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The modern Malay or Indonesian alphabet (Brunei, Malaysia and Singapore: Tulisan Rumi, literally "Roman script" or "Roman writing", Indonesia: Aksara Latin, literally "Latin script"), consists of the 26 letters of the ISO basic Latin alphabet. It is the more common of the two alphabets used today to write the Malay language, the other being Jawi (a modified Arabic script). The Latin Malay alphabet is the official Malay script in Indonesia (as Indonesian), Malaysia (also called Malaysian) and Singapore, while it is co-official with Jawi in Brunei.
Historically, various scripts such as Pallava, Kawi and Rencong were used to write Old Malay, until they were replaced by Jawi during Islamic missionary mission in Malay Archipelago. And then later, the arrival of European colonial powers brought the Latin alphabet to the Malay Archipelago.
As the Malay-speaking countries were divided between two colonial administrations (the Dutch and the British), two major different spelling orthographies were developed in the Dutch East Indies and British Malaya respectively, influenced by the orthographies of their respective colonial tongues. The Soewandi Spelling System (or the Republic Spelling System after independence), used in the Dutch East Indies and later in independent Indonesia until 1972, was based on the Dutch alphabet. In 1972, as part of the effort of harmonizing spelling differences between the two countries, Indonesia and Malaysia each adopted a spelling reform plan, called the Perfected Spelling System (Ejaan Yang Disempurnakan) in Indonesia and the New Rumi Spelling (Ejaan Rumi Baharu) in Malaysia.
Letter names and pronunciations
The names of letters differ between Indonesia and rest of the Malay-speaking countries. Indonesia largely follows the letter pronunciation of the Dutch alphabet, while Malaysia, Brunei and Singapore follow the English alphabet pronunciation.
Regardless of the pronunciation, however, the letters represent the same spelling in all Malay-speaking countries. The Malay alphabet has a phonemic orthography; words are spelled the way they are pronounced, with few exceptions like the distinctions between /ə/ and /e/ where it both written as Ee. The letters Q, V and X are rarely encountered, being chiefly used for writing loanwords.
|Letter||Name (in IPA)||Sound|
|Indonesia||Malaysia, Brunei and Singapore||IPA||English equivalent|
|Malaysia, Brunei, Singapore||Indonesia|
|Aa||a (/a/)||e (/e/)||/a/||a as in father|
|/ə/ ~ /a/||-||a as in sofa|
|Bb||bé (/be/)||bi (/bi/)||/b/||b as in bed|
|Cc||cé (/t͡ʃe/)||si (/si/)||/t͡ʃ/||ch as in check|
|Dd||dé (/de/)||di (/di/)||/d/||d as in day|
|Ee||é (/e/)||i (/i/)||/ə/||e as in tolerant|
|/e/||e as in hey|
|/e/||/ɪ/||e as in packet|
|/ɛ/||e as in get|
|Ff||éf (/ef/)||éf (/ef/)||/f/||f as in effort|
|Gg||gé (/ge/)||ji (/d͡ʒi/)||/ɡ/||g as in gain|
|Hh||ha (/ha/)||héc (/het͡ʃ/)||/h/||h as in harm|
|Ii||i (/i/)||ai (/ai̯/)||/i/||i as in machine, but shorter|
|/e/||/ɪ/||i as in igloo|
|Jj||jé (/d͡ʒe/)||jé (/d͡ʒe/)||/d͡ʒ/||j as in jam|
|Kk||ka (/ka/)||ké (/ke/)||/k/||unaspirated k as in skate|
|Ll||él (/el/)||él (/el/)||/l/||l as in let|
|Mm||ém (/em/)||ém (/em/)||/m/||m as in mall|
|Nn||én (/en/)||én (/en/)||/n/||n as in net|
|Oo||o (/o/)||o (/o/)||/o/||o as in owe|
|/ɔ/||o as in bought, but shorter|
|Pp||pé (/pe/)||pi (/pi/)||/p/||unaspirated p as in speak|
|ki (/ki/)||kiu (/kiu/ or /kju/)||/q/ ~ /k/||q as in Qatar|
|Rr||ér (/er/)||ar (/ar/ or /a:/)||/r/||Spanish rr as in puerro|
|Ss||és (/es/)||és (/es/)||/s/||s as in sun|
|Tt||té (/te/)||ti (/ti/)||/t/||unaspirated t as in still|
|Uu||u (/u/)||yu (/ju/)||/u/||u as in rule, but shorter|
|/o/||/ʊ/||oo as in foot|
|Vv||vé (/ve/ or /fe/)||vi (/vi/)||/v/ ~ /f/||v as in van|
|Ww||wé (/we/)||dabel yu (/dabəlˈju/)||/w/||w as in wet|
|Xx||éks (/eks/)||éks (/eks/)||/ks/||x as in box|
|/z/||/s/||x as in xenon|
|Yy||yé (/je/)||wai (/wai̯/)||/j/||y as in yarn|
|Zz||zét (/zet/)||zed (/zed/)||/z/||z as in zebra|
* Many vowels are pronounced (and were formerly spelt) differently in Peninsular Malaysia and Sumatra (where Malay is native): tujuh is pronounced (and was spelt) tujoh, rambut as rambot, kain as kaen, pilih as pileh, etc., [e] and [o] are also allophones of /i/ and /u/ in closed final syllables in peninsular Malaysian and Sumatran. Many vowels were pronounced and formerly spelt differently that way also in East Malaysia, Brunei, and Indonesia.
|Malaysia, Brunei and Singapore||Indonesia|
|ai||/ai̯/||uy as in buy|
|au||/au̯/||ou as in ouch|
|oi||/oi̯/||/ʊi̯/||oy as in boy|
|gh||/ɣ/ ~ /x/||similar to Dutch and German ch, but voiced|
|kh||/x/||ch as in loch|
|ng||/ŋ/||ng as in sing|
|ny||/ɲ/||Spanish ñ; similar to ny as in canyon with a nasal sound|
|sy||/ʃ/||sh as in shoe|
Pre-1972 spelling system
|Upper case||A||B||C||D||E||Ē (pre-1947)||F||G||H||I||J||K||L||M||N||O||P||Q||R||S||T||Oe (1901)/U (1947)||V||W||X||Y||Z|
|Lower case||a||b||c||d||e||ē (pre-1947)||f||g||h||i||j||k||l||m||n||o||p||q||r||s||t||oe (1901)/u (1947)||v||w||x||y||z|
|1927 Za'aba Spelling System
(Malaysia, Brunei, Singapore)
|1901 Van Ophuijsen Spelling System,
1947 Soewandi Spelling System
|Malaysia, Brunei, Singapore||Indonesia|
- Before a spelling reform in 1972, Indonesia would disambiguate /e/ as é and /ə/ as e, and Malaysia /e/ as e and /ə/ as ĕ. The spelling reform removed the diacritics and use e to represent both /e/ and /ə/.
- Pusat Rujukan Persuratan Melayu (2014), Ejaan Rumi Baharu Bahasa Malaysia, retrieved 2014-10-04
- "Malay (Bahasa Melayu / بهاس ملايو)". www.omniglot.com.
- This page is based on the Wikipedia article Malay orthography; it is used under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License (CC-BY-SA). You may redistribute it, verbatim or modified, providing that you comply with the terms of the CC-BY-SA.