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Malay Language And Literature

MALAY LANGUAGE AND LITERATURE The Malay language is a member of the Malayan section of the Malayo- Polynesian class of languages, but it is by no means a representative type of the section which has taken its name from it. The area over which it is spoken comprises the peninsula of Malacca with the adjacent islands (the Rhio-Lingga Archipelago), the greater part of the coast districts of Sumatra and Borneo, the seaports of Java, the Sunda and Banda Islands. It is the general medium of communication throughout the archipelago from Sumatra to the Philippine Islands, and it was so upwards of three hundred and fifty years ago when the Portuguese first appeared in those parts.

There are no Malay manuscripts extant, no monumental records with inscriptions in Malay, dating from before the spreading of Islam in the archipelago, about the end of the 1jth century. By some it has been argued from this fact that the Malays possessed no kind of writing prior to the introduction of the Arabic alphabet (\Y. Robinson, J. J. de Hollander); whereas others have maintained, with greater show of probability, that the Malays were in possession of an ancient alphabet, and that it was the same as the Rechang (Marsden, Friederich), as the Kawi (Van der Tuuk), or most like the Lampong (Kern) all of which alphabets, with the Battak, Bugi and Macassar, are ultimately traceable to the ancient Canibojan characters. \Vith the Mahommedan conquest the Perso-Arabic alphabet was introduced among the Malays; it has continued ever since to be in use for literary, religious and business purposes. Where Javanese is the principal language, Malay is sometimes found written with Javanese characters; and in Palembang, in the Menangkabo country of Middle Sumatra, the Rechang or Renchong characters are in general use, so called from the sharp and pointed knife with which they are cut on the smooth side of bamboo staves. It is only since the Dutch have established their supremacy in the archipelago that the Roman character has come to be largely used in writing and printing Malay. This is also the case in the Straits Settlements.

By the simplicity of its phonetic elements, the regularity of its grammatical structure, and the copiousness of its nautical vocabulary, the Malay language is singularly well fitted to be the lingua franca throughout the Indian archipelago. It possesses the five vowels a, i, u, e, o, both short and long, and one pure diphthong, au. Its consonants are k, g, ng, ch, j, n, t, d,. n, p, b, m, y, r, I, w, s, h. Long vowels can only occur in open syllables. The only possible consonantal nexus in purely Malay words is that of a nasal and mute, a liquid and mute and vice versa, and a liquid and nasal. Final k and h are all but suppressed in the utterance. Purely Arabic letters are only used in Arabic words, a great number of which have been received into the Malay vocabulary. But the Arabic character is even less suited to Malay than to the other Eastern languages on which it has been foisted. As the short vowels are not marked, one would, in seeing, e.g. the word bntng, think first of bintang, a star; but the word might also mean a large scar, to throw down, to spread, rigid, mutilated, enceinte, a kind of cucumber, a redoubt, according as it is pronounced, bantang, banting, bentang, buntang, buntung, bunting, bonteng, benteng.

Malay is essentially, with few exceptions, a dissyllabic language, and the syllabic accent rests on the penultimate unless that syllable is open and short; e.g. datang, namana, besar, diumpatkannalah. Nothing in the form of a root word indicates the grammatical category to which it belongs; thus, kdsih, kindness, affectionate, to love ; ganli, a proxy, to exchange, instead of. It is only in derivative words that this vagueness is avoided. Derivation is effected by infixes, prefixes, affixes and reduplication. Infixes occur more rarely in Malay than in the cognate tongues. Examples are gurun, a rumbling noise, gumuruh, to make such a noise; tunjuk, to point, telunjuk, the forefinger; chuchuk, to pierce, cheruchuk, a stockade. The import of the prefixes m6 (meng, men, men, mfim), pe (peng, pen, pen, pSm), ber (bel), pSr, pel, ka, di, ter, and affixes an, kan, i, lah will best appear from the following examples root word ajar, to teach, to learn; mengajar, to instruct (expresses an action) ; belajar, to study (state or condition) ; mengajari, to instruct (some one, trans.) ; mengajarkan, to instruct (in something, causative) ; pengajar, the instructor; peldjar, the learner; pengajdran, the lesson taught, also the school ; petajaran, the lesson learnt ; diajar, to be learnt; tkrajar, learnt; terajarkan, taught; terajari, instructed; [perdja (from raja, prince), to recognize as prince; pcrajdkan, to crown as prince; karajaan, royalty]; ajarkanlah, teach! Examples of reduplication are ajar-ajar, a sainted person; ajar-berajar (or belajar), to be learning and teaching by turns; similarly there are forms like djar-mengdjar, berdjdr-ajdran, ajar-ajdri, memperdjar, memperdjarkan, memperajdri, terbeldjarkan, perbelajarkan, etc. Altogether there are upwards of a hundred possible derivative forms, in the idiomatic use of which the Malays exhibit much skill. See especially H. von Dewall, De vormveranderingen der Maleische tool (Batavia, 1864) and J. Pijnappel, Maleisch-Hollandsch Wooraenboek (Amsterdam, 1875), " Inleiding." In every other respect the language is characterized by great simplicity and indefiniteness. There is no inflexion to distinguish number, gender or case. Number is never indicated when the sense is obvious or can be gathered from the context; otherwise plurality is expressed by adjectives such as sagdla, all, and bdnak, many; more rarely by the repetition of the noun, and the indefinite singular by sa or salu, one, with a class-word. Gender may, if necessary, be distinguished by the words laki-ldki, male, and perampuan, female, in the case of persons, and of jantan and betlna in the case of animals. The genitive case is generally indicated by the position of the word after its governing noun. Also adjectives and demonstrative pronouns have their places after the noun. Comparison is effected by the use of particles. Instead of the personal pronouns, both in their full and abbreviated forms, conventional nouns are in frequent use to indicate the social position or relation of the respective interlocutors, as, e.g. hamba tuan, the master's slave, i.e. I. These nouns vary according to the different localities. Another peculiarity of Malay (and likewise of Chinese, Shan, Talaing, Burmese and Siamese) is the use of certain classwords or coefficients with numerals, such as orang (man), when speaking of persons, ekor (tail) of animals, keping (piece) of flat things, ttji (seed) of roundish things; e.g. lima biji, telor, five eggs. The number of these class-words is considerable. Malay verbs have neither person or number nor mood or tense. The last two are sometimes indicated by particles or auxiliary verbs; but these are generally dispensed with if the meaning is sufficiently plain without them. The Malays avoid the building up of long sentences. The two main rules by which the order of the words in a sentence is regulated are subject, verb, object; and qualifying words follow those which they qualify. This is quite the reverse of what is the rule in Burmese.

The history of the Malays amply accounts for the number and variety of foreign ingredients in their language. Hindus appear to have settled in Sumatra and Java as early as the 4th century of our era, and to have continued to exercise sway over the native populations for many centuries. These received from them into their language a very large number of Sanskrit terms, from which we can infer the nature of the civilizing influence imparted by the Hindu rulers. Not only in words concerning commerce and agriculture, but also in terms connected with social, religious and administrative matters that influence is traceable in Malay. See W. E. Maxwell, Manual ef the Malay Language (1882), pp. 5-34, where this subject is treated more fully than by previous writers. This Sanskrit element forms such an integral part of the Malay vocabulary that in spite of the subsequent infusion of Arabic and Persian words adopted in the usual course of Mahommedan conquest it has retained its ancient citizenship in the language. The number of Portuguese, English, Dutch and Chinese words in Malay is not considerable; their presence is easily accounted for by political or commercial contact.

The Malay language abounds in idiomatic expressions, which constitute the chief difficulty in its acquisition. It is sparing in the use of personal pronouns, and prefers impersonal and elliptical diction. As it is rich in specific expressions for the various aspects of certain ideas, it is requisite to employ always the most appropriate term suited to the particular aspect. In Maxwell's Manual, pp. 120 seq., no less than sixteen terms are given to express the different kinds of striking, as many for the different kinds of speaking, eighteen for the various modes of carrying, etc. An unnecessary distinction has been made between High Malay and Low Malay. The latter is no separate dialect at all, but a mere brogue or jargon, the medium of intercourse between illiterate natives and Europeans too indolent to apply themselves to the acquisition of the language of the people; its vocabulary is made up of Malay words, with a conventional admixture of words from other languages; and it varies, not only in different localities, but also in proportion to the individual speaker's acquaintance with Malay proper. A few words are used, however, only in speaking with persons of royal rank e.g. santap, to eat (of a raja) instead of makan; beradu, to sleep, instead of tidor; gring, unwell, instead of sakit; mangkat, to die, instead of mdti, etc. The use is different as regards the term JawH as applied to the Malay language. This has its origin in the names Great Java and Lesser Java, by which the medieval Java and Sumatra were called, and it accordingly means the language spoken along the coasts of the two great islands.

The Malays cannot, strictly speaking, be said to possess a literature, for none of their writings can boast any literary beauty or value. Literature Their most characteristic literature is to be found, not ' in their writings, but in the folk-tales which are transmitted orally from generation to generation, and repeated by the wandering minstrels called by the people Peng-llpor Lara, i.e. " Soothers of Care." Some specimens of these are to be found in the Journal of the Straits Branch of the Asiatic Society (Singapore). The collections of Malay Proberbs made by Klinkert, Maxwell and Clifford also give a good idea of the literary methods of the Malays. Their verse is of a very primitive description, and is chiefly used for purposes of love-making. There are numerous rhymed fairy tales, which are much liked by the people, but they are of no literary merit. The best Malay books are the Hikayat Hang Tilak, Bestamam and the Hikayat Abdullah. The latter is a diary of events kept during Sir Stamford Raffle's administration by his Malay scribe.

AUTHORITIES. Hugh Clifford, In Court and Kampong (London, 1897); Studies in Brown Humanity (London, 1898); In a Corner of Asia (London, 1899); Bush-whacking (London 1901); Clifford and Swettenham, Dictionary of the Malay Language, parts i. to v. A-G. Taiping (Perak, 1894-1898); John Crawfurd, History of the Indian Archipelago (3 vols., Edinburgh, 1820); Grammar and Dictionary of the Malay Language (2 vols., London, 1852) ; A Descriptive Dictionary of the Indian Islands and Adjacent Countries (London, 1856) ; Journal of the Indian Archipelago (12 vols., Singapore, 1847-1862) ; Journal of the Straits Branch of the Royal Asiatic Society, 33 Nos. (Singapore, 1878-1900) ; H. C. Klinkert, Nieuw Maleisch-Nederlandisch Woorden boek (Leiden, 1893); John Leyden, Malay Annals (London, 1821); William Marsden, The History of Sumatra (London, 1811); Malay Dictionary (London, 1824); Sir William Maxwell, A Manual of the Malay Language (London, 1888); T. J. Newbold, Political and Statistical Account of the British Settlements in the Straits of Malacca; W. W. Skeat, Malay Magic (London, 1900) ; Skeat and Blagden, Pagan Races of the Malay Peninsula (London, 1906); Sir Frank Swettenham, Malay Sketches (London, 1895); The Real Malay (London, 1899); British Malaya (London, 1906); H. von- de Wall, edited by H. N. van der Tuuk, Maleisch-Nederlandisch Woordenboek (Batavia, 1877-1880); Malay Dictionary (Singaoore, 1903), Wilkinson. ' (H. CL.)

Note - this article incorporates content from Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, (1910-1911)

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