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Malay language


Malay (/məˈleɪ/; Bahasa Melayu; Jawi script: بهاس ملايو) is a major language of the Austronesian family. It is the national language of Brunei, Malaysia, and Indonesia and it is one of four official languages of Singapore. It is spoken by 270 million people across the Malacca Strait, including the coasts of the Malay Peninsula of Malaysia and the eastern coast of Sumatra in Indonesia, and has been established as a native language of part of western coastal Sarawak and West Kalimantan in Borneo. Origin Malay historical linguists agree on the likelihood of the Malay homeland being in western Borneo. A form known as Proto-Malay language was spoken in Borneo at least by 1000 BCE and was, it has been argued, the ancestral language of all subsequent Malayan languages. Its ancestor, the Proto-Malayo-Polynesian language, a descendant of Proto-Austronesian, began to break up by at least 2000 BCE, possibly as a result of the southward expansion of Austronesian peoples into Maritime Southeast Asia from the island of Taiwan. History The history of the Malay language can be divided into five periods: Old Malay, the Transitional Period, the Malacca Period (Classical Malay), Late Modern Malay, and modern Malay. It is not clear that Old Malay was actually the ancestor of Classical Malay, but this is thought to be quite possible. Classification Malay is a member of the Austronesian family of languages, which includes languages from Southeast Asia and the Pacific Ocean, with a smaller number in continental Asia. Malagasy, a geographic outlier spoken in Madagascar in the Indian Ocean, is also a member of this language family. Although each language of the family is mutually unintelligible, their similarities are rather striking. Many roots have come virtually unchanged from their common Austronesian ancestor. There are many cognates found in the languages' words for kinship, health, body parts and common animals. Numbers, especially, show remarkable similarities.