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1. Grammar and Spelling
2. Punctuation
3. Measurements and Abbreviations
4. Hyphenation
5. Miscellaneous Peculiarities
6. Geographic Distribution
7. Character Set

Section One - Grammar and Spelling

1. Pronouns: Pronouns in Malay do not determine gender:

She is fat - Dia gemuk
He is fat - Dia gemuk

2. Articles: The definite and indefinite article are (mostly) redundant, e.g. The sun is shining - Matahari bersinar (The word 'the' is not translated)

3. Plurals: The plural is formed by repeating the word, eg.
The oranges are sweet - Oren-oren ini manis

The use of a plural form is not necessary when it can be recognised from context, eg. The birds are flying - Burung sedang berterbangan

4. Repetition of words: There are some words that should NOT be repeated, as repetition can alter the meaning, eg. The word for 'man' is 'orang', but 'orang-orang' means 'scarecrow.'

5. Numerical Coefficients: Malay has many 'numerical coefficients' called penjodoh bilangan such as orang (for man), ekor (for animals), biji (for fruits), buah (for large or irregular-shaped objects) and even for nuts and bolts.

For example, Two tigers: Dua ekor harimau ('two-tail-tigers')

6. One-letter words: There are no one-letter words in Malay, all words are made up of a minimum of two letters.

7. Accents: The Malay character set is identical to English, with no accented characters.

8. Capitalisation: All formal forms of address representing titles and names, countries, days, months etc. should be capitalised. A capital letter is used in Malay in the following instances: -

a) when it is the first letter of a sentence

My name is Adam - Nama saya Adam

b) when it is the first letter of a proper noun

My sister Judy lives in Australia - Kakak saya Judy menetap di Australia
London - London
Monday, Tuesday - Isnin, Selasa

c) when it is the first letter of direct speech

Rajoo says, 'My foot hurts.' - Rajoo berkata, 'Kaki saya sakit'

d) for the main words in titles of books, films etc.

Have you watched the film 'Terminator'? - Pernahkah anda menonton filem 'Terminator'?

Section Two - Punctuation

1. Full stops: Full stops are used at the end of a sentence, heading, subtitle, bullet point. They are not used in dates or no. of pages unless they are abbreviated.

2. Speech marks: Speech marks are used as in English:

1. 'Give me more work!', shouted Chloe.
'Saya mahu lebih banyak kerja!', jerit Chloe.

2. 'Would anyone like some tea?' asked George.
'Sesiapa inginkan teh?' tanya George.

3. 'I'm bored - can I go home now?', Michala said.
'Saya berasa bosan - bolehkah saya balik sekarang?', kata Michala.

3. Apostrophes: Apostrophes are not used.

4. Colons, semi-colons, ellipsis and brackets: The use of colons, semi-colons, ellipsis and brackets is identical to English.

5. Capitalisation is as follows:

Headings: Budget 2004 Belanjawan 2004
Product names: Philips Philips
Sentences: My name is Alice Nama saya Alice
Proper Nouns: London London
Days: Monday, Tuesday Isnin, Selasa
Months: January, February Januari, Februari
Seasons: Summer, Winter panas, musim sejuk

Section Three - Measurements and Abbreviations

1. Measurements: Both metric and imperial measurements are used in Malay:

mm - millimetre - milimeter
cm - centimetre - centimeter
m - metre - meter
km - kilometre - kilometer
g - gramme - gram
kg - kilogramme - kilogram
mg - miligramme - miligram
kb - kilobyte - kilobait

nautical mile - batu nautika
celsius - Celsius

There are some Malay-specific measurements, jengkal, tapak, hasta and depa, but these have been replaced by the metric system.

Decimals are denoted with a point, thousands are separated with a comma:

4.5 cm, $15.80, 0.00006098
1,200, 12,000, 123, 000

Malay uses the 12 hour clock and the words pagi, tengah hari, petang, and malam to signify AM and PM:

00.01 to 11.59 am 'in the morning' pagi
12.00 noon to 12.59 pm 'in the afternoon' tengah hari
1.00 pm to 6.59 pm 'in the evening' petang
7.00 pm to 11.59 pm 'at night' malam

Eg: 10.30 am 10.30 - pagi
Noon 12.00 - tengah hari
4.30 pm 4.30 - petang
9.00 pm 9.00 - malam
Midnight 12.00 - tengah malam

Dates are written as follows:

20 February 2004 - 20 Februari 2004
20th February 2004 - 20 Februari 2004
20/02/2004 - 20/02/2004
February 20 - 20 Februari

There should always be a space between a figure and a measurement abbreviation, i.e. 10 cm.

There is no space before a % symbol i.e. 10%.
There is no space before a °C i.e. 30°C.

Currency is written as follows:

£230 - £230
230 pounds sterling - GBP 230
€45 - €45
45 euro - Euro 45
$98 billion - US$98 bilion
98 Billion Dollars - US$98 billion
MYR500 - MYR500 (MYR - Malaysian Ringgit)
RM500.00 - RM500.00 (RM - Ringgit Malaysia)

2. Abbreviations: Common English abbreviations can be rendered as the following:

N/a no abbreviation available, Malay equivalent is tidak berkaitan
No. (nos.) abbreviation for both No. and nos. is no. (no.)
e.g. contoh, which is abbreviated to cth
WxLxHxD Lebar x Panjang x Tinggi x Dalam is LxPxTxD
1st / 2nd / 3rd / 4th Pertama / Ke-2 / Ke-3 / Ke-4
Mr. / Mrs. Tuan / Puan
Messrs. Tetuan
Miss Cik
Dear Sir/Madam Kepada Tuan/Puan

m (for metre) - m (meter)
cm (for centimetre) - cm (centimeter)
lb (for pound weight) - lb (paun)
g (for gram) - g (gram)
km (for kilometre) - km (kilometer)
yr (for year) - thn (tahun)
k (for 1000) - k (for 1000)

EMEA (Europe, Middle-East & Asia) - EMEA (Eropah, Timur Tengah dan Asia)

Days of the week:
Mon, Tues, Wed, Thurs, Fri, Sat, Sun
Isn, Sel, Rabu, Kha, Jum, Sab, Ahd

Months: Jan, Feb, Mar, Apr, May, Jun, Jul, Aug, Sep, Oct, Nov, Dec
Jan, Feb, Mac, Apr, Mei, Jun, Jul, Ogos, Sep, Okt, Nov, Dis

Seasons: Spring, Summer, Autumn, Winter (not normally abbreviated in English)
Same for Malay. Not abbreviated. Musim bunga, musim panas, musim luruh, musim sejuk

The following abbreviations may look odd to a non-native

dsb dan sebagainya (etc)
dll dan lain-lain (and others)
dgn dengan (with)
yg yang (that is)
dlm dalam (in)
jln jalan (road/street)
bp bagi pihak (on behalf of)

Section Four - Hyphenation

Hyphens are used as in English, i.e. to hyphenate at the end of syllables (suku kata), not in the middle, e.g. ad-vantage , not adv-antage'. When words are split over lines, the syllables should be broken down by syllabic structure ie 'ber-lari', not 'be-rlari'

To change singular nouns to plural form, a hyphen is used to separate the repeated word

Singular Plural
books - buku buku-buku
cars - kereta kereta-kereta

For animal or insect names, a hyphen is used to separate the repeated word

sheep biri-biri
butterfly rama-rama

To represent variety, a hyphen is used to combine two words that denote variety

a wide variety of vegetables - sayur-mayur
a wide variet of cakes - kuih-muih

To combine words and numbers which indicate a position or era

2nd - ke-2
3rd - ke-3
1900's - 1900-an

Prefixes such as 'di' and 'ke' should either be 'joined' or 'separated by a space' with the following word, depending on the nature of the word, either if it's a verb or a special noun.

E.g.: di London (no hyphen allowed in this instance as 'di' is followed by a special noun and must be separated by a 'space')

ditarik (no hyphen allowed when 'di' is joined to a verb 'ditarik' = 'to pull')

'N' dashes (–) are more commonly used than the longer 'M' dashes (—)

Section Five - Miscellaneous Peculiarities

1. Past tense: the word remains the same but is preceded by a word such as telah or sudah to denote that the task has been carried out in the past.

E.g.: Dia sudah makan - He has eaten

This is not required if the context indicates that the action is in the past tense.

2. Present continuous tense: the word remains the same but is preceded by a word such as sedang to denote that the task is currently being carried out

E.g.: Dia sedang makan - He is eating

3. Place names: Some state and country names are spelt differently in Malay

Penang - Pulau Pinang
Japan - Jepun
Philipines - Filipina
Singapore - Singapura

4. Surnames: Surnames come AFTER first and middle names. Only the first letter of the surname is capitalised

E.g.: Tom Cruise, John Abraham Lincoln

5. Bold and Italics: In Malay, text is written in bold to highlight a title, heading or word. Words are normally displayed in italics to denote the usage of a foreign word or a special name within a Malay sentence.

Section Six - Geographic Distribution

Malay is spoken principally in Malaysia and, to a lesser extent, in neighbouring Thailand and Singapore. Before 1945 its speakers extended through much of the Indonesian archipelago, but with the establishment of the Republic of Indonesia the Malay of that country was designated Indonesian. It is the official and national language in Malaysia where it is also known as Bahasa Malasia, and is the mother tongue of about 10 million people, or about half the total population. Speakers in Thailand number one million, in Singapore 250,000.

Malay is a member of the Malayo-Polynesian family of languages. Beginning in the 14th century, with the conversion of many Malays to Islam, a variation of the Arabic script known as Jawi was used for writing. In the 19th century the British constructed a Roman-based alphabet that is in general use today. It differs slightly from that used in Indonesia, which was developed by the Dutch, but the resulting variations in spelling are in fact the only difference between the two languages.

Like English and other languages, Malay has many different dialects, ranging from Batavian to Kelantanese. The dialects spoken in different states throughout Malaysia differ slightly in terms of slang and pronunciation but a native speaker can usually tell one dialect from another. Written Malay, used for correspondence, education, official matters, legal, financial and in the media is the same throughout Malaysia and is more formal in context. Malay contains many words of Sanskrit and Arabic origin. English words of Malay origin include orangutan, gingham, sarong, bamboo, rattan, kapok, paddy, and amok.

Malay is spoken/used in the following countries:
Brunei, Cocos (Keeling) Islands, Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand.

Language Family
Family: Malayo-Polynesian (Austronesian)
Subgroup: Indonesian

Section Seven – Character Set

[ ] = Alt key codes

a A
b B
c C
d D
e E
f F
g G
h H
i I
j J
k K
l L
m M
n N
o O
p P
q Q
r R
s S
t T
u U
v V
w W
x X
y Y
z Z


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