Malay as an Austronesian Language

Malay (Bahasa Melayu) is a member of the Malayic subgroup of the Austronesian language family. This subgroup includes languages like Gayo in Sumatra (Eades & Hajek 2006), Minangkabau in Sumatra, and Iban in Borneo, as well as many local dialects of Malay found in Borneo, Sumatra, Peninsular Malaysia, and eastern Indonesia (Adelaar 2005).

Closely related varieties of Malay have national language status in Malaysia, Brunei, and Singapore, where it is referred to as Standard Malay (Bahasa Melayu Baku, Bahasa Baku), and in Indonesia, where it is called Indonesian (Bahasa Indonesia) (Soderberg & Olson 2008). There is a high degree of mutual intelligibility between all these standard varieties, which are said to derive from the Malay of Johor in Peninsular Malaysia (Steinhauer 2005).

Indonesian is the most divergent of these standard Malays in its lexis, due to extensive influence from languages like Dutch and Javanese, while phonetically and phonologically the most divergent are probably the varieties spoken in much of Peninsular Malaysia. The Standard Malay spoken in Brunei seems to be in an intermediary position, in many ways similar to Indonesian in its pronunciation and grammar, but more like Peninsular varieties in its lexis (Poedjosoedarmo 1996).