Malay (Ancient, Classical, Modern); History of Development, Figures, Legacy, Characteristics

Malay (Ancient, Classical, Modern); History of Development, Figures, Legacy, Characteristics

1. To know the origin of the Malay language we need to know the origin of the original speakers first, namely the Malays. The origin of the Malay race is still unclear but some European scholars such as Hendrik Kern (Netherlands) and Robert von Heine Geldern (Austria) have done a rough research on the background and movement of the ancient Malay community.

2. Their theory states that the Malay race originates from the Austronesian group, which is a group of people from the Yunan area in China who later migrated in the form of several waves of human movement and eventually occupied the region of Southeast Asia.
3. The first wave is known as Malay-Proto and happened about 2500 years BC
4. Around the year 1500 BC, came the second wave known as Malay-Deutro. They inhabit fertile areas on the coast and valleys of Southeast Asia. Their presence caused the Proto-Malay people such as the Jakun, Mahmeri, Jahut, Temuan, Biduanda and several other small groups to move to the forest and interior areas. This Malay-Deutro group is said to be the ancestors of the Malay community that exists today.

5. Malay comes from the Austronesian language group, while these Austronesian languages ​​come from the Austrian language family. Apart from the Austronesian language group, there is the Austro-Asiatic language group and the Tibetan-Chinese language group.

6. Linguists have divided the development of the Malay language into three main stages, namely:
a. Old Malay,
b. Classical Malay and
c. Modern Malay.

Old Malay
1. The Malay language belongs to the archipelago language family under the Sumatra language group. Ancient Malay was used from the 7th century to the 13th century during the era of the Sriwijaya kingdom. at that time, the ancient BM became the lingua franca and administrative language due to the nature of the Malay language which is simple and easy to accept external influences. The Malay language is also not tied to the differences in social stratification and has a simpler system compared to the Javanese language.

2. Because Hinduism was the religion of the Malays at that time, the Malay language was greatly influenced by the Sanskrit language system which contributed to the enrichment of the vocabulary and scientific (scholarship) characteristics of the Malay language. Sanskrit is considered the language of scholars and is used by the nobility. Malay is also easily flexible according to the situation and needs.

3. Evidence of the use of the ancient Malay language can be seen on the 7th century inscribed stones written in Palawan letters which are:

a. Stone with inscriptions at Kedukan Bukit, Palembang (683 AD)
b. Stone with inscriptions in Talang Ruwo, near Palembang (684 AD)

c. An inscribed stone in Kampur City, Bangka Island (686 AD)

d. An inscribed stone in Karang Brahi, Meringin, Upper Jambi area (686 AD)
4. Based on the content, the writing on the inscribed stone was made on the orders of the king of Srivijaya, a kingdom that had an empire covering Sumatra, Java, the Malay Peninsula, Segenting Kra and Sri Lanka. Therefore, this shows that the Malay language has been used as the official language and the administrative language of the Srivijaya kingdom, as well as expanding the spread of the Malay language to its conquered colonies. Although the language on the inscribed stone is still Sanskrit, there is still the influence of Ancient Malay in it.

5. The term "Malay" appeared for the first time in Chinese writing in 644 and 645 AD. This writing mentions the "Mo-Lo-Yue" people who sent messengers to the State of China to present the fruits of the earth to the King of China. The location of this "Mo-Lo-Yue" kingdom cannot be ascertained but some have recorded it in the Malay Peninsula and in Jambi, Sumatra.

6. In addition to the evidence of the use of the ancient Malay language above, an inscribed stone in Gandasuli, Central Java (832 AD) is written in the Nagiri script.

7. The ancient Malay language has several characteristics namely;

a. There are elements of borrowing from Sanskrit.
b. The b sound is w in ancient Malay (Example: bulan – wulan)
c. There is no e-pepet sound (example with – with or with)
d. The prefix ber- is mar- in ancient Malay (example: berlepas-marlapas)
e. The prefix di- is ni- in ancient Malay (Example: made - niparwuat)
f. There are aspirated consonant sounds like bh, th, ph, dh, kh, h (Example: sukhatshitta)
g. The letter h is missing in modern languages ​​(Example: all-samuha, me: sahaya)

Transition from Old Malay to Classical Malay

1. The growing influence of Islam in Southeast Asia in the 13th century contributed to the development of the Malay language. The arrival of Islam to Tanah Melayu has changed the Malay language system a lot, especially from the aspect of vocabulary, verse structure and writing system.

2. There are three important inscribed stones:
a. Inscribed stone at Pagar Ruyung, Minangkabau (1356) - written in Indian letters and
contains ancient Malay prose and a few lines of Sanskrit poetry. The language is slightly different from the 7th century stone-lettered language.

b. Inscribed stone in Minye Tujuh, Aceh (1380) - still using the Indian alphabet and for the first time there is the use of Arabic words such as the sentence of the prophet, Allah and mercy

c. Inscribed stones in Kuala Berang, Terengganu (1303-1387) - written in Javanese script and prove that Arabic script was used in Malay during that century.

3. These three inscribed stones are evidence of the last record of the development of the ancient Malay language because after the 14th century, Malay literature appeared in written form.

Classical Malay


1. The 13th century was the beginning of a period of transition in the Malay Archipelago with the spread of Islam to the region. This has affected the race and language here, especially the Malay race and language. The influence of India little by little began to be replaced by the influence of Islam and Arabs. The glory of the classical Malay language can be divided into three important periods, namely the period of the Malacca kingdom, the period of the Acheh kingdom and the period of the Johor-Riau kingdom

2. An important period for the Malay language was during the Malay Kingdom of Malacca. The Malacca Malay Government which has accepted Islam and succeeded in building a vast empire has been able to increase the progress and development of the Malay language in the region. Malay has been used in administration and trade activities and has become the "lingua franca" of traders. The Malay language has also become a tool for the spread of Islam throughout the Malay Archipelago. Malay language has got a new written form which is Jawi writing. Vocabulary has also increased with the existence of the need to express the ideas brought by Islamic civilization. The majesty of the Sultanate of Melaka is clearly depicted in the "Melayu History" by Tun Seri Lanang, a work in the Malay language that is very valuable.

3. The arrival of Europeans and the fall of the Malacca Sultanate to the Portuguese in 1511 did not end the influence of the Malay language. Many of them conduct research and keep notes on the Malay language and literature. Some examples of their efforts are:

a. Pigafetta, an Italian sailor captain on his voyage with Magellan, compiled a Malay-Italian dictionary during a stop at Tidore Island in 1521. This dictionary is a list of words from the language spoken by the people in the port with more than 400 words and is the oldest Malay-European word list. The position of Pulau Tidore which is located far from the origin of the Malay language illustrates how widely the Malay language is spread.
b. Jan Hugen Van Linschotten, a Dutch national lived in Indonesia between 1586 and 1592 and served as an official to the Portuguese government. He noted in his book that Bahasa Melayu is considered the most respected language among the languages ​​of the eastern states.

c. At the beginning of the 18th century, Francios Valentijn, a Dutch priest and historian who wrote extensively about the Malay Archipelago, described the importance of the Malay language as follows:
"Their language, Bahasa Melayu, is not only spoken in the coastal areas, but is also used throughout the Malay Archipelago and in all the Eastern states, as a language that is understood everywhere by everyone."

4. One proof of the high prestige of the Malay language and its wide use in this region is in the correspondence between the administrators and kings in the Malay Islands. Among them are:
a. Letter from the Sultan of Acheh to the English Captain, James Lancester (1601)
b. Letter of Sultan Alauddin Shah of Acheh to Harry Middleton (1602)
c. Letter from the Sultan of Acheh to the English king, King James (1612)
(These three letters are kept in the Bodelein library, London)

5. In the 17th century, there were many efforts by European scholars to compile dictionaries and word lists, which then continued to the fields of morphology, syntax and phonology.

6. Local figures also don't miss out on giving donations. Most of their efforts revolved around religion and literature. Palembang and Aceh have replaced Melaka as the center of Malay intellectuality. Among the figures in Aceh are:
a. Sheikh Nuruddin Al-Raniri (“Bustanul Salatin”)
b. Shamsuddin Al-Sumaterani (“Mirat Al-Mukmin”)
c. Abdul Rauf Singkel (“Mirat Al-Tullab”)
d. Hamzah Fansuri (“Boat Poetry”)

7. In Palembang there is Abdul Samad Al-Falambani with the book "Hikayat Al-Salakin".

8. Apart from Aceh and Palembang, some figures also appeared in other places. In Brunei, Pengiran Syahbandar Muhammad Salleh (Pengiran Indera Muda) has produced "Sayir Rakis", while in Banjarmasin Arshad Al-Banjari is famous for his book "Sabil Al-Muhtadin". Sheikh Mohd Ismail Daud Al-Fatani in Pattani produced "Matla'al Badrain" and "Furu' Al-Masail".

Classical Malay features:

1. The verses are long, repetitive, convoluted and use a lot of passive verse structures.
2. Using royal language: for example tuanku, his majesty, bersiram, mankat, etc.
3. Archaic and rarely used vocabulary; pearl quality of the jewels, madness (drunk in romance), sadaya, masyghul (sorrow)
4. A lot of use of words (words at the base of sentences): sebermula, alkisah, hatta, adapun.
5. Many use inverted sentences: predicate predicate
6. Lots of use of “pun' and `lah' particles

The Development of Modern Malay Language

1. Modern Malay is said to have started in the 19th century. Munsyi Abdullah's writings are considered to be the beginning of the modern Malay language because of its nature which is said to deviate from the classical Malay language. Before the British colonization, the Malay language reached a high position, functioning as an intermediate language, administration, literature, and the language of instruction in Islamic education centers.

2. After the Second World War, the British changed their policy to make English the medium of instruction in the education system.

3. When Malaysia achieved independence, Article 152 of the Federal Constitution established the Malay language as the national language stating that, "The National Language of this country is Bahasa Malay and shall be written in any writing as prescribed by the law of Parliament".
4. The National Language Act 1963/1967 stipulates that Malay is the official language of the country (the language used in all official affairs of the federal, state, local government and statutory bodies).
5. Razak's 1956 report suggested that the Malay language be used as the medium of instruction in the national education system and become the main tool for racial unity.
source: zanas