened with our Tunku's outlook in life which included golf every morning, afternoon naps, not a mighty but happy Malaysia...I began to see why Sukarno was so upset that he initiated a confrontation against the formation of Malaysia. Apart from political reasons, it's because both men stood for opposite principles : Sukarno's revolutionary principles which I perceived as leading a hard life and Abdul Rahman's enjoyment of life. With different results respectively: an economically ruined giant Indonesia and a prospering little Malaysia.

Dealing with Racial Barrier

To a young Malaysian, language may not be an issue. Back in Tunku's days, hostility between Chinese and Malays was the most serious problem faced by the new nation. It was under Tunku's premiereship this hostility climaxed into the infamous May 13 1969 racial riots in Kuala Lumpur, forcing him to resign in 1970.

Tunku may not be the first person to advocate the making of Malaysia but he certainly was the catalyst. This is how the Daily Star Web Edition* commented on his premiereship: "Tunku was able to persuade the ethnic Chinese to accept Bahasa Malaysia, the language of the majority Malays, as the national language of the new country. He made a crucial compromise as well, by giving up the traditional Jawi script, similar to Arabic, in which Bahasa was written in the past, and adopting Roman alphabets instead." - Khalid Shams, Leadership will not grow from trees.

Profile of Tunku Abdul Rahman

Date of Birth:February 8, 1903
Date of Death:December 6, 1990
Term of Office:August 31, 1957–September 22, 1970
Family:1st Wife - Meriam Chong ( deceased )
2nd Wife- Violet Coulson ( divorced ) 
3rd Wife - Sharifah Rodzia
4th Wife - Bibi Chong
Nickname: Black Uncle
Likes: Golf, brandy and soda, sports car, soccer.
Dislike : reading paper work
Domestic skill: great curry cook

Top of the History of Malay Language


Berkabung untuk MH370 & MH17

Rencong, Sulawesi

Pallava script on Kedukan