Ba­hasa Malaysia FAITH IN A LAN­GUAGE

Asian Geographic - - On Assignment - WRIT­TEN SCRIPT

Ba­hasa Malaysia, the Malaysian lan­guage, is a de­riv­a­tive of the mas­sive, yet in­ti­mately con­nected Malay lan­guage web. It may be traced to the great Sriv­i­jaya civil­i­sa­tion of Palem­bang, South Su­ma­tra that reigned be­tween the sev­enth and 13th cen­turies. When Sriv­i­jaya fell to the Ma­japahit king­dom of Java, Prince Parameswara es­tab­lished his new sul­tanate in Malacca, where the an­ces­tors of to­day’s 10 mil­lion na­tive Malay speak­ers lived and used the Malay lan­guage as an im­por­tant means of prop­a­gat­ing their new Mus­lim faith.

Malacca was an im­por­tant cen­tre of trade, a place where Arab and South Asian traders passed through, in­fus­ing the lan­guage with new words and ex­pres­sions, as well as bring­ing the Ara­bic-in­flu­enced Jawi script that is used along­side the Ro­man­ised Malay words of to­day.

Past and present, the Malay lan­guage is an im­por­tant means of ex­press­ing the Is­lamic faith. Adat, broadly trans­lated as ‘cus­tom’, are be­liefs and prac­tices in­dige­nous to the Malays of Malaysia. In the days of Parameswara, adat was ex­er­cised as a means through which the peo­ple ne­go­ti­ated their an­i­mistic be­liefs with new re­li­gions like Hin­duism and Is­lam. Through the process of Is­lami­sa­tion of South­east Asia, nu­mer­ous words ac­quired dif­fer­ent mean­ings. For ex­am­ple, the term berkat, used com­monly to­day, in­di­cates that when some­thing is ac­quired, even a small quan­tity suf­fices be­cause of its in­nate good­ness and bless­ings from God.

BACK­GROUND The birth of the Malay lan­guage can be traced back to 7th-cen­tury Su­ma­tra and draws ma­jor in­flu­ence from San­skrit. The lan­guage has evolved over time to the mod­ern Malay of to­day. It is mostly spo­ken in Malaysia, In­done­sia, Sin­ga­pore and Brunei.

Malay is nor­mally writ­ten with Ro­man let­ters al­though a mod­i­fied Ara­bic script Jawi also ex­ists. The ro­man­ised Malaysian spell­ing is de­rived mostly from English, as of its loan word pro­nun­ci­a­tion. For ex­am­ple, ‘Kris­mas’.


Present wed­ding gifts fea­tur­ing red, pink, or­ange, yel­low and gold, as th­ese colours are con­sid­ered ‘lucky’.


Give odd amounts of pek kim dur­ing a fu­neral, as even num­bers are re­served for aus­pi­cious oc­ca­sions.

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