Malay trade and creole languages

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Malay trade and creole languages
Bahasa-Bahasa Melayu Dagang dan Kreol
Native toSoutheast Asia, South Asia and Australia
  • Malay trade and creole languages
Language codes
ISO 639-2crp
ISO 639-3

In addition to its classical and literary form, Malay had various regional dialects established after the rise of the Srivijaya empire. Also, Malay spread through interethnic contact and trade across the Malay archipelago as far as the Philippines. That contact resulted in a lingua franca that was called Bazaar Malay or low Malay and in Malay Melayu Pasar. It is generally believed that Bazaar Malay was a pidgin, influenced by contact among Malay, Chinese, Portuguese, and Dutch traders.

Besides the general simplification that occurs with pidgins, the Malay lingua franca had several distinctive characteristics. One was that possessives were formed with punya 'its owner'; another was that plural pronouns were formed with orang 'person'. The only Malayic affixes that remained productive were tər- and bər-.

Other features:

  • Ada became a progressive particle.
  • Reduced forms of ini 'this' and itu 'that' before a noun became determiners.
  • The verb pərgi 'go' was reduced, and became a preposition 'towards'.
  • Causative constructions were formed with kasi or bəri 'to give' or bikin or buat 'to make'.
  • A single preposition, often sama, was used for multiple functions, including direct and indirect object.[1]

For example,[2]

  • Rumah-ku 'my house' becomes Saya punya rumah
  • Saya pukul dia 'I hit him' becomes Saya kasi pukul dia
  • Megat dipukul Robert 'Megat is hit by Robert' becomes Megat dipukul dek Robert

Bazaar Malay is used in a limited extent in Singapore and Malaysia, mostly among the older generation or people with no working knowledge of English.[3] The most important reason that contributed to the decline of Bazaar Malay is that pidgin Malay has creolised and created several new languages.[4] Another reason is due to language shift in both formal and informal contexts, Bazaar Malay is gradually being replaced by English, with English being the lingua franca among the younger generations.[3]

Baba Malay[edit]

Baba Malay
Native toMalaysia (Melaka)
Ethnicity250,000 (1986)[5]
Native speakers
(12,000 cited 1986–2006)[5]
Malay-based creole
Language codes
ISO 639-3mbf
Baba Indonesian
Native speakers
(20,000 cited 1981)[7]
Malay-based creole
Language codes
ISO 639-3pea

Baba Malay or Peranakan Malay, once a diverse group of pidgins, is spoken in Melaka but is now almost extinct. These are Malay varieties spoken by the Peranakan, descendants of Chinese settlers who have lived in Melaka since the 15th Century.[9] Baba Malay is close to the trade pidgins which became creolised across the Malay Archipelago, producing the variety of Malay creoles seen today. A kind of Baba Malay, called Peranakan, is spoken among Chinese living in East Java. It is a mixture of Malay or Indonesian with local Javanese (East Javanese dialect) and Chinese elements (particularly Hokkien). This particular variety is found only in East Java, especially in Surabaya and surrounding areas. While other Chinese tend to speak the language varieties of the places in which they live (the Chinese of Central Java speak High or Standard Javanese in daily conversation even among themselves; in West Java, they tend to speak Sundanese), in Surabaya younger ethnic Chinese people tend to speak pure Javanese (Surabaya dialect) and learn Mandarin in courses.

There are currently fewer 1,000 Baba Malay speakers in Melaka, and fewer than 1,000 Baba Malay speakers in Singapore.[10] Baba Malay is mostly spoken among the older populations.[11]

Example (spoken in Surabaya):

  • Kamu mbok ojok gitu!: Don't act that way!
  • Yak apa kabarnya si Eli?: How's Eli?
  • Ntik kamu pigio ambek cecemu ae ya.: Go with your sister, okay?
  • Nih, makanen sakadae.: Please have a meal!
  • Kamu cariken bukune koko ndhek rumahe Ling Ling.: Search your brother's book in Ling Ling's house.

Example (spoken in Melaka-Singapore):[12]

  • Dia suka datang sini sembang.: He likes to come here and gossip.
  • Keliap-keliap, dia naik angin.: Slightly provoked, he gets angry.
  • Gua tunggu dia sampai gua k'ee geram.: I waited for him till I got angry.
  • Oo-wa! Kinajeet, dia pasang kuat.: Wow! Today he dresses stylishly!

Betawi Malay[edit]

Betawi Malay, also known as Jakarta or Java Malay, is a creolised-Malay which is spoken in Jakarta (the modern name for Betawi) and its surroundings. Betawian or Omong Betawi is based on Bazaar Malay (Melayu Pasar) but influenced by various languages such as Javanese, Sundanese (the area is surrounded by Sundanese speaking area), Chinese (especially Hokkien), Portuguese, Dutch, Balinese and others. Betawian creole began to be used after 1750 in Batavia, and replaced Portuguese creole as the lingua franca.[13]

Betawian Malay was also influenced by Chinese-style Malay spoken by the Chinese settlers who had come earlier.

It has now become a very popular language particularly amongst the younger generations in Indonesia due largely to its use on television (such as sinetron or sitcom).

Betawi Malay was the ancestor of Cocos Malay.

Malaccan Creole Malay[edit]

Malaccan Creole Malay
Chitties Creole Malay
Native toMalaysia
Ethnicity300 (no date)
Native speakers
Malay-based creole
Language codes
ISO 639-3ccm

Spoken since the 16th century by descendants of Tamil merchants of the Malacca Straits. It may be historically related to Sri Lanka Creole Malay. The current language status is moribund, due to inter-marriage and out-migration. There has been language shift towards Malay instead.[15]

Sri Lanka Malay[edit]

The Sri Lankan Creole Malay language is a unique mixture of the Sinhala language and the Tamil language with Malay. Sri Lanka Malay (SLM) is a restructured vernacular of Malay base spoken by at least five different communities in Sri Lanka which has evolved to be significantly divergent from other varieties of Malay due to intimate contact with the dominant languages of Sinhala and Tamil. The Sri Lankan Malays, whose ancestry include labourers brought by the Dutch and British, as well as soldiers in the Dutch garrison, now constitute 0.3% of the population, numbering some 46,000. It is spoken by the Sri Lankan Malay community in Sri Lanka as well as among some Sinhalese in Hambantota.[16][17]

Singapore Bazaar Malay[edit]

Singapore Bazaar Malay, also known as Bazaar Malay, Pasar Malay, or Market Malay, is a Malay-lexified pidgin, which is spoken in Singapore.[3] Tamil and Hokkien contributed to the development of Bazaar Malay, with Hokkien being the dominant substrate language of Bazaar Malay, with Malay being the lexifier language.[18] However, there are many input languages spoken by immigrants that also contributed to the development of Bazaar Malay, including languages spoken by Malays, Chinese, Indians, Eurasians, and Europeans. Singapore Bazaar Malay emerged along with the opening of Singapore's free trade port in 1819, to overcome barriers in communication and business transactions. Since Singapore has only four official languages (English, Mandarin, Malay, and Tamil), Singapore Bazaar Malay not only is a lingua franca in interethnic communication, it is also used in intra-group communication. Singapore Bazaar Malay is mostly spoken by elders and middle-aged workers today, but its language status is declining due to education policies and language campaigns with less than 10,000 speakers.[3]

Broome Pearling Lugger Pidgin[edit]

A pidgin used in the pearl industry in West Australia.

Sabah Malay[edit]

Sabah Malay
RegionSabah, Sulu Archipelago, Labuan
Native speakers
3 million L2 speakers (2013)[20]
Malay–based pidgin
Language codes
ISO 639-3msi

A pidginised variant of standard Malay, Sabah Malay is a local trade language.[22] There are a large number of native speakers in urban areas, mainly children who have a second native language. There are also some speakers in the southernmost parts of the Philippines, particularly in the Sulu Archipelago as a trade language.

Makassar Malay[edit]

Makassar Malay
Native toIndonesia
RegionMakassar, South Sulawesi
Native speakers
Second language: 1.9 million (2000)
Language codes
ISO 639-3mfp

Makassar Malay is a creole-based mixed language, which is build of Bazaar Malay lexicon, Makassarese inflections, and mixed Malay/Makassarese syntax.[25][26]

It is widely spoken as a second language in Makassar,[27] but increasingly also as a first language in the younger generation.[26]

Balinese Malay[edit]

Balinese Malay
Native speakers
25,000 (2000 census)[28]
Malay-based creole
Language codes
ISO 639-3mhp

Balinese Malay is a dialect of Malay spoken in the island of Bali. It is also known as Omong Kampung ("village speak") by its speakers. Balinese Malay is the primary language of ethnic Malay who live in the northwestern part of the island, mainly in the districts of Melaya and Negara, Jembrana Regency.[29] The current language status is threatened.[30]

Eastern Indonesian Malay[edit]

The creoles of eastern Indonesia[31] appear to have formed as Malays and Javanese, using lingua franca Malay, established their monopoly on the spice trade before the European colonial era. They have a number of features in common:

  • ə becomes a, e, or assimilates to the following vowel
  • i, u lower to e, o in some environments
  • there is a loss of final plosives p, t, k, and the neutralisation of final nasals in part of the lexicon
  • the perfective marker sudah reduces to su or so[1]

For example,[2]

  • makan becomes makang
  • pergi becomes pigi or pi
  • terkejut becomes takajo
  • lembut becomes lombo
  • dapat becomes dapa

Bacan (next) is perhaps the most archaic, and appears to be closely related to Brunei Malay (which is not a creole).

Bacanese Malay[edit]

Bacanese Malay
Native toIndonesia
RegionBacan, North Maluku
Native speakers
6 (2012)[32]
Brunei Malay-based creole?
Language codes
ISO 639-3btj

Bacanese Malay is a Malayic isolect spoken in Bacan Island and its surroundings, south of Halmahera, North Maluku. Bacanese Malay is considered rather different than other Malay-derived languages in eastern Indonesia because of its archaic lexicon and was used as a supplementary language in the reconstruction of Proto-Malayic.[33]

Some Bacanese words occur in Wiltens & Danckaerts' 1623 vocabulary.[34] Bacanese is also reviewed in Adriani & Kruijt's 1914 monograph. The most detailed studies are by James T. Collins, who concludes that Bacan is indeed a Malay variety, descended from the Malay used in the Bacan Sultanate.[35]

Manado Malay[edit]

Manado Malay is another creole which is the lingua franca in Manado and Minahasa, North Sulawesi. It is based on Ternatean Malay and highly influenced by Ternatean, Dutch, Minahasa languages and some Portuguese words.

Examples :

  • Kita = I
  • Ngana = you
  • Torang = we
  • Dorang = they
  • Io = yes
  • Nyanda' = no (' = glottal stop)

Sentences :

  • Kita pe mama ada pi ka pasar : My mother is going to the market
  • Ngana so nyanda' makang dari kalamareng : You haven't eaten since yesterday.
  • Ngana jang badusta pa kita : Don't lie to me
  • Torang so pasti bisa : we can surely do that


RegionMorotai Island, central Halmahera
Native speakers
(1,000 cited 1992)[36]
Malay-based creole
  • East Indonesian
    • Gorap
Language codes
ISO 639-3goq

Gorap is lexically 85% Malay, but has many Ternate words as well, and word order differs from both Austronesian and Halmahera languages. Children no longer acquire the language.

Ternate / North Moluccan Malay[edit]

This creole resembles Manado Malay, but differs in accent and vocabulary. A large percentage of its vocabulary is borrowed from Ternatean, such as: ngana : you (sg) ngoni : you (pl) bifi : ant ciri : to fall

Spoken in Ternate, Tidore and Halmahera islands, North Maluku for intergroup communications, and in the Sula Islands.

Example :

  • Jang bafoya : Don't lie!

Kupang Malay[edit]

Kupang Malay
RegionKupang, West Timor
Native speakers
200,000 (1997)[37]
100,000 L2 speakers (no date)[37]
Malay-based creole
  • East Indonesian
    • Kupang Malay
Language codes
ISO 639-3mkn

Spoken in Kupang, East Nusa Tenggara, on the west end of Timor Island. It is based on archaic Malay which mixed mostly with Dutch, Portuguese and local languages. Similar to Ambonese Malay with several differences in vocabulary and accent. Its grammatical system resembles that of other East Indonesian Malay Creoles.

The pronouns in Kupang Malay differ from Indonesian as shown in the table below:[38]

Pronouns Indonesian Kupang Malay
First person singular
First person plural (inclusive)
First person plural (exclusive)
aku, saya
Second person singular
Second person plural
kamu, engkau
Third person singular
Third person plural

Unlike in Indonesian, there is no schwa in Kupang Malay.[38]

Indonesian Kupang Malay English Gloss
səlamat salamat 'greetings, safe'
kəliling kaliling, kuliling 'go around'
səbəntar sabantar 'a moment'
pərut parú 'stomach'

Alor Malay[edit]

Alor Malay is spoken in the Alor archipelago. Speakers perceive Alor Malay to be a different register of standard Indonesian, but both of these are prestige varieties of the archipelago. Many people are able to understand standard Indonesian, but cannot speak it fluently and choose to use Alor Malay on a daily basis.[39]

Alor Malay is based on Kupang Malay; however, Alor Malay differs significantly from Kupang Malay, especially in its pronouns.[40]

Ambonese Malay[edit]

Malay was first brought to Ambon by traders from Western Indonesia, then developed into a creole when the Dutch Empire colonised the Moluccas. Ambonese Malay was the first example of the transliteration of Malay into Roman script, and used as a tool of the missionaries in Eastern Indonesia.

Bandanese Malay[edit]

Bandanese Malay
Banda Malay
Native toIndonesia
RegionBanda Islands
Native speakers
3,700 (2000)[41]
Malay-based creole
  • East Indonesian
    • Bandanese Malay
Language codes
ISO 639-3bpq

A distinct variant of Moluccan Malay, spoken in Banda Islands, Maluku. Significantly different from Ambonese Malay and for Ambonese, Bandanese Malay tends to be perceived as sounding funny due to its unique features.

Example :

  • Beta : I
  • pane : you
  • katorang : we
  • mir : ants (deviated from Dutch : mier)

Papuan/Irian Malay[edit]

Papuan Malay is the main contact language of the Indonesian half of New Guinea. Serui Malay is a variety of Papuan Malay spoken in the Yapen Islands, as well as in nearby coastal areas of the New Guinea mainland.

Creole languages based on languages other than Malay[edit]


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  2. ^ a b Collins, James T. (1989). "Malay dialect research in Malaysia: the issue of perspective" (PDF). Bijdragen tot de Taal-, Land- en Volkenkunde. 145 (2/3): 235–264. doi:10.1163/22134379-90003253.
  3. ^ a b c d "APiCS Online - Survey chapter: Singapore Bazaar Malay". Retrieved 6 October 2018.
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External links[edit]