Terengganu Malay Language


What makes Terengganu Malay language distinctively "Tranung" is the ubiquitous velar nasal ng in word final position.

Terengganu folks add a lot of ng in their words. For example: " Kamu nak makan ikan?" ( Do you want to eat fish ) becomes " Mung nok makang ikang?". These folks even refer to themselves as orang "Tranung" instead of Terengganu.

One rule that stands out is the neutralization of all nasals to velar nasal especially the bilabial m and dental n. "Malam" ( night ) is a Malay word that ends with a bilabial m. In Terengganu Malay, "malam" becomes "malang". "Malang" is also unlucky in both standard and Terengganu Malay. Apparently this is a great mental exercise to perceive the context of " malang ni" as to whether the speaker is referring to tonight or bad luck. "Malang" and "Malang" are homophones, homographs and homonyms!!!!

In the case of dental n, I would like to take "jalan" ( road/way ) as an example because, I have a perverted liking for the resulting homographs. Da rule of neutralizing changes "jalan" to "jalang". The "malang" thing is, "jalang" is prostitute in both standard and Terengganu Malay...

Although the poor bilabial m and dental n are often camouflaged by "ng", they still have the opportunity to show up once in a while. For example when prefix "se" and suffix "an" is added to the word "malam", we get "semalaman" in standard Malay and "semalaMang" in Terengganu Malay.

With nasals like m and n behaving in a "now you see us, now you don't" manner, no wonder scholars conclude that word final nasals undergo the most changes in the Terengganu Malay dialect together with its other three northern neighbour dialects from Perak , Kedah and Kelantan. However, this wonderful rule capable of changing night to misfortune and road into a prostitute, exists only in the Terengganu dialect and not in other Malay dialects in the Peninsular. We have to go outside of Malaysia to find the similar rule in Patani and Ambon Malay.

As neighbours, Terengganu and Kelantan share a few linguistic features. Words ending with s in the standard Malay are parallel to words ending with h in both dialects. "Malas" ( lazy ) in standard Malay is "Malah" in Terengganu. "Malah layang" means "malas layan" ( lazy to entertain ).

Another common feature of these two neighbours is the changing of voiceless stops p, t, k to glottal stop. Si Awang Goneng, when discussing how to co'ko, commented on the glottal stop as a feature of pure "Terengganuspeak", a topic he writes prolifically. He is also the author of "Growing Up in Terengganu", a bLook that guides us aliens to the essence of "Terengganuspeak".

Lexically, Terengganu has many words alien to fellow Malaysians. A public incident involves a political party, Gerakan Kebangkitan Rakyat, which chooses a combination of Ger-t-ak for its acronym . In standard Malay, "gertak" is "to intimidate" whereas in Terengganu Malay, "gertak" is the "connection bridge". This situation warrants a clarification from the party chief and of course, they are the connection bridge.

I can save my breath on other examples. Many Terengganu folks are more than happy to supply you a long list of words in their dialect which is different from standard Malay.

Terengganu Malay is spoken mostly in Terengganu along the coastal areas all the way southward to Mersing, Johor. Highly localised peranakan-like Chinese minority in Terengganu adopt Terengganu dialect as part of their mother tongues along with hokkien. At the Terengganu-Kelantan boundary, it is not the dominant language. For example, Kelantan dialect is more popular in the Northern town of Besut.


1.Proceedings of the seventh International Conference on Austronesian Linguistics:Leiden 22-27 August 1994,Cecilia Odé, W. A. L. Stokhof, Rijksuniversiteit te Leiden. Vakgroep Talen en Culturen van Zuidoost-Azië en Oceanië

2.Ensiklopedia Sejarah dan Kebudayaan Melayu, DBP Kementerian Pendidikan Malaysia

3. Chinese overseas:comparative cultural issues, by Chee Beng Tan

4.Alignment and the Syllable Coda Condition in Malay:An Optimality Account, Zaharani Ahmad

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