Published December 31, 2018
This video was recorded by Kristen Tcherneshoff in Langkawi, Malaysia and features Malay speaker Zairul. Malay is spoken by roughly 290 million people in Brunei, Indonesia, Malaysia, and Singapore, with native populations in western coastal Sarawak and West Kalimantan in Boreno. Malay belongs to the Malayo-Chamic grouping within the Malayo-Polynesian branch of the Austronesian language family. Malay is also widely used as a trade language in the southern Philippines, including Zamboanga Peninsula, the Sulu Archipelago, and the municipalities of Bataraza and Balabac in Palawan. Parsing the distinct varieties of Malay has been particularly problematic given the complexities of mixing in the context of trade, as is the case with Macassar Malay and Orang Asli varieties of Peninsular Malay where dialect/language classifications are contested. Malay is believed to have originated out of western Borneo from a Proto-Malay language spoken around 1000 BCE that would become the ancestral language of all subsequent Malayan languages. Strikingly, despite the mutual unintelligibility of its many languages, several roots from the common Proto-Austronesian ancestor have passed through time virtually unchanged. Malay is typically written in the Latin script, the Arabic script Arab Melayu or Jawi.