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Malay alphabet

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Title: Malay alphabet  
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Subject: Jawi alphabet, Malay language, Official script, Ă, Voiceless dental and alveolar stops
Collection: Indonesian Language, Latin Alphabets, Malay Language
Publisher: World Heritage Encyclopedia

Malay alphabet

The modern Malay alphabet (in Brunei, Malaysia and Singapore, Tulisan Rumi, literally "Roman script" or "Roman writing", in Indonesia, "Tulisan Latin") consists of the 26 letters of the ISO basic Latin alphabet without any diacritics. [1] 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 (as 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 with the introduction of Islam. 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[2]) in Malaysia. Although the representations of speech sounds are now largely identical in the Indonesian and Malaysian varieties, a number of minor spelling differences remain.


  • Letter names and pronunciations 1
    • Pre-1972 Spelling System 1.1
      • 1927 Za'aba and 1947 Soewandi Spelling Systems 1.1.1
  • See also 2
  • References 3
  • External links 4

Letter names and pronunciations

Majuscule Forms
Minuscule Forms
a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w x y z

The names of theters differ between Indonesia and rest of the Malay-speaking countries. Indonesia follows the letter names of the Dutch alphabet, while Malaysia, Brunei and Singapore follow the English alphabet. Regardless of the letter names, however, the letters represent the same sounds in all Malay-speaking countries. The Malay alphabet has a phonemic orthography; words are spelled the way they are pronounced, with few exceptions. The letters Q, V and X are rarely encountered, being chiefly used for writing loanwords.

Letter Name Sound
Indonesia Malaysia, Brunei and Singapore IPA Notes
Malaysia, Brunei, Singapore Indonesia
Aa a e /a/ a as in father
/ə/ /a/ u as in fur
Bb bi /b/ b as in bed
Cc si /t͡ʃ/ ch as in check
Dd di /d/ d as in day
Ee é i /ə/ e as in under
/e/ e as in red
/e/ /ɪ/ e as in hey
/ɛ/ e as in get
Ff éf éf /f/ f as in effort
Gg ji /ɡ/ g as in gain
Hh ha héc /h/ h as in harm
Ii i ai /i/ i as in it, in, or is
/e/ /ɪ/ i as in igloo
Jj /d͡ʒ/ j as in jam
Kk ka /k/ unaspirated k as in skate
Ll él él /l/ l as in let
Mm ém ém /m/ m as in mall
Nn én én /n/ n as in net
Oo o o /o/ o as in owe
/o/ /ʊ/
/ɔ/ o as in bot
Pp pi /p/ unaspirated p as in speak
Qq qi kiu /q/ ~ /k/ q as in the Quran
Rr ér ar /r/ Spanish rr as in puerro
Ss és és /s/ s as in sun
Tt ti /t/ unaspirated t as in still
Uu u yu /u/ oo as in soon
/o/ /ʊ/ oo as in foot
Vv vi /v/ ~ /f/ v as in van
Ww dabel yu /w/ w as in wet
Xx éks éks /ks/ or /z/ x as in xylophone
Yy wai /j/ y as in yarn
Zz zét zed /z/ ~ /s/ 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.

In addition, there are digraphs that are not considered separate letters of the alphabet: [3]

Digraph Sound
IPA Notes
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/ French r
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

1927 Za'aba and 1947 Soewandi Spelling Systems

1927 Za'aba Spelling System
Malaysia, Brunei and Singapore
Majuscule Forms
Minuscule Forms
a ă b c d e ĕ f g h i ï j k l m n o p q r s t u v w x y z
1901 Van Ophuijsen Spelling System and 1947 Soewandi Spelling System
Majuscule Forms
A B C D E É F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T Oe(1901)/U(1947) V W X Y Z
Minuscule Forms
a b c d e é f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t oe(1901)/u(1947) v w x y z
Letter Sound Post-1972 Replacement
1927 Za'aba Spelling System
(Malaysia, Brunei, Singapore)
1901 Van Ophuijsen Spelling System,
1947 Soewandi Spelling System
Malaysia, Brunei, Singapore Indonesia
ă /ə/ - e -
ch /t͡ʃ/ /x/ c kh
dh /d/ - d -
dj - /d͡ʒ/ - j
dz /z/ - d -
e - /ə/ - e
/e/ - e -
/ɛ/ - e -
é - /e/ - e
- /ɪ/ - e
ĕ /ə/ - e -
ï /i/
- i -
j - /j/ - y
nj - /ɲ/ - ny
oe - /u/ - u
sh /ʃ/ - sy -
sj - /ʃ/ - sy
th /s/ - s -
tj - /t͡ʃ/ - c

See also


  1. ^ 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/.
  2. ^  
  3. ^

External links

  • Malay alphabet
  • Omniglot
  • Coba-coba(Cuba-cuba) Indonesian & Malay
  • Pedoman Umum Ejaan Bahasa Melayu
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