The birthplace of the Malay language is the Island of Sumatra. Thence it
spread, in the thirteenth Century, to the peninsula of Malacca, and
subsequently, as the result of Malay Immigration, over the greater part of
the Eastern Archipelago. At the present day it is not only spoken and
understood on the Malay peninsula, the Great and Little Sunda Islands as
far as the Philippines, but it is the general means of communication on the
coasts of the whole of the Indo-Chinese archipelago up to the Chinese
ports, and its influence extends as far as New Guinea and even beyond.
Everywhere it has established itself over an extensive coast-line and
driven back the original dialects into the interior. At the present day it
is the language of four millions of people. From this point of view, when
the commercial importance of the districts where it is spoken is
considered, it is particularly valuable as a means of communication for
trading purposes, to which it is specially adapted by its simplicity and
the ease with which it can be acquired.
Under Indian influence Malay adopted a large number of Sanskrit words, and
later, owing to the advance of the Mohaminedan religion and civilization,
borrowed largely from Arabic, and, later still, from Western languages.
Considering the extensive area over which it spread, it is not surprising
that a large number of dialects is in existence. Their peculiarities,
however, are comparatively small. The grammar is not affected at all, the
vocabulary only to a comparatively small extent, especially as regards the
personal pronouns. Thus, the pronoun of the second person is in Batavia
kweh, in Borneo küa, in Malacca awah, in Perak mika. But all these dialects
follow the same grammatical rules, and, in the matter of vocabulary,
exhibit a common nucleus, the knowledge of which renders the acquisition of
dialectic peculiarities a tolerably easy task.
Malay contains twenty-three sounds, represented in writing by letters of
the Arabic alphabet. It is probable that the Javanese was the alphabet
formerly in use, and that it was displaced with the advance of Arabic
Contents: Part I: Alphabet and pronunciation (vowels, consonants, accent,
the Arabic alphabet, euphonic changes in derivatives). Part II: Grammar
(article, noun, list of nouns, adjective, some common adjectives, pronouns,
verbs, derivative verbs, active voice, passive voice, to be and to have,
must, let, ought, can, would, should, some common verbs, interrogative and
negative sentences, numerals, numeral co-efficients, manner of expressing
time, pre-positions, adverbs, conjunctions, interjections). Part III:
Exercises (Malay-English and English-Malay), easy reading exercises,
conversations in the vulgar dialect. Part IV: the written language,
Malay-English vocabulary to the exercises, English-Malay vocabulary.
(originally published 1912 in London, written in English, adapted from A.
Seidel's Praktische Grammatik der malayischen Sprache).