THE HISTORY OF THE MALAY LANGUAGE IN MALAYSIA IN A NUTSHELL
Malay historical linguists has debated on the likelihood of the Malay homeland being either in Central Asia or the Malay Archipelago.
Ancient Malay 7 – 15 Century CE
During the Srivijaya Empire, the ancient Malay Language was used as the Lingua France over Nusantara (Malay Archipelago).The vocabulary is heavily loaned from Sanskrit although the sentence structure was Malay/Indonesian style. Sanskrit is the language once used in India in religious texts. During this period, majority of the Malay speakers were believers of Hindu and Buddha. The traders and seafarers in the era of Srivijaya and Malacca focused not only on the accumulation of wealth, but had played an important role in the spread of language and culture. The Kedukan Bukit Inscription, the earliest known inscription in Pallava script, written in the Old Malay language, was found at Kedukan Bukit in South Sumatra and dates back to the 7th century. Malay was also written Kawi and Rencong script. These scripts are still in use today by the Champa Malay in Vietnam and Cambodia.
Classical Malay Language 15 Century CE
Malay evolved extensively into Classical Malay through the gradual influx of numerous Arabic and Persian vocabulary, when Islam made its way into the region. The Arabic literacy to the Malay language created Jawi letterings. Jawi letterings are Arabic scripts which are used to write Malay words. During this period, the Malay Language rapidly developed under the influence of Islamic literature. The Malay language came into widespread use as the trade language of the Sultanate of Malacca (1402 -1511) and used as a tool to spread Islam.
Pre -Modern Malay Language 16 – 19 Century CE
In the year 1511, the Portuguese conquered Malacca and brought Latin alphabets in place of the Jawi writing called Rumi. Although the conquest was short-lived, the impact of the Portuguese Language was significant.
The Dutch occupation in the 17th century strengthen the usage of the Malay Language as a tool to proselytize Christianity.
In the 18th century, the British became involved with Malay politics. The Anglo–Dutch Treaty of 1824 officially demarcated two territories; Malaya, which was ruled by the United Kingdom, and the Dutch East Indies, which was ruled by the Netherlands.
With the influence of the Portuguese, Dutch and English language, it resulted in the Malay language to evolve progressively through a significant grammatical improvements and lexical enrichment into a modern language with more than 800,000 phrases in various disciplines.
Modern Malay Language 29 Century CE
In 1959, Indonesia and Malaysia signed an agreement to standardise the Malay spelling system of both countries.
Both countries thought this was necessary because Indonesia’s romanised writing has been influenced by the Dutch whereas Malaysia’s was influenced by the British system. They named this unified system “Melindo”, an acronym for Bahasa Melayu and Bahasa Indonesia.
With the Confrontation in 1963, the project was held back. As relationship between these two countries normalised in 1966, this enabled further steps towards standardisation of a common spelling system implemented in 1972
The Malay language is the national language of Indonesia, Malaysia and Brunei and it is one of four official langauges of Singapore. It is spoken natively by 40 million people and it’s the 4th most spoken language in the world.
Dewan Bahasa dan Pustaka, established in 1956, is a government body responsible for coordinating the use of the Malay language in Malaysia and Brunei.
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