|Native to||Brunei, East Timor, Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, Christmas Island, Cocos (Keeling) Islands, Mindanao, South Thailand, Tanintharyi Region|
(see also Malayophones)
|Speakers||L1 – 77 million (2007)|
Total (L1 and L2): 200–290 million (2009)
Official language in
Sri Lanka (Sri Lankan Malay is a creole language spoken by the Sri Lankan Malays, Sinhalese, and Hambantota)
Countries where Malay is spoken
Recognized minority or trade language
Malay (//; Malay: Bahasa Melayu, Jawi: بهاس ملايو, Rencong: ꤷꥁꤼ ꤸꥍꤾꤿꥈ) is an Austronesian language officially spoken in Indonesia, Brunei, Malaysia, and Singapore, and unofficially spoken in East Timor and parts of Thailand and the Philippines. It is spoken by 290 million people (around 260 million in Indonesia alone in its own literary standard named "Indonesian") across Maritime Southeast Asia.
As the bahasa kebangsaan or bahasa nasional ("national language") of several states, Standard Malay has various official names. In Malaysia, it is designated as either Bahasa Melayu Malaysia ("Malaysian Malay") or also Bahasa Melayu ("Malay language"). In Singapore and Brunei, it is called Bahasa Melayu ("Malay language"). In Indonesia, an autonomous normative variety called Bahasa Indonesia ("Indonesian language") is designated the bahasa persatuan/pemersatu ("unifying language" or lingua franca). However, in areas of Central to Southern Sumatra, where vernacular varieties of Malay are indigenous, Indonesians refer to the language as bahasa Melayu, and consider it to be one of their regional languages.
Malay, also called Court Malay, was the literary standard of the pre-colonial Malacca and Johor Sultanates and so the language is sometimes called Malacca, Johor or Riau Malay (or various combinations of those names) to distinguish it from the various other Malayic languages. According to Ethnologue 16, several of the Malayic varieties they currently list as separate languages, including the Orang Asli varieties of Peninsular Malay, are so closely related to standard Malay that they may prove to be dialects. There are also several Malay trade and creole languages based on a lingua franca derived from Classical Malay as well as Macassar Malay, which appears to be a mixed language.
James T. Collins (Bahasa Sanskerta dan Bahasa Melayu, Jakarta: KPG 2009) gives a conservative estimate of approximately 200 million, and a maximum estimate of 250 million speakers of Malay (Collins 2009, p. 17).