LINGUIST List 2.810

Thu 21 Nov 1991

Disc: Creoles: Malay and Afrikaans

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  1. "Randy J. LaPolla", Re: 2.790 Queries
  2. Susanna Cumming, Malay/Indonesian

Message 1: Re: 2.790 Queries

Date: Sat, 16 Nov 91 13:00 U
From: "Randy J. LaPolla" <HSLAPOLLATWNAS886.bitnet>
Subject: Re: 2.790 Queries
Willem de Reuse's question about the pidginization of Malay and Afrikaans seems
to presuppose that a creole must be quite different from the target language,
yet this need not be the case. If pidginization is second-language learning
with restricted input, and creolization is first-language learning with
restricted input, as argued by Derek Bickerton, then we would expect to find
degrees of difference between targets and pidgins/creoles based on the degree
of restriction on the input. Also, as the speakers of a creole gain greater
access to the target language, the creole will de-creolize, becoming more and
more like the target language. This would explain the continuum of degrees of
pidginlikeness de Reuse found among Afrikaans speakers. A similar continuum is
found among speakers of Jamaican creole.
--Randy LaPolla
--Institute of History & Philology
--Academia Sinica, Taiwan
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Message 2: Malay/Indonesian

Date: Sat, 16 Nov 91 22:57:13 -0700
From: Susanna Cumming <>
Subject: Malay/Indonesian
Willem de Reuse has queried the claim that Indonesian (i.e. Bahasa
Indonesia, the national language of Indonesia) is derived from "a pidgi-
nized Malay". As is usual where sociolinguistic factors -- and millions
of speakers -- are concerned, the situation is far from simple.
Briefly, Malay has been a lingua franca in Southeast Asia since at least
the 7th century. At the present time there are dozens of different
varieties of this language spoken in Indonesia, Malaysia, and pockets of
mainland Southeast Asia. Some variety of Malay is a national language
in Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, and Brunei; but in addition to these
(more or less) "standardized" varieties, there are many other varieties.
These can be divided roughly into two classes: "indigenous" varieties,
i.e. those spoken by populations (mostly on the Malay peninsula and in
Sumatra) whose traditional language is Malay; and "non-indigenous" vari-
eties, i.e. those spoken by populations who were originally exposed to
Malay as a contact language. In some places (e.g. areas of Eastern
Indonesia) and among some ethnic groups (e.g. Chinese in Java), some
kind of "contact Malay" has replaced -- and is still replacing -- other
native languages, creating monolingual non-indigenous Malay-speaking
When it comes to applying labels such as "pidginized" and "proper", the
Malay spoken in every community where it is used has to be considered
separately. The terms "pidgin", "creole", and "koine" -- as well as
whatever term should be used for varieties which are none of the above
-- are probably all appropriately applied to different Malay varieties.
The structural characteristics of local varieties also vary con-
siderably; Malaysians and Indonesians are likely to speak of "Bazaar
Malay" ("Melayu Pasar") as if it were a single variety, but in fact non-
standard varieties vary not only geographically, but also across ethnic
groups in a single community. The same is true of the indigenous varie-
ties: there is a wide range of geographical dialects, and even "Standard
Indonesian" or "Malaysian" as reflected in public speaking and con-
temporary literature varies a good deal (much more than the governments
are willing to acknowledge) according to the native language or dialect,
geographical origin, ethnicity, age etc. of the speaker.
To make a long story short, however, Standard Indonesian has features
both of the non-indigenous ('low') varieties used in Java and elsewhere
at the time when Indonesian national identity was being born (at the
beginning of this century) and of the "High (or Classical) Malay" used
in Malay-speaking court literature from at least the 17th century on.
'High' features generally involve copious use of morphology (voice
prefixes, applicative suffixes, nominalizers etc.) that tend to be
absent in non-indigenous varieties.
'Low' features include a preference for SVO order (Classical Malay
prefers VX order), 'active' rather than 'passive' syntax (Classical
Malay prefers the 'passive' clause), and non-use of the fancy particles
(maka, pun, lah) that dotted Classical Malay texts. Early language
planners in Indonesia (notably S. Takdir Alisjahbana) consciously
attempted to mold the syntactic patterns of the nascent national lan-
guage on the model of European languages, which were considered more
"active", "dynamic" and therefore "modern".
The use of all these features is highly variable, however, depending on
the situation and the social identity of the speaker.
Incidentally, Malay became the national language of Malaysia quite a bit
after it was well-entrenched in Indonesia -- in spite of the fact that
only a tiny minority of Indonesians speak it natively -- because of two
factors: a) English is a viable prestige language in Malaysia in a way
that Dutch never was in Indonesia, due to differing colonial policies;
and b) ethnic rivalries between nearly equal numbers of Chinese, Indians
and Malays in Malaysia militated against the favoring of one group over
the others -- language riots occur periodically in Malaysia, resulting
in the 60s in the renaming of the national language from Bahasa Melayu
('Malay' or 'the language of the Malays') to Bahasa Malaysia
('Malaysian', or 'the language of the Malaysians'). (This is reminiz-
cent of the renaming of Bahasa Melayu to Bahasa Indonesia in the 20s by
early Indonesian nationalists.) Because of this time lag, and because
Malaysia is interested in preserving linguistic unity with its larger
neighbor, standard Malaysian is largely based on standard Indonesian,
rather than the other way around.
In case anyone is still reading I will append a plug for my recent book,
"Functional Change: the case of Malay constituent order", from Mouton de
Gruyter (compares the use of various syntactic constructions in Classi-
cal Malay and Modern Indonesian). If anyone is interested they may
contact me directly for further references; Ellen Rafferty and Jim
Collins in particular have done a good deal of interesting work on the
history and social functions of several Malay varieties, and the above
discussion owes a good deal to them.
Susanna Cumming, University of Colorado
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