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(Duisburger Arbeiten Zur Sprach- Und Kulturwissenschaft Duisburg Papers on Research in Language and Culture) Siew Imm Tan - Malaysian English Language Contact and Change-Peter Lang International Ac

Siew Imm Tan
Malaysian English: Language Contact and Change is a corpus-based study of
contemporary Malaysian English. Based on linguistic features extracted from
the Malaysian English Newspaper Corpus, this study demonstrates the diverse
ways in which Malaysian English has changed as a result of contact with Malay
and Chinese languages. The interactions between groups of speakers who are
dominant in English and those who are dominant in Malay or Chinese have
resulted in wide-ranging changes in Malaysian English. Multilingual individuals
who juggle several languages in their daily communications have also shaped
the structure of this variety. This volume suggests that variation and change
in Malaysian English are the results of both the communal acquisition and the
maintenance of English by a multilingual community.
ISBN 978-3-631-63700-5
Language Contact and Change
Siew Imm Tan · Malaysian English
Siew Imm Tan is an Assistant Professor at the National Institute of Education,
Nanyang Technological University, Singapore. Her research interests include
language contact, New Englishes, corpus-based lexicography, and 19th-century
Singapore and Malayan English.
Malaysian English
Band / Volume 98
Malaysian English
Herausgegeben von / edited by
Ulrich Ammon, René Dirven und / and Martin Pütz
Band / Volume 98
Zu Qualitätssicherung und Peer Review
der vorliegenden Publikation
Notes on the quality assurance
and peer review of this publication
Die Qualität der in dieser Reihe
erscheinenden Arbeiten wird
vor der Publikation durch
einen Herausgeber der Reihe geprüft.
Prior to publication,
the quality of the work
published in this series is reviewed
by one of the editors of the series.
Siew Imm Tan
Malaysian English
Language Contact and Change
Bibliographic Information published by the Deutsche
The Deutsche Nationalbibliothek lists this publication in the
Deutsche Nationalbibliografie; detailed bibliographic data is
available in the internet at http://dnb.d-nb.de.
Cover Design:
© Olaf Gloeckler, Atelier Platen, Friedberg
Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data
Tan, Siew Imm, 1968Malaysian English : language contact and change / Siew Imm
Tan. — Peter Lang Edition.
pages. cm. — (Duisburg Papers on Research in Language
and Culture ; Band/Volume 98)
Includes bibliographical references and index.
ISBN 978-3-631-63700-5
1. English language—Variation—Malaysia. 2. English language—Spoken English—Malaysia. 3. Languages in contact—
Malaysia. 4. Language and culture—Malaysia. 5. Interpersonal communication—Malaysia. 6. Second language acquisition—Malaysia. 7. Language and languages—Study and
teaching. I. Title.
PE3502.M3T36 2013
ISSN 0934-3709
ISBN 978-3-631-63700-5 (Print)
ISBN 978-3-653-03516-2 (E-Book)
DOI 10.3726/978-3-653-03516-2
© Peter Lang GmbH
Internationaler Verlag der Wissenschaften
Frankfurt am Main 2013
All rights reserved.
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For Geoff
This, like all book projects, was a cooperative undertaking. While the author
may be named on the cover, a corps of others contributed ideas, time and support. I would like here to acknowledge some of the persons who have helped
bring this book to fruition.
My debts extend back to my mentors at the University of Hong Kong. It was
there that Douglas Kerr and Chris Hutton guided me in the intricacies of doctoral research. My introduction to corpus linguistics also began at HKU, through
the benevolence of Gerald Nelson, the facilitator of the International Corpus of
English Project. Without his assistance, the MEN Corpus would not have come
to be, and this book would likely never have been written.
Numerous other members of the HKU Department of English, particularly
Elaine Ho and Shirley Lim, were ever-encouraging. In their examination of the
dissertation, Peter Tan of the National University of Singapore and Hans-Georg
Wolf of Universität Potsdam provided innumerable suggestions for further developing my ideas. More recently, Gerhard Leitner, Farzad Sharifian, Azirah
Hashim and Hajar Abdul Rahim have been supportive and inspiring sources of
ideas and fellowship.
In Singapore, my colleagues at the National Institute of Education (NIE)
within Nanyang Technological University have provided a conducive and stimulating environment for the writing of this book. In particular, I would like to
mention Rita Silver, Anneliese Kramer-Dahl, Xiao Lan Curdt-Christiansen, Rani Rubdy, Angelia Poon, Tamas Kiss, Park Kwanghyun, Ruth Wong, Jessie Png,
Kwah Poh Foong, Donna Lim, Thamarai Selvi and Kiren Kaur. Their help,
friendship and enthusiasm made the often arduous journey more manageable.
My research assistants for the “Mining NewspaperSG for Linguistic Evidence of Contact in 19th-Century Singapore-Malayan English” Project (SUG
19/11 TSI), Raffaie Nahar, Jamie Lee and Junaini Johari, have demonstrated
rare motivation and insight, and their work has greatly facilitated the writing of
his volume. Raffaie has further contributed by referencing and indexing this
book. Through their enthusiasm and keen perceptions, my students at NIE have
also stimulated new ways of looking, aspects of which have been incorporated
into the volume. During the preparation of this work for publication, Martin Pütz
and Ute Winkelkötter from Peter Lang have been exceedingly patient and helpful.
I am blessed by a large and supportive family. My parents, Tan Hong Seng
and Chang Song Tiang, are deserving of more gratitude than I could ever express. My other parents, Bob and Lorna Wade, have also been avid supporters of
my career, for which I will always be thankful. Siew Leng, Siew Yean, Liz and
Julie—thanks for being such great sisters. Finally, to Geoff, Zara and Nikki,
thank you for learning with me.
1. The compilation of the Malaysian English Newspaper Corpus and the preliminary research for this book were carried out with the support of a University of Hong Kong Postgraduate Studentship.
2. The “Mining NewspaperSG for Linguistic Evidence of Contact in 19thCentury Singapore-Malayan English” Project (SUG 19/11 TSI) was funded
by the National Institute of Education, Singapore.
3. Some of the data and ideas contained in Chapter 4 of this book were initially
published in two journal articles: “Lexical Borrowing from Chinese languages in Malaysian English” (World Englishes, 2009, 28[4], 451-484); and
“Lexical Borrowing in Malaysian English: Influences of Malay” (Lexis,
2009, 3, 11-62).
Table of Contents
List of figures ................................................................................................... XIII
List of tables......................................................................................................XV
Abbreviations .................................................................................................XVII
English in Malaysia
1.1 Introduction ........................................................................................... 1
1.2 Roles and functions of English in Malaysia ......................................... 3
1.3 Earlier studies of Malaysian English .................................................... 7
1.4 Contact-induced change in Malaysian English: A corpus-based
study .................................................................................................... 12
The Historical Background of Malaysian English
2.1 Introduction ......................................................................................... 17
2.2 The Peninsula before the arrival of the English language .................. 20
2.3 The English language in the Archipelago: 17th to 18th century .......... 24
2.4 Language contact during the EIC administration: 1786 to 1867........ 25
2.5 Language contact in British Malaya: 1867 to 1957............................ 29
2.6 Language contact in postcolonial Malaysia: 1957 to present............. 35
2.7 Conclusion........................................................................................... 38
The Malaysian English Newspaper Corpus
3.1 Introduction ......................................................................................... 39
3.2 Construction of the MEN Corpus ....................................................... 40
3.2.1 Selection of newspapers .......................................................... 40
3.2.2 Sampling procedure................................................................. 42
3.2.3 Corpus size and selection of issues ......................................... 43
3.2.4 Compilation of data ................................................................. 45
3.3 Analysing the MEN Corpus................................................................ 47
Table of contents
Lexical Borrowing and Lexical Creation
4.1 Introduction ......................................................................................... 53
4.2 Terminology........................................................................................ 54
4.2.1 Defining lexical borrowing...................................................... 54
4.2.2 Defining lexical creation ......................................................... 60
4.3 Lexical borrowing in Malaysian English............................................ 61
4.3.1 Influences of Malay ................................................................. 71 Loanwords................................................................. 73 Compound blends ..................................................... 79 Loan translations....................................................... 80
4.3.2 Influences of Chinese .............................................................. 83 Loanwords................................................................. 84 Compound blends ..................................................... 85 Loan translations....................................................... 85
4.3.3 Motivations for lexical borrowing........................................... 87
4.4 Lexical creation in Malaysian English................................................ 91
4.5 Borrowing and creation: Concluding remarks.................................... 97
Group Second Language Acquisition
5.1 Introduction ....................................................................................... 101
5.2 Defining group SLA.......................................................................... 102
5.3 Syntactic variation............................................................................. 105
5.3.1 Reclassification of common nouns........................................ 105 Pluralisation of noncount nouns using
the -s inflectional morpheme .................................. 106 Reclassification of uninflected
noncount nouns to singular count nouns................. 107 Reclassification of uninflected
noncount nouns to plural count nouns .................... 109 Use of the general partitive construction,
a piece of, with singular and plural count nouns .... 110
Table of contents
XI SLA strategies and processes of change ................. 112
5.3.2 Multi-word verbs ................................................................... 118 Nativised prepositional and phrasal verbs .............. 119 SLA strategies and processes of change ................. 120
5.4 Lexical variation ............................................................................... 123
5.5 Sociolinguistic ecology and group SLA ........................................... 130
A Theoretical Model of Contact-induced Change in Malaysian English
6.1 Introduction ....................................................................................... 133
6.2 Contact-induced change in Malaysian English: Towards a
theoretical model............................................................................... 134
6.2.1 Linguistic outcomes............................................................... 137
6.2.2 Intent and motivations ........................................................... 139
6.2.3 Agentivity .............................................................................. 142
6.2.4 Historical and social settings of Malaysian English.............. 146
6.3 Conclusions and future explorations................................................. 150
Appendix A: Lexical Items Borrowed from Malay .......................................... 155
Appendix B: Lexical Items Borrowed from Chinese........................................ 189
Appendix C: Creations Using English Morphemes.......................................... 201
Appendix D: Hybrid Creations ......................................................................... 205
References ......................................................................................................... 207
Author and Subject Index.................................................................................. 223
Malaysian English Feature Index...................................................................... 235
List of Figures
2.1: “Price Current” (Source: Prince of Wales Island Government Gazette,
27 December 1806) ..................................................................................... 27
2.2: “Court and Bone” (Source: Prince of Wales Island Government Gazette,
11 October 1806)......................................................................................... 28
2.3: An extract from “Perak News” (Source: Straits Times Weekly Issue,
19 July 1892)............................................................................................... 31
3.1: An annotated article from the MEN Corpus ............................................... 46
3.2: Concordance lines of “kongsi*” from the MEN Corpus ........................... 49
3.3: Dictionary entry created for “kongsi” based on data from the MEN
Corpus ......................................................................................................... 51
3.4: Concordance lines of “discuss* on” from the MEN Corpus ..................... 52
4.1: Dictionary entry created for “rendang” based on data from
the MEN Corpus.......................................................................................... 63
4.2: Concordance lines of “rotan” from the MEN Corpus ............................... 76
4.3: Concordance lines of “rakyat” from the MEN Corpus.............................. 78
5.1: Classification of common nouns in Malay (translated and adapted from:
Nik Safiah et al., 1993, p. 100) ................................................................. 114
5.2: Classification of common nouns in English (adapted from: Quirk et al.,
1985, p. 247).............................................................................................. 115
List of Tables
2.1: Enrolment in English-medium schools, Federated Malay States
(percentage)................................................................................................. 33
3.1: Major English-language newspapers in Malaysia, 2000 ............................ 41
3.2: Number of issues sampled according to day of week................................. 44
3.3: Extracts of the alphabetical word list from the MEN Corpus..................... 48
4.1: Classification of lexical changes resulting from the process of
borrowing .................................................................................................... 59
4.2: Classification of lexical changes resulting from the process of creation.... 61
4.3: Distribution of features borrowed from Malay........................................... 64
4.4: Distribution of features borrowed from Chinese ........................................ 70
4.5: Semantic modification of Malay loanwords in Malaysian English............ 75
6.1: Contact-induced change in Malaysian English: Maintenance versus
group SLA ................................................................................................. 136
American Standard Code for Information Interchange
Association of Southeast Asian Nations
in combination
British East India Company
English of Singapore and Malaysia
HyperText Markup Language
Malaysian English
MEN Corpus Malaysian English Newspaper Corpus
New Straits Times
Standard English of the United Kingdom
Standard Generalized Markup Language
standard inner-circle varieties of English
second language acquisition
Singapore-Malayan English
The Star
target language
United Malays National Organisation
Chapter 1: English in Malaysia
1.1 Introduction
This volume comprises a study of Malaysian English (henceforth, ME) and investigates how this variety of English has evolved within the multilingual, multicultural milieu of Malaysia. 1 Employing a corpus-based approach, the study
surveys a comprehensive range of contemporary ME features in real-world contexts in order to determine the specific linguistic processes and the sociocultural
dynamics that engendered them. Situated within the framework of contact linguistics, the book focuses on how the contact between English and the other
languages spoken in Malaysia has induced systematic variation and change in
the linguistic system of ME. Although contemporary in focus, this study positions ME within a specific geo-historical context, examining the arrival of the
English language in the region, the subsequent emergence of a British colonial
structure in Malaya, and the ways in which diverse linguistic and cultural communities have influenced the evolution of ME. Thus, variation and change in
this variety of English are viewed not merely as linguistic outcomes of contact
between English and other languages in Malaysia, but also as manifestations of
the sociohistorical aspects of the contact situation.
The utilisation of concepts deriving from the field of contact linguistics in
describing variation and change in ME is of course not new. In addition to
Schneider’s (2003b; 2007, pp.144-153) compelling account of the evolution of
ME, there has also been a pronounced interest, among scholars of ME, in the
process of lexical borrowing, and the mechanisms of code-switching and codemixing (e.g., Lowenberg, 1991; David, 2003; Hajar & Harshita, 2003; Kow,
2003; Rajadurai, 2007; Azirah & Leitner, 2011). The present book draws on these and other earlier investigations of ME to establish new parameters for the exploration of contemporary ME as a contact variety. Based on an expansive body
of corpus data, this study constructs a narrative of contemporary ME within a
framework comprising the contact phenomena that have impacted its linguistic
system, and the historical and social parameters that have shaped the nature and
outcomes of contact between English and the other languages spoken in Malaysia. It is hoped that this perspective will aid readers to further understand the
change that ME has undergone, and perhaps even assist those with interests in
The modern nation state of Malaysia was created in 1963 through the merger of the
Federation of Malaya, Singapore, Sabah and Sarawak. Singapore left Malaysia in 1965,
and assumed nationhood as the Republic of Singapore.
English in Malaysia
other New Englishes to gain alternative insights into the nature of linguistic
change within a multilingual community.
The study of ME has of course gone through an extended period of development, both in terms of descriptions of the linguistic system itself, as well as
the contextualisation of this variety within the broader sphere of global English
studies. When Ray Tongue conducted his research on the English of Singapore
and Malaysia (ESM)2 in the 1970s, he viewed this “non-native variety” (1974, p.
3) as a distinctive and interesting system, yet one that was uncomfortably divergent from so-called native varieties, such as British English. A more comprehensive and less purist study of Singapore-Malayan English (SME) was conducted by Platt and Weber (1980), who linked the emergence of this variety of
English to the gradual development of English-medium education during the
British colonial period and the subsequent penetration of English into the speech
repertoires of the local communities. Unlike Tongue’s study, their descriptions
foregrounded the sociolinguistic contexts of SME. Through comprehensive
analyses of SME features, they found the degree of divergence from British
English to be correlated with variables such as formality, domain and relationship between interlocutors.
During the same period, a trend towards legitimising what Kachru (1982, p.
55) termed “institutionalized varieties” was already in train. Peter Lowenberg’s
(1984) work on ME in particular, had begun to transform the ways scholars
thought about the distinctive features of ME. A strong proponent of the Kachruvian paradigm, Lowenberg viewed these features as evidence of nativisation—a
process whereby the language changes as it acculturates to “‘unEnglish’ ecologies” (Lowenberg, 1984, p. 32). For him, these linguistic divergences were “adaptations of English to sociocultural meanings and communicative functions that
English must express if it is to be used in new sociolinguistic settings” (Lowenberg, 1984, p. 10) and did not constitute a violation of native-speaker norms.
This attitude was important in setting trends in the field, and contemporary studies of ME have continued to underline the importance of adopting a functional
approach in interpreting linguistic change in ME and the linguistic practices of
the communities that use the language (e.g., Nair-Venugopal, 2000b; Gill, 2002;
and Rajadurai, 2004).
The emergence of ME is intimately connected with the roles and functions of English in
British Malaya, which comprised the Malay Peninsula and Singapore. Because of this,
early scholarship in this area tended to regard the variety of English spoken in Malaysia
and Singapore to be a single variety. It was only in the latter part of the 1980s that
scholars in this field began to view them as separate varieties.
Roles and functions
1.2 Roles and functions of English in Malaysia
With the independence of the Federation of Malaya in 1957, and subsequently,
with the creation of Malaysia in 1963, the newly-independent state inherited an
administration, a judicial system and an educational infrastructure which were
essentially English-language based. While Malay (Bahasa Malaysia) was declared the national language, English continued to be the de facto official language. However, rising Malay nationalism led to the 1967 National Language
Act which decreed the gradual removal of the official status of the English language. Implemented in Peninsular Malaysia in 1967, the conversion to Malay in
diverse official domains took nearly 20 years, and was only completed in 1985
when the official status of the English language in the state of Sarawak was renounced (Asmah, 1996, p. 516). Platt, Weber, and Ho’s (1983) observations of
some of the more visible consequences of this policy are quoted below:
Street signs and road signs are in Malay, shops are required to display signs in the
Malay language more prominently than in other languages, official forms are in Malay, and correspondence from government departments is also in the National Language. (p. 11)
During this period, it was the various government departments that saw the
most rapid decline in the status and functions of English. Expedited by the
overwhelming representation of Malays in the civil service, this conversion to
the Malay language was definitive. Today, with the exception of civil servants
and government officials working in foreign missions and the international arena, the vast majority of government departments use Malay for communication
and documentation purposes.
This gradual decline in the status of the former colonial language led to predictions that English would become a foreign language in Malaysia (e.g., Platt,
Weber, & Ho, 1983, p. 12; and Görlach, 1995, p. 14). The reality, however, has
not been as straight-forward. More than four decades after Bahasa Malaysia became the official language of Peninsular Malaysia, English remains a vital element of the linguistic landscape of Malaysia.
Perhaps most crucial in ensuring the continuing relevance of the language is
its status as a second language in the domain of national education. The National
Education Policy (Ministry of Education, Malaysia, 2012) refers to English as
one of the two “bahasa utama” (primary languages) (p. 9) that Malaysian students are expected to master, the other being Malay. This policy document however makes it clear that the status of English is intended to be secondary to that
of the national language:
English in Malaysia
Tujuan utama Memartabatkan Bahasa Malaysia (MBM) adalah untuk mengembalikan peranan bahasa Melayu sebagai bahasa kebangsaan yang menjadi alat
perpaduan, bahasa perhubungan utama dan bahasa ilmu ke arah membina negara
Tujuan utama Memperkukuh Bahasa Inggeris (MBI) adalah supaya bahasa komunikasi antarabangsa ini dikuasai dengan baik dan berkesan bagi membolehkan penerokaan pelbagai ilmu untuk bersaing di peringkat nasional dan global. (p. 57)
[The main purpose in upholding Bahasa Malaysia (MBM) is to restore the role of
the Malay language as the national language, so that it becomes the language of unity, the main language of communication and the language of knowledge for nation
[The main purpose in stressing the English language (MBI) is to enable an effective
mastery of this language of international communication to be gained. This will allow exploration of diverse spheres of knowledge and provide the capacity to compete at both the national and global levels.] 3
The status of English in the education domain has not always been so clearcut. In 1991, Malaysia, under then Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad,
launched Vision 2020, a policy aimed at transforming Malaysia into a first
world country by the year 2020. Various programmes designed to restructure the
economy, upgrade the technological capabilities of various sectors and develop
human resources were pursued in order to accelerate Malaysia’s transformation
into an industrialised nation. The implications of the Vision 2020 policy for the
role of English in the education domain were dramatic. The 1996 Education Act
(The Commissioner of Law Revision, Malaysia, 1996) sought to liberalise the
education sector in Malaysia and develop Malaysia as a regional educational
hub, and this resulted in the expansion of the private tertiary education sector.
English-medium private universities, especially those offering twinning programmes with foreign universities, became very popular among Malaysian students (David, 2004, pp. 9-10). The impact of this trend was noted by Azirah
(2009), who observed the following:
As a result, higher education has become divided into either Malay-medium or English-medium, with the government universities using the former and the private universities the latter, entailing that graduates of private universities became more
sought after because of their competency in English. (p. 41)
The growing awareness that Malaysian “engineers and businesspeople,
amongst others” (Schneider, 2003b, p. 53) needed to be proficient in English in
order to compete in an increasingly globalised and technologically-advanced
world also lent momentum to the push for English to be positioned more promi3
English translation by Tan Siew Imm.
Roles and functions
nently. There were calls for English to be re-introduced as the medium of instruction, at least for technical subjects, but these were met with resistance from
various parties who feared that the use of English would “weaken the further
development of the Malay language” (Schneider, 2003b, p. 53). In spite of this
opposition, in 2003, the position of English in the domain of education was partially reinstated as English was made the medium of instruction for the teaching
of mathematics and the sciences in primary and secondary schools (see David,
2004, p. 8 for more information on the implementation of the policy). However,
in 2010, responding to political and administrative pressures, the government
made the decision to gradually revert to the use of Malay as the sole medium of
instruction for all subjects in national schools (Ministry of Education, Malaysia,
2010). Expected to be fully implemented by 2016, this change in policy represents yet another dramatic change in the status of English in Malaysian primary
and secondary schools.
Besides its role in the domain of education, English is also today very much
in evidence in the spheres of business and industry. The dominance of English in
the corporate and industrial sectors is best illustrated in Asmah’s (1996) review
which notes the overwhelming preference for English as the language used in
prospectuses, agreements, contracts, policies and regulations. Her explanation
for this trend is as follows:
Business and industry is traditionally a non-Malay area. It has been dominated by
the Chinese and the Europeans. It is only in the 1970s that the Malays started to venture into big business, gaining access through government assistance with the implementation of the New Economic Policy (1970) .... Pragmatism has made Malayowned companies (e.g., Sapura and CELCOM, both of which are in communication
technology) retain English as the main, if not the sole, language of communication.
This is because they have to join the mainstream business and industry in the country as well as participate in international networks in order to succeed. (p. 524)
More recently, Nair-Venugopal’s studies on language practices and choices
of Malaysian corporate workplace (2000a, 2000b, 2001 and 2003) have also underlined the tenacity with which English has continued to dominate this domain.
In spite of the gradual but steady move away from English in other spheres of
the country, the language “has remained the normative language of corporate
business in Malaysia,” and “even Bank Negara (the Central Bank) and government corporations and some agencies continue to use English” (Nair-Venugopal,
2001, p. 21). This is very much in response to the dominance of the English language in an increasingly globalised world economy.
English also occupies a highly visible position in print and electronic media.
English-language newspapers and magazines, radio and television programmes,
advertisements and, more recently, internet websites, form a substantial propor-
English in Malaysia
tion of Malaysians’ media consumption, whether or not they are active users of
English (see Asmah, 2000, p. 19; and Nair-Venugopal, 2000b, p. 48 for details).
In fact, Azirah (2009, pp. 41-42) credits a growing interest in learning English
and increased use of the language among the general public to the dominance of
English in diverse forms of media. In the literary and creative spheres, English,
and perhaps more significantly ME, appear to have maintained an audience, if
the popularity of writers and playwrights such as Shirley Lim, Lloyd Fernando,
Huzir Sulaiman, Leow Puay Tin, Kee Thuan Chye and Jit Murad, is any indication (see Merican, 2000). In many of these works, English has been appropriated, often linguistically reshaped, to portray the diverse experiences of a nation
comprising “a significant diasporic population from multiple traditions (that) has
given rise to a complexity in Malaysian culture” (Quayum, 2007, p. 29). This is
a sign, perhaps, of the coming of age of Malaysian English literature.
It is perhaps in the legal domain that the English language has most persistently retained its earlier functions. In 1983, an amendment was made to the National Language Act, requiring all court proceedings (“other than for oral testimonies [where there is] an option for English to be used”) to be conducted in
Malay (Azirah, 2009, p. 40). However, despite this change, the monumental efforts expended by Malaysia’s Dewan Bahasa dan Pustaka (Institute of Language and Literature) to create thousands of Malay legal terms, and the call by
certain parties to completely abolish the use of English in the courts (see Powell,
2004 for details), the English language still retains a place in Malaysia’s judicial
system. While it is true that Malay is the primary language used in the lower
courts, and that proficiency in Malay is a prerequisite for admittance to the Bar,
English is still an important language of higher court proceedings and private
practice. The preservation of English in the legal domain seems to be linked, at
least in part, to the view that Malay is “too vague or context-bound to be manipulated for litigation” while English “has evolved frozen registers for law that
attempt to strip terms of context and remove authorship from texts so that they
become difficult to dispute” (Powell, 2004, p. 125).
Hence, although English no longer has an official status in Malaysia, it still
plays a very lively role in the society. That it is a key “language of international
and regional contacts” (see Benson, 1990 for details), and that it is widely regarded as the language for personal advancement and national progress (see
Kaur, 1995 for details) are other factors that have resulted in widespread acquisition of the language. Today, ME is disseminated across various domains, and
performs diverse instrumental and integrative functions alongside other languages within the country (Baskaran, 1988; Newbrook 1997; and Rajadurai,
2004). It is a communicational tool for a significant segment of the multiethnic
Earlier studies
population, and plays a central role in the domains of family and friendship in
the urban areas of Malaysia (e.g., David, 2006a).
1.3 Earlier studies of Malaysian English
The widespread use of English in the multiethnic, multilingual context of Malaysia has promoted systematic changes in the linguistic system of the language.
These changes have been diversely theorised, but several milestone studies have
shaped the way we look at variation and change in ME. One of the most discerning descriptions of this variety of English, or more precisely the English of Singapore and Malaysia (ESM), was produced by Tongue (1974), whose comprehensive body of phonological, syntactic, lexical and stylistic features of ESM
has been an important source of information for later scholars in the field (e.g.,
Platt & Weber, 1980; Wong, 1983; and Lowenberg, 1984). Despite the obvious
value attached to his data, Tongue’s treatment of ESM has been criticised for
advocating linguistic purism. Tay (1986), for instance, expressed the opinion
that Tongue had failed to recognise ESM as a linguistic system in its own right
and instead treated it “as a deviant form of British English” (p. 103). This is particularly obvious in Tongue’s interpretation of the internal variation of ESM, an
aspect of the variety that led him to dichotomise it into two “dialects”: (1) a
formal, educated sub-variety that he perceived to be “universally and immediately comprehensible to any native speakers of English, and (therefore) a significant addition to the rich catalogue of English dialects” because of its similarity
to Standard British English; and (2) a colloquial sub-variety which he regarded
as “sub-standard (and) clearly unacceptable” (pp. 11-12). In respect of the second sub-variety, he stressed the need for the “sub-standard” features to be “corrected if the speaker wishes to speak English which is intelligible and respected
on an international scale” (p. 12).
In this assessment, Tongue failed to give enough consideration to the covert
prestige of these colloquial features. Although he was aware of their function as
“intimacy signals” (p. 11), Tongue did not, as noted by Lowenberg (1984), fully
appreciate that these radically divergent features “are sociolinguistically necessary to mark diverse styles, identities, and registers in the non-native sociocultural contexts of Singapore and Malaysia” (pp. 17-18).
Another problematic aspect of Tongue’s work is how he construed international intelligibility to mean intelligibility to the so-called native speakers of
English. It has long been known that speakers of British English and American
English are not the most easily understood by speakers of other national varieties, and nor are they the most able to understand the different varieties of Eng-
English in Malaysia
lish (see, for instance, Smith, 1988). More importantly, the pluricentricity of
English means that native-like fluency is no longer the sole avenue for claiming
intelligibility. In their recent exploration of the issue of intelligibility in an increasingly diverse English-speaking world, Kachru and Smith (2008) demonstrated how, beyond intelligibility, using English cross-culturally involves comprehensibility and interpretability. They propose that while grammatical competence and fluency may lead to higher levels of intelligibility and comprehensibility, they do not necessarily result in a higher level of interpretability. This last,
Kachru and Smith (2008) argue, requires cultural competence, by which they
mean the following:
One must remember that when communicating with people who use a different variety of English than one’s own, those people will likely use a different pronunciation,
intonation, and vocabulary. More importantly they will also use their own cultural
conventions of communication (e.g. politeness strategies, appropriate topics of conversation, sequence of information) as well as speech act functions (e.g. ways of
greeting, showing agreement, using directives, making refusals, leave-taking, etc.).
(p. 66)
A more rounded study of Singapore-Malayan English (SME) was undertaken by Platt and Weber (1980), who linked the emergence of this variety (and
other New Englishes) to the gradual development of English-medium education
during the British colonial period, and the subsequent penetration of English into
the speech repertoires of the local communities. According to Platt and Weber,
although the variety of English taught in these early schools was officially “a
British type of educated English” (p. 19), a local home-grown variety soon
emerged, as children who spoke Hokkien, Cantonese, Malay and Tamil at home
were expected to speak English in school. Characterised by phonological, syntactic and lexical features that were the results of processes of simplification and
transfer, this variety of English was transmitted beyond school grounds when
school children began using English voluntarily at home, in the playground, and
so on. Many children were exposed to a local version of the language before
they even started school, and in this way, Platt and Weber proposed, a colloquial
variety appropriate for use with family and friends emerged. They referred to
this phenomenon as a “partial ‘petrification’ of the interlanguage” (p. 20). A
similar viewpoint was posited by Wong (1981), who maintained that the English
used under these circumstances was an approximation of the standard English
taught in schools. The interlanguage stage, she argued, became petrified because
of insufficient contact with native speaker models and because the speakers
found their interlanguage forms adequate for their communication needs. Such
arguments ignored the reality that for many Malaysians, the use of colloquial
ME is a matter of choice, and that many highly-educated Malaysians switch to
Earlier studies
the colloquial variety of ME with its profoundly divergent features in order to
signal solidarity and familiarity.
In spite of the native-speaker bias reflected in some aspects of their work,
Platt and Weber’s study made significant contributions to our understanding of
SME. Of particular importance was their speech continuum framework which
postulated that SME varies along an axis according to the educational level and
the socio-economic status of the speakers. Platt and Weber’s (1980) proposition
with regard to the internal variation observed in SME was that:
(SME) is very obviously a continuum, ranging from an educated acrolect, which is
most definitely an international language ... comprehensible to English speakers outside the region, through mesolects which vary more and more from the acrolect, to
the basilectal end of the continuum, a variety spoken by those with minimal Englishmedium education or by others in very informal situations. (p. 23)
Many subsequent scholars of Singapore and Malaysian Englishes (e.g., Chandrasegaran, 1981; Wong, 1981; Chew, 1995; Morais, 2001; and Baskaran, 2005)
have made use of this lectal continuum model in their explorations of these varieties.
A new way of viewing SME was introduced by Lowenberg (1984), who
brought to light the native-speaker bias of earlier studies. Lowenberg stressed
that several key assumptions underlying the earlier studies—that speakers of
new varieties of English aspire to a native speaker model, that all linguistic divergences in new varieties of English are the results of the imperfect learning of
a second language, and that colloquial linguistic features are sub-standard—
needed to be reassessed in the context of SME.
Following Kachru (1982), Lowenberg (1984, pp. 34-35) classified SME as
an institutionalised second-language variety of English. These are varieties that
have evolved in former colonies of Great Britain or the United States where
English has been retained as a second language, functioning as the language of
government and administration, commerce, education, intra- and inter-ethnic
communication, literature and so on. Calling for a more pragmatic and functional approach to the study of these varieties, Lowenberg demonstrated how SME
acquired linguistic features which do not exist in native-speaker varieties, not
because it is an inadequate approximation of the latter, but because it plays diverse roles in the new speech community—a community which is linguistically,
culturally and socially different from those in which native speaker varieties are
used. Regardless of whether they were transferred from other languages of the
community or whether they were the results of innovative lexical constructions
and collocations, it is important to understand that these features are manifestations of processes of nativisation and acculturation, and that they are “acceptable, appropriate, and often necessary in their new settings” (Lowenberg, 1984, p.
English in Malaysia
32). Such linguistic divergences, Lowenberg argued, do not constitute a violation of native-speaker norms, but are “adaptations of English to sociocultural
meanings and communicative functions that English must express if it is to be
used in new sociolinguistic settings” (p. 10).
An interesting facet of Lowenberg’s (1984, pp. 113-124) work was his attempt to refine Platt and Weber’s (1980) representation of SME as a speech continuum. Using degree of nativisation as a criterion, he attempted to empirically
distinguish the three sociolects of SME. According to Lowenberg, at the acrolectal end of the spectrum, SME reflects little evidence of nativisation. With the
exception of words borrowed from local languages to express local sociocultural
concepts, this sub-variety is structurally very similar to standard native-speaker
varieties. The mesolect, he suggested, is used by educated SME speakers in
semi-formal situations and exhibits a higher degree of nativisation. This subvariety borrows words from local languages even when there are equivalent
English terms (e.g., They chop [stamp] your ticket when you go in.). In the
sphere of phonology, certain consonants are modified (e.g., // in three, and /ð/
in the, are often realised as /t/ and /d/), and some consonant clusters are reduced
(e.g., ask is often pronounced as /s/). In terms of syntax, there is considerable
reduction in the use of verbal inflections (e.g., This radio sound good.). The
highest degree of nativisation, Lowenberg postulated, is observed in the basilect,
a colloquial sub-variety used in very casual contexts, such as in every-day conversations among family and friends. At the level of phonology, Malay speakers
of basilectal SME tend to lose the /f/-/p/ distinction, Indian speakers the /v/-/w/
distinction, and Chinese speakers the /l/-/r/ distinction. The syntax of the basilect, he further suggested, is characterised by widespread deletion of the copula (e.g., This coffeehouse very good.); deletion of the auxiliary do in questions
(e.g., Then how we manage to cope?); deletion of subject (e.g., [I] speak Cantonese also.) and object pronouns (e.g., We don’t have [it].); and the occurrence
of phrase- or sentence-final particles, such as la, man, what, and ah (e.g., Evening swim is better la.). In terms of its lexicon, he observed a tendency to assign
new meanings to existing English words. For instance, open and close are often
used to mean “to turn on” and “to turn off” (light switches and taps) respectively.
Although it is appealing to view the three sociolects as being distinct subvarieties of SME, each with its typical patterns of nativisation, the reality is not
as straightforward. Nativisation is a highly subjective variable and to suggest
that it can be graded by establishing the presence of particular types of linguistic
features is problematic. Even Tongue’s seemingly simple standard/sub-standard
dichotomy is difficult to sustain. Tongue (1974) himself conceded that “the line
between ESM and sub-standard forms is extremely difficult to draw with confi-
Earlier studies
dence” (p. 10). Even more significant was a classroom experiment conducted
by Tay (1986). In this study, Tay played recordings of Singaporean English
speech and asked her students to classify them according to the three sociolects.
The students found the task problematic despite the fact that an earlier task requiring them to identify the age, sex, educational background, ethnicity, and socio-economic status of the speakers was accomplished easily. This led Tay to
conclude that it is exceptionally difficult to categorise actual discourse according
to the three sociolects.
Throughout the history of research on non-native varieties of English, one
recurring proposition has been that these new varieties of English have a typical
“life cycle” (Moag, 1982, p. 270) or “evolutionary cycle” (Schneider, 2003a, p.
256). Schneider’s (2003a and 2007) Dynamic Model is of particular interest.
Based on language contact theories, this model proposes that the evolution of
English in diverse postcolonial localities typically undergoes five progressive
phases of “identity rewritings and associated linguistic changes” (Schneider,
2007, p. 30)—foundation, exonormative stabilisation, nativisation, endonormative stabilisation and differentiation. Each of these phases can be broadly distinguished in terms of the socio-political and historical events that marked the period; the characteristic identity constructions by the groups in contact—the English-speaking settlers and the indigenous communities; the significant sociolinguistic factors that shaped the contact situation; and the structural changes that
emerged during the period of evolution.
Schneider’s account of the evolution of ME (2003b and 2007, pp. 144-153)
demonstrates the correlations among the sociohistorical parameters, the attitudes
of the groups in contact, and the linguistic variability of the emerging variety of
English. According to his analysis, the foundation and exonormative stabilisation of ME occurred over the period between 1786, when the British East India
Company established its first trading post in Penang, and 1957, when the Federation of Malaya was established. During the foundation phase, the interaction
between British colonial officers and traders, and the local communities was
minimal. Both groups maintained different languages, but more significantly for
Schneider’s framework, different identities—the English-speaking settlers associated themselves with their homeland (usually, Britain) and viewed their residence in the colony as temporary, while the local communities, speaking diverse
ancestral languages, considered themselves as belonging to the region. In this
context, Schneider considers the change in the settlers’ English as having been
minimal, restricted to the borrowing of local toponyms.
The exonormative stabilisation phase of Schneider’s ME model is represented by large-scale labour migration from China and India which resulted in the
diversification of the Asian populations of the region. The elite of the local
English in Malaysia
Asian communities began to learn English for instrumental purposes, allowing
for more intense contacts between the colonised and the colonisers. The language orientation of the settlers was still largely exonormative although the influences of local languages became more pronounced during this period—with
terms related to flora, fauna and cultural concepts gradually creeping into the
variety of English used in the region.
The nativisation phase, Schneider claims, began after independence in 1957,
despite the implementation at that time of nationalist language policies aimed at
promoting Malay, and reducing the status and official roles of English. The
original settler group shrank dramatically and the few individuals who remained
married locally and, in time, considered themselves Malaysians. The Englisheducated elite of the indigenous strand identified themselves by their nationality
and ethnicity, but also by their western world-view cultivated through the colonial education system. Widespread multilingualism in English, Malay and diverse ancestral languages of the population, and continuing regard for English
and its functions, allowed the language to continue to evolve. Reflecting the local identities of its speakers, it gained localised vocabulary items and pronunciation patterns, and underwent structural nativisation manifested in morphological
and syntactic changes. No longer a language associated with the elite, it began to
exhibit internal variation producing sociolects that allowed its users to assert diverse identities. ME, according to Schneider, now stands at this stage of its evolution.
The lack of serious attempts to codify this variety of English led Schneider
to propose that ME has not progressed past this third phase of the Dynamic
Model. Nevertheless, he acknowledges that, given the increasing awareness
among scholars of the need for a local standard and the use of ME in the literary
sphere, it is likely that this variety will progress to the endonormative stabilisation phase of evolution.
Clearly ground-breaking, Schneider’s works demonstrate the value of language contact theories to our understanding of the evolution of ME as well as
other Postcolonial Englishes.
1.4 Contact-induced change in Malaysian English: A
corpus-based study
In spite of the implementation of nationalist language policies that have successfully curtailed the official functions of English in Malaysia, the language still
occupies a prominent place within country, playing various “planned” and “un-
Contact-induced change
planned” roles in wide-ranging domains (Asmah, 1983a, p. 229). Crystal (2003,
p. 63) estimates the number of first language and second language users of English in Malaysia at 380,000 and 7 million respectively. This suggests that approximately one-third of the nation’s population speaks English, and that the
vast majority of these English-speaking individuals are dominant in another genetically-unrelated language. In this multilingual milieu, the interactions between English and the languages of the various communities in Malaysia are
multifaceted and complex, occurring at both the societal and the individual levels. At the societal level, English-speaking groups interact with those that speak
languages such as Malay, Hokkien, Tamil, and so on. At the individual level, the
speech of multilingual speakers of ME brings English into contact with the other
languages within their repertoire. This combination of societal multilingualism
and individual multilingualism (see Appel & Muysken, 2005, pp. 1-4 for more
details) formed the contact situation par excellence in which ME emerged and
has continued to evolve.
This volume is an attempt to construct a robust and yet novel narrative of
variation and change in contemporary ME. Setting this study within a framework of contact linguistics has many advantages. First, as noted by Winford
(2003), this field “employs an eclectic methodology that draws on various approaches, including the comparative-historical method, and various areas of sociolinguistics” (p. 9). Second, much of the knowledge and many of the perspectives available in this field today have been developed through systematic investigations of diverse languages and language contact situations, from the casual
contact between English and Japanese, through the heavy influence of Old
Norse on Old English, to the formation of pidgins and creoles. Such a broadbased, interdisciplinary approach has equipped this framework with a wide
range of analytical tools well-suited to an investigation of a contact variety like
ME. Thirdly, the field of contact linguistics has evolved a sophisticated frame of
reference to deal with the extensive social parameters that can have an impact on
the outcomes of language contact. The importance of considering social settings
in interpreting linguistic change is stressed by Siemund (2008):
It has been observed that the number of speakers in the respective language groups,
the relative social status of the groups involved as well as the relative prestige of the
languages to a great extent determine the linguistic outcome of language contact. In
addition, it matters a lot how long two communities with different languages stay in
contact and, above all, how intense the social and linguistic contact between the
groups is. One of the best predictors of contact-induced language change is probably
the degree of bilingualism found across the communities in contact and, ... whether
one community is gradually shifting to the language of the other community. (p. 4)
English in Malaysia
As demonstrated in various studies, contemporary ME is characterised by
the presence of a great number of features which do not occur (or do not occur
as frequently) in inner-circle varieties of English. From the presence of words
and metaphorical expressions originating in the ancestral languages of the local
communities, to localised phonological patterns, to the sweeping restructuring of
the syntax, there is obviously a great deal of complexity in how ME has been
influenced by the languages of the major ethnic groups in Malaysia.
In order to draw meaningful generalisations about contact-induced change in
ME, the present study classifies these features into two groups according to the
processes that engendered them: (1) lexical borrowing and lexical creation, and
(2) group second language acquisition. This method of classification is important on two counts. First, collectively, these three processes produce the vast
majority of ME linguistic features. In Schneider’s (2007) Dynamic Model, the
comparative distribution of the linguistic effects of these processes of change,
which he terms lexical borrowing and structural nativisation, is an important
dimension in his demarcation of the various phases of the evolution of Postcolonial Englishes. In his analysis of the current (“nativization”) phase of ME, he
observes that ME “has undergone structural nativisation on all levels of language organization” and has borrowed words in “many spheres of life” from the
local languages (Schneider, 2007, pp. 151-152). The linguistic outcomes of these processes of contact-induced change are clearly representative of variation
and change in ME. Second, these processes have been diversely theorised in the
field of contact linguistics, and have been shown to be distinct—not only in
terms of their linguistic outcomes but also in terms of the social settings in
which they occur. Thomason (2001), for instance, distinguishes “changes that
occur when imperfect second-language learning plays no role in the process
from those that occur when imperfect learning is a significant factor in determining the linguistic outcome of contact” (p. 66). The borrowed and created features
examined in this volume fall neatly under her first category of changes, while
the group second language acquisition features have more in common with her
second category of changes. In Winford’s (2003) framework, lexical borrowing
and lexical creation are processes of contact associated with language maintenance—the continuing use of a language in spite of contact with and competition from other languages. Group second language acquisition, on the other
hand, is associated with language shift—the replacement of the language of the
community by another, usually more powerful one. How these language contact
theories inform the construction of a narrative on contemporary ME will be examined in Chapters 4 and 5 of this volume.
The present study adopts a corpus-based approach to explore linguistic variation and change in ME. A 5-million-word corpus of Malaysian English news-
Contact-induced change
paper articles (herein named the Malaysian English Newspaper Corpus, or the
MEN Corpus) was compiled to generate relevant data for analysis (for details on
the construction of the MEN Corpus and how it has been utilised, see Chapter
3). Corpus-based approaches have been shown to be very effective in promoting
our understanding of how lexical, morphological, syntactic and discourse features are used (see Kennedy, 1998, pp. 88-203 for a comprehensive review of
corpus-based studies of the English language since the 1960s). A major advantage of working with corpora is that it allows aspects of the language to be
represented quantitatively, and the distributional patterns of particular linguistic
features have been found to be extremely useful in the context of the present
study. Even more importantly, corpus data facilitate the development of functional interpretations about why particular linguistic features or patterns exist
(Biber, Conrad, & Reppen, 1998, p. 9). These advantages have been crucial in
expanding the empirical base of the descriptions of contact-induced change in
ME contained in this volume.
In addition to a description of the linguistic characteristics of this variety,
the study also provides a comprehensive overview of the major processes
through which these linguistic features have been incorporated into ME, and an
account of the wider contact phenomena that have shaped this variety of English.
In summary, this volume is, first of all, a study of contemporary ME and
how it has changed due to its interactions with two of the most dominant groups
of languages in Malaysia—Malay and Chinese. The backdrop of the study is a
snapshot of the historical and socio-political landscapes of what is today Malaysia, and how these have produced the existing demographic structure, as well as
the diverse groups of ME users, their linguistic attitudes and their patterns of
social interaction. How these sociolinguistic forces work together in promoting
the systematic variation and change observed in ME today is a central concern
of this volume.
Chapter 2: The Historical Background of
Malaysian English
2.1 Introduction
Although this volume focuses on contemporary Malaysian English (ME), it
must be emphasised that the propensity for and direction of change observed in
the language today have a history. In order to comprehend the processes of
change that have led to the creation of a distinctive, localised variety of English
in Malaysia, it is crucial to examine aspects of the early history of the region. Of
particular importance are the formation of a complex multiethnic, multilingual
community in the Malay-Thai Peninsula (henceforth, the Peninsula), the transplantation of the English language into the region, the interactions between the
diverse language groups during various periods in history, the evolving status
and functions of the languages in contact, and the emergence of the multilingual
community that uses ME today. The reconstruction of these key events will set
the stage for a more holistic understanding of the contact situation within which
ME emerged. At the same time, it will also contextualise the current impetus for
change in this postcolonial variety of English.
During its evolution in the region that is today Malaysia, English has come
into contact with a range of diverse, typologically-distinct languages that include
dialects of Malay; numerous southern Chinese languages such as Hokkien,
Hakka, Cantonese, Teochew, Hainanese, Kwangsai, Hokchiu, Henghua and
Hockchia; 4 various languages spoken by the local South Asian communities
such as Tamil, Telegu, Malayalam, Singhalese, Urdu and Bengali; languages of
the indigenous groups of Peninsular Malaysia and Borneo such as Jakun, Semai,
Kadazan, Bajau, Dusun, Iban, Kayan, Melanau and Penan; and creoles such as
Baba Malay and Kristang (Asmah, 1982, pp. 55-59). However, not all of these
Established by the former colonial administrators, this categorisation of southern Chinese languages is widely accepted in Malaysia today. Modern linguists of Chinese (see
Norman, 1988, pp. 210-241) typically classify these languages into the Yue, Kejia and
Min groups. In my work, I retain the labels used in Malaysia—Hokkien, Cantonese, Teochew and so on. However, instead of viewing them as dialects of the same language as
is the practice in most studies of ME (e.g., Platt, 1977; and Pakir, 2004), I consider them
different Chinese languages. The primary reason for this is that, although they share the
same writing system, these languages are not mutually intelligible (see Wong &
Thambyrajah, 1991, pp. 3-4). Not only are there significant differences in their vocabularies and syntax, but even where their vocabularies overlap, there is considerable discrepancy in the pronunciation of the words.
Historical background
languages have been influential enough to exert changes on the linguistic system
of English in Malaysia. From the results of earlier studies (see, in particular,
ground-breaking works by Tongue, 1974; Platt & Weber, 1980; and Lowenberg,
1984), it can be concluded that the vast majority of localised ME features reflect
the influences of two of the three most socially dominant groups of languages in
Malaysia—Malay and Chinese. Together with Indian languages, Malay and
Chinese have featured prominently in the linguistic landscape of this region for
at least a millennium.
The Malay language has long been a language of prestige in the Peninsula.
From being the language of the Malay communities that inhabited the coastal
areas, it rose to become the language of the ruling class, and the lingua franca of
trade and commerce in much of Southeast Asia during its “Age of Commerce”
from the 15th to the 17th century (Reid, 1988). It continued to be the key language for inter-ethnic communication through the Portuguese (1511 to 1641)
and Dutch (1641 to 1795) occupations of Melaka, and the British colonisation of
Malaya (1786 to 1957). The language has enjoyed a dramatic revival in status
since the country achieved independence from British rule in 1957. In addition
to being the ancestral language of the largest ethnic group, 5 it is today the national and sole official language of Malaysia, as well as the medium of instruction of all national schools. In spite of competition from English and Mandarin,
it has remained the most widely-used language for inter-ethnic communication.
The Indians and the Chinese were some of the first peoples to have interactions with coastal communities of Archipelagic Southeast Asia (henceforth, the
Archipelago). By the 3rd century CE, Chinese envoys were recording accounts of
the physical geography of the Peninsula, the people who inhabited this region
and their ways of life (Wheatley, 1955). When coastal trading centres emerged,
Chinese traders were some of the key participants in these early international
trade interactions. By the 14th century, there were reports of permanent Chinese
settlements in the region. But it was the 18th century that saw the greatest expansion of Chinese merchants and entrepreneurs moving into Southeast Asia, not
only to trade but also to take up residence (Blussé, 1999). Their population in
the region continued to grow with the large-scale migration of indentured labourers from south-eastern parts of China to the Peninsula during the second
half of the 19th century and the first half of the 20th century. These waves of mi5
According to the Malaysian government’s Population Distribution and Basic Demographic Characteristics 2010 (Department of Statistics, Malaysia, n.d.), the Malays
make up 63.1% of the population of Peninsular Malaysia, and 54.6% of the entire population of the country. Together with the indigenous groups of Peninsular Malaysia, as
well as Sabah and Sarawak, they form the category of Bumiputera, which constitutes
67.4% of the population of Malaysia.
gration over several centuries changed the entire demographic structure of the
Peninsula from one that was predominantly Austronesian-speaking to one in
which the indigenous people were being outnumbered by the Chinese. By 1911,
the Chinese formed 51.79% of the population of the Straits Settlements and
41.78% of the population of the Federated Malay States (Platt & Weber, 1980,
pp. 8-9). Today, the Chinese, comprising 24.6% of the population, form the second largest ethnic group in Malaysia (Department of Statistics, Malaysia, n.d.).
The community maintains a wide range of ancestral languages originating in
southern China (e.g., Hokkien, Cantonese, Teochew, Hakka and Hainanese) as
well as Mandarin. The rising status of the latter is widely regarded as the result
of the successful maintenance of a Chinese education system which adopts
Mandarin as the medium of instruction as well as the growing importance of
China over the last 50 years. Hence, despite the fact that no single group in Malaysia can claim an ancestral connection to Mandarin, the language has become
an important intra-ethnic lingua franca, and the language of “prestige” (Wong &
Thambyrajah, 1991, p. 4) among those who were educated in Chinese schools.
The social dominance of the Malay and Chinese languages has resulted in
these languages impacting the evolution of ME in clear and compelling ways.
As such, special attention will be devoted to these languages in the historical
overview that follows. This narrative of ME will, first and foremost, consider
the emergence of the multiethnic, multilingual community that uses the language today. The population of modern Malaysia is often represented, rather
simplistically, as comprising three major ethnic groups—the Bumiputeras,6 the
Chinese, and the Indians. Beyond the fact that Bumiputera is not an ethnic category, these terms are also problematic in that they give the impression that ethnic and linguistic boundaries in Malaysia are well-defined. The historical account below will attempt to demonstrate the actual diversity and hybridity that
lies beneath these convenient ethnic categories. Secondly, this narrative will also
offer glimpses of contact situations which preceded the evolution of the English
language in this region. It is argued that the contact situation which has given
rise to ME must be viewed as a long-term and extensive range of connections
among diverse languages. Only in this way, will we be able to account for the
contact-induced variation and change seen in ME today.
Literally, “sons of the soil,” Bumiputera is a category created by the Malaysian state to
designate those citizens it considers indigenous to Malaysia.
Historical background
2.2 The Peninsula before the arrival of the English
The Southeast Asian Archipelago which encompasses modern Indonesia, Brunei
and Malaysia, and includes southern Thailand and the Philippines has long been
inhabited by people who speak various Austronesian languages (Bellwood, Fox,
& Tryon, 1995, p. 1). It has been suggested that by 1000 BCE, there were communities living in coastal and inland riverine areas of the Peninsula, operating
small “collecting centres ... (which) functioned as outlets for special local produce” and minerals such as tin and gold (Leong, 1990, p. 23). Archaeological
evidence found at the sites of collection centres in Selangor on the west coast,
and Terengganu on the east, suggests that these communities were engaged in
commercial interactions with island and mainland Southeast Asia. These interactions gradually expanded to include traders from the Middle East, India and
Trade and cultural contacts between diverse parts of Southeast Asia and Indic civilisations date back to at least 500 BCE. Archaeologists have found evidence of these interactions in various coastal sites extending from Thailand
(Chaisuwan, 2011, pp. 83-111) to central Vietnam (Lam, 2011, pp. 3-15). Some
of these polities “adopted and adapted ... a set of cultural values from India: political and religious ideologies, a broad spectrum of architectural and iconographic agendas, together with a distinguished language, Sanskrit, and scripts
soon adapted to transcribe their own languages” (Manguin, 2011, p. xvi). In the
Peninsula, some of the early collecting centres developed into “regional emporia, centres where goods were assembled from ‘feeder points’” (Leong, 1990, p.
23). Evidence of Indianisation of the Peninsula as a result of this contact can be
seen in the candis (temples) of Pengkalan Bujang in Kedah (Jacq-Hergoualc’h,
2001), and in 3rd century CE Chinese accounts of the region which noted the intermarriage between Indian men and local women, and the adoption of Hinduism and Buddhism by some parts of the population (Asmah, 1983b, pp. 18-19).
Another manifestation of the influence of India during this era was the incorporation into Old Malay of a great number of Sanskrit words related to “bureaucratic, religious and cultural practice” (Jones, 2007, p. xxii). Many of these borrowed features survived the Islamisation of Southeast Asia, when the influences
of Arabic and Persian burgeoned in the region. Words of Sanskrit origin that
have been retained in modern Malay include a wide range of terms including
agama “religion,” antara “between,” baca “read,” bahasa “language,” menteri
“minister,” puasa “to fast,” raja “ruler,” rupa “appearance,” and semua “all”
(Jones, 2007, p. xxii).
The Peninsula before English
The Chinese also had early interactions with Southeast Asia. In addition to
the 3rd century CE records of the Chinese mission to Funan, an ancient kingdom
believed to be located in the southern part of modern Vietnam, there also exist
several accounts of Buddhist pilgrimages to India which involved passage
through the Archipelago. One notable account is that of the 4th-century pilgrimage by the Chinese Buddhist monk, Faxian, who travelled overland from
Chang’an to India, but returned by sea via the Straits of Melaka (for details of
his travels, see Sen, 2006, pp. 25-27). Soon after that, supercentres for trade began to emerge in the Peninsula. Of these, Leong (1990) noted:
Conveniently located on the east-west maritime route and possessing good natural
harbours, adequate warehouse facilities ... and plentiful supplies of fresh water and
food, these ports were popular rendezvous for traders and merchants engaged in long
distance trade. (p. 26)
Archaeological evidence of Chinese trade products in these international trade
interactions abounds. One of the best documented entrepôts in the Peninsula,
Pengkalan Bujang, has yielded “over 10,000 potsherds of Chinese trade ceramics of the Southern Sung and Yuan periods” (Leong, 1990, p. 27).
The earliest account of Chinese settlement in the Archipelago appears to be
that provided by the Chinese trader Wang Da-yuan, who kept records of his
travels to Southeast Asia during the 14th century. In this work, entitled Dao-yi
zhi-lue ( ጦཧ䂼⮕ ) “Description of the Barbarians of the Isles” (1349), Wang
mentioned a place named Lung-ya-men (嗉⢉䰘 ) “Dragon-Teeth Gate,” which
most scholars associate with the Straits of Singapore, and noted that in that place
“the natives and the Chinese dwell side by side” (translated in Rockhill, 1915,
pp. 129-132; as cited in Wheatley, 1961, p. 82). Some fifty years later, we also
read of Hokkien and Cantonese emigrés residing in the port city of Palembang,
located on the south-eastern coast of the island of Sumatra, across the Straits of
Melaka from the Peninsula (Groeneveldt, 1880).
By 1400, we see the beginnings of the new polity of Melaka ruled over by
the Sumatran prince, Parameswara. The Islamisation of Southeast Asia began
during this period and continued well into the 15th century. This phenomenon
brought many societies in the region into contact with the Arab, Persian and Islamised South Asian worlds (Wade, 2010). This period of religious change resulted in the creation of Jawi, a writing system based on the Arabic script and
used across Southeast Asia (Kang, 1990). In this process, a great number of Arabic and Persian words relating to religion, law and state administration were
borrowed into Malay, sometimes directly but often through Urdu, Gujarati and
Bengali. The Malay language of Melaka also borrowed Arabic and Persian
words referring to daily objects and routines. Edwards and Blagden’s (1931)
Historical background
Chinese glossary of Malay words and phrases used in 15th-century Melaka includes features borrowed from these two languages—baju “cloth shirt” (entry
388), kopiah “‘small’ hat” (entry 386), kulah “gauze hat” (entry 384), salam “to
bow” (entry 333), seluar “trousers” (entry 390), and sujud “to ‘kowtow’” (entry
Fifteenth-century Melaka was home to diverse linguistic and cultural
groups, but a new wave of migration from China was to transform the demographic structure of the port city even more radically. To contend with the continuing threats from both Majapahit in Java and the Ayutthayan Empire in Siam,
Parameswara needed an external force upon which to rely. This came in the
form of Ming China, the emperor of which had just begun to despatch massive
armadas to Southeast Asia and beyond. These fleets, led by the eunuch admiral
Zheng He, required staging posts along their long routes and needed bases by
which to control the Straits of Melaka. It was thus that during the period 1405 to
1433, the Chinese state used Melaka as a major military and commercial base.
During this time, Chinese military forces numbering in the many thousands were
based at Melaka. Reid (2010) suggests that this led to cross-cultural marriages,
and consequently “hybridisation of language, dress, food and material culture”
(p. 308).
Some of the linguistic outcomes of Chinese contact in this period can also
be seen in Edwards and Blagden’s (1931) Chinese glossary of Melaka Malay.
The glossary indicates that words of Chinese origin such as cha(h) 㥦 “tea” (entry 402), chawan 㥦⻇ “tea cup” (entry 240), chengkeh б俉 “cloves” (entry 130),
daching བྷ〔 “weigh scale” (entry 288), and tofan བྷ仾 “typhoon” (entry 21)
were being used in the Malay language of that era.
The rise of Melaka as a global entrepôt and the “Age of Commerce” in
Southeast Asia (15th-17th centuries) vaulted the Malay language into prominence. In the Peninsula, the main lingua franca was the Malay language, or
more precisely, “a pidginized form of Malay with heavily reduced syntax and
lexicon” known as Bazaar Malay or Bahasa Pasar (Platt & Weber, 1980, p. 7).
Beyond the Peninsula, the language was being used across the Archipelago by
both its native speakers and by all those needing a lingua franca for trade. That
is to say, the Arabs, the Persians, the Chinese, the Tamils, the Bengalis, the
Thais and everyone else who wanted to trade in maritime Southeast Asia needed
to have, either themselves or through an interpreter, a working knowledge of the
regional trade language, Malay. Reid (1988) attributed the spread of this language to the fact that “the most important central entrepôts had ... for some time
been Malay-speaking—first Sri Vijaya and then its successors, Pasai, Melaka,
Johor, Patani, Aceh, and Brunei” (p. 7).
The Peninsula before English
Contact between peoples of such diverse linguistic and cultural backgrounds
inevitably led to changes in their languages. Some of the more well-known examples of language change of that era involved the borrowing of words from
Malay into the languages with which it came into contact. As noted by Reid
It was during this period that hundreds of Malay words in commercial, technological, and other fields passed into Tagalog ...; that the major trading centres of Cambodia came to be known by the Malay-derived term kompong; and that the Vietnamese adopted such words as cù-lao (from Malay pulau, for island). Similarly, Malay
words such as amok, gudang (storehouse), perahu (boat), and kris were noted by Europeans in Pegu and even in the Malabar coast of India, as if they were local words
.... (p. 7)
The Melaka Sultanate was brought to an end through a military attack in
1511 by representatives of the Portuguese crown, who took the city and transformed it into their major trading base in the Archipelago. Through the arrival of
the Portuguese, European languages were drawn into an already complex multilingual landscape. Asian and European cultures and languages were brought into
contact, resulting in mutual borrowing, which affected these languages to varying degrees. The Portuguese “introduced hitherto unknown everyday articles
with their Portuguese names, such as foods, plants and clothes, and in addition
they brought the Catholic faith with its own vocabulary” (Jones, 2007, p. xxx).
As a result of the influence of Portuguese, the Malay language acquired words
like bangku <Portuguese banco> “bench,” gereja <Portuguese igreja> “church,”
limau <Portuguese limão> “lemon, lime, citrus fruit,” and sabun <Portuguese
> “soap” (for a more comprehensive list, see Jones, 2007). Portuguese too
adopted many Asian vocabulary items, some of which subsequently found their
way into other European languages. Dalgado’s (1919) Glossario Luso-Asiatico
provides an authoritative listing of Asian loanwords that entered the lexicon of
Portuguese as a result of this 16th-century contact. The Portuguese creole, Kristang, also emerged during this period. Spoken by people of Portuguese and
Asian ancestry, this language is still spoken in Melaka and Singapore, though it
is currently classified as “seriously endangered” (Baxter, 2005, p. 1).
From the end of the 16th century, the arrival in Southeast Asia of the ships of
Dutch merchants and subsequently of the Dutch East India Company in pursuit
of spices brought yet another language into this polyglot region. Dutch was the
language of administration in the new Dutch Asian capital of Batavia, an extremely multilingual and multicultural city. In spite of this, the language did not
initially gain a strong foothold in the linguistic landscape of the Archipelago because of the “already firm position of Malay and Portuguese, which functioned
both as colloquial languages in Eurasian and European families and as contact
Historical background
languages/lingua francas extending from Madagascar to the Philippines” (Jones,
2007, p. xxx). It was only in the latter part of the 19th century that the use of
Dutch spread in Indonesia.
It was thus an extremely diverse linguistic landscape that the first English
traders encountered when they arrived in the Archipelago in the early 17th century.
2.3 The English language in the Archipelago: 17th to
18th century
The history of British colonisation of Malaya, and hence the historical background of English in Malaysia (and Singapore), is intimately linked to the pursuit, by English merchants, of maritime trade with South and Southeast Asia,
collectively known by them as the East Indies, in the 17th and 18th century. The
most commercially and politically powerful mercantile institution of the time
was the British East India Company (EIC). Established in 1600, the EIC began
as a trading company with business interests mainly in the Indian subcontinent
but later became a de facto auxiliary arm of the British Empire with military capabilities. Within the first hundred years of its inception, it had established trading posts in various parts of the Indian subcontinent, such as Surat and Bombay
in the west, Madras in the south, and Calcutta in the east. In 1711, the EIC established a trading post in Canton, China.
Throughout this period, EIC merchants plied the seas of South Asia, the
Southeast Asian Archipelago and the southern coast of China (See Farrington’s
[1999] Catalogue of East India Company Ships’ Journals and Logs, 1600-1834
for voyage details), coming into contact with diverse peoples. In the areas surrounding the Peninsula, they would have interacted with traders from most of
Asia, as well as those from the Arab and Mediterranean worlds. Negotiating this
“World System” (Glover, 1996, p. 59, quoted in Chaisuwan, 2011, p. 83) in
Southeast Asia required knowledge of the trade lingua franca, Malay. In The
Voyage of Sir Henry Middleton to Bantam and the Maluco Islands (annotated
and edited by Corney in 1856), which is an account of the second voyage of the
EIC to the East Indies (1604 to 1605), diverse local sociocultural terms were
employed, often unglossed. These included bahar <Malay bahar, originally Arabic> “a unit of measure, approximately equal to 560 pounds” (p. 25), caracoas
<Malay > “galley” (p. 34), <Malay perahu> “canoe” (p. 17),
pulo <Malay pulau> “island” (p. 33), and sabandar <Malay shahbandar, originally Persian> “officer in charge of the port and customs” (p. 37). Thus, through
EIC administration: 1786 to 1867
its interactions with the Malay world, the English language acquired Malay
words, including terms of Arabic and Persian origin. Though ephemeral at this
stage, the presence of these features gives us a glimpse of the complex dynamics
that would shape the English language used in the region.
2.4 Language contact during the EIC administration:
1786 to 1867
By the time Francis Light, on behalf of the EIC, established the British port of
Penang in 1786, English had been in contact, primarily through trade, with numerous varieties of Malay, Chinese and Indian languages for more than a hundred years. The continuing presence of the Dutch and Spanish colonial administrations in Batavia (1619 to 1942) and Manila (1521 to 1898) respectively contributed another facet to this language contact situation within which ME later
emerged. Nevertheless, Light’s acquisition of Penang did mark a new chapter of
the interaction between English and the languages of the Peninsula. The further
acquisitions by the EIC of Singapore in 1819 and Melaka in 1824 cemented the
British presence in the Peninsula. This was formalised when the three territories
were merged in 1826 to form the Straits Settlements. The settlements were administered by the British East India Company until 1 April 1867, at which date
they came under direct British control as a crown colony.
The early contact between English, which was the language of the EIC officials, and Malay, the lingua franca of regional trade and the language of the local Malay ruling class, inevitably led to the mutual transfer of words from one
language to the other. Although little research has been done on these early linguistic changes, some evidence can be derived from newspapers of this period.
It is beyond the scope of the present study to dwell on this area, but an example
worth noting, at least in passing, is the lists of commodity prices which appeared
regularly in the region’s first newspaper—the English-language Prince of Wales
Island Gazette 7—which was published in Penang from 1806 to 1830. These lists
show that a little more than twenty years after the British acquired Penang, Malay words were already becoming entrenched in the lexicon of the English language used in the region.
The Prince of Wales Island Gazette was first known as the Government Gazette (from
February to June 1806). On 7 June 1806, the newspaper adopted the new name, Prince
of Wales Island Government Gazette. This was shortened to the Prince of Wales Island
Gazette in October 1807 (Wade, 2002).
Historical background
Figure 2.1 is a reproduction of one such list. Intended for an English-reading
audience, this list shows two broad categories of features borrowed from Malay:
(1) names of local products such as attaps <Malay atap> “thatching made of
palm fronds,” cadjans (singular cadjan) <Malay kajang> “woven palm fronds
used to make parts of a hut such as the walls, roof, etc.,” catchang <Malay kacang> “beans, legumes, lentils, etc.,” dammer <Malay damar> “resin,”
neebongs (singular neebong) <Malay nibung> “a species of palm,” pooloot
<Malay pulut> “glutinous rice,” sagoe <Malay sagu> “pith found in the stem of
certain types of palm or the flour made from it,” samiers (singular samier) <Malay samir> “thatching made of nipah palm,” and seere <Malay sirih> “betel
leaf”; and (2) local units of measurement such as catty8 <Malay kati> “unit of
weight equivalent to approximately one and a third pounds,” chupah <Malay
chupak> “unit of weight and capacity equivalent to a quarter ganton,” coyan
<Malay koyan> “unit of weight equivalent to 40 peculs,” gantons (singular ganton) <Malay gantang> “a dry measure equivalent to approximately one gallon,”
and pecul <Malay pikul> “unit of weight equivalent to 100 catties.”
The influence of Indian languages was also significant, as is demonstrated
by the use of chittacks (singular chittack) <Bengali chhatak> “an Indian unit of
weight equivalent to an ounce,” chunam <Tamil cu am, also other Dravidian
languages and Hindi> “prepared lime that is chewed with betel leaves, also used
for fine polished plaster,” dholl <Hindi , also other Indian languages> “pulses,” dunniah <Hindi > “grain,” ghee <Hindi > “clarified butter,” jeerah
<Hindi jeera> “cumin,” pice <Hindi “a copper coin and an Anglo-Indian
monetary unit,” and shuroots (singular shuroot) <Tamil shuruu> “southern
Indian cigar with truncated ends.” Other sources of borrowed features include
Portuguese and Persian, as in brinjolls (singular brinjoll) <Portuguese bringella> “eggplant,” gram <Portuguese grão> “chickpea,” guglets (singular guglet)
<Portuguese gorgoleta> “water bottle,” jaggery <Indo-Portuguese jagara,
jagra> “palm sugar,” and kismisses (singular kismiss) <Persian kishmish> “raisins.” It is worth noting, first, that few of the Indian, Portuguese and Persian
words above occurred in the Malay language of the era (see, for instance, Crawfurd, 1852). This suggests that Malay was not the route through which they entered the vocabulary of English. Second, as these words did occur in Indian English of the period, it seems plausible that they were introduced into the English
language of the Peninsula by Indian merchants or EIC traders who had prior interactions with India.
Although this unit of weight is said to have been introduced to the Archipelago by the
Chinese, the word kati is of Malay-Javanese origin (see Yule & Burnell, 1903, p. 175).
The Chinese name for the unit equivalent to a catty is ᯔ (kin or jin).
EIC administration: 1786 to 1867
Of Articles in the market of George Town,
Prince of Wales Island,
Friday, December 26, 1806.
Attaps, large, per 1000 9 dollars,
_____ small, - - 7
Beetlenut, green, per 100, 4 to 5 pice,
________ dried, 6 to 10 ditto,
Beef, buffaloe, per catty, - 5 to 6 ditto
Bread, per loaf of 1 catty, 10 pice,
Brinjolls, 2 to 3 per pice,
Butter, 5 to 6 chittacks per dollar,
Benjamin, 12 pice per catty,
Boards, for sheathing, 7 to 8 dols. per 100
______ for flooring, 25 dollars per 100,
Cabbages, 10 to 15 pice each,
Cadjans, 4 per dollar,
Cucumbers, 1 to 2 per pice,
Cloves, 1¼ dollars per catty,
Cinnamon, 40 to 50 ditto,
Capons, 2 to 4 per dollar,
Cotton, 6½ dollars per pecul,
Costick, 12 ditto ditto
Catchang, green, 4 pice for chupah,
Chunam, fine, 25 pice per pot,
______ per coyan, 8 to 10 dollars,
Cocoanuts, Green, per 100, 2 to 3 dollars.
_________, Dried, per do. 3 to 4 do.
Candles, Tallow, 34 pice per catty.
______, Wax, 33 do. per do.
______, Bengal made, 8 per dollar.
Chillies, Dried, 2¼ pice per Chupah,
______, Green, 3 per do.
Dholl, 6 do. per do.
Dunniah, 6 ditto per ditto.
Ducks, 2 to 4 per dollar.
Dates, 5 to 6 pice per catty.
Eggs, 110 pice per hundred.
Fish, Salt, from 5 to 20 dollars per 100.
____, Fresh, 3 to 4 pice per catty.
Fowls, from 5 to 12 per dollar.
Firewood, 8 to 10 dollars per 1000 billets.
Gram, 6 ¼ gantons per dollar.
Ghee, Bengal, 1½ chupahs per do.
Fig. 2.1:
____, Coast none
____, Quedah, none in the market,
Garlick, 10 to 12 pice per catty,
Guglets, 25 pice each
Greens, 1 to 2 bundles per pice,
Jeerah, 11 pice per Chupah,
_____ black, 8 ditto,
Jaggery, 10 chupahs per dollar,
_______ in bundles, 10 pice per bundle,
Kismisses, 20 pice per catty,
Limes, 2 per pice,
Meittie, 5 pice per chupah,
Mutton, none in the market,
Milk, 5 to 6 chupahs per dollar,
Mats, coarse, 10 to 12 pice each,
____ rattan, 80 ditto,
Nutmegs, 1½ dollars per 100,
Neebongs, 17 to 20 per 100,
Oil, Bengal mustard seed, 3 to 3 ½ chupahs
___ cocoanut, 6½ ditto,
___ catchang, 7½ ditto,
___ earth, 12 ditto,
___ dammer, 10 ditto,
___ sweet, 3 ditto,
Oranges, 10 to 12 pice each,
Onions, red, 10 to 12 pice per catty,
Pumplemouse, 4 to 5 pice each,
Pineapples, 5 to 6 ditto,
Paddy, 22 gantons per dollars,
Pepper, black, 8 pice per chupah,
______ white, 15 pice per catty,
Plantains, 2 to 6 per pice,
Potatoes, Bengal, 8 dollars per pecul,
_______ sweet, 1½ ditto,
Pumpkins, red, 5 to 8 pice each,
________ white, 12 ditto,
________ water, none in the market,
Roes, fish, 2 to 2½ pice each,
Rattans, 10 pice per bundle,
Radishes, 1 to 2 pice each,
Rice, Bengal, fine, 7 gantons per dollar,
__________ coarse, 8½ ditto,
____ Quedah, fine, 8½ ditto,
___________ coarse, 12 ditto,
“Price Current” (Source: Prince of Wales Island Government Gazette, 27 December 1806)
Historical background
____ Pooloot, 6 to 8 ditto,
Sugar, soft, 12 pice per catty,
_____ candy, 20 to 25 ditto,
Sagoe, 8 to 9 gantons per dollar,
Seeree, or Beetle Leaf, 5 pice per 100,
Samiers, 100 per dollar,
Soap, 14 pice catty,
Saffron, 6 ditto,
Shuroots, Bengal, none,
Tamarinds, 2 to 4 pice per catty,
Turmerick, 5 pice per chupah,
Fig. 2.1:
Timbers, of madong wood, fit for building,
60 to 100 dollars per hundred, according to quality,
Tobacco, hookah, 10 to 15 pice per catty,
________ Java, 40 to 50 ditto,
________ China cut, 3 to 4 dollars per
Umbrellas, China paper, 20 to 90 pice
Yams, 1 dollar per pecul.
Police Magistrate.
The burgeoning of the Canton trade in the late 18th century provided a major
platform for the interactions between English and Chinese traders. Consequently, many Chinese words found their way into the lexicon of the English language used along the China coast (see Bolton, 2003, pp. 140-143 and pp. 154156). As Penang, Melaka and Singapore were all major ports on the India-China
maritime route, it was inevitable that some of these early Chinese features found
their way into the vocabulary of the English-speaking segments of the populations of these port cities. China-coast vocabulary, however, constituted a much
less significant part of the English language used in the Peninsula during that era
than did Malay vocabulary.
Madeira, warranted 12 years in
India, ...
ditto 16
Ditto, 10 years,
... ... ditto 14
Ditto, 8 years,
ditto 12
Sherry, in pints,
ditto 12
ditto 10
Cherries, in brandy, per bottle
2 50
Florence Oil, ...
... per dozen, 6
Fig. 2.2:
Bengal Canvas, per bolt, ... ...
Tincture of Bark, ....... per bottle 1
First Chop Hyson Tea, per catty,
1 50
Best Chulan Hyson Tea, in 10 catty
boxes, each,
.... .... .... 15
Ditto Padre Souchong, ditto, ...
Chinchew Sugar Candy, per tub, 14
Canton ditto,
.... ditto, 12
Wax Candles, .... .... per catty, 1
Bengal Boots, .... ....
per pair 6
______Shoes, .... ....
1 50
Pump Tacks, .... .... per 1000 2
Sail Needles, .... ....
per 100 2
Palm Irons, .... .... per dozen 1 50
Shoe Blackening, ....... per dozen 3
“Court and Bone” (Source: Prince of Wales Island Government Gazette, 11 October 1806)
British Malaya: 1867 to 1957
Figure 2.2 is a reproduction of an advertisement published in the Prince of
Wales Island Government Gazette on 11 October 1806. It shows examples of
words of Chinese origin used in the newspaper—Chinchew “the port of Quanzhou in Fujian,” Chulan “scented green tea,” Hyson “Chinese green tea,” and
Souchong “tea made from larger leaves.” Referring almost exclusively to products from China, these terms appear to be the most common features borrowed
from Chinese into the English used in Penang in the early 19th century.
2.5 Language contact in British Malaya: 1867 to 1957
The Straits Settlements became a crown colony in 1867, and this provided the
British with further opportunities for colonial expansion in the Peninsula. Over
the subsequent decades, they “intervened” in several of the peninsular states,
asserting control by proxy (Northcote Parkinson, 1960; and Sadka, 1968). By
1895, they had brought four of the Malay states—Selangor, Perak, Negeri Sembilan and Pahang—under British “protection” as the Federated Malay States.
Over the next fourteen years, five further Malay states—Johor, Kedah, Kelantan,
Perlis and Terengganu—were brought under the effective control of the British
(Thio, 1969). From 1942 to 1945, the Japanese occupied and controlled the entire peninsula (Kratoska, 1997). When the British returned, new constitutional
arrangements were drawn up, and in 1946, the Straits Settlements (excluding
Singapore), the Federated Malay States and the Unfederated Malay States were
unified under the Malayan Union, a federation which provided for equal citizenship rights for all ethnic groups (Stockwell, 1979). This, however, was opposed
by the new political party, United Malays National Organisation (UMNO), and
under pressure from UMNO and some members of the Colonial Office, the Malayan Union arrangement was abrogated, to be replaced by the Federation of
Malaya in 1948, under the Constitution of which Malays were assigned a “special position” (Fernando, 2002, p. 126). On the basis of these constitutional arrangements, Merdeka (Independence) was achieved in 1957, and in 1963, the
nation state of Malaysia (including Singapore, Sabah and Sarawak) came into
being. Singapore left the Federation and became independent in 1965 (Lee,
Through the late 19th- and early 20th-century British colonial expansion in
Malaya, the English language gradually acquired new “range and depth.” 9 In
The range of a language variety is “its extension into various cultural, social, educational, and commercial contexts” while its depth is “the penetration of bilingualism (in the
language) into various strata of society” (Kachru, 1986, p. 92).
Historical background
this expansion, the British adopted a method whereby the ruling Sultans were
retained but exercised absolute authority only over religious affairs and customary law, while British Residents were appointed to “advise” on economic and
administrative affairs, including the external relations of the states. Although
consultations between British officers and the Malay ruling class were conducted mainly in Malay though interpreters, English was the main language of government and administration of British Malaya. It also had important functions in
the domain of law, higher-end commerce and trade, media, Christianity, and to a
certain extent, education (Platt & Weber, 1980, p. 6).
This phase of contact between the British sojourners—comprising British
officials, civil servants, merchants and soldiers; and the local communities—
comprising the Malay aristocracy, local merchants, Malay farmers and fishermen, Chinese and Indian labourers, and so on, would have seen more intense
linguistic interactions, impacting the English language used locally in more
wide-ranging ways. Beyond trade terms, the British sojourners needed to make
reference to local phenomena. This was usually done in the most economical
way possible, and that was by using the relevant Malay or Chinese or Indian
words, thereby incorporating these vocabulary items into their English language.
Examples of such borrowing can be seen in Figure 2.3, an 1892 news story from
the Straits Times Weekly Issue relating to Perak, one of the Malay states with a
thriving tin-mining industry which employed a large number of Chinese indentured labourers or coolies. In this article, Sungei Tiram and Sungei Trong, which
are names of places in Perak, and bakau “mangrove” are borrowed from Malay;
while coolie “labourer,” kongsi “shared accommodation for labourers,” and towkay “head of a company” are borrowed from Hokkien.
The expansion of the tin and rubber industries in Malaya during this period
demanded a large contingent of labour, which was met through indentured and
free migration to the Peninsula from both China and India. Skilled and professional migrants from these two areas soon participated in this wave of migration,
gradually transforming the demographic structure of Malaya. It was thus that, in
Malaya, a very diverse population, today rather simplistically divided into three
major ethnic groups—the Malays (included in the broader category of Bumiputera), the Chinese and the Indians—was formed.
The beginnings of ME, as we know it today, however, lies not so much in
the simple transplantation of the English language into the region, as in the introduction of an English-medium education in Malaya. Although formal English-medium education was introduced as early as 1816, 10 it was mostly only
The first major English-medium school, the Penang Free School, was founded in 1816.
This was followed by the Singapore Institution (1823) and the Malacca Free School
British Malaya: 1867 to 1957
accessible to the elite of the society, especially during its initial years. As the
schools were usually located in urban areas and charged fees, only children of
well-to-do urban dwellers—typically “Chinese tin miners and traders as well as
... Indian textile merchants” (Asmah, 1996, p. 514)—could afford to send their
children to these schools. The Malays were, by comparison, lowly represented
because most of them resided in rural areas. Furthermore, many Malays were
suspicious of the proselytisation activities that had come to be associated with
English schools, especially those established by Christian missionaries (Asmah,
1996, p. 515).
On the 23rd, I held an inquest on the body of a Chinaman, who was taken by an alligator
out of his boat whilst rowing. From the evidence of the deceased’s companion at the inquest, it appears that he and the deceased were returning from Sungei Trong to their
kongsi at Sungei Tiram with a load of fresh water, the gunwale of the boat being only just
above water. About half way home, without any warning, an alligator sprang out of the
water and seized the deceased by the leg, dragging him into the river. His companion went
to his assistance, seizing him by the hand, and a tug of war commenced between the Chinaman and the alligator for the possession of the unfortunate coolie, ending, after a struggle of a few minutes, in the Chinaman having to let go his hold in order to prevent the boat
from swamping. As soon as he let go, his companion and the alligator disappeared under
water and he saw them no more; the boat swamped at the same time and the more fortunate coolie made the best of his way home through the bakau swamp. He returned, however, as soon as possible to the spot, with the towkay and the coolies of his kongsi, and after searching for two hours found the body floating above a quarter of a mile away from
the fatal spot. No time was lost in pulling the body into a boat, but before this was accomplished they had to beat off a huge alligator which came to the surface with the body, and
who had a grip on one of the legs. Having at length succeeded in beating off the monster
the body was safely stowed away in the boat, and, strange to say, that although the coolie
was taken at 8 a. m. and his body found at 4 p. m., none of the flesh had been eaten. The
alligators in this river have long been noted for their ferocity, and evidently do not intend
any longer to stick at trifles in order to satisfy their rapacity.
Fig. 2.3:
An extract from “Perak News” (Source: Straits Times Weekly Issue, 19 July
The Malays tended to send their children to sekolah pondok, literally “hut
schools,” for religious education which emphasises Quran reading, Arabic
grammar and other aspects of Islam (Rosnani, Saheed, & Mohd Roslan, 2011, p.
(1826). Later, schools were established in the Federated Malay States—the King Edward School in Taiping (1883) and the Victoria Institution in Kuala Lumpur (1894). In
addition, English-medium missionary schools, such as those of the De La Salle Christian Brothers, the American Methodist Mission and the Church of England were established both in the Straits Settlements and the Malay States.
Historical background
100). The first school that provided secular education in Malay was the “Malay
School” established under Penang Free School in 1821. Several other schools
followed but these were established by mission groups (Alisjahbana, 1974, pp.
402-403). It was not until 1872, when the first Inspector of Schools was appointed, that some progress was made in the development of Malay secular education (Lim, 2008, p. 3). These schools provided a four-year course, teaching
children to read and write Malay, both in Jawi and in Romanised character (Elcum, 1968, pp. 140-144). In 1916, at the instigation of R. O. Winstedt, the then
Assistant Director of Education, Malay secular education acquired a more practical orientation.
The less well-to-do among the Chinese sometimes had the option of sending
their children to Chinese-medium schools. Education was reportedly an important element of the Chinese community from the earliest days of British settlement. Francis Light reported of the Chinese in Penang in 1794 that they “have
everywhere people to teach their children, and sometimes they send males to
China to complete their education” (Tan, 1997, p. 8). Such dedication to education set the Chinese communities in Malaya apart, and by the mid-1880s, there
were 52 Chinese schools in Penang, 51 in Singapore and 12 in Melaka (Tan,
1997, p. 8). Many of these schools were funded by companies and individuals
within the community. Initially teaching using the local Chinese languages, such
as Hokkien, Teochew, Cantonese or Hakka, many of these schools switched to
Mandarin when it was declared the national language of the Republic of China
in 1920 (Platt & Weber, 1980, p. 33). Students from Chinese schools had some
prospects for further education. In addition to the availability of Chinese secondary schools, some primary schools taught English as a second language, with
the result that their students were able to transfer to English secondary schools.
Tamil schools were less well-provided for. As English was not taught, their
students had little prospect of furthering their education in English secondary
schools. As a result, Indian parents with the financial means opted to send their
children to English-medium schools.
Despite the availability of vernacular education, interest in English-language
education grew, in response to the rapidly-growing civil service and the expansion of commerce (see Platt & Weber, 1980, pp. 27-30 for details). Competence
in English was a prerequisite for many white-collar positions in the commercial
and public administration sectors. This spurred interest in and demand for English-medium education, especially among the Chinese and the Indians, which in
turn bolstered the position of the language of the colonial administration. Even
in the Federated Malay States, where development in education typically lagged
behind that of the Straits Settlements, demand for English-medium education
increased during this period. This can be seen in Table 2.1 which shows a steady
British Malaya: 1867 to 1957
increase in the enrolment rates of English schools in the Federated Malay States
from 1919 to 1937. Although the Chinese and the Indians formed the vast majority of these students, the percentage of Malay students also showed a slight
increase over the years.
Table 2.1:
Enrolment in English-medium schools, Federated Malay States (percentage)
Europeans &
Source: Annual Reports on Education, Federated Malay States 1919 to 1937 (reproduced in
Loh, 1975, p. 106).
It was thus that a group of English-knowing bilinguals, who were native
speakers of Chinese, Indian or Malay languages, was born. These individuals
would have been the early conduits of linguistic change in the local English language (as well as in their own languages). As this privileged segment of society
comprised the diverse commercial elite, English truly became the “Highlanguage” (Platt & Weber, 1980, p. 7) of the society.
The development of English education created a complex communicative
network among the inhabitants of the Peninsula, especially among those who
lived in the Straits Settlements. Platt and Weber (1980, pp. 9-12) provided a
comprehensive diagrammatic and textual representation of this network. In their
analysis of this period, they note the existence of four varieties of English: (1)
British English, which was employed by the British among themselves, and used
by them to converse with English-educated Chinese, Indians and Malays; (2) a
“Developing Local English,” which was used by English-educated Chinese, Indians and Malays in their conversations with the British, and by the Straits Chi-
Historical background
nese community for inter-group communication; (3) Pidgin English, which was
used when “one or both speakers were recent arrivals (to the Straits Settlements), e.g. between Chinese servants who were recent immigrants from China
and British employers and between shopkeepers and ships’ crews or passengers
on brief visits”; and (4) Indian English, which was used by many of the Indians
who had received an English education in India, when conversing with the British or amongst themselves.
It can thus be concluded, albeit in a somewhat rudimentary fashion, that in
the Straits Settlements (and more than likely, in the Federated Malay States), the
development of English education resulted in the increasing use of the English
language by the local ethnic groups, which in turn contributed to the emergence
of a local variety of English. Characterised by discourse particles, the optional
copula, variable word order, and localised pronunciation and intonation patterns,
this variety was, in Platt and Weber’s (1980) words, the result of “a partial ‘petrification’ of the interlanguage” (p. 20). By “interlanguage,” Platt and Weber are
referring to successive stages that learners go through as they move towards the
target language. Although not regarded as appropriate in formal contexts, this
form of English became a colloquial variety which unified, and expressed
friendship and solidarity.
The Japanese occupation of Malaya (1942-1945) briefly interrupted the administrative, social and educational infrastructure which had been built up in
Malaya during the first half of the 20th century, but the reintroduction of British
rule after World War II saw the resurgence of English-medium education and
the local vernacular education. Several committees were set up at this time to
investigate ways of unifying the disparate vernacular education systems, but it
was not until the Report of the Education Committee of 1956, more popularly
known as the Razak Report,11 that an education policy was unanimously accepted by the various parties. The report proposed the use of Malay as the medium
of instruction in national schools, but allowed for the continuation of English-,
Chinese- and Tamil-medium schools 12 (Ministry of Education, Malaysia, 1956).
Malay and English were to be “compulsory subjects” in all primary and secondary schools. With regard to these two languages, the Report (1956) stated the
The reason for the study of Malay is the intention, referred to in our terms of reference, to make Malay the national language of the country. The reason for teaching
English is that we desire that no secondary school pupil shall be at a disadvantage in
The Razak Report was named after the then Education Minister, Tun Abdul Razak.
These non-Malay medium schools were later collectively termed national-type schools.
Postcolonial Malaysia: 1957 to present
the matter either of employment or of higher education in Malaya or overseas as
long as it is necessary to use the English language for these purposes. (p. 12)
Although an education system promoting both Malay and English was put in
place at the end of British colonial rule in Malaya, the hegemony of Malay was
beginning, by this time, to displace that of English.
2.6 Language contact in postcolonial Malaysia: 1957
to present
In the first decade after the establishment of the Federation of Malaya in 1957,
English continued to be the de facto official language, a situation that David and
Govindasamy (2005) suggest “would have continued unabated but for the rise in
linguistic nationalism among Malay nationalists” (p. 126). For this group, “English came to be regarded not only as the language of colonial education but also,
after independence, as an obstacle to the educational, social and economic advance of the majority of Malays” (Chai, 1971, p. 61, cited in David & Govindasamy, 2005, p. 127). The emergent political hegemony of the Malays
brought about major changes in the sociolinguistic landscape of Malaya. Nationalist language and educational policies were implemented to reinforce the
status of the Malay language as well as to expand its intranational functions.
One of the most impactful changes was the gradual conversion of Englishmedium schools to Malay-medium schools that began in 1967 and was completed in 1985 (for details of this process, see Azirah, 2009, p. 39; and David, Cavallaro, & Coluzzi, 2009, pp. 159-160). The Chinese and the Indians, the urbanites among them in particular, were ill-prepared for this new emphasis on Malay
in the realm of education. While accepting of the role of Malay as the national
language, they were deeply resentful of the threat to English. To them, English
was the language of education, the language of status and the bearer of “Western
idea on democracy, human rights, and ... literature” (David & Govindasamy,
2005, p. 134). In spite of this initial resentment, by the 1980s, a new group of
Malay-educated Chinese and Indians had emerged. In various educational institutions, the same instrumental motivation which led these people to learn the
English language prior to independence was driving them to excel in the Malay
language. Mastery of the Malay language had already become a prerequisite for
university admission. In addition, pro-Bumiputera (generally manifested as proMalay) educational policies, which reserved a quota of university places for
Bumiputera students, had been instituted, significantly reducing the number of
places available for the other ethnic groups. Thus, for many Chinese and Indians
Historical background
(especially those who could not afford to go abroad for further studies), academic success had to go hand-in-hand with excellence in the Malay language.
The emphasis on Malay and the curtailing of English especially within the
domains of government, administration and education have produced significant
changes in the sociolinguistic landscape of Malaysia. First, the affirmation of
their language has caused many Malays, especially those from rural areas, to
become monolinguals (David & Govindasamy, 2005, p. 125). Compared to the
Chinese and the Indians, they have been the most successful at maintaining their
ancestral language and the least likely to shift to the English language. Although
in recent years, there have been cases of Malay parents sending their children to
Chinese-medium schools (see “Many Chinese Schools,” 2011), this number is
exceedingly small. The Malays do not generally acquire the ancestral languages
of the other ethnic communities in Malaysia.
Second, the curtailment of English has resulted in a decline in terms of the
range of the language within the country—that is, the degree to which English
pervades the various domains of language use. It has been suggested that young
people’s poor mastery of English is the result of the lack of opportunity to use
the language. Even Malay national leaders and language planners have expressed concerns about the “deterioration” of English in Malaysia and how this
will impact the country’s aspiration “to become a fully developed nation” (see
David & Govindasamy, 2005, pp. 138-139 for details). In an attempt to reverse
the perceived decline in English, in 2003, yet another language policy was implemented—the country re-adopted the use of the English language as the medium of instruction in the teaching of mathematics and science in all government
schools. This policy came to an end in 2010 amidst concerns that mathematics
and science teachers were not proficient enough to teach in English, and that
there was an ever-widening gap between urban and rural students in terms of
their success rates in these two subjects. With this latest change in policy, Malay
will effectively be the sole medium of instruction in national schools by 2016
(Ministry of Education, Malaysia, 2010, p. 16).
In the midst of these rapid changes, another development is giving a new
meaning to English-medium education in Malaysia. The establishment of twinning programmes, private pre-tertiary colleges and branch campuses of American, British and Australian universities, especially in the past decade, has
brought English-medium education back to the forefront of the Malaysian education scene (Asmah, 1996, pp. 519-520; and Azirah, 2009, p. 41). If this trend
continues, it will have significant impact on the status of English, the nature of
multilingualism, and the sociolinguistic climate of the country in the long term.
In the meantime, it is the sociolinguistic consequences of the aggressive
promotion of the Malay language over the past four decades that are most obvi-
Postcolonial Malaysia: 1957 to present
ous. The acquisition of the language across all ethnic groups in Malaysia has
contributed to the creation of the present-day population of Malay-knowing bilinguals. Even more crucially, proficient speakers of English have also developed fluency in Malay, resulting in a substantial group of Malaysians who are
bilingual in English and Malay (as well as other languages) (Schneider, 2003b,
pp. 54-55).
The way that multilingualism is manifested among the Chinese is particularly complex. The Chinese community, as a whole, has been very successful at
maintaining their ancestral languages as well as Mandarin, a situation aided by
at least three factors—a significant population size, the existence of a popular
Chinese-medium education, and widely-available Chinese media. At the individual level, however, there is a great deal of diversity in terms of the languages
that are actually maintained. Those who were educated in Chinese-medium
schools are typically proficient in Mandarin and their ancestral languages. Malay and English would have been learned in school with varying degrees of success. Those who had Malay-medium education tend, not unnaturally, to be the
most proficient in Malay and are often reasonably fluent in English. Many
members of this group are illiterate in Chinese, although some do speak their
ancestral languages. Those who were educated in English schools before 1967
are usually fluent in English. In addition to their ancestral languages, they would
have learned some Malay from their interactions with Malay friends and colleagues, and from exposure to the Malay language through the media and the
In such an intensely multilingual situation, language contact no longer involves just the interactions among linguistically and ethnically distinct groups; it
is also about how individuals juggle and adapt the languages in their repertoire.
Malaysians typically rely on two or more languages for their daily communicational needs, and make language choices depending on the context of the discourse, the interlocutors with whom they are engaged, the communicative functions involved, and so on. Some of these language choices involve codeswitching between two or more languages, often between Malay and English, or
between Chinese and English. The communicative patterns of these individuals
put these languages in intense contact and create endless opportunities for them
to influence each other. In such a situation, the types of contact-induced change
observed in the English language are significantly more diverse that those seen
in the variety of English used by British sojourners when they first came to the
Historical background
2.7 Conclusion
The historical overview presented in this chapter, while sketchy, is an essential
backdrop to a theoretical framework which captures the contact phenomena that
have shaped ME. In the context of modern Malaysia, English comes into regular
contact with Malay, Chinese, Tamil and many other languages. The nature of
this contact transcends the casual interactions among people of different language backgrounds. At its most intense, it is typified by the use of multiple languages alongside English, in the same discourse, by the same group of interlocutors—with code-switching and code-mixing being some of the characteristic
linguistic practices observed in such a situation. Consequently, contact-induced
change in ME today has the potential to be rather dramatic, manifested not just
in the presence of borrowed features, but also in broad-ranging morphosyntactic,
phonological and pragmatic variation.
This sociolinguistic landscape did not emerge overnight. Some of its most
salient characteristics—the multiethnic demographic profile, the long-term hybridity of the languages in use in the region, and the position of the Malay language—have their roots in the early globalisation of Southeast Asia at the turn
of the first millennium. Other developments—the arrival of the English language, the societal acquisition of the former colonial language by the local
population, and the postcolonial hegemony of Malay and curtailment of English—are comparatively more recent events. These phenomena converge today
in 21st-century Malaysia, where Malaysian English (henceforth ME) remains a
key tool of communication across society—a localised variety of English that
reflects the influences of the diverse cultures and languages of its speakers.
Chapter 3: The Malaysian English Newspaper
3.1 Introduction
The use of a newspaper corpus to investigate language variation and change in
the English language is not without precedent (see, for instance, Westin, 2002;
and Levin, 2006). Although newspapers represent merely a subset of any language, this domain of language use is one of the most diverse, as it encompasses
an incredibly wide array of text types, genres, topics, styles and levels of formality. Daily newspapers, in particular, with their wide circulation and readership,
are often assumed to use the language “characteristic of the respective period
and society they are published in” (Rademann, 2008, p. 49). As such, newspaper
English of a particular country or region can offer valuable insights into the way
that the variety, as it is used by the community in general, is changing.
In the study of ME, the use of a newspaper corpus contributes to the field in
at least two significant ways. First, while ME is internally varied (see, for instance, Baskaran’s [1994] description of the three sociolects of ME), much of
the research available today focuses on linguistic features that are the most distinctive—those that diverge most radically from the so-called “native” varieties
of English (Newbrook, 1997, p. 229). These features are conspicuous, but they
are often confined to colloquial speech or the basilectal variety of ME. Consequently, we do not have enough information about the educated or formal variety, the variety that should in fact be more extensively studied and codified, if
ME is to be recognised as an autonomous variety of English. Like newspaper
Englishes all over the world, newspaper English in Malaysia tends to converge
towards an international standard, yet conveys a distinct linguistic identity
(Crystal, 1994, p. 24). The presence of a large amount of “spoken data” in the
form of quotations (even if edited) provides another dimension to this relatively
formal domain of language use. These characteristics of Malaysian English
newspapers make them an invaluable source of data for the study of variation
and change, particularly in formal ME.
Second, Malaysian English newspapers are a rich source of institutionalised
lexical and morphosyntactic adaptations of the English language. These features
are not ephemeral innovations, but have become entrenched in the linguistic system of ME as a result of widespread use. They are produced and understood by
the community, and are generally considered acceptable for use across a wide
range of intranational domains. Studying the linguistic ecology of these institu-
MEN Corpus
tionalised features allows us to gain a better understanding of the principal processes of contact-induced change that have shaped ME.
Besides these factors, the use of a newspaper corpus is also advantageous
from a practical point of view. Newspaper corpora are some of the easiest to
compile, especially in this age of the internet and online newspapers. That said,
many issues still have to be considered in designing and compiling a corpus to
ensure that it is representative of Malaysian newspaper English. Some of these
key issues are discussed below.
3.2 Construction of the MEN Corpus
Let us first describe the design and construction of the Malaysian English Newspaper Corpus (MEN Corpus), concentrating on the broad issues that have to be
considered in selecting and compiling a representative sample of newspaper
3.2.1 Selection of newspapers
The MEN Corpus was designed in 2000, when there were six national and three
regional English-language newspapers in Malaysia (Kidon Media-Link).13 All of
the regional and four of the national papers were print newspapers with online
editions (see Table 3.1). The remaining two national papers were published solely online.
In considering the matter of representativeness, it was decided at the outset
that exclusively online newspapers would be excluded from the study as the language contained within print newspapers is more characteristic of the language
produced and received by the society in general. While print newspapers are
read by people from a wide range of social and economic backgrounds—
students, office workers, professionals, homemakers, business people and bluecollar workers, online newspapers are only available to consumers who have
internet access.14 Furthermore, online newspaper readers tend to be more affluent and better educated than general internet users (Coats, 2002). The wider tar-
Kidon Media-Link is an independent web directory of more than 19,500 newspapers and
other news sources.
Malaysia’s internet penetration rate in 2000 was much lower than it is today. A survey
by Lieb (1999-2000) found that only 600,000 or 3% of the population had internet access in 1998. He predicted that this figure would rise to 1.34 million by 2002.
Construction of MEN Corpus
get readership of print newspapers is reflected in their contents and, particularly,
their language.
Table 3.1:
Major English-language newspapers in Malaysia, 2000
The Edge
Business Times
Malay Mail
New Straits Times
The Star
Daily Express (Sabah)
New Sabah Times (Sabah)
Sarawak Tribune (Sarawak)
Additionally, it was decided that only national newspapers with daily editions would be included in the corpus as these newspapers tend to be more authoritative and influential compared to regional or weekly publications. These
criteria reduced the potential sources of data to four—Business Times, Malay
Mail, New Straits Times and The Star, of which only the last two were widely
circulated and read. The New Straits Times (or NST) and The Star (or STAR)
are also the oldest surviving English-language newspapers in the country: NST
was established on 15 July 1845, 15 while STAR was first published on 9 September 1971. 16 Compared to other English-language newspapers in Malaysia,
these two publications had a larger breadth of articles as well as a wider scope of
coverage. Another advantage that these two newspapers had was the high degree
of content similarity between their print and online editions, which meant that, if
necessary, the data could be accessed and retrieved online.
Retrieving articles from online sources is however not necessarily the most
efficient method of compiling a corpus. This was especially so at the time when
the MEN Corpus was being constructed, slightly more than a decade ago. Most
corpus analysis software, and in fact the vast majority of computers and software applications throughout the world, recognised ASCII 17 texts, but could not
The origin of the New Straits Times can be traced back to The Straits Times, which was
first published in Singapore on 15 July 1845. In March 1930, the Straits Times Press
Pte Ltd opened a branch office in Kuala Lumpur. In 1972, the Malaysian operation separated from its Singaporean parent and changed its name to the New Straits Times Press
(Malaysia) Berhad. The Malaysian version of the newspaper was renamed the New
Straits Times.
The Star began as a regional (Penang) newspaper before becoming a national daily on 3
January 1976.
ASCII, pronounced /æski:/, stands for American Standard Code for Information Interchange. It is a code for representing characters as numbers, with each letter assigned a
MEN Corpus
process texts encoded in SGML.18 As most online articles were marked up using
SGML, downloading them directly from newspaper websites entailed the labour-intensive exercise of converting the files into plain ASCII texts. A far more
convenient alternative was to obtain the data, in the form of ASCII files, directly
from the publishers.
Fortunately, the New Straits Times Press (Malaysia) Berhad, the publisher
of NST, had provision for the distribution, at a reasonable cost, of their articles
in ASCII files for research purposes. Zip files of selected articles could be
emailed to the consumer in the form of email attachments. These files could then
be unzipped and saved in a local hard disk.
The Star Publications (Malaysia) Berhad did not have a similar provision.
When approached, they suggested that the articles be retrieved from their online
edition, The Star Online. A comparison of several online and print editions of
STAR in June 2001 found sufficient conformity between the two, thus confirming the feasibility of sourcing print articles from the newspaper’s website. Using
these methods, three issues each of NST and STAR were compiled as a trial.
These were reviewed to determine the types of articles that could be sourced
from the two newspapers.
3.2.2 Sampling procedure
As expected, not the entirety of the NST and STAR newspaper content was suitable for inclusion in the MEN Corpus. As the corpus was intended to represent
ME, the first sampling criterion was, logically, that the articles selected had to
be written by Malaysians. A review of the first six issues revealed the presence
of a significant number of articles that did not fulfil this criterion. Among these
were news, sports and business reports purchased from international newswire
agencies (e.g., Associated Press, Agence France-Presse and Reuters), reprints of
features from foreign sources, special-interest pieces contributed by foreign
writers, and letters and opinion pieces written by individuals with names not
number from 0 to 127. Data in ASCII format can be read by most computers and software, and can therefore be transferred from one computer to another.
SGML is an acronym for Standard Generalized Markup Language. It is used to encode
texts for specific purposes. A widely-used subset of SGML is HTML or HyperText
Markup Language, a language which defines the structure of a document—its headings,
paragraphs, quotes, links and so on. It also allows images and objects to be embedded
within a document.
Construction of MEN Corpus
immediately recognisable as Malaysian. 19 Such articles were regarded as unsuitable, and were not included in the corpus.
The second sampling criterion was that articles chosen had to be predominantly prose. Illustrations, photographs, television guides, lottery results, poetry,
cartoons, advertisements and classifieds were excluded, although prose that included lists or poetry was included. This was to ensure that features chosen for
study could be examined in a fair amount of meaningful context. Some of the
categories of articles that met this criterion were local and national news, regional and international news written by Malaysian correspondents overseas,
news stories produced by Bernama—the Malaysian National News Agency,
court reports, parliamentary reports, opinion pieces (including comments, letters
to the editor and editorials), business and financial news, sports news, and features (under sections entitled “Entertainment,” “Lifestyle,” “Health,” “Technology” and “Education”). This procedure was intended to yield a balanced spread
of text categories comprising diverse topics, genres, styles and levels of formality.
All of the six issues of these two newspapers were subject to this reviewand-exclude procedure in order to find out the average number of words that
could be sourced from each issue. It was discovered that a single issue of NST
yielded approximately 40,000 useable words, while a single issue of STAR
yielded about 25,000. Based on these figures, it was initially estimated that a
sufficiently large corpus could be compiled using materials from a six-month
3.2.3 Corpus size and selection of issues
It was initially difficult to ascertain exactly how big the MEN Corpus should be,
that is, how many words or tokens in running text it should have in order for
findings based on its data to be valid and reliable. The general consensus with
regard to corpus size is that large corpora are more useful that smaller ones. Sinclair (1991) proposed that “a corpus should be as large as possible, and should
keep on growing” (p. 18). It is nevertheless equally important to recognise the
veracity of Kennedy’s (1998) observation that “any corpus, however big, can
It could, of course, be argued that such articles form a significant part of the Malaysian
newspaper reader’s diet and should therefore be included as a subset of ME. However,
since this corpus was intended as a source of contact-induced features produced by ME
users and recognised by other ME users, it was felt that the inclusion of articles written
by foreigners would significantly affect the empirical base of the study.
MEN Corpus
never be more than a minuscule sample of all the speech and writing produced
or received by all the users of a major language on even a single day” (p. 66).
As the purpose of the corpus creation was to investigate evidence of language contact in ME, it was crucial that the MEN Corpus yielded sufficient instances of the wide range of linguistic features that characterise ME. The survey
of the first six issues of newspapers revealed the presence of a substantial
amount of useable data in the form of lexical and morphosyntactic features that
distinguish ME from other varieties of English. Based on this preliminary survey, it was finally decided that 5 million words would be an adequate size for
the MEN Corpus.
Once the decision regarding corpus size was made, it was easier to focus on
the matter of issue selection. The 5-million-word target was broken down into
2.5 million words for each newspaper. It was decided that STAR and NST
would be sampled on alternate days, the former beginning 1 August 2001 and
the latter 2 August 2001. This method of sampling was beneficial in two ways.
First, it ensured a balanced spread of issues across different days of the week.
This concern with an even distribution of issues across different days of the
week is also raised by Ljung (2000), who notes that when selecting issues of
newspapers, their “cyclicity” (p. 132) must be considered, as categories of articles and contents tend to vary depending on the day of the week, and great differences are often observed between weekend issues and weekday issues. This
cyclicity of news texts was certainly observed in STAR and NST, and hence the
focus on balancing the spread of issues.
Table 3.2:
Number of issues sampled according to day of week
New Straits Time
2 August 2001 to 30 November 2001
The Star
1 August 2001 to 30 January 2002
Second, this method effectively prevented two newspapers from being sampled on a particular day. This was intended to reduce the likelihood of similar
news stories being sampled, therefore increasing the range of topics in the corpus. Using this method, the target of 2.5 million words for each newspaper was
Construction of MEN Corpus
reached after 61 issues of NST and 91 issues of STAR. The number of issues
sampled according to the day of the week is detailed in Table 3.2. As can be
seen, a reasonably even distribution of number of issues across the different
days was attained.
3.2.4 Compilation of data
The compilation of data from NST was greatly facilitated by the compensated
assistance of a staff member of the NSTP e-Media, a subsidiary of New Straits
Times Press (Malaysia) Berhad. On the day after a particular issue appeared in
print, she went through the issue and selected articles that fulfilled my sampling
criteria. These were saved in two to three zip files and transmitted to me as
email attachments. As the files were encoded in ASCII, formatting details such
as italicisation, boldfacing, bullets, accented characters, illustrations, smart
quotes, em and en dashes, subscripts, superscripts and fraction characters, were
not available. This was both an advantage and a drawback. On the one hand, this
meant that the files did not require cleaning up. On the other hand, it resulted in
some minor loss of information that might have been helpful for data interpretation. For instance, it was not possible to determine whether a loanword in the
corpus was printed in italics (to emphasise, for example, that it was a nonEnglish term) or in normal font (indicating, for instance, that the word had been
integrated into mainstream ME). Such limitations were however insignificant
because of the availability of other clues such as frequency of occurrence, glosses and so on.
Upon receipt, the files were unzipped, and the articles compiled and saved
as a single Microsoft Word document, 20 which was then reviewed, edited and
annotated. Articles that did not meet the sampling criteria were deleted. Those
chosen were included in their entirety, irrespective of word count. These were
annotated with some minimal identifying information. A set of five tags was
used to indicate the title or name of the newspaper <T>, date of publication
<D>, headline <H>, subheading <S>, note <N> and byline <B>. Figure 3.1 illustrates how an article (only the first three paragraphs are shown) was annotated. From the tags, we know that this article, which carries the headline “Thoroughly modest Millie,” appeared in the 20 August 2001 issue of NST as part of
a series called “Women on Top.” The writer of the piece is Dazman Manan, and
the subject of his interview is introduced in the subheading. Once an issue had
Microsoft Word has many features, such as find and replace, identification of nonASCII features and word count, which facilitated the editing process.
MEN Corpus
been edited and annotated, it was saved as an ASCII file. Using this method, 61
ASCII files comprising 61 issues of NST were compiled.
<T New Straits Times>
<D 20 August 2001>
<H Thoroughly modest Millie>
<S Journalism was Millicent Danker’s first calling, but she found her niche in public relations, maturing in her multi-task communications business. She talks to Dazman Manan.>
<N Women on top>
<B By Dazman Manan>
FROM covering court cases to conducting exclusive interviews with political and other
celebrities, being a columnist and editing a business magazine, Millicent Danker has gone
through the rigours of journalism. Yet it is surprising to learn that she is publicity shy.
“I’ve been so used to being on the other side, so to speak, that I don’t see myself as
being newsworthy - and this is not false modesty,” she insists. “I cannot remember ever
giving an interview of this sort before.”
Some might remember her byline especially her landmark interview with the Prime
Minister Datuk Seri Dr Mahathir Mohamad after his first year in office.
Fig. 3.1:
An annotated article from the MEN Corpus
The data from STAR were retrieved from The Star Online. Each issue was
reviewed on the day of publication and compared against the print copy, and on
the whole, a high degree of conformity between the online and print edition was
found. A majority of articles from the “news” and “opinion” categories (see
Bell’s [1991] classification of text categories in newspapers) of the print edition—local, national and foreign news, entertainment news, sports coverage,
business reports, science and technology news, features, editorials and letters to
the editor—were reproduced in their entirety in the online edition. The main difference between the two seemed to be the presence of an updating facility in the
online edition that allowed reports written after press time to be uploaded onto
the website on the day of publication. These articles appeared under the heading
“Latest” followed by the time the articles were uploaded (e.g., “Updated: MYT
11:12 am”). They were, on the whole, easily identified and excluded. Articles
that met the sampling criteria were copied and pasted into a Microsoft Word
document. The document was then saved, a process which preserved the original
graphics and formatting tags. These were later cleaned up, and the document
converted to an ASCII file so that the data could be integrated into the corpus.
Altogether, 91 issues of STAR were compiled.
Analysing MEN Corpus
To facilitate identification of the source of features included in the MEN
Corpus, each of the 152 files was given a name representing the name of the
newspaper (N for NST, and S for STAR), issue number (01 to 61 for NST, and
01 to 91 for STAR), and the day and date of publication. Therefore,
N01Th020801 was the filename given to the first issue of NST compiled, which
was published on Thursday, 2 August 2001. Similarly, S01We010801 was the
first issue of STAR compiled, it having been published on Wednesday, 1 August
2001. The 152 files represent the entire MEN Corpus.
3.3 Analysing the MEN Corpus
The MEN Corpus was designed as a source of data for the study of ME. It has
been successfully analysed using several corpus analysis software packages, including TACT, MonoConc and WordSmith Tools. However, as the analyses reported in this book were performed using WordSmith Tools, it is perhaps desirable to describe how this software package was used to extract the data required
for the study.
WordSmith Tools is a suite of three programmes called WordList, Concord
and KeyWords. KeyWords is an application that identifies words that are unusually frequent in comparison with some specified norm. The programme does this
by comparing two word lists, a word list from the text that is being studied and a
specified reference word list that is generally much larger. As this programme
was not utilised in the study, no further details will be provided here. The majority of the analyses for this study were undertaken using WordList and Concord.
WordList is a programme that generates lists of all the types that occur in a
collection of texts. Each time a corpus is run in WordList, two word lists are
created—an alphabetically-ordered one and a frequency-ordered one. During the
initial stage of research, surveys of these word lists revealed lexical features that
were worthy of further study. Table 3.3 presents three extracts of the alphabetical word list that contain a particularly rich representation of distinctive lexical
features—words borrowed from Malay (e.g., datin and datuk), words borrowed
from Arabic through Malay (e.g., berhad and islamiah), and hybrid constructions (e.g., datukship and islamicity). Features identified as being of potential
interest were examined in context. This required the use of Concord.
Of the three programmes, Concord was the most essential to this study.
This application looks for all instances of a particular search word in a corpus
and presents each of them in the form of a concordance line which comprises the
search word and a pre-specified amount of context. The entire set of concordance lines is presented in a concordance display like the one shown in Figure
MEN Corpus
3.2. A particularly convenient feature of Concord is its ability to perform wildcard searches. By incorporating symbols like an asterisk, a question mark or a
slash in a search word, it is possible to simultaneously search for a whole range
of words that have certain common characteristics. For example, a search for
kongsi* in the MEN Corpus yields not only all instances of kongsi, but also two
instances of the plural form of the word, kongsis (see Figure 3.2). Depending on
the frequency of the lexical feature involved, the concordance lines were useful
in determining the following: (1) the meaning(s) of the feature as used in ME;
(2) the word class(es) of the feature; (3) derived and inflected forms of the feature and their meanings; and (4) citations which illustrate the different usages of
the feature. The analysis of the concordance lines of kongsi is used below to
demonstrate this procedure.
Table 3.3:
Extracts of the alphabetical word list from the MEN Corpus
Concordance lines of “kongsi*” from the MEN Corpus
of another accomplice—a 32-year-old Indonesian—at a
Mon. - Two gangs clashed with each other at a
against the immigrant worker, who was arrested at a
Ampang, last Wednesday. Several youths went to a
ties among them. “We have been quite an introvert
toured the trail from the Syed Alatas Mansion to Khoo
by restoring its old premises in Beach Street. The Khoo
rented out to non-clansmen. In recent years, the Khoo
THE Khoo
will reopen its doors to tourists soon. A visit to the Khoo
a visit to the newly-restored temple yesterday, Khoo
if illegals are detained, we cannot take them back to their
here on Tuesday. Ironically, the 109-year-old Penang Toh
were greeted by their Penang brothers outside Wisma Toh
and hope to build a greater rapport in future.” Penang Toh
long lost brothers”, said: “We discovered the Penang Toh
selected areas such as squatter settlements and workers’
illegal immigrants, including 17 women, were arrested in
houses. An exciting new chapter is unfolding for the Khoo
Penang Toh Kongsi secretary Charles Toh said the
as the founder of the Ariffin Mosque and Mesjid
of such workers in Putrajaya and they daringly stay in
from the place being wounded. The bazaar serves several
Fig. 3.2:
in Damansara Utama,” he added. Police have already
in Tasik Permai, Ampang, last Wednesday. Several youths
in the orchard. According to the report, the rape was
occupied by Myanmar nationals and demanded RM5 from
that has kept a low profile. “We only learnt of the
and the Acheen Street Mosque. From the mosque, they
and the Kapitan Keling Mosque are two more examples of
has embarked on a revitalisation process, winning national
in Cannon Square, George Town, Penang, is unique not
Temple at Cannon Square in Penang is looking even more
temple will provide tourists a detailed insights into the
Trustee Khoo Kay Hock said the workers were assigned to
to collect their things,” he said. According to the
and the 24-year-old Toh Association Malaysia (TAM)
at Cintra Street and later adjourned for a reunion dinner at
secretary Charles Toh said the kongsi, also known as
three years ago but we had no opportunity to meet until
as well as conducting roadblocks. In reply to Senator
shophouses, kampungs and rented rooms in Plentong,
but the new development is bringing to an end the
also known as Cheng Luan Seah (Toh Si), only took in
He is said to have arrived in Penang with Captain Francis
and the surrounding jungles. Somebody should take a
at worksites in Dengkil, Putrajaya and Cyberjaya. They
Analysing MEN Corpus
MEN Corpus
The word kongsi in ME has its origin in Chinese ‫ޜ‬ਨ(Hokkien gong si,
Cantonese kung sz, and Mandarin gong si—literally “joint control”). Originally,
this word was used to refer to a collective labour group or joint ownership of a
cargo. Subsequently, it also came to be used in reference to surname associations. In contemporary Chinese, the most common meaning for this word is
“public company” (Mathews, 1972, p. 542). The word was borrowed into Malay, most likely during the 19th-century expansion of the tin-mining industry in
Malaya, and in his widely-acclaimed Malay-English Dictionary, Wilkinson
(1959) defined the word as follows:
kongsi. Ch. Partnership or association of any sort. Usually a Chinese guild or secret
society, but also of syndicates in general ( , Pert. Tebu 9) and even of a
British missionary body (Ht. Abd. 118). : secret-society headman. Rumah
k.: house for gang of Chinese coolies. (p. 610)
Based on the concordance lines of kongsi and information obtained from
various dictionaries, it was deduced that in ME: (1) Kongsi has two main meanings—”corporate body, often based on surname affiliation” (lines 5-12, 14-17,
20, 21) and “shared accommodation for (migrant) labourers usually found at the
worksite” (lines 1-4, 13, 18, 19, 22-24); (2) Kongsi is not generally used to denote the contemporary meaning of Chinese ‫ޜ‬ਨ“public company”; (3)Kongsi
is used as a count noun, and it can be inflected with the morpheme -s to indicate
plurality; and (4) Kongsi is likely borrowed from Hokkien as the transliteration
replicates the Hokkien pronunciation of ‫ޜ‬ਨ.21
To facilitate access, information on all such terms was codified in the form
of dictionary entries (see Figure 3.3). The entirety of the dictionary entries created for this study is presented in Appendices A to D to this volume. This method
of analysing the MEN Corpus has proven particularly useful for the study of
contact-induced lexical variation and change.
Although ‫ޜ‬ਨ is represented as gong si in both Hokkien and Mandarin in this book, the
actual pronunciations of the word in the two languages are quite different. This difference is not reflected in the transliteration because different romanisation systems are
used for the two languages.
Analysing MEN Corpus
kongsi n. Pl. -s. [Hokkien ‫ޜ‬ਨ, lit. “joint control”] 1 Corporate body, often based on surname affiliation. 2 Shared accommodation for (migrant) labourers usually found at
the worksite.
1 2001 The Star 29 Nov. PENANG: It was like a reunion of long lost brothers
for the Toh clansmen of Penang and Johor who met for the first time here on Tuesday. Ironically, the 109-year-old Penang Toh Kongsi and the 24-year-old Toh Association Malaysia ... were unaware of each other’s existence until last year. 2 2002 The
Star 12 Jan. ... the girl’s father lodged a police report against the immigrant worker,
who was arrested at a kongsi in the orchard.
Fig. 3.3:
Dictionary entry created for “kongsi” based on data from the MEN Corpus
The study of syntactic variation in ME required a different method of analysis. Numerous aspects of the syntax of ME have been extensively described in
previous studies (e.g., Tongue, 1974; Platt & Weber, 1980; Wong, 1983; and
Baskaran, 1987), and it is not the intention of this volume to identify novel syntactic features. The main purpose is to examine the linguistic ecology of known
syntactic variants in order to identify the structural principles and processes
through which these features emerged and became institutionalised. For instance, a frequently-noted characteristic of ME is the use of innovative prepositional verbs in contexts where most inner-circle English speakers would use the
corresponding single-word verbs (Tongue, 1974, p. 54; and Lowenberg, 1984, p.
117). Stereotypical examples are discuss about and discuss on. This study generated and compared the concordance lines of discuss about (n=7), discuss on
(n=26) and discuss (n=796) to deduce specific processes of simplification and
regularisation that might have contributed to the emergence of these features. A
major advantage of the corpus-based approach is reflected in the concordance
lines of discuss on shown in Figure 3.4. Not only has Concord generated all occurrences of the prepositional verb in the MEN Corpus, but it has also generated
instances where the two elements of the prepositional verb are separated by an
adverb or a prepositional phrase (see lines 1, 6-15 and 19-26). Identifying a significant number of examples of such usage would have been impossible without
the benefit of a corpus.
The MEN Corpus was thus found to be an invaluable database from which
various types of contact-induced linguistic features could be extracted and studied.
Concordance lines of “discuss* on” from the MEN Corpus
The alternative to unilateral action is for all countries to
“Our plan in this first phase is to get everyone to
centre for writers, literary figures and culturist to
and Nadzmi) will meet the coaches first next week to
ranking system,” he said. The IBF are expected to
each problem. “I will look into every problem and then
with his employers). Once Kah Yew joins us, we will
geared towards the qualifying rounds. We will
witness Alex’s debut.” Hishammuddin said he will also
at Kuala Lumpur International Airport, is going to
remaining shooters in the Games’ list. “We will have to
that such issue did not exist and that Siemens would
needed by the village was a multi-purpose hall. “I will
technical aspects and marketing strategies and we will
the code, by reducing overtime or working hours and
Iran, especially at the border with Afghanistan. “We also
them to power.” Dr Mahathir also said that the council
eye on the late teens to mid-20s group. They are already
to society,” he said. Mustafa said his department was
KUALA LUMPUR: The Human Resources Ministry is
Dr Ling Liong Sik on Tuesday said the Government was
house here yesterday. Samy Vellu said that he would be
young budding athletes in Noraseela and Saiful. We are
KUCHING: Sarawak is
for the Minardi team next season, said the ministry was
cases. “The Pahang Foundation is in the midst of
Fig. 3.4:
and decide collectively, under the United Nations, on
on a blueprint for motorsports, which my Ministry has
on the identity of Malays by looking at a global point
on the programmes. After that, we will bring the matter
on the current world ranking system at their executive
with Europlus or the related local authority on the
with him on whether action will be taken against Watson.
with Jalani Sidek (the Nusa Mahsuri president) and
with Stoddart on how to further develop motorsports in
with the Entrepreneur Development Ministry on the
with the coaches on this but I don’t think this is a
with the new board of Sepang Power on the fate of its
with the council on ways to solve this matter as we want
with the state government on the number of units and
with union officials on possible measures before
on the need for an Afghan government with
on the reported underground anti-government activities
on how packages can be customised to suit their budget.
with a semi-government institution of higher learning
with labour unions and the employers’ federation on
with Malaysia Airlines’ management on potential
with PLUS soon on ways to prepare for a smooth balik
with the NSC on whether we should send them oversees
with the US National Cancer Institute and the Coral
with the team on how it could help promote the count
with the relevant quarters on the quantum to be give
MEN Corpus
Chapter 4: Lexical Borrowing and Lexical
4.1 Introduction
The interaction between English and the two other most widely-used groups of
languages in Malaysia—Malay and Chinese—has brought about wide-ranging
changes to the linguistic system of ME. Manifested primarily as distinctive lexical features, and characteristic phonological and syntactic patterns, these changes are nevertheless unevenly distributed across the various domains of language
use. In formal ME, some of the most conspicuous outcomes of this contact are
lexical features that reflect the local sociocultural contexts, including words and
phrases that originate in the ancestral languages of the community, as well as
those that are locally innovated. These types of contact-induced change are the
focus of the present chapter, and are discussed under the broad categories of borrowed and created features.
Following Haugen’s (1950) ground-breaking analysis of linguistic borrowing, I adopt the view that borrowed and created features are the products of two
different yet interrelated processes of contact-induced change. Both lexical borrowing and lexical creation yield features that reflect the interaction between the
source and the recipient language. These two processes are however different in
one crucial factor: While borrowed features are “direct imitations” of source
language models, created features are “secondarily created” within the recipient
language and have no known model in the source language (Haugen, 1950, p.
220). It must be stressed that neither of these adaptations can be simply interpreted as evidence of “imperfect learning” (Thomason, 2001, p. 66). 22
The main purpose of this chapter is to establish, based on a comprehensive
range of borrowed and created features, the major patterns of change that have
occurred in the ME lexicon as a result of contact between English, and Malay
and Chinese. Apart from analysing the outcomes of processes of borrowing and
creation, this chapter also examines the factors that have motivated ME users to
adapt the lexicon of their variety of English in these ways.
Thomason (2001, pp. 66-76) distinguishes two main categories of contact-induced
change: that which is influenced by the imperfect learning of the recipient language and
that which is not.
Lexical borrowing and lexical creation
4.2 Terminology
Before examining how lexical borrowing and lexical creation have impacted the
structure of ME, it is perhaps desirable to first survey how these two terms are
employed in the broader area of language contact.
4.2.1 Defining lexical borrowing
In most contemporary scholarship, lexical borrowing is defined as the influence
on the linguistic patterns of a maintained language from another language with
which it is in contact. Thomason and Kaufman (1988), for instance, refer to borrowing as “the incorporation of foreign features into a group’s native language
by speakers of that language: the native language is maintained but is changed
by the addition of the incorporated features” (p. 37). In a similar vein, Winford
(2003) uses the term lexical borrowing to describe the contact-induced changes
that occur in situations whereby the community preserves the use of “its native
language from generation to generation” but borrows some lexical and structural
features from the external language with which it is in contact (p. 11).
On the surface, such definitions seem precise enough, covering various
forms of inter-lingual influence ranging from those that emerge from situations
of minimal contact, where the recipient language speakers have superficial
knowledge of the source language, to those that evolve out of very intense contact conditions, such as in the case of bilingual and multilingual communities.
There are, however, at least two tacit assumptions behind these definitions that
require further evaluation: (1) A community can be characterised by a single
native language, and its members are relatively homogenous in maintaining this
language; and (2) Only native speakers of the recipient language are able to incorporate foreign features into the language. I shall address these two assumptions in turn.
Although, in the global context, there are a few monolingual communities
for which the first assumption might hold true, there are many more communities that consist primarily of bilinguals and multilinguals—individuals who are
fluent in two or more languages, and who might or might not have the strongest
psychological affiliation with their native language. As Thomason (2001) puts it,
somewhat contrarily to the work she co-wrote with Kaufman in 1988, “the idea
that monolingualism is the human norm is a myth” (p. 31).
A perfect case in point is Malaysia. Malaysians are generally bilingual, if
not multilingual: Many use at least two languages on a daily basis—usually an
ancestral language and Malay, and a significant proportion of the population
speak a variety of the English language (see Asmah, 1982, p. 111 for details). In
theory, it seems easy enough to characterise individual members of the community in terms of their ethnicity and therefore their “native” language, but in reality, many Malaysian households boast two ancestral languages, and the ancestral
language inherited from the paternal lineage is not always the language in which
one is most fluent. To further complicate matters, some Malaysians never acquire their ancestral language. This is especially true of some present-day Malaysians of Chinese descent who speak their ancestral language with very few
people—usually the older generations within the family. For these people, their
dominant language may be English, Malay or the major Chinese language of the
region, 23 depending on their educational background, place of residence, socioeconomic status, nature of employment and so on. It is therefore difficult, in a
multilingual community such as Malaysia, to conceptualise language maintenance as the preservation of a single native language. The degree of heterogeneity is such that, even within the same ethnic group, there is much diversity in the
languages that are maintained by individual members of the group.
The second assumption, which is that only native speakers of the recipient
language can be the agents of borrowing, also needs to be reassessed. In the case
of ME, there are certainly many examples of borrowed features that were introduced by native speakers of English. EIC traders, colonial officers, civil servants, merchants and soldiers who resided in Malaya indeed used local words to
refer to places, flora, fauna, produce and commodities even when they were
communicating amongst themselves (see Sections 2.4 and 2.5 above). Many of
these features went on to become some of the most well-integrated borrowings
in ME. However, with the departure of the colonial power, and as the language
they left behind became more widespread within the local community, borrowing was often undertaken by those within the community who speak English
concurrently with other languages—persons who are bilingual or multilingual in
English. In her more recent work on language contact, Thomason (2001) posits
that “borrowers do not have to be native speakers (of the recipient language)” (p.
68), noting that fluent speakers are as capable as native speakers in engaging in
lexical borrowing. Although this expanded notion of agentivity is a departure
from prototypical cases of borrowing, it provides for a more nuanced interpretation of borrowing in the context of ME.
In most cities in Malaysia, there is often a specific Chinese language which is used as an
intra-ethnic lingua franca among members of the Chinese community. In Kuala Lumpur and Ipoh, for instance, this language is Cantonese, while for Penang and Melaka, it
is Hokkien (Wong & Thambyrajah, 1991, p. 4).
Lexical borrowing and lexical creation
These attempts at refining and redefining the concept of lexical borrowing
emphasise not only the complexity of the process, but also the great diversity of
the sociolinguistic conditions under which the process can occur. However, in
order to accommodate the diverse variables that influence the evolution of a variety of English within a multiethnic, multilingual community, this chapter reverts to a broad definition of lexical borrowing as a starting point. Haugen’s
(1950) definition—”the attempted reproduction in one language of patterns previously found in another” (p. 212)—is sufficiently broad, even though Haugen
himself obviously held the belief that borrowing can only be initiated by the native speakers of the recipient language. 24 It is thus that this work utilises
Haugen’s definition, but with a caveat—that the exclusivity of the native speaker role in borrowing is denied.
They key concept in Haugen’s (1950) definition of borrowing is reproduction, of which there are two types—importation and substitution:
If a loan is similar enough to the model so that a native speaker would accept it as
his own, the borrowing speaker may be said to have IMPORTED the model into [the
recipient language], provided it is an innovation in that language. But insofar as he
has reproduced the model inadequately, he has normally SUBSTITUTED a similar
pattern from [the recipient language]. (p. 212)
Using degrees of morphemic and phonemic substitution as criteria, Haugen established three main categories of borrowed features—loanwords, loanblends
and loanshifts. Haugen’s description of these categories are summarised below.
A loanword is the linguistic outcome when the recipient language speakers
import the meaning of a form and its corresponding morpheme(s) from another
language. The phonemic pattern of the form may be adapted to match the phonemic system of the recipient language, but the combination of morphemes that
make up the form is retained. Loanwords therefore reflect total morphemic importation with varying degrees of phonemic substitution. In this sense then,
American English shivaree <French charivari> “an uninvited serenade for newlyweds” (Haugen, 1950, p. 213), English rendezvous <French rendez-vous>
(Winford, 2003, p. 42), and Japanese furasuko <Portuguese frasco> “flask”
(Appel & Muysken, 2005, p. 169) are all examples of loanwords.
A loanblend is a hybrid construction comprising a recipient language morpheme and a source language morpheme. In the process of borrowing, the borrowers break down a source language form—whether compound, derived or in24
Although Haugen did not explicitly include native speaker agentivity as a criterion for
borrowing, his definitions of importation and substitution (see Haugen, 1950, p. 212), as
well as the linguistic changes discussed in his work, clearly reflect his view that borrowers are the native speakers of the recipient language.
flected—into its component morphemes, retain one of the morphemes and replace the other with a recipient language equivalent. Hence, loanblends are said
to show morphemic substitution as well as morphemic importation. There are
three types of loanblends.
The first type, blended stems, are single morphemes that have a source language segment and a recipient language segment (e.g., American Norwegian
kårrna “corner” is attributed to the blending of English corner with Norwegian
hyrrna [Haugen, 1950, p. 218]). There are considerable differences of opinion as
to how distinct this type of loanblend really is. For instance, Hilts (2003) suggests that “it is likely that in most, if not all, cases of stem blending, apparent
blending will be a case of phonological substitution rather than actual blending
of forms” (p. 74). In other words, the example kårrna could well be a loanword
that has been given “a Norwegian pronunciation” (Hilts, 2003, p. 74) rather than
an actual blended stem. In his review of Haugen’s model, Winford (2003) disregards blended stems altogether, probably recognising the difficulty in distinguishing between phonological substitution and an actual attempt at blending
monomorphemic forms.
The second type of loanblend, blended derivatives, are forms where the
source language suffix is replaced by one from the recipient language (e.g.,
Pennsylvania German bassig, fonnig, tricksig—from English bossy, funny, tricky
[Haugen, 1950, p. 219]). Calling this group of features derivational blends, Winford (2003) expands it somewhat by dividing it into two classes: (1) derivational
blends comprising a source language stem and a recipient language affix (e.g.,
bassig); and (2) derivational blends comprising a recipient language stem and a
source language affix (e.g., Japanese ichigo-edo “strawberry-flavoured soda”
from Japanese “strawberry” + English -ade) (p. 44).
The third type of loanblends, blended compounds, or compound blends in
Winford’s terminology, are source language compounds where one component
morpheme has been replaced by a recipient language equivalent (e.g., American
English plum pie is borrowed into Pennsylvania German as blaumepie—the
Pennsylvania German morpheme blaume replaces plum, while pie is imported
[Haugen, 1950, p. 214]).
The category of loanshifts can be divided into loan translations and semantic loans, both of which display total morphemic substitution. When speakers of
the recipient language break down a source language compound form into its
component morphemes and then replace all the source language morphemes
with recipient language equivalents, they are said to have created a loan translation or calque (e.g., German Wolkenkratzer “cloud scraper” is calqued from
English skyscraper [Haugen, 1950, p. 214]).
Lexical borrowing and lexical creation
When they import a meaning from the source language without importing its
phonemic shape, instead attaching the meaning to an existing recipient language
form, they are said to have created a semantic loan. Semantic loans can be
grouped into loan homonyms and loan synonyms. A loan homonym is the result
when the new meaning gained by the affected recipient language form is totally
different from its original meaning. For instance, the American Portuguese word
grosseria (originally “a rude remark”) obtained a second meaning “grocery” due
to the influence of the English word grocery (Haugen, 1950, p. 219). The meaning “grocery” is borrowed, but the English form (grocery) is replaced with a
phonologically-similar but semantically-different Portuguese form (grosseria).
In cases where the new and the old meanings are related, the result is called loan
synonym. Loan synonyms can be further grouped into semantic displacements
and semantic confusions. It is a semantic displacement when a recipient language word is used to refer to a new cultural phenomenon that is similar to
something in the old culture, and it is a semantic confusion when recipient language “distinctions are obliterated through the influence of partial interlingual
synonymity” (Haugen, 1950, p. 219). Therefore, in American Portuguese, the
semantic extension of pêso “weight” to include “dollar” due to the influence of
Spanish peso is an example of semantic displacement, while the substitution of
livraria “bookstore, home library” instead of biblioteca “library” for English
library is an example of semantic confusion (Haugen, 1950, p. 219).
Table 4.1 is a representation of Haugen’s (1950) classification of borrowing.
Some of Winford’s (2003, p. 45) terminology and adaptation have been incorporated into this table. As can be seen, Haugen’s analysis yields three main categories of borrowed features, which can be further divided into nine distinct types.
The present study utilises Table 4.1 as a schema for the identification and classification of borrowed features in ME.
Table 4.1:
Classification of lexical changes resulting from the process of borrowing
Linguistic outcomes
Processes involved
1. Loanwords
Total morphemic importation of
single or compound words, varying degrees of phonemic substitution, possible semantic change
AmE shivaree “an uninvited
serenade for newlyweds”
<Fr charivari>
2. Loanblends
Combination of RL and SL morphemes
a. Blended stems
b. Derivational
c. Compound
Monomorphemic stem with a RL
segment and a SL segment
AmN kårrna “corner”
E corner + N hyrrna
a. Stem (SL) + affix (RL)
PaG bassig “bossy”
<E boss + G -ig>
b. Stem (RL) + affix (SL)
J ichigo-edo
<“strawberry” + -ade>
Stem (SL) + stem (RL)
PaG blaumepie
<AmE plum pie>
3. Loanshifts
a. Semantic loans
Shifts in the semantics of a RL
word under the influence from a
SL word
a. Loan homonyms: unrelated AmPort grosseria “a rude
remark” + “grocery”
<AmE grocery>
b. Loan synonyms: overlapping meanings
i. Semantic displacements AmPort pêso “weight” +
“dollar” <S peso>
ii. Semantic confusions
b. Loan
AmPort livraria “library”
<E library>
Combination of RL morphemes in G Wolkenkratzer
imitation of SL pattern
<E skyscraper>
Abbreviations: RL recipient language, SL source language, AmE American English, AmN
American Norwegian, AmPort American Portuguese, PaG Pennsylvania German, E English,
Fr French, G German, J Japanese, N Norwegian, S Spanish.
Lexical borrowing and lexical creation
4.2.2 Defining lexical creation
In Haugen’s (1950) model, the process of lexical creation is of secondary importance in that it is defined only within the context of establishing what is not
lexical borrowing. As words created within a language that is in contact with
another can easily be mistaken for borrowed features, Haugen stresses that only
words with a known model in the source language can be labelled as borrowed
features. Those that do not have a known model in the source language are thus,
by his definition, the products of lexical creation. For instance, the Yaqui word
for pray, liósnóoka (which is composed of the loanword liós “God”—from
Spanish dios—and the Yaqui word nóoka “speak”) is sometimes mistaken for a
loanblend because of its hybridity (Haugen, 1950, p. 220). However, as there is
no Spanish word which approximates god-speak meaning “pray,” one has to assume that liósnóoka is not a reproduction of a Spanish model but a feature secondarily created within the Yaqui language.
It was Winford (2003) who, by incorporating lexical creation into his model
of lexical contact phenomena, gave it more prominence in the study of lexical
change within the broader context of language maintenance. In addition to this,
Winford (2003) also expanded Haugen’s description of the process of creation
by identifying three distinct classes of created features: (1) purely native creations—those that involve the “innovative use of native words to express foreign
concepts”; (2) hybrid creations—those that involve blending “native and foreign
morphemes to express foreign concepts”; and (3) creations using only foreign
morphemes—those that involve the use of “foreign morphemes” to express new
concepts (p. 45). In order to circumvent the problems associated with using the
terms native and foreign in the context of a study involving a multilingual community, I have adjusted Winford’s terminology and description of the various
creative processes by utilising the terms recipient language and source language. The adapted model is presented in Table 4.2.
The linguistic outcomes of lexical borrowing and lexical creation in ME will
be further discussed below. By examining the context of these features, and also
their distribution across different semantic fields, it is possible to deduce some
of the factors that have motivated their use. It is clear from these that the products of cultural and linguistic contact—borrowed and created features—provide
ME users with resources to maintain the use of English within a complex multilingual, multicultural society.
Lexical borrowing
Table 4.2:
Classification of lexical changes resulting from the process of creation
Processes involved
1. Creations using RL
Innovative use of RL words to
express SL concepts
Pima “wrinkled buttocks”
for “elephant”
2. Hybrid creations
Blends of RL and SL morphemes Yaqui liósnóoka “pray”
to express SL concepts
3. Creations using SL
Combination of SL morphemes
for new concepts
Japanese wan-man-ka
“bus with no conductor”
Abbreviations: RL recipient language, SL source language.
4.3 Lexical borrowing in Malaysian English
As noted above, this study adopts Haugen’s (1950) definition of lexical borrowing: the attempted reproduction in one language of patterns previously found in
another. In the context of ME, this process is predicated on two conditions: (1)
the extensive bilingualism and multilingualism that characterise most communities in Malaysia; and (2) the varying degrees to which English is maintained
within Malaysia. Borrowing is thus conceptualised as the transfer of lexical
items or structural elements from the local languages of Malaysia into English as
a result of the maintenance of the latter in a multilingual setting.
Focusing on the influence of Malay and Chinese languages, this chapter examines borrowed features extracted from the MEN Corpus in order to derive
information on the mechanisms underlying the process of borrowing in ME. Recurrent lexical items whose origin can be traced to either Malay or Chinese have
been targeted for analysis. The concordance lines of each of these features have
been extracted and analysed to deduce the semantic and morphosyntactic properties of these features in the context of ME. The etymology of these features
was obtained from the following dictionaries:
1. A Grammar and Dictionary of the Malay Language (Crawfurd, 1852);
2. A Malay-English Dictionary (Wilkinson, 1959);
3. Dwibahasa Kamus Delta [Delta Bilingual Dictionary] (Lufti & Awang,
4. Kamus Dewan Edisi Ketiga [Third Edition of the Dewan Dictionary]
(Noresah et al., 2000);
5. Kamus Lanjutan Bahasa Malaysia-Bahasa Inggeris [Advanced MalayEnglish Dictionary] (Abd. Aziz, 2003);
6. Kamus Melayu Global [Malay Global Dictionary] (Hasan, 1997);
Lexical borrowing and lexical creation
7. Chinese-English Dictionary (Mathews, 1972);
8. Putonghua-Southern Fujian Dialect Dictionary (Chinese Dialect Research
Group under the Chinese Language and Literature Research Institute of
Xiamen University, 1982);
9. The Cantonese Speaker’s Dictionary (Cowles, 1965);
10. The Chinese-English Dictionary (English Department of the Beijing Foreign
Languages Institute, 1981);
11. Hobson-Jobson (Yule & Burnell, 1903); and
12. The Oxford English Dictionary.
The etymology of, and grammatical information on, each feature have been
encoded in the form of a dictionary entry (more details can be found in Section
3.3 above). A specimen entry can be seen in Figure 4.1, and the entirety of these
dictionary entries is presented in Appendices A and B to this volume. By comparing the way in which these features are used in ME with the way that they are
used in their original language, it has been possible to draw specific conclusions
about the mechanisms involved in the borrowing of these words and phrases.
The procedure has also facilitated the classification of the lexical features according to Haugen’s model (see Table 4.1). Despite the intrinsic differences between the linguistic systems of Malay and Chinese, the process of borrowing
from these two groups of languages appears to have produced similar types of
variation and change in the lexicon of ME. Out of the nine possible types of borrowed features identified by Haugen, three are represented in the MEN Corpus:
(1) loanwords; (2) compound blends; and (3) loan translations.
The dictionary entries representing the borrowed features have been classified according to their source language. These are presented in two alphabetically-ordered lists—one consisting of items borrowed from Malay (see Appendix
A) and the other of items borrowed from Chinese (see Appendix B). Beyond
providing evidence for the codifiability of borrowed features, these entries also
capture the systematicity and stability of the outcomes of lexical borrowing in
In the appendices, a borrowed feature may be designated as a main entry, a
sub-entry or a derivative depending on the form it takes and the word(s) with
which it co-occurs. All borrowed features are printed in bold. Additionally,
compound blends are underlined while loan translations are italicised. The definitions of all entries, sub-entries and derivatives are kept as simple as possible,
but in some instances, relevant cultural information is included to ensure clarity
and accuracy. Example phrases or sentences sourced from the MEN Corpus are
cited where necessary to provide readers with a better understanding of the
meaning(s) of these features and the way that they are used in ME. Some com-
Lexical borrowing
mon abbreviations used in the lists include n. (noun), a. (adjective), v. (verb),
int. (interjection), orig. (originally), lit. (literally), attrib. (attributively), comb.
(in combination), and Pl. (plural).
rendang n. [Malay] A spicy meat dish with a rich and fragrant gravy.
2001 The Star 23 Dec. More than 100 food stalls offering local favourites such
as laksa Johor, ketupat, rendang, ....
Comb.: beef rendang [Malay rendang daging] spicy beef dish with a rich coconut gravy; chicken rendang [Malay rendang ayam] spicy chicken dish with a rich
coconut gravy.
2001 The Star 2 Sept. We naturally like to learn new things, and turning out a
fragrant apple pie or dishing out a plate of mouth-watering beef rendang from your
own kitchen can be very satisfying. 2001 The Star 27 Dec. In Malacca, Christmas joy
was visible in the Portuguese settlements of Ujong Pasir and Bandar Hilir where
guests were served with the special dish of “karisenko” (chicken rendang with long
Fig. 4.1
Dictionary entry created for “rendang” based on data from the MEN Corpus
In the discussion that follows, regular reference will be made to the features
listed in Appendices A and B. To facilitate access to these features, I have condensed the contents of Appendices A and B into two tables: Tables 4.3 and 4.4
illustrate the distribution across different semantic fields of features borrowed
from Malay and Chinese respectively.
To fully appreciate the complexity of the process of borrowing, it is necessary to examine, not just what have been borrowed, but also how these features
have been incorporated into the lexicon of ME. The latter aspect is related to the
morphological, orthographic, semantic and syntactic changes that affect these
items in the process of being borrowed. The linguistic and social factors that
might have motivated ME users to adopt Malay and Chinese features in their
English-language discourse is also an important dimension of this process.
Table 4.3:
Lexical borrowing and lexical creation
Distribution of features borrowed from Malay
Semantic fields
Pure loanwords
Compound blends
Cooked dishes
asam pedas
ayam pongteh
bubur lambuk/lambok
gulai tempoyak
mee goreng
mee rebus
nasi briyani
nasi kerabu
nasi lemak
nasi ulam
roti canai
roti jala
roti kaya
sambal belacan
sambal ikan bilis
sambal petai
sambal tempoyak
sambal udang petai
beef rendang
briyani rice
chicken rendang
naan bread
pongteh chicken/
chicken pongteh
Sweets and
ais kacang
bubur cha cha
bubur kacang
bubur pulut hitam
kuih bahulu
kuih bangkit
kuih kapit
putu beras
putu kacang
tapai pulut
ice kacang
pandan jelly
Food (n=79)
Loan translations
Lexical borrowing
Table 4.3:
Semantic fields
Pure loanwords
Compound blends
tapai ubi
teh tarik
Fruit, vegetables, bunga kantan
herbs and spices ciku
daun kesum
daun mambu
daun salam
duku langsat
pandan leaf
wet rempah
Dried, fermented belacan
or preserved
ikan bilis “dried
Fish and poultry bawal hitam
bawal putih
ikan kembung
ikan tenggiri
ikan terubok
kampung chicken
Social and recreational activities (n=37)
bunga manggar
bunga telur
bersanding ceremony
makan kecil
thanksgiving kenduri
Games and
gasing pangkah
gasing uri
sepak takraw
silat olahraga
wau bulan
Loan translations
Table 4.3:
Lexical borrowing and lexical creation
Semantic fields
Pure loanwords
Compound blends
Music, song and dikir barat
wayang kulit
wayang peranakan
rebana ubi
kompang troupe
batik art
batik painting
People and titles (n=25)
Formal and
Muslim bumiput(e)ra
orang asli
orang putih
Orang Ulu
peranakan Arab
Datin “person with
Datuk “person with
ikan bilis “small fry”
makcik “middle-aged
Malay lady”
batik painter
Loan translations
Lexical borrowing
Table 4.3:
Semantic fields
Pure loanwords
Compound blends
Loan translations
Mat Salleh
pakcik “middle-aged
Malay man”
Conferred titles
Datin “title”
Datin Seri
Datuk “title”
Datuk Seri
Puan Sri
Tan Sri
Terms of respect makcik “title”
pakcik “title”
Islam (n=24)
Practices and
(ber)buka puasa
Hari Raya/Hari Raya
Puasa/Hari Raya
Ramadan, Ramadhan
ulama, ulamak
(sekolah) pondok
“Islamic school”
pondok school
God willing
Table 4.3:
Lexical borrowing and lexical creation
Semantic fields
Pure loanwords
Compound blends
Loan translations
Toponyms and derivatives (n= 19)
Name of states
and derivatives
Neg(e)ri Sembilan
Penang/Pulau Pinang
Cities and towns Ipoh
Kota Kinabalu
Kuala Lumpur
Government, administration and the monarchy (n=18)
(Lembaga) Tabung
Dewan Negara
Dewan Rakyat
Orang Asli Affairs
Islamic Affairs
Department of Orang Council/Islamic ReAsli Affairs
ligious Council
Tabung Haji Board
Islamic Affairs
Islamic Religious
Malaysian Islamic
Lexical borrowing
Table 4.3:
Semantic fields
Pure loanwords
Datuk Bandar
Menteri Besar
Raja Permaisuri Agong
wakil rakyat
Yang di-Pertua
Yang di-Pertuan
Yang di-Pertuan Besar
Compound blends
Loan translations
Clothing (n=15)
(baju) kebaya
baju Kedah
baju kurung
baju Melayu
batik sarong
ibu kerongsang
(kain) songket
batik cloth
saree cloth
Folk religion (n=10)
Spiritual healers
Evil spirits
orang minyak
air jampi
Miscellaneous (n=24)
pasar malam
pasar tani
pondok “hut”
kampung house
Malay kampung
mamak stall
nasi lemak stall
night market
Table 4.3:
Lexical borrowing and lexical creation
Semantic fields
Pure loanwords
Compound blends
Loan translations
pondok polis
tidak apa
tidak apa attitude
Tools, objects
in the house
rotan “cane”
pandan mat
mengkuang mat
rotan “cane used to
carry out caning
balik kampung
rice bowl
Note: Some lexical items appear in more than one semantic field as they have more than one
sense. These items are glossed to avoid confusion.
Table 4.4:
Distribution of features borrowed from Chinese
Semantic fields
Pure loanwords
Compound blends
Loan translations
Food (n=39)
chap chye/choi/choy
char koay teow
char siew pau
char siew/siu
chee cheong fun
dim sum
Hokkien mee
mee hoon/bihun
sar hor fun
tau sar pau
Yee Sang
yong tau foo
Foochow fish ball
fried koay teow
Hainanese chicken rice
koay teow soup
popiah skin
wantan noodles
beef ball
Buddha Jumps Over
The Wall
chicken rice
drunken chicken
fish ball
fish cake
ikan bilis stock
lotus paste
noodle soup
red bean paste
salted vegetables
shrimp/prawn paste
snow skin
Lexical borrowing
Table 4.4:
Semantic fields
Pure loanwords
Compound blends
Loan translations
Festivals and
ang pow/ang pau/
Chap Goh Meh/Mei
ang pow packet
Mid-Autumn Festival
Nine Emperor Gods
Nine Emperor Gods
People (n=7)
amah (chieh)
mui tsai
Chinese sinseh
feng shui master
kung fu master
Spaces (n=6)
Martial arts
and traditional
practices (n=5)
feng shui
kung fu/kungfu
tai chi
Hua Zong
Clothing (n=2)
hum sup
Chinese assembly hall
Chinese medicine
medical hall
medicine shop
shophouse/shop house
Federation of Chinese
Associations of
Maggi mee curls
4.3.1 Influences of Malay
The influence of the Malay language is one of the most remarkable characteristics of ME as it distinguishes this variety of English from, not only inner-circle
varieties, but also other Asian varieties such as Philippine English, Hong Kong
English, Indian English and, to a lesser degree, Singapore English.
The term Malay language is used in this volume to refer to the Austronesian
languages spoken by the Malay people of Peninsular Malaysia, Southern Thailand, Sumatra and parts of Borneo. In modern Peninsular Malaysia, there are at
Lexical borrowing and lexical creation
least four major Malay dialects—the northwestern dialect spoken in Kedah, Perlis and Penang; the northeastern dialect spoken in Kelantan; the eastern dialect
spoken in Terengganu; and the southern dialect spoken in Johor, Melaka, Pahang, Selangor and Perak (Asmah, 1977). Other minor Malay dialects used in
Malaysia include those spoken in Sabah and Sarawak, some which originated in
parts of present-day Indonesia, Creole Malay spoken by the Straits Chinese
community in Melaka known locally as Baba Malay, and a bazaar variety—
bahasa pasar “market language”—that is widely used as an inter-ethnic vernacular especially in commercial environments. At the formal level, there is a
standard variety of Malay known as Bahasa Malaysia or Bahasa Melayu, which
is said to be based on the southern dialect. Bahasa Malaysia was declared the
national language of Malaysia in 1957 and the official language in 1967. It is
this variety that is used by Malaysians, irrespective of ethnicity, in various formal domains—government, administration, education, media and academia.
The linguistic disparity among the diverse Malay dialects ranges from minimal to significant, affecting intelligibility between speakers of different dialects
to varying degrees (Zuraidah, 2003, p. 57). What is clear is that these dialects
have a large word stock in common. As a result, in analysing Malay borrowings
in ME, it is it is often difficult to determine with certainty the exact regional
origin of a particular Malay word. There are, however, a number of Malay
words which are distinctly derived from Javanese (e.g., gamelan, soto and
wayang), Kedah Malay (e.g., songket) or Kelantan Malay (e.g., budu). In such
cases, the original source language of the feature is noted as such in Appendix
To further complicate matters, the Indianisation of Southeast Asia from the
4th century BCE to the 13th century CE brought great changes to the Malay language, some of which are still evident today (see Section 2.2). The influence of
Sanskrit on Malay can in fact be seen in the lexicon of ME. Words and phrases
within the semantic field of government, administration and the monarchy in
particular often incorporate Sanksrit morphemes. Examples include Menteri Besar, Raja, Raja Permaisuri Agong and Yang di-Pertua Neg(e)ri (see Appendix
A for the etymology of these phrases). The spread of Islam since the 13th century
has also transformed the vocabulary of Malay, and consequently ME. Perhaps
the most conspicuous manifestations are the borrowing into ME through Malay
of Arabic words related to Islam, such as halal, haram, imam, kadi, khalwat,
madrasah, ulama and wali (see the semantic field of Islam in Table 4.3 for other
features). More recently, influences of southern Chinese (e.g., kuih, mee goreng,
nyonya and teh tarik) and vernacular Indian languages (e.g., mamak, nasi briyani, putu beras, roti and sambal) on Malay have also played a role in shaping
the lexicon of ME. Words referring to food items and people associated with
Lexical borrowing
these two cultural groups are particularly well-represented in the MEN Corpus.
The impact of these languages, especially Sanskrit and Arabic, on ME is only
indirect, with Malay being the apparent conduit through which their influence
has been manifested. As such, morphemes originating in Sanskrit and Arabic
will not be considered separately, but will be analysed within the broad category
of Malay borrowings.
Appendix A lists some of the most widely-used Malay loanwords, compound blends and loan translations in ME. In total, 251 lexical features were extracted from the MEN Corpus. Although not exhaustive, the list provides a reasonably broad cross-section of the lexical changes that have resulted from the
process of borrowing from Malay into ME. As will be demonstrated, lexical borrowing is often accompanied by morphemic, phonemic, semantic and morphological adaptations of the borrowed feature—mechanisms that diversify the outcomes of this process of contact-induced change. The patterns of change that
have resulted in the incorporation of loanwords, compound blends and loan
translations into ME will be discussed below. Loanwords
In ME, the most common forms of Malay borrowings are loanwords—simple
and compound loanwords account for approximately 86% cent of the features in
Appendix A (see Table 4.3). This figure does not necessarily reflect the actual
percentage of loanwords as a proportion of total Malay borrowings in ME, but it
does indicate that importation of simple and compound words is by far the most
productive way in which the lexicon of ME has been enriched as a result of its
contact with the Malay language.
For the most part, the reproduction of these Malay words in ME involves
complete morphemic importation with little phonemic substitution. Granted, the
present study is not equipped to detect possible phonemic substitution of Malay
loanwords given that the MEN Corpus comprises only written text and no phonological information about these loanwords can be derived. However, given
that there is little orthographic adaptation in these loanwords, I would suggest
that phonemic substitution in Malay loanwords is uncommon. Hence, simple
words like baba, bubur, hantu, madrasah, pawang and zina; and compound
words like ikan bilis, Mat Salleh, sepak takraw, teh tarik and wakil rakyat are
reproduced in ME in their original Malay spelling. The lack of phonemic substitution in Malay loanwords is not particularly unusual, especially if one considers
the fact that ME speakers are, on the whole, fluent in Malay, whether or not they
speak it as their first language. Malaysians born since the 1960s are especially
proficient in the language as they have been required to learn it at school, at the
Lexical borrowing and lexical creation
very least as one of the subjects of the curriculum. Many Malaysians of this
generation went to Malay-medium primary and secondary schools where Malay
was acquired, and went on to use it in various domains of their lives as adults. In
short, ME speakers’ familiarity with the Malay language is such that they are
generally able to reproduce Malay loanwords without modifying any of the original phonological sequences. Such “phonemic importation” is characteristic of
bilingual communities in which knowledge of the source language is attained in
childhood (see Haugen, 1950, pp. 216-217; and McMahon, 1994, pp. 205-206
for a review of other contact conditions where borrowers’ familiarity with the
source language has been found to reduce the likelihood of their modifying
words borrowed from it).
The few occurrences of orthographic adaptation and phonemic substitution
in Malay loanwords involve toponyms, such as Johore <Malay Johor>, Malacca <Malay Melaka>, Negri Sembilan <Malay Negeri Sembilan> and Penang
<Malay Pulau Pinang>, but in all of these cases, the original Malay toponyms
are also in use in ME (see these entries in Appendix A). In his chapter on the
nativisation of Singapore-Malaysian English (SME) loanwords, Tan (2001) attributes the phonemic and orthographic adaptations of the names of certain Malaysian states to “the anglicising tendency during the colonial period” followed
by the integration of the words into SME phonological patterns (p. 165). Tan
(2001) illustrates these phases of change using the following examples (pp. 165166):
(Pulau) Pinang/Penang: Malay /’
Melaka/Malacca: Malay /m’lak
)’l (r)/
Selangor: Malay /s()’ )’ :
In addition to the toponyms listed above, there are a few other Malay loanwords that have more than one spelling in the MEN Corpus. These include
Alhamdulillah (alhamdullilah, Alhamdullillah) <Malay alhamdulillah>; bubur
lambok (lambuk) <Malay bubur lambuk>; Insyaallah (InsyaAllah, Insya-Allah,
insyallah) <Malay insya-Allah>; keroncong (kroncong) <Malay keroncong>;
Ramadan (Ramadhan) <Malay Ramadan>; sarong (sarung) <Malay sarung>;
and ulama (ulamak) <Malay ulama>. Some of these variants are related to the
difficulty in representing words of Arabic origin in Roman letters (e.g., alhamdulillah, insya-Allah and Ramadan), while others are due to changes in Malay
orthography over the years and the introduction of the Sistem Ejaan Baru (New
Spelling System)25 in the 1970s (e.g., bubur lambuk and sarung). Variants like
The Sistem Ejaan Baru was one of the results of the attempt by the Malaysian and Indonesian governments to create a standardised spelling system for the official languages
of Malaysia and Indonesia.
Lexical borrowing
these exist not only in ME but also in Malay spelling, and are therefore not indicative of phonemic or orthographic adaptations in the process of borrowing.
Table 4.5:
Semantic modification of Malay loanwords in Malaysian English
Lexical item
Meaning(s) in Malay
Meaning(s) in ME
n. 1 A substance used as a component of a medication. 2 A chemical
substance, such as a narcotic or hallucinogen, that affects the central
nervous system.
n. A chemical substance, such as a
narcotic or hallucinogen, that affects the central nervous system.
a. 1 Itchy. 2 Mischievous and flirta- a. Mischievous and flirtatious, usutious, usually of lecherous men.
ally of lecherous men.
n. Peas, beans, lentils or nuts.
n. 1 The citizens of a state or coun- n. The common people (as opposed
try. 2 The common people (as opto the government or the aristocraposed to the government or the aris- cy) of Malaysia.
n. 1 Any of various climbing plants
of tropical Asia, having long, tough,
slender stems. 2 The stems of any of
these plants, used to make wickerwork, canes, and furniture. 3 A cane
made from these plants. 4 Judiciallysanctioned caning in Malaysia.
n. 1 A rattan cane used for inflicting judicially-sanctioned corporal
punishment in Malaysia. 2 Any of
various climbing plants of tropical
Asia, having long, tough, slender
stems. 3 (rare) A cane. 4 (rare)
Judicially-sanctioned caning in
n. Bread
n. Bread, usually the local version
of a white loaf, which is slightly
sweet and has a very soft texture.
n. 1 The source of a river. 2 Inland
<Malay hulu> area. 3 The handle of a tool, knife,
n. Roasted nuts, usually eaten as a
n. A provincial place, back country.
Adaptation does nevertheless occur at the semantic level. Malay words do
not always retain their original meanings in the process of being imported into
ME. Often only a single sense is transferred, and sometimes the meaning in ME
conveys a cultural specificity that is absent in the original range of meanings.
Table 4.5 compares the meanings of several words in Malay and ME. In the borrowing of the words dadah, gatal, kacang, roti and ulu, semantic restriction occurs. For example, the word gatal in Malay can mean both “itchy” (a sensation)
and “mischievous and flirtatious” (commonly associated with lecherous men),
but in ME it appears to be used only to express the latter meaning. Similarly, the
Lexical borrowing and lexical creation
Malay word kacang has several senses—”peas,” “beans,” “lentils” and “nuts”—
but in ME the word most often refers to “roasted nuts, usually eaten as a snack.”
In the borrowing of these words, only one specific sense seems to have been
transferred, usually a sense that cannot be concisely expressed using existing
English words.
-year-old Teoh Lee Sean by using a
rotan manau (Calamus manan) and
in Negri Sembilan found that
12 months and given one stroke of the
to 15 years’ jail and 10 strokes of the
ordered to be given 10 strokes of the
to 15 years’ jail and 10 strokes of the
today imposed five strokes of the
nine years’ jail and nine strokes of the
10 to 12 years’ jail and six strokes of the
years’ jail and three strokes of the
to a maximum 20 years jail and
or jailed and given six strokes of the
14 five years’ jail and three strokes of the
years and no less than six strokes of
16 with three years’ jail and strokes of the
14 years’ jail and six strokes of the
14 years’ jail and six strokes of the
and no less than six strokes of the
20 to six years’ jail and six strokes of the
years and receiving six strokes of the
jail and a minimum six strokes of the
23 jail and no less than six strokes of the
Fig. 4.2:
between Oct 2000 and July 10 last
sega (Calamus caesius) grew better
manau (Calamus manan) and rotan
for possessing a parang. On a third
for dadah possession after hearing
for outraging the modesty of a
for dadah possession. The court
on a 27-year-old odd-job worker who
after he pleaded guilty to nine
for rape and two months’ jail for
after he pleaded guilty to sodomising
for the offence. Investigating officer
he said when debating amendments
the court found it difficult to decide
Mohd Salleh and Sait also face
Meanwhile, offences under Firearms
Wan Afrah fixed three days
Zainuri, who was believed to have
Sait is facing an alternative charge of
Jujili @ Samrin Gali pleaded guilty
“We are looking for several
Both also face a second charge of
Concordance lines of “rotan” from the MEN Corpus
In some cases, the transfer from Malay to ME gives the loanwords a new
cultural specificity that is absent in their original meanings. I shall illustrate this
point using the loanword rotan. Figure 4.2 is the edited26 concordance display of
rotan from the MEN Corpus. There are four main senses of rotan in Malay (see
rotan in Table 4.5) and three of these appear in the MEN Corpus. The reference
to “any of various climbing plants of tropical Asia, having long, tough, slender
stems” is seen in lines 2 and 3 of the concordance display, the reference to “a
cane” in line 1, and the reference to “judicially-sanctioned caning” in line 12.
The primary sense of rotan in ME, however, is “a rattan cane used for inflicting
In several concordance lines, the word rotan appears as part of a proper noun. These
lines have been deleted.
Lexical borrowing
judicially-sanctioned corporal punishment in Malaysia,” and this sense occurs
nineteen times in the MEN Corpus (see lines 4-11 and lines 13-23 in Figure 4.2).
This sense of rotan in ME has a cultural specificity—not just any cane but one
that is used to carry out court-ordered canings—and it is this specificity that is
not evident in the range of meanings of rotan in Malay. The reference to this
meaning is encapsulated in the phrase stroke(s) of the rotan (see Figure 4.2),
which is a localised version of the English phrase stroke(s) of the cane—the
English phrase is retained but for the substitution of rotan for cane.
The same cultural specificity is observed in the meaning of rakyat in ME. In
Malay, the word rakyat has two main senses: “the citizens of a state or country”
and “the commoners (as opposed to the government or the aristocracy).” If we
examine the concordance lines of rakyat from the MEN Corpus (see Figure 4.3),
we see that in all 45 lines, rakyat refers to “the common people (as opposed to
the government or the aristocracy) of Malaysia.” Hence, the referent for rakyat
is more specific in ME than in the Malay language.
In addition to semantic adaptations, certain Malay loanwords are also subject to morphosyntactic adaptations. ME users sometimes create new grammatical categories and novel word forms by adding English inflectional and derivational morphemes to words of Malay origin. By far the most productive inflectional morpheme in ME is the plural -s affix, which is regularly utilised to indicate plurality in count nouns. Examples of Malay loanwords that have been given a plural form are bomoh (plural bomohs), bumiputera/bumiputra (plural
bumiputeras/bumiputras), datuk (plural datuks), kerongsang (plural kerongsangs), nyonya (plural nyonyas), pondok (plural pondoks), and ulama/ulamak
(plural ulamas/ulamaks). The use of some of these plural forms in ME can be
seen in Appendix A.
Besides inflecting Malay loanwords to generate plural noun forms, ME users also employ derivational morphemes to create new words. The most common of these are: (1) the prefix non- indicating “not” (e.g., non-bumiputera/nonbumiputra “not bumiputera/bumiputra,” and non-halal “not hahal”); (2) the
suffixes -ean, -an, -ese, -ite and -ian indicating “residents of a state” (e.g., Johorean “resident of Johor/Johore,” Kedahan “resident of Kedah,” Kelantanese
“resident of Kelantan,” Penangite “resident of Penang,” and Sarawakian “resident of Sarawak”); and (3) the suffix -ship indicating “a state or condition” (e.g.,
Datukship “the state of having been awarded the title of Datuk”).
Lexical borrowing and lexical creation
with the welfare of the staff and
in mind. Q: Your name came out
together afterwards. The
cannot be influenced into not
creates an impression among the
on who is right and who is
simply to serve the party and the
to the best of our abilities,” he
help foster better ties between the
and their elected representatives.
This must be understood by the
and we are aware of the
“What is being scrutinised by the
is the quality of service concerni
MPs, the people elected by the
to give voice to their aspirations
“What is being scrutinised by the
is the quality of service
in their constituencies. The
can also reach State Executive
ds: “This is an opportunity for the
to express their gratitude to
top shopping destination, it is the
(people) who will determine the
the jihad required was making the
aware that only Islam could
time back, some segments of the
were prepared to ask the US to
the country and the tenacity of the
to rise above the trials of life,
sonal interest in the welfare of the
saw him venturing into the
derstanding and co-operation, the
must have faith and confidence
doing well. If the consumer or the
at large have enough confidence
elected by the people to serve the
and the Government. A
overnment does have to teach the
that smoking is supposedly bad
combat it. At the same time, the
also ask that the US provides
scary. We need to explain to the
what it really is. What we want
afforded them by turning the
against the Government. This
the back.” Later, speaking at the meet-the-rakyat session at Stadium Perpaduan
Wan Ismail: The Budget is a
budget. PAS president Datuk
opposed the move as the
money shouldn’t be risked in
nothing of throwing sand in the
rice bowl. The second is
to be more sensitive to the
problem when approving any
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who each has their own
for real. It’s quite sad. As the
all we can do now is offer our
they (Pas) going to convince the
especially us (Umno) on the
out” to improve efficiency for the
implementation by local
to duty and his empathy for the
some of which gained
people, especially the Selangor
He always reminded us how
vernmental organisations and the
Dennis J. Parker of Middlesex
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should be utilised to benefit the
When undertaking mega or big
was generally lauded by the
Dr Mohd Khir’s latest decision
d been felt most keenly by the
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educational opportunities for the
Doubtless, this package helps
at look up to the aspirations of the
And also to promote forward
way against the wishes of the
“The 19 had gone to the extend
the MPs were representing the
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he was always close to the
When he was appointed King,
arty will explain its concept to the
“Often, the image is one that is
Fig. 4.3:
Concordance lines of “rakyat” from the MEN Corpus
Lexical borrowing
Structurally, these forms are like derivational blends, each comprising a Malay stem and an English bound morpheme. However, they cannot really be
called such because they are not modelled after existing Malay terms. It is this
structural similarity between a derivational blend and a form derived from a
loanword that led Winford (2003) to observe that many ostensible derivational
blends are not really attempts at imitating a source language model by importing
one morpheme and substituting the other. Instead they “arise when ... recipient
language ... derivational processes are applied to previously imported words”
(Winford, 2003, p. 44). Such hybrid constructions “are really due to the more
general process of integrating loan items into the morphology of the recipient
language” than “direct results of the process of borrowing itself” (Winford,
2003, p. 44). Tan (2001), in the same vein, postulates that such inflectional and
derivational processes are indications that the loanwords have been integrated
into the linguistic system of the recipient language. Following these scholars, I
have categorised these hybrid lexical items as either inflected or derived forms
based on Malay loanwords rather than loanblends. Compound blends
Compound blends form about 11% of the total number of features of Malay
origin identified in this study (see Table 4.3). All the compound blends are nominal forms such as batik cloth <Malay kain batik> “traditional textile,” beef rendang <Malay rendang daging> “spicy beef dish,” bersanding ceremony <Malay
majlis persandingan> “Malay wedding ceremony,” kampung chicken <Malay
ayam kampung> “a local breed of chicken,” mamak stall <Malay gerai (or
warung) mamak> “stall run by an Indian Muslim,” mengkuang mat <Malay
tikar mengkuang> “mat made using the leaves of a type of screw pine,” and
pondok school <Malay sekolah pondok> “Islamic school.” In each of these cases, the process of borrowing appears to match Haugen’s (1950) analysis—the
ME user borrows a local concept and breaks down the Malay compound form
into its component morphemes, imports one of them and replaces the other with
an English equivalent.
Other than the partial morphemic substitution, the only apparent adaptation
in the process involves the reversal of word order in the nominal phrase. The
structure of a basic Malay nominal phrase is [head + modifier], as in ayam kampung (“chicken” + “village”) “a local breed of chicken.” In the process of borrowing, this structure is reversed to suit the [modifier + head] structure of a
basic English nominal phrase. Hence, ayam kampung is borrowed as kampung
chicken (“village” + “chicken”). In short, although these compound blends are
Lexical borrowing and lexical creation
modelled after Malay terms, they often assimilate the structure of equivalent
English forms.
The simultaneous contact among several languages can sometimes yield unexpected linguistic outcomes. In the case of ME, one peculiarity is the presence
of several tautological compound blends. The existence of tautologies in ME is
not very interesting in itself. However, in the context of ME, a tautology can reveal some things about the route that the term has taken in the process of being
borrowed. This can be demonstrated using the compound blend briyani rice.
The Hindustani/Urdu word, biryani, means “a spicy meat and rice dish.” When
this word was borrowed into the Malay language, it obtained a few new forms
(e.g., beriyani, briyani, nasi beriyani, etc.) of which nasi briyani was one of the
more commonly used. Briyani was phonemically adapted from biryani, while
the Malay morpheme nasi “rice” was added to the name of the dish, most likely
because most names of rice dishes in the Malay language begin with the word
nasi: nasi lemak “rice cooked in coconut milk,” nasi tomato “tomato rice,” nasi
ulam “rice with herbs,” and so on. As the sense of “rice” is already included in
the term biryani, nasi briyani is essentially a tautology, but this nativised form
of biryani gained currency in Malay and was subsequently transferred to ME as
the compound blend, briyani rice. So, although the ultimate source of briyani
rice is the Hindustani/Urdu word biryani, this study considers briyani rice to be
a borrowing from Malay because the structure of this nominal compound suggests that at the initial stage of its metamorphosis, it had been nativised to the
structure of the Malay language, and it is this nativised form that was borrowed
into ME. The other two tautologies that appear to have gone through the transfer
from Indian languages to Malay, and then from Malay to ME, are naan bread
<Malay roti naan, originally Hindustani/Persian nan>, and saree cloth <Malay
kain sari, originally Hindi >. Loan translations
Loan translations are the least common type of borrowing from Malay, accounting for only 3% of the total number of features of Malay origin identified in this
study (see Table 4.3). As posited by Haugen (1950), this group of lexical items
shows total morphemic substitution in that the borrowers import the “structural
pattern” of the compound form but replace each constituent morpheme with a
corresponding English word (p. 214). There are, however, some inherent problems associated with the identification of loan translations in ME that should be
highlighted. I shall demonstrate the nature of some of these problems using three
examples—rice bowl <Malay periuk nasi, Mandarin 依⻇ fan wan>, God willing
Lexical borrowing
<Malay, originally Arabic, insya-Allah> and night market <Malay pasar malam>.
The actual origin of some loan translations is difficult to verify with any degree of certainty. Rice bowl is one such loan translation. Morphemically and semantically, the term rice bowl is similar to Mandarin 依⻇ fan wan (literally “rice
bowl”) and perhaps, Malay periuk nasi (literally “rice pot”). All three terms are
used in their respective languages to mean “means of livelihood.” ME rice bowl
is however also used as a metonymy for Kedah, the most important riceproducing state in Malaysia. Whether this last usage derives from the regional
English expression rice bowl “rice production centres” or results from the influence of Malay or Chinese remains moot. The issue of the origin of features such
as this is probably not one of great significance in the whole scheme of lexical
borrowing, but in some cases it can be potentially important, as will be illustrated through the next feature, God willing.
The process through which the phrase God willing became a part of the lexicon of ME is somewhat controversial. The present study classifies God willing
as a loan translation of the Malay (originally Arabic) expression insya-Allah because the way in which God willing is used in the MEN Corpus betrays an Islamic (as opposed to Anglophonic-Christian) origin. The sentences below show
the contexts of the three occurrences of this term in the MEN Corpus:
“God willing, we will win the individual event. But we can only win two medals as
the rules say each nation can only win two even if the third rider scores enough to
win the bronze.” (Quzandria Nur, Malaysian rider, commenting on her team members’ chances of winning the individual equestrian event at the 2001 SEA Games in
Kuala Lumpur) (The New Straits Times, 11 September 2001)
“His Majesty also said that with the prayers of everyone, God willing, he will be returning home soon.” (Datuk Zubir Ali, the Grand Chamberlain of the Istana Negara
on Sultan Salahuddin Abdul Aziz Shah’s state of health after surgery) (The Star, 10
October 2001)
“God willing, we will complete the negotiations by October. We have formed a task
force (to look into this matter). We are supposed to complete (the talks) within the
next two months.” (Datuk Fuad Jaffar, president and chief executive officer of
Tenaga Nasional Bhd on on-going negotiations between his company and Kapar
Energy Ventures Sdn Bhd) (The Star, 3 August 2001)
Worthy of mention is the fact that, in the corpus, God willing is only used by
Malays (who are constitutionally defined as Muslims) 27 and that the term is used
to prefix a statement of positive intent or aspiration—the same way that insya27
The Malaysian Constitution defines a Malay as a person who speaks the Malay language, practices Malay cultural traditions, and is a Muslim.
Lexical borrowing and lexical creation
Allah is used in various Islamic contexts. It seems likely, therefore, that God
willing was calqued from insya-Allah. This is, of course, not the only possible
explanation for the presence of this lexical feature in ME. After all, God willing
and other sayings that acknowledge divine providence were common in Early
Modern English, 28 and it is of course possible that this expression was retained
in ME despite having generally gone out of fashion in inner-circle varieties of
English. Perhaps, with respect to this term and others like it, all that one can
claim is that while the form of the expression reflects its origin in archaic or pious English, the prevalence of its use in ME clearly reflects an Islamic context.
Another difficulty associated with determining whether or not an ME lexical
item is a loan translation is related to Haugen’s requirement that a borrowed feature must have an existing model in the source language. According to Haugen
(1950), independent formations that cannot be directly attributed to a source
language model “are ... regarded as creations which fall outside the process of
borrowing” (p. 219). In the context of ME, determining whether or not a borrowed feature has an existing model in Malay involves more than ascertaining
whether or not the feature has a corresponding term in Malay—as, even if there
is a corresponding term, one has to also establish which term came into existence first. The ME item night market, for instance, has a Malay equivalent—
pasar malam, 29 but it has not been possible to establish whether pasar malam or
night market came first. If we accept that pasar malam came into use before
night market, we will have to consider night market a loan translation of pasar
malam. On the other hand, if we consider that pasar malam was calqued from
night market, we will have to regard night market as a lexical creation within the
context of ME. As I do not have access to any diachronic data, it is impossible to
ascertain whether night market is a loan translation or an ME creation. As such,
this feature has been included in both Appendices A (lexical items borrowed
from Malay) and C (lexical items created using English morphemes). In addition
to this, another consideration that should be highlighted in relation to this feature
(and quite a few others) is their presence in many other Asian varieties of English, primarily Singapore English and Hong Kong English. It is entirely possible
that this feature was transmitted across the former British colonies by clerical
workers, teachers, merchants, traders, colonial officers or missionaries—and that
its exact origin can never be fully ascertained.
The Oxford English Dictionary provides citations of God willing from 1526, 1604 and
1688, including its use in Shakespeare’s Hamlet (accessed 6 January 2013, via NIE libproxy at http://www.oed.com.libproxy.nie.edu.sg/). The 1526 example from the State
Papers of Henry VIII reflects usage of the term at the time: “The said realme may yet,
God willing, be preserved and releved.”
The loanword pasar malam also occurs in ME (see Appendix A).
Lexical borrowing
4.3.2 Influences of Chinese
The Population and Housing Census of Malaysia 2000 (Jabatan Perangkaan
Malaysia, 2001) divides the Chinese community in Malaysia into ten language
groups: Hokkien, Khek (Hakka), Cantonese, Teochew, Hainanese, Kwongsai,
Foochow/Hokchiu, Henghua, Hokchia and “Other.” Not all of these groups are
large or influential enough to produce sustainable changes in the lexicon of ME.
The vast majority of ME features of Chinese origin have been borrowed from
Hokkien, Cantonese 30 and Mandarin. Although these are sometimes regarded as
dialects of the same language, in actual fact there are significant differences in
their vocabularies, pronunciation and syntax. These differences are often significant enough to allow us to identify the precise Chinese language from which an
ME feature has been borrowed. We know, for instance, that the loanword dim
sum “traditional Chinese snacks of dumplings, buns and sweets” is borrowed
from Cantonese ⛩ᗳbecause the transliteration dim sum replicates the Cantonese pronunciation of the term. In Mandarin, the transliteration is dian xin, 31
while in Hokkien it is diam sim. This study foregrounds these differences by
providing, where possible, in-depth etymological information—the specific
source language, original Chinese characters and their literal meaning—for the
features identified.
Sometimes, a Chinese word may have a similar pronunciation across two or
more Chinese languages. If such a word is reproduced in ME, all known possible source languages are mentioned in its dictionary entry. For instance, the
source of kung fu is given as Mandarin and Cantonese (see Appendix B) because
the transliteration reflects the pronunciation of ࣏ཛin both languages. Where
the Chinese language from which a feature is borrowed cannot be precisely
identified, the source language is indicated simply as “Chinese.” In the case of
certain loan translations, for instance, the morphemic combination on which a
particular feature is modelled may exist in most Chinese languages spoken in
Malaysia (e.g., mooncake is modelled on ᴸ侬, which exists in most Chinese languages—Mandarin yue bing, Cantonese uet peng, Hokkien ggeh bnia, Teochew
guek bnia, etc.).
The dominance of Hokkien and Cantonese can be traced back to the earliest days of
Chinese settlement in the region (Wade, 2005).
In Singapore English today, both dian xin and dim sum are in use, although the latter is
significantly more popular. A search of all available issues of three Singapore English
newspapers (The Straits Times, The Edge and The Business Times) in LexisNexis Academic on 22 January 2012 turned up 67 instances of dian xin as opposed to 898 instances of dim sum.
Lexical borrowing and lexical creation
A total of 72 features of Chinese origin were identified from the MEN Corpus. Like English-Malay contact, English-Chinese contact has produced three
types of features in the lexicon of ME: (1) loanwords; (2) compound blends; and
(3) loan translations. Loanwords
Loanwords account for 51% of ME features of Chinese origin identified in this
study (see Table 4.4). As mentioned before, these words are mostly borrowed
from the three most influential Chinese languages in Malaysia—Hokkien (e.g.,
ang pow, Chap Goh Meh/Mei, char koay teow, Hokkien mee, kopitiam,
taugeh/tauge and towkay), Cantonese (e.g., char siew pau, chee cheong fun,
cheongsam, dim sum, hum sup, samfoo and sar hor fun) and Mandarin (e.g., wushu and Hua Zong).
The borrowing of Chinese words into written ME involves representing the
pronunciation of the imported morphemes using Latin script. Since there is no
standard system of transliterating morphemes of Chinese origin in ME, we see a
fair amount of variability in the orthographic representations of these words. For
example, koay teow, kuay teow, kuey teow and kway teow are all representations
of the Hokkien pronunciation of ㋯ᶑ “rice noodles”; while wantan, wanton and
wonton are representations of the Cantonese pronunciation of 侴 侘 or Ӂ 侘
“dumpling stuffed with minced meat or prawns.”
Reproduction of Chinese words in ME involves phonemic substitution only
in the sense that the tonal qualities of Chinese words are levelled when they enter the lexicon of ME. Although this conclusion is based largely on informal observations of spoken ME, it is valid if one takes three factors into account. First,
many ME speakers, those of Malay or Indian ethnicity especially, are unfamiliar
with Chinese tonal qualities. Second, ME speakers who are proficient in Chinese
might introduce Chinese words into their English-language discourse using the
correct tones, but eventually the tonal distinction will become irrelevant in the
context of ME. Although tones are phonemic in Chinese languages, they are
rendered redundant in ME because it is unlikely that two monosyllabic Chinese
words of the same segmental features but different tones will be borrowed into
ME. Tonal distinction becomes even more superfluous when one considers that
most Chinese loanwords in ME are compound words. 32 Third, as the English
Of the 37 Chinese loanwords listed in Table 4.4, two are monosyllabic words (mee 䶒
“wheat noodles,” and pau व “bun”), 25 are disyllabic words (e.g., popiah 㮴侬 “spring
roll,” towkay ཤᇦ “Chinese businessman” or “oldest or most experienced member of a
group,” and Yee Sang 劬⭏ “raw fish salad”), and 10 are trisyllabic words (e.g., char
Lexical borrowing
language is not tonal at the morphemic level, and its orthographic representation
lacks a capacity to represent tonal distinctions, any attempt at maintaining the
original tone of a particular morpheme borrowed from Chinese would inevitably
be unsustainable.
Based on the data extracted from the MEN Corpus, there appears to be only
limited attempts at integrating Chinese loanwords into the grammatical system
of the English language. The only inflectional process applied to Chinese loanwords is the use of the plural suffix -s on certain count nouns, such as ang pow
(plural ang pows), cheongsam (plural cheongsams), kongsi (plural kongsis), and
towkay (plural towkays). Evidence of derivation is even scarcer. I could only
identify one word that was derived from a Chinese loanword—kiasu-ism (see
kiasu in Appendix B). The root word of kiasu-ism, kiasu, is the transliteration of
the Hokkien word ᛺䗃“being afraid of losing out to other people.” The English
suffix -ism is added to the root word to form kiasu-ism, which means “the actions or conduct of people who are kiasu.” In this respect, Chinese loanwords
appear to be less integrated (and perhaps require less integration) than Malay
loanwords within the linguistic system of ME. Compound blends
Compound blends form approximately 15% of the total number of features of
Chinese origin identified in this study (see Table 4.4). All the compound blends
are modelled on Chinese nominal forms, each comprising at least two words, or
three to four monosyllabic morphemes. For instance, koay teow soup “rice noodles in broth” is based on the Hokkien form ㋯ᶑ⊔, which consists of two words:
a disyllabic bimorphemic word, ㋯ᶑkoay teow “rice noodles”; and a monosyllabic monomorphemic word, ⊔ th’ng “soup.” The compound blend kung fu
master “a teacher of a form of Chinese martial arts” is modelled on the Mandarin/Cantonese form ࣏ ཛ ᐸ ‫ ڵ‬, which comprises two disyllabic bimorphemic
words: ࣏ཛkung fu “a form of Chinese martial arts”; and ᐸ‫ڵ‬sifu “master.” In
each of these cases, one Chinese word is transliterated and imported while the
other is replaced by an English equivalent. Loan translations
Loan translations account for 33% of the features presented in Table 4.4. Each
loan translation is modelled on an existing lexical item from one or more Chisiew pau ৹✗व “steamed bun filled with Chinese barbecued pork,” chee cheong fun ⥚
“noodle-like snack,” and yong tau foo 䞯䉶㞀 “stuffed tofu”).
Lexical borrowing and lexical creation
nese languages. For example, the lexical items Nine Emperor Gods and Nine
Emperor Gods Festival are calqued from Hokkien/Teochew religious concepts
ҍⲷ⡧gao hong ya, and ҍⲷ⡧⭏ gao hong ya sni.
As might be expected, it is not always possible to determine the precise
source language of a loan translation as there is no transliterated Chinese morpheme in the lexical item that might suggest the way the Chinese model would
have been pronounced and therefore the actual Chinese language from which the
feature is borrowed. For example, the lexical items drunken chicken, fish ball,
Mid-Autumn Festival and mooncake are modelled on the Chinese words 䞹呑
(e.g., Mandarin zui ji), 劬Ѩ (e.g., Cantonese yu dan), ѝ⿻㢲 (e.g., Mandarin
zhong qiu jie), and ᴸ侬(e.g., Hokkien ggeh bnia), which exist in any number of
Chinese languages. As noted above, the source language for such features is indicated simply as “Chinese.”
The multilingual, multicultural milieu that forms the backdrop of lexical
borrowing in ME is reflected in certain loan translations of Chinese origin. I
shall illustrate this using the term ikan bilis stock “stock made by boiling dried
anchovies in water,” which is a hybrid construction consisting of the Malay
compound word ikan bilis “dried anchovies” and the English word stock
“broth.” It might seem odd to classify ikan bilis stock as a loan translation given
that the form is a hybrid construction. Perhaps even stranger is the categorisation
of the lexical item as a product of contact between Chinese and English given
that the form does not have any overt Chinese element at all. The Hokkien word
for “anchovy stock” is ⊏劬⊔gang hi th’ng (literally “river fish soup”), but none
of the morphemes in this form is imported in the reproduction of the word in
ME. Instead the Malay compound word ikan bilis is used to replace ⊏劬gang
hi, while the English word stock is used to replace ⊔th’ng. This total morphemic substitution is characteristic of loan translations. Even though a loan translation conventionally comprises morphemes from one language, that is, the recipient language, we see here evidence that this need not be the case. Despite the
presence of the Malay compound in the term ikan bilis stock, to say that this
form is a product of the contact between Malay and English is inaccurate. Anchovy stock originates in the gastronomic culture of the Chinese, and not the
Malays, in Malaysia. The Chinese serve different types of noodles and dumplings in this stock, which is also used as a base for soups and sauces (see citation
for ikan bilis stock in Appendix B). In recent times, some Malays have adopted
the use of anchovy stock, or perhaps more precisely anchovy stock granules, but
this food item is still recognisably Chinese in origin, just as pau and fish balls
are. But because ⊏劬gang hi is rarely used in ME, and because most ME users
use the Malay compound ikan bilis to refer to “dried anchovies” (see the entry
for ikan bilis in Appendix A), “anchovy stock” has come to be referred to as
Lexical borrowing
ikan bilis stock. I have labelled this term as a Chinese borrowing, because its
morphemic combination replicates that of a Chinese form, and because the concept referred to is of Chinese origin. We therefore have here a lexical item that is
modelled on an existing Chinese term but whose form is a hybrid comprising a
Malay loanword and an English word. This is an example of how the process of
lexical borrowing within a multilingual, multicultural community like Malaysia
can produce unexpected results.
4.3.3 Motivations for lexical borrowing
The focus thus far has been the phonemic, semantic and morphosyntactic adaptations of Malay and Chinese features as they are incorporated into the linguistic
system of ME. The systematic analysis of the linguistic processes that shape the
outcomes of lexical borrowing in ME is certainly crucial to our understanding of
how the language has evolved, but equally important is an examination of the
sociocultural and sociolinguistic motivations of lexical borrowing. The range,
distribution and context of features extracted from the MEN Corpus clearly
point to the non-arbitrariness of lexical borrowing in the context of ME. In this
section, the data extracted from the MEN Corpus are used to deduce the factors
that prompted ME speakers to borrow words and expressions of Malay and Chinese origin into ME.
The vast majority of borrowed features in ME appear to derive from the
need to refer to local objects and cultural constructs for which there are no preexisting English words. In terms of Malay borrowings, the highest concentration
of such features can be seen in the semantic fields of food, social and recreational activities, people and titles, Islam, clothing, and folk religion (see Table
4.3). Chinese borrowings which are thus motivated are found in the semantic
fields of food, festivals and paraphernalia, martial arts and traditional practices, and clothing (see Table 4.4).
The prolific borrowing of Malay and Chinese words to refer to local objects
and cultural constructs can be explained in terms of the retention of Malay and
Chinese cultures and traditions within the community. Local dishes and indigenous foodstuffs (e.g., asam pedas, cincalok, rendang, char siew pau and wantan
noodles) are ubiquitous elements of the gastronomic scene in Malaysia in spite
of the influx of imported food products and western fast food chains; religious
and cultural festivals are still celebrated on a large scale by Muslims (e.g., Hari
Raya Puasa/Aidilfitri), Chinese (e.g., Chap Goh Meh/Mei and Mid-Autumn Festival) and Hindus; traditional attire (e.g., baju kurung and cheongsam), accessories (e.g., keronsang and songkok) and textiles (e.g., batik and songket) co-exist
Lexical borrowing and lexical creation
with jeans, T-shirts, dresses, suits and jackets; traditional social and recreational
activities (e.g., congkak, gasing, silat, wau, tai chi and wushu) are still enjoyed
by various segments of the society despite the pervasiveness of western games
and sports; and spirits (e.g., hantu, jembalang and pontianak) and traditional
healers (e.g., bomoh, dukun, pawang and Chinese sinseh) continue to be important parts of the belief systems of the society. The continuing relevance of
indigenous objects and cultural concepts means that there is an ongoing need to
talk about them, especially within the everyday domains of family, friendship
and local business transactions. ME users who find the need to refer to these
concepts naturally make use of the original Malay and Chinese words because
there are no pre-existing English words for these items, and because the original
Malay and Chinese words are widely understood. In the words of Weinreich
(1953), “lexical borrowing of this type can be described as a result of the fact
that using ready-made designations is more economical than describing things
afresh. Few users of language are poets” (p. 57).
Lexical borrowing is, however, not always motivated by the need to fill lexical gaps. If we examine the list of borrowed features in Appendices A and B,
we can see numerous examples of features that do have English equivalents. In
such cases, the motivation for adopting the Malay or Chinese word is less overt,
and must be studied within the sociolinguistic context of Malaysia.
Sometimes ME users adopt local words in order to make finer distinctions
of meaning. For instance, the Malay words gasing “giant top” and wau “large
kite” are borrowed into ME so that these giant toys can be distinguished from
their smaller cousins—the top “small conical plaything tapering to a steel point
on which it can be made to spin” and the kite “light framework covered with
cloth, plastic or paper, designed to be flown in the wind at the end of a long
string” respectively. Menteri Besar “Chief Minister of any of the Malay states—
Johor, Perlis, Perak, Pahang, Kedah, Selangor, Negeri Sembilan, Terengganu
and Kelantan” is differentiated from Chief Minister “Chief Minister of Penang,
Melaka, Sabah and Sarawak.” A pelamin is not just any ordinary dais but one
which is used during a Malay wedding ceremony. Other Malay borrowings motivated by the need to make finer distinctions among local concepts include: baju kebaya, baju Kedah and baju kurung (different styles of traditional attire
worn by Malay women); bomoh, dukun and pawang (different kinds of traditional healers); and hantu, jembalang, orang minyak and pontianak (different
forms of evil spirits). Lexical features borrowed from Chinese for this purpose
include: koay/kuay/kuey/kway teow, mee and mee hoon/bihun (different varieties
of noodles); kung fu/kungfu, tai chi and wushu (different schools of Chinese
martial arts); and shrimp/prawn dumpling and wantan/wanton/wonton (different
types of dumplings).
Lexical borrowing
Another important motivation for lexical borrowing is related to the use of
Malay loanwords to convey a sense of nationalism. Examples of such loanwords
can be found in the semantic field of government, administration and the monarchy: Datuk Bandar “Mayor,” Dewan Negara “Senate,” Dewan Rakyat “House
of Representatives,” Menteri Besar “Chief Minister,” and wakil rakyat “member
of Parliament or State Legislative Assembly.” The use of these loanwords not
only emphasises the singularity of the Malaysian system of government, but also
creates an illusion of distance from the system put in place by the former British
colonial administration. Furthermore, the incorporation into the ME lexicon of
these Malay terms emphasises the status of the national language of Malaysia
and its role as the language of government and administration.
Some Malay or Chinese words are adopted in ME discourse because they
convey specific undertones that are difficult to replicate using existing English
words. The Malay expression, tidak apa or tidak apa attitude “lackadaisical,”
and the Hokkien expression, kiasu “being afraid of losing out to others” are two
examples of such words. The origin of tidak apa or tidak apa attitude is the conciliatory Malay expression tidak mengapa (formal) or tidak/tak apa (colloquial).
Both expressions can be loosely translated as “it doesn’t matter.” In Malay, these expressions are used in a variety of situations. Among other things, they are
used as a rejoinder to an apology or a remark intended to pacify. For instance, if
a builder hired by a house-owner is behind time, he might apologise to the
house-owner, who in turn might respond by saying tak apa (sometimes sincerely, but often in spite of feeling a little put out). If the house-owner, annoyed by
the delay, grumbles to his wife that the builder is unreliable, she might attempt
to pacify him by saying tak apa. In the second instance of tak apa, the wife
might be advising her husband not to get upset over the issue, that it is just a
slight delay, and that it does not matter. The use of tak apa above might not
sound very different from the use of “it doesn’t matter” in English, except that in
Malay, the meaning of tidak apa has been extended to include a disparaging label for someone who is highly tolerant of procrastination and inefficiency,
someone who says tak apa to everything, in short, someone who is lackadaisical
or apathetic. The ME terms tidak apa and tidak apa attitude convey an undertone of derision (sometimes self-derision) which is probably more marked than
in either “lackadaisical” or “apathetic.”
The meaning and undertone of the Hokkien loanword kiasu is even harder to
express in English, as demonstrated by Lim’s (1989) somewhat convoluted description of how this term is used in Singapore English:
Kiasuism may be defined as an attitude by which a person undergoes, on the one
hand, extreme disquiet if he discovers that he has not got full value for his expenditure of money, time and effort, and on the other, a distinct sense of exhilaration if he
Lexical borrowing and lexical creation
discovers that he has got much more than the full value for that expenditure. The ultimate distress is when he has got nothing for something, and the ultimate joy when
he got something for nothing. (cited in Brown, 1999, p. 123)
In Singapore English, kiasuism is viewed with a mixture of disdain and admiration—”the kiasu person is selfish” but he is also more likely to do well in life
because he is quick to “seize opportunities” as they arise (Leo, 1995, pp. 18-19).
In ME, both kiasu and kiasuism convey an undertone of disdain for an attitude
that is perceived to be stereotypically Singaporean. When an ME user describes
a person as kiasu, she is not only describing his behaviour but also expressing
her disdain for it. These two examples show how ME users might borrow a Malay or Chinese feature in order to express specific affective meanings that are
not easily translated into English. Other words that are borrowed because of
their affective quality include gatal and ulu from Malay, and hum sup from Cantonese.
In ME, there is a class of borrowed features that is stimulated by the need to
abide by social protocol and to use the proper terms of address when referring to
the elite of the society. The Malaysian head of state and his consort are generally
referred to in English-language discourse internationally as the King and Queen,
although in ME, they are often referred to as the Yang di-Pertuan Agong and the
Raja Permaisuri Agong. The hereditary rulers of the nine Malay states are
known as Sultans (or Raja and Yang di-Pertuan Besar in Perlis and Negeri
Sembilan respectively) while the appointed governors of Melaka, Penang, Sabah
and Sarawak are known as the Yang di-Pertua Neg(e)ri. Besides inherited royal
titles, there are also several conferred titles that are used in ME. Some of the
more common ones include Datuk, Datin, Datuk Seri, Datin Seri, Tan Sri and
Puan Sri (see the lexical set of conferred titles under the semantic field of people and titles in Table 4.3). Therefore, although we might see the current Prime
Minister of Malaysia referred to by the foreign media as (His Excellency) Mr
Najib Tun Abdul Razak, in Malaysian newspapers he is often referred to, at least
in the initial reference, by his designated title Datuk Seri Najib Tun Abdul Razak. In addition to the titles for the elite, ME has also borrowed several terms of
respect and Islamic titles. The informal terms of respect, Pakcik and Makcik (see
the lexical set of terms of respect under the semantic field of people and titles in
Table 4.3), are sometimes used in reference to middle-aged (working class)
males and females respectively, while the Islamic titles Haji and Hajjah/Hajah
(see the lexical set of titles under the semantic field of Islam in Table 4.3) often
prefix the names of Muslim men and women who have performed the Haj. The
incorporation of these Malay titles into the lexicon of ME allows ME users to
maintain the appropriate degree of decorum expected by the society.
Lexical creation
The borrowing of Islamic terms into ME, either directly from Malay or from
Arabic through Malay, suggests yet another motivation—one related to the assertion of the user’s Islamic identity. Islam is the official religion of the country,
and the religion professed by the Malays who form the largest ethnic group. The
relevance of Islam to the Muslim community in general, and to Muslims who
are bilingual in English in particular, has given rise to the need to incorporate a
whole range of Islamic terms (refer to the semantic field of Islam in Table 4.3)
into ME. For the most part, these features are borrowed because there are no
pre-existing English words that can adequately describe the events, practices and
principles that are so important to the Muslim community. It is also likely that
these terms allow pious ME users to assert their Islamic identity. Islamic expressions like Alhamdulillah, Insyaallah and God willing, in particular, are often
used by Muslims when speaking in English to emphasise their religious affiliation. This is particularly important within the socio-political dynamics of Malaysia, where pro-Malay economic policies exist, and where there is a close association between Islam and the ruling elite.
In the context of ME, Malay variants are sometimes preferred over their
English counterparts because of the apparent “covert prestige” (see Trudgill,
1972 for pioneering work on covert prestige and language change) of the former. A recipe contributor might, for instance, refer to ingredients by their local
names— kunyit “turmeric,” pandan “pandanus,” rempah “spices,” and serai
“lemongrass”—in order to accommodate to her target readers, most likely
homemakers keen on trying out new recipes. These readers are likely to be more
familiar with the local names. By using these names instead of their English
equivalents, the writer bridges social distance, increases contact, and makes it
easier for her readers to understand her instructions.
We can thus see from the above that lexical borrowing in ME is not a random process of reproducing Malay or Chinese words in English-language discourse. It is motivated by very specific linguistic, sociocultural and psycholinguistic needs of the multilingual community that uses English to communicate
aspects of their local sociocultural milieu. Not only do these linguistic resources
allow Malaysians to refer to objects and concepts that do not occur in most inner-circle communities, but they also enhance ME users’ capacity to assert their
various identities and to express courtesy, solidarity and friendship.
4.4 Lexical creation in Malaysian English
The lexicon of ME is enriched, not only through the borrowing of words from
local languages, but also by the creation of new lexical items. Winford (2003)
Lexical borrowing and lexical creation
postulates three possible types of creations that can occur within a language that
is in contact with another: (1) creations using recipient language morphemes; (2)
hybrid creations comprising morphemes from the recipient and source languages; and (3) creations using source language morphemes (see Table 4.2). In
the context of ME, I have been able to identify only the first two types of creations (see Appendices C and D). Unlike the borrowed features discussed in the
previous section, none of the features in Appendices C and D has a known model in the local languages spoken in Malaysia.
ME creations using English morphemes usually take the form of complex or
compound words. The word drummet “first joint of a chicken wing” is an example of a complex creation based on English morphemes. It comprises the free
morpheme drum and the suffix -et (another variant is -ette) indicating diminutive (as in cigarette, kitchenette and launderette). The word appears to have been
based on the English word drumstick “the lower part of the leg of a cooked
fowl.” As the first joint of a chicken wing looks remarkably like a miniature
drumstick, it must have seemed highly innovative to call it a drummet. As far as
can be ascertained, the term drummet began as a commercial neologism in the
early 1990s. A Malaysian food production company, Ayamas Food Corporation
Berhad, started producing and marketing chicken products, one of which was
frozen first joints of chicken wings, which they creatively called drummets. For
a while, the word was associated only with these breaded chicken wing parts
produced by Ayamas. The creation, however, caught on and is now widely used
although some ME users are still sceptical about its “validity,” as can be seen
from one of the citations of drummet in the MEN Corpus:
And while “drummet” may have gained some currency in Malaysia—apparently that
is the term used on packages of the stuff sold in supermarkets—is it correct English?
(The Star, 16 October 2001)
Other examples of complex creations in ME include heaty (heat + suffix -y) “of
food and drinks which are believed to produce excess ‘heat’ in the body,” paddler (paddle + suffix -er) “table tennis player,” and shuttler (shuttle + suffix -er)
“badminton player.” The last two terms have become noticeably more common
in international sports news, but have yet to be encoded in standard English dictionaries. 33
The term close proximity for “the offence of being in a situation that allows
one to be intimate with a person of the opposite sex who is not one’s spouse” is
an example of a compound creation based on English morphemes. This concept
Neither paddler nor shuttler in the senses described here appears in the current edition
of Oxford English Dictionary (accessed 6 January 2013, via NIE libproxy at
Lexical creation
derives from the Syariah law that prohibits a man and a woman who are neither
married nor related to each other to be together in an isolated place. The Malay
term for this offence is khalwat, a word which in Arabic means “to be in seclusion so as to be with God.” In ME, both khalwat and close proximity are in use.
Other examples of compound creations using English morphemes include handphone, hawker centre and secondary jungle.
Hybrid creations in ME generally take the form of compound words. An example is cheongsam top “a blouse with a Mandarin collar and Chinese-craft buttons,” which comprises the Chinese word, cheongsam “form-fitting dress characterised by a Mandarin collar and Chinese-craft buttons, popular among Chinese women,” and the English word top “blouse.” The cheongsam top is thus
called because the design is cheongsam-inspired, although the word cheongsam
(literally, “long dress”) in the hybrid construction is a misnomer in that the
cheongsam top is neither a dress nor long. Other examples of hybrid creations in
ME include kebaya top, kopitiam table and sarong skirt.
In examining the process of lexical creation in ME, one must look beyond
the linguistic outcomes and attempt to establish the possible motivations for the
creation of these words. The number of creations identified in this study is too
small to allow exploration of the whole range of factors that stimulate the process of lexical creation in ME, but some generalisations can be made.
Most of the lexical creations identified in this study appear to have been motivated by the need to express a local object or concept using English words.
These creations are primarily words that describe elements of the local food culture, such as heaty “of food and drinks which are believed to produce excess
‘heat’ in the body,” love letter “a kind of wafer,” preserved shrimps “shrimps
pickled in brine,” preserved vegetables “vegetables pickled in brine,” and
steamboat “a communal pot of broth in which food is cooked”; and terms used
in religious contexts, such as fire-walking ceremony “ceremonial practice of
walking over a bed of hot coals,” Goddess of Mercy “Buddhist deity Guan Yin,”
and Hungry Ghost Festival “Chinese festival aimed at pacifying the souls of the
dead.” Some of these words have equivalents in the local languages that have
actually been borrowed into ME. This results in the simultaneous use of a borrowed feature and a created term, both of which mean the same thing. Such pairs
of words include kuih kapit and love letters, cincalok and preserved shrimps,
and salted vegetables [Chinese ૨㨌, literally, “salty vegetables”] and preserved
Sometimes new terms are created in order to name new or reinvented products, objects or concepts. The case of drummet described above shows us how
the remaking of a product can lead to a commercial neologism which is absorbed into mainstream ME usage. Another example is the term hawker centre.
Lexical borrowing and lexical creation
Up until about two decades ago, itinerant vendors or hawkers selling cooked
food were a norm in Malaysia. These hawkers pushed their carts around, often
stopping at major thoroughfares and market places to catch their clientele on
their way to work or as they went about doing their marketing and so on. Due to
health concerns, these street vendors have in recent years been relocated to permanent areas where proper infrastructure, such as running water, electricity,
cooking areas, tables, seats, public toilets and so on, have been installed. Instead
of pushcarts, these hawkers have been provided with stalls. The overall space
where such stalls are set up is called a hawker centre, even though the foodsellers now operate from permanent stalls and are no longer itinerant hawkers.
Some creations seem to be stimulated by the need to distinguish between
two novel interrelated concepts. The ME terms dry kitchen and wet kitchen are
two such creations. Although the concept of a two-kitchen home is common in
contemporary Southeast Asia, this architectural feature is actually relatively
new. It appears to have emerged through the nexus of modern architecture and
Asian cooking. Certain aspects of traditional Asian cooking, such as the cooking
methods, and the spices and ingredients used, are likely to produce a lot of
fumes, odour and heat. Because of this, many households in the past cooked in
open spaces outside the house or in extremely large, well-ventilated kitchens. In
modern times, the average house has become significantly smaller and many
urbanites live in flats which do not afford house-owners the luxury of either
cooking in the backyard or cooking in large, airy kitchens. Some innovative
housing developers have, in recent years, incorporated an additional kitchen in
the homes they build called the wet kitchen. The wet kitchen may be as simple as
an open space attached to the side or the back of a flat or as elaborate as a large
room fitted with vents and ovenhoods. It is here that heavy-duty cooking is carried out. The main kitchen of a house is often little more than a “show” kitchen.
Called a dry kitchen, it might be used for initial food preparation and storage of
cooking utensils, electrical appliances, cutlery and foodstuffs. In this sense then,
the creation of dry kitchen and wet kitchen was stimulated by the need to distinguish two types of kitchens where in the past there would have been only one.
Changes in government policies and regulations can also trigger the creation
of new terms. An early creation that was stimulated by changes in government
regulations was the term five-foot way. In 1822, the Town Building Committee
formed in Singapore by Stamford Raffles, required that “all houses constructed
of brick or tiles have a uniform type of front each having a verandah of a certain
depth, open to all sides as a continuous and open passage on each side of the
street” (Lim, 1993, p. 49). This initial ordinance was developed and restructured,
and subsequently adopted in the Malay states. The Conservancy Regulation No
VIII (1890) of Selangor State stated that: “Every person who shall erect or re-
Lexical creation
erect any building which shall abut on any street or road shall provide an arcade
or verandah-way in front of such building at least five feet in width in the clear.”
In 1893, the Sanitary Board of Perak State, in its list of duties, also defined the
verandahs as five-foot paths (Lim, 1993, p. 48). It is thus clear that by the 1890s,
the passageways in front of shophouses were legally stipulated to be at least five
feet in width. The term five-foot way was certainly in use in the English newspapers of 19th century Malaya. The following citation is one of many examples:
Moreover, an evergreen “five-foot way” has been run-up on each side of the street
where at intervals the graceful leaves of the nibong and the slender areca-palm
leaves are called into requisition and so add, considerably, to the Oriental picturesqueness of the scene. (“The Penang Centenary,” 1886) 34
This lexical creation is still in use today (see Appendix C).
Another example is related to the creation of bumiputra lot “a parcel of land,
or a residential or commercial property, that can only be sold to a bumiputra
purchaser, often at a discounted price.” The policy of setting aside a quota of a
property development for acquisition by bumiputras is carried out within the
larger framework of Malaysia’s New Economic Policy (NEP) which was
launched in 1970. On 13 May 1969, a series of race riots shook the young nation. The riots were purportedly ignited by inter-ethnic tension aroused by socioeconomic disparities. To prevent further ethnic resentment, the NEP was introduced. In principle, the objectives of NEP were to eradicate poverty and to restructure the society so as to eliminate the identification of ethnicity with economic function (Jomo, 2004). In reality, NEP was a blanket policy for many
pro-bumiputra, or more specifically pro-Malay, wealth redistribution strategies
which granted the Malays quotas in terms of public company stock ownership,
housing, education and so on. The term bumiputra lot was hence invented, probably by housing developers, to refer to any of the residential or commercial
properties that each housing development project had to allocate to bumiputra
purchasers. These then are examples of how government policies can lead to the
invention of new concepts and the creation of terms to refer to them.
Certain words are created in order to give the referent involved a local flavour. This is especially true for hybrid creations. The referents for creations like
balik kampung rush, kopitiam table and sarung cradle could in actual fact be
expressed using terms like holiday rush, marble-top table, and simply, cradle.
The existing English terms however do not convey the same cultural associations as the hybrid creations. Balik kampung (literally, “to go home to the vil-
Extracted from NewspaperSG—a database of Singapore and Malayan newspapers published between 1831 and 2009, hosted by the National Library of Singapore.
Lexical borrowing and lexical creation
lage”) for example, is tied up with several annual religious and cultural festivals,
primarily Hari Raya and Chinese New Year. These annual events are always
preceded by the exodus of city-dwellers from their urban homes to their
hometowns (often their place of birth or the place where their parents or siblings
reside), which gives rise to massive traffic jams, serious road accidents, shortages of public transport, and other sorts of chaos. The exodus, the festivities and
anticipation, the chaos and frustration, are all encapsulated in the phrase balik
kampung rush.
The use of sports jargon like paddler “a table tennis player” and shuttler “a
badminton player” in ME illustrates how certain words are created, not so much
as to name new referents but to articulate them in the most clear, concise and
succinct way. The word paddler has its roots in the word paddle, the bat used in
the game of table tennis. The word shuttler derived from shuttle which in turn is
an abbreviation of shuttlecock, the conical-shape projectile comprising a crown
of feathers fixed in a cork base, used in the game of badminton. As sports jargon
often appears in spoken discourse, in sports commentaries, for instance, these
words are easier to transmit. They have the added advantage of being memorable and inclusive, and acoustically, they often sound sharper than their standard
English counterparts. In ME, table tennis player and badminton player co-occur
with paddler and shuttler.
None of the creations discussed above has a known model in the local languages of Malaysia, though some of these creations have been incorporated into
the lexicon of the local languages in various forms. For example, the English
creation five-foot way has been reproduced in Malay as kaki lima and in Hokkien as goh kaki,35 and the term secondary jungle is borrowed into standard Malay as hutan sekunder. Such bidirectional transfers complicate the study of contact-induced change, not just in ME, but in all the languages involved. It is
Lim (1993) claims that “the term ‘five-footways’ is a colloquial expression of AngloAsian origin. It is made up from two parts: ‘five-foot’ is a literal translation from kaki
lima or goh kaki, a Malay and Hokkien term respectively; and ‘way’ which is a corruption of the term ‘footways’. The latter is defined as a public walkway alongside the
building according to the Indian Conservancy Acts No. 13 & 14 (1856)” (p. 48). However, Lim provides no evidence whatsoever to support his claim that the term fivefootway derives from either Malay kaki lima or Hokkien goh kaki. In fact, his observation that the term five-footways appears in Clause 777, By-Laws, Malacca (1908) (Lim,
1993, p. 48), as well as the fact that the term was in use in mid-19th century newspapers,
suggest the contrary—that it is the English term which provided the model for the Malay and Hokkien equivalents. It seems unlikely that British administrators would have
adopted an official term (which derived from their own building regulations) from either Malay or Hokkien.
Concluding remarks
nevertheless clear that lexical creation, like lexical borrowing, is a deliberate
process of change. These features represent the creative ways in which ME users
adapt their variety of English to meet new sociocultural needs, and cannot therefore be regarded as evidence of incomplete mastery of the English language.
4.5 Borrowing and creation: Concluding remarks
This chapter discusses two broad categories of lexical changes that occur largely
due to the maintenance of English by a multilingual community which includes
members who are dominant in other languages, such as Malay and Chinese.
Clearly deliberate, these processes are means through which Malaysians systematically adapt the English language in order to use this nominally “western” language to represent their complex sociocultural reality. The diverse borrowed
and created features examined in this chapter are obviously important linguistic
resources that ME users need in order to function in English within their local
sociocultural milieu. These features not only facilitate references to indigenous
concepts for which there are no English equivalent, but also enhance the communicative and expressive powers of ME. As such, their incorporation into ME
is likely to have been initiated by the segment of the population which uses English regularly across diverse intranational domains.
These types of lexical changes are certainly not unique. After all, the lexicon
of the English language undergoes constant change. In order to accommodate
the changing needs of its speakers, English routinely borrows or creates new
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perhaps unique to ME is the combination of languages, cultures, and historical
and socio-political factors that have shaped the linguistic outcomes of these two
processes within the Malaysian context. The sociocultural landscape of Malaysia, coupled with its distinct brand of multilingualism, has generated a new set
of demands on the English language which is manifested in the continuing use
of the features described here.
The overall similarity in terms of the factors that motivate borrowing and
creation in ME might give the impression that there is little difference between
these two processes of contact-induced change. Indeed, not many studies of
New Englishes have seen the need to distinguish lexical creation from lexical
There is however some evidence that borrowed features and created features
are significantly different in terms of how they can assist their users to negotiate
relationships with their audience. It has long been recognised that language users
modify their speech and writing in order to accommodate themselves to their
Lexical borrowing and lexical creation
interlocutors or audience (see Giles, 1973 for the original account of accommodation theory; and Meyerhoff, 2011, pp. 75-82 for a recent review). In the context of ME, borrowed features are often used to signal group identity and solidarity. Their use presupposes shared knowledge, not only of the borrowed terms,
but also of the language and culture in which they originated. Conversely, created terms, especially those formed using entirely English morphemes, seem to
signal the users’ accommodation to an international audience or a local audience
which may not share their familiarity with the local languages. This might explain the continuing relevance of synonymous pairs of words and phrases in
ME, such as cincalok and preserved shrimps, and pasar malam and night market—while cincalok and pasar malam emphasise familiarity and commonality,
preserved shrimps and night market represent an orientation that seems more
international and perhaps, more distant.
In addition to the potential differences in attitudinal meanings, borrowed and
created features may also be useful predictors of societal attitudes towards the
languages in contact. Based on the findings reported in this chapter, we know
that borrowing contributes to the vast majority of lexical changes in ME, and
that creation is of secondary importance. One might expect Singapore English,
the variety closest to ME in terms of structure and sociolinguistic background, to
have the same preference for lexical borrowing. In actual fact, Singapore English, at least since the 1980s, has been marked by a much larger representation of
created features compared to ME (Hajar, 2006, p. 6). It is obviously difficult to
identify all the factors that may have led to the contrasting characteristics of these two otherwise very similar varieties of English, but it is apparent that the general linguistic attitudes of these two states and communities have a role to play.
Since its independence in 1965, Singapore has pursued pro-English language
policies that have elevated the status and diversified the roles of the language
within the country. In such a situation, new sociocultural concepts are often
named using innovative English terms, such as executive flat, killer litter, exit
permit, farecard, independent school and premier school (Lim, 2001, p. 130).
In comparison, Malaysians’ attitudes towards English are more ambivalent. Although the importance of the English language is widely recognised, the language is in competition with Malay, the national language. Novel sociocultural
concepts are often given Malay names which are then conveniently borrowed
into ME.
In summary, lexical borrowing and lexical creation are the two main processes of contact-induced change resulting from the maintenance of English in
the multilingual, multicultural context of Malaysia. Although these two categories of lexical change are motivated by similar factors, there are distinct differences in terms of the attitudinal meanings that they signal and the general socie-
Concluding remarks
tal attitudes that they represent. In view of these differences, it is argued here
that there is a need to treat these two processes as distinct and separate. Only in
this way can the maintenance of ME and other New Englishes be fully analysed,
explored and interpreted.
Below, we will shift our attention to another type of contact-induced change.
Represented by syntactic and lexical changes that reflect substrate influences
and second language acquisition strategies, these features are often described as
errors in prescriptive grammars. Collectively, these features form another dimension of the systematic and stable contact-induced change that ME has undergone. As shall be demonstrated, the spread and stability of these features
challenge traditional notions of grammaticality, not only in the context of ME
but also in that of other New Englishes.
Chapter 5: Group Second Language Acquisition
5.1 Introduction
In the previous chapter, we examined two distinct yet related processes of contact-induced change in ME—lexical borrowing and lexical creation. These processes are associated with the maintenance of English in a sociolinguistic context where other languages, especially Malay and Chinese, are very widely spoken. The outcomes are deliberate changes to the lexicon which reflect ME users’
attempts to adapt the English language so as to enhance its capacity to represent
the sociocultural reality of the community. These changes are conventionally
initiated by Malaysians who are dominant in English. Because they use ME in a
wide variety of domains, they are the ones who are most likely to be aware of
gaps in the language, and most inclined and able to take steps to enhance its
communicative and expressive potential.
Not all contact-induced change in ME is quite so strategic. There are many
distinctive features of ME which reflect the influence of Malay and Chinese, and
general processes of simplification, but the motivations for which are not as easily identified. Discussed in this book under the broad heading of group second
language acquisition features, they are remarkably similar to errors made by second or foreign language learners of English. In fact, Thomason (2001) considers features like these to be manifestations of processes of interference associated with “imperfect learning” (p. 66) of the target language. However, she stresses that this notion of imperfect learning “does not mean inability to learn, or
even lack of sufficient access to the TL (target language) to permit full learning
(because) learners must surely decide sometimes, consciously or unconsciously,
to use features that are not used by native speakers of the TL” (Thomason, 2001,
p. 74). In spite of this caveat, the imperfect learning hypothesis remains a tricky
one for the context of New Englishes where speakers tend to exhibit a strong
sense of autonomy in terms of how they adapt and reshape the structure of the
A less problematic concept is Winford’s (2003) “group second language acquisition” (p. 235, henceforth, group SLA), which offers a framework which is
particularly suited to the study of ME. An examination of how group SLA has
influenced the syntactic and lexical structures of ME will be used to demonstrate
the validity of Winford’s analysis. This will be followed by a discussion of the
sociolinguistic forces that have contributed to the stabilisation and institutionalisation of these features in ME.
Group second language acquisition
5.2 Defining group SLA
The relevance of SLA theories to the field of New Englishes has not always
been recognised. Many scholars of New Englishes take issue with the key concepts and assumptions that dominate much SLA scholarship. Researchers like
Lowenberg (1986a), Banda (1996) and Anchimbe (2009) have written extensively on the inappropriateness of notions such as imperfect learning, interlanguage and fossilisation for the study of institutionalised second language varieties of English. In their opinion, these concepts are rooted in the assumption that
linguistic variation in these varieties of English is a sign of incomplete mastery
of the English language. They also object to the apparent lack of consideration
that SLA theorists have for the sociolinguistic factors that prevail in outer-circle
communities. That outer-circle speakers are motivated not by the desire to speak
with native-like fluency, but by specific sociocultural, communicative and expressive needs has not been fully recognised, and this, naturally enough, leads to
the perception that “SLA theories and World Englishes do not connect” (Kachru
& Nelson, 2006, p. 86). It has however become clear that the “paradigm gap”
between the explanatory capacities of SLA and World Englishes must be
bridged “since ... New Englishes are to a large extent the products of educational
systems” (Mesthrie & Bhatt, 2008, p. 156).
In their observation of the development of Singapore-Malayan English
(SME), Platt and Weber (1980) postulate that this variety of English “developed
through the English-medium school,” and that it came into existence in the 19th
century, when “the sons (and, to a lesser degree, daughters) of the better off nonBritish section of the community” were sent to English-medium schools to be
educated (p. 18). These children inadvertently assisted in the spread of a localised variety of English when they made use of the language in out-of-school settings with their younger siblings and friends. In present-day Malaysia, English
(some will argue, ME) is taught as a second language in primary and secondary
schools all over the country. Aspects of the emergence of ME are therefore
closely connected with the learning of English in formal settings.
There are, however, other spontaneous means through which ME can be acquired. A significant proportion of the population grew up in English-speaking
households and acquired the language in childhood. Some Malaysians learned
ME through their interactions with other members of the community who use it
as their main language of communication. People with little or no formal education may learn it on the job. These are the taxi drivers, shopkeepers, sales assistants, maids, waiters, porters and so on—Malaysians who learn the language in
adulthood because their occupations bring them into contact with other people
who use ME regularly. In addition to this, Malaysians have long had access to
Defining group SLA
various forms of English-language media and, with the burgeoning of the internet, most Malaysians are now constantly exposed to both local and international
varieties of English. In other words, there are numerous naturalistic contexts in
which acquisition of English can occur in Malaysia. Clearly, aspects of the evolution of ME can be defined in terms of what happens to the structure of the
English language when a significant proportion of the population acquires it,
either formally or informally, as a second (or an additional) language. Equally
clearly, interpretations that position ME speakers as inadequate learners of English must be recast to take into consideration the spread, functions and status of
this local variety of English. As succinctly summarised by Mufwene (2008) in
his discussion on the development of creole and indigenised varieties, such interpretations “reflect negative colonial biases toward non-European populations”
and must be abandoned “if we care to learn from the development of these particular varieties some important lessons about language evolution in general” (p.
Winford’s (2003) group SLA framework provides a workable alternative to
the traditional SLA model which is based more on the experiences of individual
learners. This framework capitalises on the “structural principles and processes
that operate in individual SLA” (p. 236) to interpret the processes of contact underlying linguistic variation in the second language. Like individual SLA, group
SLA attempts to explain some aspects of variation in the second language in
terms of how learners strategise and make use of the resources available to them.
These resources may be in the form of their existing knowledge of the linguistic
system of the second language, but may also derive from other languages in
their repertoire. Using these resources, learners perform various problem-solving
and hypothesis-testing activities that assist them in acquiring the language, but
which also give rise to particular types of syntactic and lexical variation. Winford (2003, p. 209) groups this strategic utilisation of resources under three overlapping categories—substrate influences, 36 simplification of linguistic structures, and regularisation of the linguistic system of the second language. These
processes of change have been observed in diverse New Englishes, although it is
important to note that the last two have also been observed in the long-term evolution of British English (see Kirkpatrick, 2010, pp. 95-99 for a brief review).
Unlike the individual SLA framework, Winford’s group SLA model recognises the impact that the sociolinguistic dynamics of the community can have on
The term substrate is sometimes used to refer to a language that is “sociopolitically
subordinate” to the second language (see Thomason, 2001, p. 75). This book ascribes a
more general sense to the term, employing it to refer to all languages that influence the
second language regardless of their status relative to one another.
Group second language acquisition
language change. Linguistic variation is hence viewed, not as “variable and
ephemeral” features that occur as second language speakers approach native-like
fluency, but as “fixed and permanent” changes of the institutionalised variety
(Winford, 2003, p. 236). According to Winford (2003), what leads to the selection and institutionalisation of some SLA features and the abandonment of others is neither a formal nor a deliberate process, but one which is manifested as
the continuing use of the second language in a sociolinguistic milieu shaped
broadly by “the demographics of the groups in contact, the power relationship
between the groups, their attitudes towards each other, and so on” (p. 236). This
on-going competition among diverse “sporadic and idiosyncratic” SLA systems
within the community eventually resolves in a common set of localised norms
that sets the contact variety apart from native-speaker varieties (Romaine, 1995,
p. 51).
The idea that the study of New Englishes can benefit from a greater emphasis on SLA theories is of course not new. Williams (1989), for instance, concluded that investigations of “non-native institutionalized varieties of English”
should combine the perspectives of sociolinguistics and SLA (p. 39). More recently, research that positions the study of New Englishes within the field of
language contact has resulted in a more visible presence of constructs originating in the area of SLA. Particularly worthy of mention are Schneider’s (2003a)
Dynamic Model and his subsequent investigations of diverse varieties of Postcolonial Englishes (2003b, 2007); Mesthrie’s (1992) study of South African Indian English; and Mesthrie and Bhatt’s (2008, pp. 156-199) review of language
contact issues in the study of New Englishes.
In the case of ME, while studies by Wong (1981, 1982, 1983); Lowenberg
(1982, 1984, 1986b, 1991, 1992); Baskaran (1988, 2005); Newbrook (1997);
Morais (2001); Tan (2001); Hajar and Harshita Aini (2003); Norizah and Azirah
(2009); Azirah (2010); and Azirah and Leitner (2011) have greatly enhanced our
knowledge of this variety and its sociolinguistic contexts, much remains unclear
especially with regard to how group SLA has impacted the linguistic system of
the language.
The main purpose of this chapter is to demonstrate how certain types of linguistic change in ME are indicative of the resourcefulness and creativity associated with group SLA. Data representing two types of syntactic variation and one
type of lexical variation have been extracted from the MEN Corpus. These ME
features have been examined to see how they differ from the corresponding syntactic and lexical patterns found in standard inner-circle varieties of English
(henceforth, SIVE). Possible mechanisms through which these features emerged
and became institutionalised have also been explored. The analysis posits that
Syntactic variation
the transmission of these features is assisted by the sociolinguistic ecology of
5.3 Syntactic variation
It has been suggested that linguistic change induced by group SLA tends to register at the phonological and syntactical levels first, and the lexical level later
(see, for instance, Thomason & Kaufman, 1988, p. 39; and Thomason, 2001, p.
75). The absence of extensive diachronic and phonological data means that it is
difficult to establish whether or not this observation applies to ME. Nevertheless, guided searches of the MEN Corpus have revealed a predominance of syntactic features over lexical ones. It is intended here to examine two of the more
well-represented types of syntactic variation in ME. The first comprises syntactic variants which are associated with reclassification of common nouns, while
the second comprises innovative multi-word verbs.
5.3.1 Reclassification of common nouns
In SIVE, common nouns are typically classified into count nouns,37 noncount
nouns, 38 and nouns with dual memberships. 39 Theoretically, the difference between count and noncount nouns has a semantic dimension—one can imagine
count nouns to be discrete entities, and noncount nouns to be indistinct masses.
In reality, these semantic differences are not always clear-cut. What clearly distinguish singular, plural and noncount expressions are their morphological and
syntactic properties. For instance, count nouns allow plural suffixes, combine
directly with numerals, and take determiners like every, each, a few and both. In
contrast, noncount nouns do not allow plural suffixes, can only be modified by
numerals which are accompanied by classifiers, and take determiners like little
and much. In ME, the morphosyntactic boundaries of singular, plural and
For example, apple, book and remark (Quirk, Greenbaum, Leech, & Svartvik, 1985, pp.
For example, butter, money and furniture (Quirk et al., 1985, pp. 245-248).
A noun with dual class membership can be either count or noncount, depending on its
referent. For example, in the sentence: The house is built of brick, brick is a noncount
noun referring to a type of building material, while in: He used bricks to build the
house, bricks is a count noun referring to rectangular blocks of baked clay (Quirk et al.,
1985, p. 246).
Group second language acquisition
noncount nouns are not as well-defined. This produces variation in the morphological adaptations and syntactic environments of particular nouns.
The prevalence of these features is underlined by Tongue (1974) who notes
that “the most noteworthy distinction between SEUK40 and ESM 41 in their use
of nouns relates to the matter of ‘countability’” (p. 43). In her study of colloquial
ME, Wong (1983) observes that “Malaysians apply the singular-plural distinction to all nouns, regardless of whether they are treated as countable or uncountable in standard English” (p. 129). She considers such features to be manifestations of simplification strategies adopted by ME speakers. These features have
also been detected in acrolectal ME, as noted by Lowenberg (1984), who similarly interprets them as evidence of nativisation “due to the generalization of
(grammar) rules” (p. 117). He nevertheless stresses that these rules are often
fuzzy even in the contexts of inner-circle varieties of English. These explanations barely scratch the surface of what is, in essence, a hugely complex process
of contact-induced change.
This section attempts to supplement the findings of previous studies by
bringing together the analysis of four categories of ME features which can be
attributed to variation in the classification of common nouns: (1) pluralisation of
noncount nouns using the -s inflectional morpheme; (2) reclassification of uninflected noncount nouns to singular count nouns; (3) reclassification of uninflected noncount nouns to plural count nouns; and (4) use of the general partitive
construction, a piece of, with singular and plural count nouns. It is suggested
that these syntactic features are the outcomes of a combination of substrate influences, simplification strategies and the regularising tendencies of the English
language. Pluralisation of noncount nouns using the -s inflectional morpheme
In SIVE, a noun that refers to “an undifferentiated mass” (Quirk, Greenbaum,
Leech, & Svartvik, 1985, p. 246), regardless of whether it is a noncount noun or
a noun with dual class membership, is never pluralised. In other words, nouns
such as furniture, gold and luggage do not allow plural morphology, and constructions like furnitures, golds and luggages are therefore ungrammatical. In
ME, this rule is quite flexible. Many nouns that are noncount in SIVE are regularly inflected with the morpheme -s to indicate plurality. In most cases, these
are noncount nouns with controversial semantic properties—although they are
Standard English of the United Kingdom.
English of Singapore and Malaysia.
Syntactic variation
syntactically noncount, they often do denote “discrete natural units” (Carson,
2000, p. 12). The citations below, which were extracted from the MEN Corpus,
illustrate the ways in which some of these inflected noncount nouns are used in
1. The Defence Ministry will dispatch one of its naval support ships to Pakistan to deliver blankets, clothings and food for Afghanistan refugees. (The
New Straits Times, 27 October 2001)
2. I scout for things like costume jewelleries, local handicraft and small knickknacks. (The New Straits Times, 22 August 2001)
3. The councils were also directed to cease all operations and activities under
the agreement and take immediate steps to remove equipment, vehicles, machineries and workmen from the sites, he added. (The Star, 1 December
4. “Many new employers are still unaware of such practices and we advise
them to report the matter to the authorities and keep the maids’ passports
and photographs for future references,” he said. (The Star, 22 September
5. To date, he has over 100 works of portraits, human forms and sceneries in
pencil sketching and watercolour. (The Star, 9 December 2001)
6. The lack of proper signages and souvenir outlets was also highlighted. (The
New Straits Times, 17 October 2001)
7. The Rotary Club of Damansara, together with the Persatuan Didik Muda
Lembah Kelang donated uniforms, stationeries and books to 33 needy students of SJK (Tamil) Jalan Bangsar in Kuala Lumpur recently. (The New
Straits Times, 7 September 2001)
8. The author describes terminologies used in strategic management like mission statement, objectives and vision to help readers grasp the subject matter
better. (The New Straits Times, 29 September 2001)
In SIVE, the noun forms for the citations above would have been clothing, jewellery, machinery, reference, scenery, signage, stationery and terminology respectively. Reclassification of uninflected noncount nouns to singular
count nouns
Another type of syntactic divergence in ME is the expression of uninflected
noncount nouns as singular countable entities. In the citations below, the singularity of the nouns in italics is conveyed through the use of determiners (and, in
one case, an anaphoric reference) that generally co-occur with singular count
Group second language acquisition
nouns. In citations 9 to 12, the indefinite articles a and an are used as determiners of the nouns information, machinery, research and underwear:
9. “It would be putting an onerous and unfair burden on the journalists to verify an information from such a reliable source ...,” she said. (The New Straits
Times, 27 September 2001)
10. In its statement of claim, the company said that in April 1998, it had entered
into an agreement with vendor Memory Tech Sdn Bhd to buy a plastic
moulding machinery for RM830,000. (The Star, 12 October 2001)
11. Cornelius, of Bremen, Germany, was doing a research on the proboscis
monkey and had checked in at the Labuk Bay Proboscis Monkey Sanctuary
Resort on Aug 2. (The New Straits Times, 5 September 2001)
12. They found several items in the area including a woman’s underwear, cigarettes, condoms, a school bag containing a book from a school library
(Sekolah Menengah Perempuan Pudu) and a RHB Bank passbook. (The
New Straits Times, 6 August 2001)
Citation 13 shows the direct combination of the cardinal numeral one with hand
13. The decision to allow passengers to carry only one hand luggage weighing
less than five kilograms and compelling them to be at the Kuala Lumpur International Airport early to board the flights from next week was welcomed
by Malaysia Nanban. (The Star, 6 October 2001)
In citation 14, the general ordinal another co-occurs with advice:
14. He also had another advice—some might even interpret as a warning—to
rebellious MCA Youth chief Datuk Ong Tee Keat. “I hope to meet Tee Keat
again,” he said. (The Star, 25 December 2001)
Lastly, citation 15 demonstrates the use of one as the reference for the anaphora
road rage:
15. I have heard of road-rage but never seen one. (The New Straits Times, 16
August 2001)
In SIVE, such determiners and anaphoric references are generally reserved
for singular count nouns, and constructions such as those above would be regarded as unusual. In the contexts above, if the discreteness of the particular
noun was not an essential part of the meaning of the sentence, the noun might
occur in SIVE without any determiner:
Syntactic variation
9.’ “It would be putting an onerous and unfair burden on the journalists to verify
information from such a reliable source ...,” she said.
11.’Cornelius, of Bremen, Germany, was doing research on the proboscis monkey and had checked in at the Labuk Bay Proboscis Monkey Sanctuary Resort on Aug 2.
If the discreteness of the noun was salient, inner-circle speakers might denote it
by employing a determiner followed by either the count equivalent of the nouns
(e.g., a machine instead of machinery) or a classifier (e.g., a piece of machinery):
10.’In its statement of claim, the company said that in April 1998, it had entered
into an agreement with vendor Memory Tech Sdn Bhd to buy a plastic
moulding machine for RM830,000.
12.’They found several items in the area including an article of woman’s underwear, cigarettes, condoms, a school bag containing a book from a school
library (Sekolah Menengah Perempuan Pudu) and a RHB Bank passbook.
13.’The decision to allow passengers to carry only one piece of hand luggage
weighing less than five kilograms and compelling them to be at the Kuala
Lumpur International Airport early to board the flights from next week was
welcomed by Malaysia Nanban. Reclassification of uninflected noncount nouns to plural count
In ME, uninflected noncount nouns are sometimes treated as plural count nouns,
as indicated in the sentences below. Citation 16 shows the co-occurrence of the
demonstrative determiner these and equipment, while citations 17 to 19 demonstrate the use of the verb form are with jewellery, research and information:
16. The production of these equipment is undertaken by a number of corporations which come under the purview of the Indian Defence Ministry’s Department of Defence Production and Supplies. (The New Straits Times, 9
October 2001)
17. The moissanite jewellery are all set in 18-carat white gold to show off its
brilliance. (The Star, 22 January 2002)
18. In progress are research into the influenza and tuberculosis germs. (The
New Straits Times, 23 September 2001)
19. However, inside the smartcard’s chip there are other information such as
two thumbprints minutiae, birth date, birth place, photo image, chip serial
Group second language acquisition
number, and all the information on the card surface. (The New Straits Times,
3 October 2001)
In SIVE, the demonstrative determiner these is generally reserved for plural
count nouns (see, for instance, Quirk et al., 1985, p. 257). For noncount nouns,
the usual choice of demonstrative determiner in the context of citation 16 would
have been this, as in:
16.’The production of this equipment is undertaken by a number of corporations
which come under the purview of the Indian Defence Ministry’s Department
of Defence Production and Supplies.
The use of the plural verb are in the contexts of citations 17 to 19 may be quite
common in ME but is generally regarded as ungrammatical in SIVE. For these
sentences, most inner-circle speakers would use the singular verb is, as in:
18.’In progress is research into the influenza and tuberculosis germs.
If the individuality of the items subsumed under the noncount noun is salient,
inner-circle speakers would likely opt to express the noun using its count
equivalent or partitive constructions. For example:
18.’In progress are studies into the influenza and tuberculosis germs.
17.’The pieces of moissanite jewellery are all set in 18-carat white gold to show
off their brilliance. Use of the general partitive construction, a piece of, with singular and plural count nouns.
Another aspect of ME that seems to be related to how the notion of nominal
countability is interpreted is the use of the general partitive construction, a piece
of, with count nouns. The following citations from the MEN Corpus illustrate
the different count nouns that can occur with piece(s) of:
20. Use your teeth and underarms to hold your chador. This is the only way to
ensure that the huge piece of seamless garment stays on your body and not
on the road! (The New Straits Times, 13 October 2001)
21. Does that mean every time I want to use my 1119 English paper result, I
have to produce the flimsy piece of result slip? (The Star, 8 January 2002)
22. “The new space, with a built-up area of 80,000 sq ft., will initially produce,
every month, 10,000 pieces of bulk bags and 200,000 pieces of woven bags
in the first year of operations. (The New Straits Times, 9 October 2001)
Syntactic variation
23. “We also used 500 pieces of cards to trace out the designs. It took us three
weeks to come up with the design,” Mohan added. (The New Straits Times,
27 September 2001)
24. Twenty four premises were raided and 18,000 pieces of CDs, VCDs and
DVDs worth RM100,000 were confiscated. (The Star, 10 January 2002)
25. These simple yet resplendent gowns for the blushing bride are accessorised
by chic, lady-like hats, chunky but sophisticated pieces of chokers, hairpins
and bracelets. (The New Straits Times, 5 October 2001)
26. They each use about six to eight pieces of disposable diapers a day. (The
Star, 11 November 2001)
27. TMTouch is one of the main sponsors of the event and donated RM10,000
as cash contributions, 1,300 pieces of event T-shirts, 100 pieces of street
buntings among others. (The New Straits Times, 22 August 2001)
28. Kossan Rubber has an exportable capacity of 11 million pieces of examination gloves, which serve as protection against unwanted or dangerous substances. (The New Straits Times, 19 October 2001)
29. A South African and a Cameroon national were charged in the magistrate’s
court today with possessing 160 pieces of forged US$100 notes in a hotel
room. (The New Straits Times, 9 October 2001)
30. Four Indonesians were rescued from the sea after their vessel, laden with
some 60 pieces of logs, sank about 10 nautical miles off here Wednesday.
(The Star, 9 August 2001)
31. Enforcement officers raided two video compact disc distribution centres in
Jalan Masjid India and confiscated 12,000 pieces of pirated discs valued at
RM80,000 on Tuesday. (The Star, 10 January 2002)
32. They are facing problems selling the coupons, especially the RM24 per
booklet (five pieces of RM4.80 coupons each), which are unpopular with
motorists. (The Star, 13 August 2001)
The use of piece(s) of in such contexts is uncommon in SIVE as the partitive
noun piece generally occurs with noncount nouns. The main function of piece is
to denote the quantity of a noncount referent (e.g., a piece of bacon, two pieces
of cake) (Quirk et al., 1985, p. 249). In the contexts of the citations above, most
inner-circle speakers would employ constructions like the following: the huge
seamless garment, 200,000 woven bags, 1,300 event T-shirts, 160 forged
US$100 notes, five RM4.80 coupons, and so on.
Group second language acquisition SLA strategies and processes of change
Based on their much smaller pools of data, Wong (1983) and Lowenberg (1984)
attribute the presence of these features to the generalisation by ME speakers of
the singular-plural distinction in count nouns to noncount nouns. This explanation, while plausible, hides the actual complexity of processes of contact. The
data from the MEN Corpus suggest that there are larger forces at work in this
type of linguistic change. Here, I argue that these patterns of generalisation are
promoted by certain dynamics in the contact situation of ME. More precisely,
ME users’ propensity to adopt these patterns of generalisation is influenced by
their familiarity with and simultaneous use of classifier languages, such as Malay and Chinese.
A good starting point to demonstrate the significance of cross-linguistic differences in producing the types of syntactic features discussed above is Wong’s
(1983) observation on the obscurity of nominal countability: “The countnoncount distinction in standard English is a grammatical rather than a logical
one, which may be treated quite differently in another language” (p. 130). A
similar opinion is expressed by Quirk and his colleagues who note the following:
The distinction between count nouns and noncount nouns is not fully explainable as
necessarily inherent in ‘real world’ denotata. .… Rather, the justification for the
count/noncount distinction is based on the grammatical characteristics of the English
noun. (Quirk et al., 1985, p. 248)
Although clearly demarcated in terms of their morphosyntactic environments,
count and noncount nouns are often difficult to differentiate in semantic terms.
L2 learners of English have to gain a significant amount of experience in the
English language before they can become familiar with the count-noncount distinction and the morphosyntactic properties of the different classes of common
nouns. This is especially true for learners whose dominant languages do not use
countability to differentiate common nouns. A case in point is ME users whose
dominant languages are classifier languages such as Malay and Chinese. These
languages have classifier systems which oblige their speakers to classify common nouns along semantic lines (Goddard, 2011, p. 346). We shall briefly examine these two languages in turn.
The vast majority of Malay common nouns behave like English mass nouns
in that they require classifiers to be transformed into countable entities (Carson,
2000, pp. 20-21). Plurality is indicated using certain cardinal and numeral words
in addition to the classifiers. Like most classifier languages, Malay is equipped
with a sophisticated classifier system comprising sortal and mensural classifiers
(Lyons, 1977, p. 463). Sortal classifiers are semantically specific in that they
Syntactic variation
capture the physical attributes of the nouns with which they are used. For instance, the classifier orang (literally, also “person”) typically precedes human
nouns while the classifier buah (literally, also “fruit”) is generally used for “solid inanimate objects” (Hopper, 1986, p. 310). Other classifiers include helai (for
objects that are in strands or layers, like hair and clothing), batang (for cylindrical objects, but also meandering waterways), bidang (for referents that spread
over a wide area, such as land or paddy fields), rumpun (for referents that grow
in sheaves, like paddy or lemongrass), and so on. A mensural classifier “individuates” (Lyons, 1977, p. 463) the referent using units of measure. Hence, in
the construction dua kilogram epal (literally, “two kilogrammes of apple”), kilogram “kilogramme” is used to express epal “apple” as enumerable units.
Of the two types of classifiers, sortal classifiers are by far the more complex.
Because they are semantically specific, they “supply, or presuppose, a principle
for individuating entities and grouping them into kinds” (Lyons, 1977, p. 464).
This is most appropriately illustrated using the graphic representation of the
classification of Malay common nouns produced by Nik Safiah, Farid, Hashim,
and Abdul Hamid (1993), which is translated, adapted and reproduced in Figure
As can be seen, all common nouns in Malay can be classified into animate
and inanimate categories. The former can be divided into human and non-human
categories, and the latter into institutional and non-institutional categories. The
inanimate, non-institutional category can be further grouped into concrete and
abstract nouns, of which only the abstract nouns are divided into count and
noncount nouns. In short, nominal classification in Malay is based primarily on
semantic properties (Nik Safiah et al., 1993, p. 100). Countability is a lowerorder criterion that is relevant only to a very small group of nouns known collectively as inanimate, non-institutional, abstract nouns. Within this last category,
what distinguishes count nouns from noncount nouns is that the former can occur with cardinal and ordinal words without a classifier. It is therefore possible
to say satu senyuman “one smile,” and tiap-tiap gangguan “every disturbance.”
Other classes of nouns can only occur with cardinal and numeral words if they
are accompanied by classifiers. These classifiers are generally class specific,
although some classifiers may co-occur with several different noun classes (Aikhenvald, 2000, quoted in Goddard, 2011, p. 346).
Group second language acquisition
teacher, baby,
elephant, tree,
fairy, ghost,
worm, bird
house, field,
state, earth,
Fig. 5.1:
smile, plan,
wind, climate,
Classification of common nouns in Malay (translated and adapted from: Nik
Safiah et al., 1993, p. 100)
Like Malay, Chinese languages such as Hokkien, Cantonese and Mandarin
do not make a grammatical distinction between count and noncount nouns. In
fact, common nouns in these languages do not typically have plural morphology. 42 Plurality in most Chinese languages is indicated using numerals and classifiers. Some scholars even go as far as to suggest that nouns in these languages
are all noncount nouns that have their “plurality already built in” (e.g.,
Chierchia, 1998, p. 53). Others suggest that in Chinese, bare nouns (nouns without any determiners, classifiers or numerals) “are neither singular nor plural, but
somehow ‘neutral’ or ‘unspecified’ for number” (Rullmann & You, 2003, p. 1).
In his seminal work on Chinese grammar, Chao (1968, pp. 505-513) categorised Chinese common nouns according to the type of classifiers and measure
words that they take. In his paper on classifier systems across diverse Chinese
For a possible exception, see Li’s (1999) interpretation of the Mandarin “plural morpheme” -men.
Syntactic variation
dialects and languages, Tai (1994) demonstrated how Chinese classifiers are
linked to notions of “animacy,” “shape,” “size,” and “consistency” (pp. 484488) which surround nouns. Some of the classifiers examined by Tai include
those used for animals (e.g., Hokkien ቮ be, Mandarin ਚ zhi), and those associated with notions of length (e.g., Mandarin ṩ gen, Cantonese ᶑ tieu, Hokkien ᭟
ki), flatness (e.g., Cantonese ඇ fai, Mandarin ᕐ zhang), and roundness (e.g.,
Hokkien ㋂ liap, Cantonese ㋂ lap, Mandarin ㋂ li).
Although the English language has a class of words that functions like classifiers (e.g., a head of lettuce, a pride of lions), it cannot be considered a classifier language because classifiers are not an obligatory component of a noun
phrase. Count nouns, for instance, do not require classifiers (e.g., three puppies).
The main function of classifiers in English is to individuate noncount nouns
(e.g., three cups of coffee, a drop of water), but even these can occur without a
classifier (e.g., three coffees, some water) (Lehrer, 1986, p. 109-110). Most crucially, while classifier languages “treat enumerable entities and enumerable
quanta in much the same way,” English grammaticalises “the distinction between entity-denoting nouns and mass-denoting nouns” (Lyons, 1977, p. 463).
Figure 5.2 is a reproduction of Quirk et al.’s (1985) classification of English
common nouns. As can be seen, common nouns can be broadly categorised into
count and noncount nouns, and each of these can be further subdivided into concrete and abstract nouns. This means, in a given context, a noun has to be either
count or noncount, and it is this characteristic that determines many of its morphosyntactic properties—the inflectional morphemes it can take, the determiners
that can be used with it, the verb forms that agree with it, and so on.
bun, pig, toy
difficulty, remark
butter, gold
music, homework
Fig. 5.2:
Classification of common nouns in English (adapted from: Quirk et al., 1985, p.
Group second language acquisition
The incongruence among English, Malay and Chinese in terms of how
nouns are classified must have played a significant role in the formation of the
syntactic variants examined above. ME users, most of whom are multilingual,
straddle two systems of nominal classification—one which uses semantic cues,
and the other which relies predominantly on morphosyntactic cues. Although it
is possible that highly proficient speakers of ME are able to suppress the influences of their other languages when they are speaking in English, research has
shown that in most cases, “both languages are activated at some level whenever
bilinguals speak—even when they speak in one language” (Myers-Scotton,
2006, p. 300).
Evidence of substrate influences is particularly strong in the way that some
uninflected noncount nouns are used as plural count nouns (see Section
It is worth noting that many of these nouns are intrinsically plural anyway—that
despite their status as noncount nouns in SIVE, they refer to sets of individual
items rather than to undifferentiated masses of substance. The fact that in Malay
these nouns are readily expressed in the plural further reinforces the perception
of their plurality among ME users. The citation below, extracted from the Malay
online newspaper Utusan Online, illustrates the use of the plural (reduplicated)
form of maklumat “information”:
Paparan 12.3 inci itu cukup besar untuk menyokong secara serentak pemandangan
bagi peta dan audio, kawalan suhu atau maklumat-maklumat lain kenderaan yang
dikehendaki oleh pemandu. (“Lexus GS makin ranggi,” 2012)
[The 12.3-inch screen is large enough to support the simultaneous display of map
and audio, temperature control and other information (Pl.) that the driver might
ME users who recognise the inherent plurality of nouns such as this may extend the morphosyntactic properties of plural count nouns to SIVE noncount
nouns. This is evidenced by the use of plural verb forms and the determiner these with such noncount nouns.
The use of the general partitive construction, a piece of, with singular and
plural count nouns (see Section also seems to be triggered by the retention of Malay and Chinese classifier systems in the minds of ME speakers. As
mentioned earlier, in Malay and Chinese, the use of numerals to determine
common nouns typically requires the concurrent use of classifiers. How the Malay and Chinese numeral + classifier + noun construction might have been transferred into ME is illustrated below:
Syntactic variation
[classifier for flat objects]
pieces of
kemeja-T acara
T-shirt event
[classifier for sheet-like or
string-like objects]
pieces of
event T-shirts
event T-shirts
[classifier for paper]
piece of
cheng ji dan
sing zik dnua
shing tsik taan
result slip
result slip
result slip
[classifier for thin objects]
pieces of
1,100 з
1,100 wan
1,100 bban
1,100 maan
11 million
11 million
11 million
[classifier for gloves]
pieces of
shou tao
ciu long
shau to
As can be seen, the co-occurrence of the general partitive construction a
piece of and a count noun mirrors the numeral + classifier + noun construction
of the Malay and Chinese languages.
Besides substrate influences, the propensity to view and classify some nouns
according to their semantic properties can also be explained by the employment
of regularising and simplification strategies. In English, most noncount nouns
can be expressed in countable terms, using either their count equivalents or par-
Group second language acquisition
titive nouns. Thus, machinery, scenery, signage and terminology are noncount
nouns, but their equivalents—machine, scene, sign and term—are count nouns.
In some cases, the count equivalents are the names of various items subsumed
under the noncount referent and are phonemically unrelated: clothing and jewellery are uncountable, but skirt, dress, shirt, pendant, necklace and bracelet are
countable. Information, luggage and advice can be expressed in countable terms
using the general partitive construction, a piece of. Clothing and underwear can
be realised as count nouns using the partitive constructions, an article of and an
item of. Such structural ambiguities are common in the English language, and
many outer-circle varieties of English exhibit evidence of attempts at generalising patterns surrounding these features (see, for instance, Kirkpatrick, 2010, pp.
106-107). Thus, if suitcase, bag, duffel, haversack and backpack are count
nouns, surely luggage and baggage must be as well. By the same token, if we
can speak of one suitcase, surely we can say one hand luggage. By attributing
countability to these noncount nouns, ME users are also legitimising the inflection of these nouns for plural (see Section above), and the use of articles
like a and an, cardinal numerals like one, and general ordinals like another as
their determiners (see Section
In short, although there is little doubt that simplification strategies have a
role to play in the types of syntactic variation examined in this section, these
strategies must be interpreted within the larger context of contact between English and classifier languages like Malay and Chinese. While English distinguishes common nouns according to countability, Malay and Chinese classify
nouns according to the classifiers that they take and therefore, the semantic
properties of the referents. At the individual level, many ME users have to negotiate between these contrasting systems of nominal classification, resulting in the
types of syntactic change that we have seen here. At the community level, these
variants are widespread and well-tolerated because they represent a way of looking at common nouns that most Malaysians are familiar with.
5.3.2 Multi-word verbs
Another aspect of the syntax of ME that can be attributed to group SLA is the
use of innovative multi-word verbs, in particular prepositional and phrasal verbs.
The presence of these features in ME has been noted by scholars such as Tongue
(1974, p. 54) and Lowenberg (1984, p. 117), but little research has been done to
investigate their origins. This despite the fact that innovative multi-word verbs
have also been associated with other outer-circle Englishes, such as Standard
Nigerian English (Bamgbo€e, 1982) and Philippine English (Gonzales, 1983); as
Syntactic variation
well as lingua franca usage in ASEAN countries (Kirkpatrick, 2010, pp. 113114). These features are so widespread that Seidlhofer (2005) includes them in
her list of lexico-grammatical features of English as a Lingua Franca (ELF)
which “do not seem to interfere with intelligibility” (p. R92). Their prevalence
has also led Schneider (2004) to use their frequency, productivity and patterns of
use to “trace structural nativisation” in diverse World Englishes (pp. 227-249). Nativised prepositional and phrasal verbs
Typically, nativised multi-word verbs in ME occur in contexts where most inner-circle English speakers would use the corresponding single-word verbs. So,
while prepositional verbs such as comprise of, demand for, discuss about and
discuss on, and phrasal verbs such as raise up and lower down are common in
ME, inner-circle speakers often regard these features as erroneous, preferring
instead the single-word equivalents—comprise, demand, discuss, raise and lower. For the most part, there seems to be an intuitive recognition among innercircle speakers that the prepositions and adverb particles in these constructions
are “semantically redundant”—one does not usually say surrender up simply
because the meaning of up (as in to give up) is already encapsulated in surrender
(Fraser, 1976, p. 15).
In Malaysia, these multi-word verbs are the bane of the purists. Textbook
and workbook writers routinely flag them as erroneous and “redundant” (see, for
instance, Lee, 2004, p. 33), while newspapers devote entire sections to educating
the public about the ungrammaticality of these and other such features. Newspaper readers regularly write in with their comments on “glaring errors like discuss
about (and) voice out” (Retnam, 2010). In spite of the attention that these features have received, they continue to thrive in the speech and writing of many
The citations below demonstrate the use of some of the most recurrent nativised multi-word verbs in the MEN Corpus:
33. Another shouting match ensued, with a dozen opposition members on their
feet demanding for specific dates of the publications. (The New Straits
Times, 8 November 2001)
34. Syed Hamid said they also discussed about bio-terrorism and the possibility
of finding a durable and long-lasting solution to address the problem. (The
New Straits Times, 31 October 2001)
35. They are already discussing on how packages can be customised to suit their
budget. (The Star, 22 September 2001)
Group second language acquisition
36. “The MAS Academy will emphasise on the importance of courtesy, graciousness and promptness of service. (The Star, 6 October 2001)
37. “The NSC can list down all their grievances with MAAU and likewise,
MAAU can list down theirs,” said Hanafiah. (The New Straits Times, 12
November 2001)
38. In sharing his view, Datuk Dr Syed Othman Al-Habshi, president and chief
executive officer of Tun Abdul Razak University lists out three ingredients
for success in going global - focus on mission, define significant results, and
conduct rigorous assessment. (The New Straits Times, 17 October 2001)
39. Software vendors lower down the price of purchase and the Government
provides incentives to companies and individuals who use licensed software.
(The New Straits Times, 5 September 2001)
40. “First, they raise up the issue on the New Poor but when asked to define the
concept, they do not even know how to categorise or explain its exact meaning. (The New Straits Times, 29 October 2001)
41. Penang Port Sdn Bhd has requested for a RM75mil allocation from the
Government to expand the 100-year-old Swettenham Pier next year. (The
Star, 6 October 2001)
42. He said the teenager was being detained at the Melaka Tengah police headquarters and police would seek for a court order tomorrow to remand him to
facilitate investigation. (The New Straits Times, 29 October 2001)
43. Much to everyone’s chagrin, team Rockefeller was the first to find the letters and spell out the word. (The New Straits Times, 21 September 2001)
44. Rashdi also stressed on the need for constant self-improvement because all
residential schools would be turned into smart schools next year. (The Star,
19 August 2001)
45. Later, the Prime Minister expressed concern that many parents were fond of
sending their children to Pakistan to study in religious schools there. “Do
they (actually) study about religion or something else?” (The Star, 26 January 2002)
46. Sprinter Carol Lucia Alfred, who will be competing in both the women’s
4x100m and 4x400m relay events voiced out her concern on Thursday. (The
Star, 8 September 2001) SLA strategies and processes of change
Based on the types and contexts of these multi-word verbs, it is possible to deduce some of the SLA processes through which these features might have come
into existence. First, many of the prepositional verbs cited above appear to have
been modelled on the noun + preposition combination commonly found in noun
Syntactic variation
phrases where the head nouns are postmodified by prepositional phrases.43 Thus,
demand (n.) for, discussion about, discussion on, emphasis on, request (n.) for,
stress (n.) on and study (n.) about may have been the templates for the creation
of prepositional verbs such as demand (v.) for, discuss about, discuss on, emphasise on, request (v.) for, stress (v.) on and study (v.) about. To put it differently, an ME user who is familiar with the structure of the noun phrase, the discussion on labour laws, might logically appropriate the noun + preposition
combination and use it to create the following: They discussed on labour laws.
In the same way, the noun phrase, an emphasis on academic qualifications,
might be used to legitimise the following: He emphasises on academic qualifications.
Second, some of these innovative multi-word verbs may have been modelled on their more established, semantically-related cousins. For instance, the
acceptability of demand (v.) for in ME must, to some degree, derive from the
legitimacy of other prepositional verbs such as appeal for, ask for, beg for, call
for, clamour for, fight for, plead for, pray for, press for and push for. Similarly,
the validity of discuss about/on must surely be reinforced by verb + preposition
constructions such as argue about/on, debate about/on and talk about/on. Phrasal verbs, such as list down and lower down, are potentially legitimised by jot
down, put down, set down, write down; and bring down, cut down, mark down,
scale down respectively. Besides providing templates for the creation of new
multi-word verbs, these established verbal constructions also reflect the inherent
properties of the relevant prepositions and adverbs. For example, the adoption
and continuing use of the prepositional verbs discuss about and discuss on in
ME may be based on generalisations made by their users about the syntactic
functions of the prepositions about and on. These prepositions collocate with a
wide range of communication verbs to produce combinations such as ask about,
brag about, comment about/on, complain about, enquire about, gossip about,
lament about/on, lecture about/on, rave about, speak about/on, touch on, write
about/on, and so on. The preposition in these forms links the verb to an object,
and emphasises that the noun phrase that comes after the preposition is the verbiage of the process represented by the verb. Given such diverse yet unified input, it is unsurprising that novel multi-word verbs continue to emerge in ME and
other New Englishes.
Third, influences from Malay and Chinese may also have contributed to the
use of some of these features. Examples of patterns commonly found in Malay
For example, the discussion [about community education]; the demand [for organic
produce]; the emphasis [on loyalty and unity]; and so on. For more information, see
Quirk et al. (1985, pp. 1274-1288).
Group second language acquisition
and Chinese, and suggestions as to how these might validate the structure of
some of the multi-word verbs in ME are illustrated below:
berbincang tentang
usaha keamanan
peace efforts
peace efforts
tahap IQ kanak-kanak ini
the IQ level of these children
the IQ level of these children
yan jiu
ggian giu
in kau
guan yu
guan wu
kwaan ue
chu lai
cut lai
ch’ut loi
Clearly, nativised multi-word verbs are the products of complex processes of
contact involving not only substrate influences but also ME users’ tendency to
regularise the structure of the English language.
In his seminal work on English as an ASEAN lingua franca, Kirkpatrick
(2010), noting the similarity between types of syntactic variation seen in outercircle Englishes with those observed in British English, suggests that these patterns of variation may be part of the long-term “regularization and simplification” (p. 97) that the English language has undergone and continues to undergo.
What distinguishes variation in inner-circle and outer-circle varieties, according
to Kirkpatrick, is the accelerated rate of change that occurs in the latter (pp. 95-
Lexical variation
104). In the context of ME, such syntactic variation appears inevitable. The multilingual context in which ME evolves makes substrate influences unavoidable.
In some cases, these influences promote processes of simplification and generalisation that yield linguistic outcomes that are very similar to learners’ errors.
Unlike leaners’ errors, group SLA features in ME syntax are permanent linguistic variants—they appear in stable syntactic environments and co-occur with
inner-circle variants even in formal language use.
5.4 Lexical variation
Chapter 4 of this volume described how the maintenance of English by a multilingual community has enriched the vocabulary of ME. Through processes of
borrowing and creation, ME users incorporate pure loanwords, compound
blends, loan translations and created features into their variety of English in order to enhance its expressive and communicative powers. In addition to these
processes, the lexicon of ME has also been shaped by substrate influences and
processes of generalisation often associated with group SLA. Studies focusing
on these latter processes have, however, been scarce. Unlike loanwords in particular, which “betray their origin directly” (Thomason, 2001, p. 91), group SLA
lexical features are less conspicuous. Typically manifested in the semantic modification of existing English words, they tend to fade into the woodwork of language use, and can be difficult to trace even with the benefit of a corpus.
Earlier studies on ME (or more precisely, SME) by Tongue (1974), and Platt
and Weber (1980) noted the use of English words and expressions in contexts
that are different from those in which they appear in inner-circle varieties of
English. At the colloquial level especially, English words often take on new,
sometimes radically divergent, meanings due mainly to the influence of partially
corresponding Chinese and Malay words. Oft-quoted examples include: close
“to turn off (a tap, a fan, etc.),” cut “to overtake (a vehicle),” keep “to put away,”
open “to turn on (a tap, a fan, etc.),” see “to watch (TV),” shake legs “to be
idle,” and so on.
A series of extensive searches of the MEN Corpus revealed few instances of
these features. This was not unexpected given that the MEN Corpus represents a
written, more formal, variety of ME. There are, however, quite a number of cases of moderate semantic modification—instances involving a slight but distinct
variation in the semantic properties of particular lexical items. The following
citations demonstrate how these features are used:
Group second language acquisition
alphabet “letter of the alphabet”:
47. She knows her alphabets and is also attending a reading class. (The Star, 12
September 2001)
attached to “being a permanent employee of”:
48. The policeman, Wan Ahmad Wan Ismail, attached to the Perak Police contingent, spotted the girl about 10.30am and took her home. (The New Straits
Times, 29 September 2001)
auntie/aunty “a term of respect for an older woman, sometimes, though not necessarily, a peer of one’s father or mother”:
49. She serves fruits with a bright smile, endless chatter, and if she knows you
well, some health tips as well. Few customers know her name, but in that
typical Malaysian way, all affectionately call her “Auntie”. Lee Yeok Lan,
46, sells fruits at a stall along Jalan Liku, Bangsar, a few metres in front of
the New Straits Times Press headquarters. (The New Straits Times, 15 October 2001)
bluff “to deceive, to mislead”:
50. To another question, Chong said it might take two or three years to improve
the unit trust’s position. “I won’t promise (improvement) tomorrow. It may
take two to three years. “I cannot bluff the investors and I don’t want to,” he
said. Chong said it would be difficult to improve the unit price of SAS
quickly due to the present economic slowdown. (The New Straits Times, 4
November 2001)
51. “We often hear tourists complaining of tour guides lacking common courtesy, not giving enough information and, in some instances, bluffing about a
place or a building,” says Zulkifly Baharom, MAS Academy’s head of
ground services training. (The New Straits Times, 19 September 2001)
follow “to accompany, to go with”:
52. “If a Malaysian woman enters into a marriage with a foreign worker, she has
to decide whether to follow her husband back to his country of origin or stay
here and be separated,” he added. (The Star, 21 November 2001)
53. “He asked me to come along too but I said I would follow him the next time
he came back for holiday.” (The Star, 14 January 2002)
gravy “the liquid in which meat and/or vegetables are cooked and served”:
54. The crab is cooked in coconut gravy and cili padi, making it spicy. Not
overcooked, the crabmeat remains soft and succulent. (The New Straits
Times, 24 November 2001)
Lexical variation
last time “in the past”:
55. “Last time, when I drew, I just wanted my feelings to come out from myself
but not beyond the work. Now I am able to make sure my feelings transcend
my works and I think more before creating a piece.” (The Star, 2 September
slang “accent”:
56. “I am from Malaysia and am on a cycling tour around the world,” I said, to
which she replied: “Hari ini mahu ke mana?” I was surprised to hear her
speak Malay with an Indonesian slang. (The New Straits Times, 1 October
staff “member of the staff”:
57. According to a staff from the hospital’s emergency unit, Mohd Azlan was
wheeled in unconscious. (The New Straits Times, 28 November 2001)
standard of living “cost of living”:
58. He said the association also hoped that the Government would reduce the
daily rental for those driving company vehicles in view of the high standard
of living in the city. (The Star, 22 October 2001)
stay “to live in”:
59. I am in my late 30s. I have been married for 11 years and am blessed with
two sons aged six and nine. I work as an executive in Kuala Lumpur while
my family stays in Ipoh. I am at home only during the weekends, but when
I’m there, I make sure I spend quality time with my wife and children. (The
Star, 2 September 2001)
take “to bring”:
60. “My grandson loves the rides. I have to take him here for one or two rides
after dinner,” says an elderly woman who lives within walking distance
from the fun fair grounds. (The Star, 2 January 2002)
take “to eat,” “to have (food, a meal, etc.)”:
61. Most people feel that after taking breakfast, their body has been recharged to
meet the demands of the day. A person who does not take breakfast can still
be energetic but only for a few hours; when his blood sugar level dips, so
does his energy level. (The Star, 20 September 2001)
62. So make a shift to a caveman-type diet. Eat more proteins. Take more fruits
and leafy greens. Eat your food fresh and wholesome. (The Star, 30 September 2001)
Group second language acquisition
take a bath “to have a wash”:
63. To our astonishment, we saw a group of workers spraying pesticides without
using any protective gear. When met later while taking his bath in an open
area, one worker said: “When we used to work for a Dutch company here,
we were given adequate protection in the form of proper breathing apparatus
and clothing.” (The New Straits Times, 18 November 2001)
take away “to eliminate,” “to reduce”:
64. To tackle terrorism we have to take away the support for it. Otherwise, the
breeding grounds for it will remain. (The New Straits Times, 15 October
65. Konsortium LPB Sdn Bhd general manager (corporate services) Ang Seng
Oo said that apart from granting ease of access, highways open up new corridors of growth away from the city and take away congestion from existing
roads. (The New Straits Times, 2 November 2001)
uncle “a term of respect for an older man, sometimes, though not necessarily, a
peer of one’s father or mother”:
66. Still the boy persisted, “Don’t worry, uncle, I’ll find a bus for you.” He went
into what looked like an office, and when he re-emerged, he said, “One bus
will come at 9pm tonight.” (The New Straits Times, 20 August 2001)
wear “to put on”:
67. If you have a little red dress, wear it and head down to Rouge KL on Aug 30
(first, you must be a girl!). (The New Straits Times, 24 August 2001)
Most of the cases of semantic modification cited above are clearly the outcomes
of English words acquiring novel shades of meaning that are traceable to substrate models. The ME usage of bluff and take a bath are prime examples of this
process of change.
According to Tongue (1974), bluff in British usage “has the very specific
and narrow meaning of ‘to attempt to intimidate someone by making a threat or
threats which it is not intended to carry into practice’” (p. 66-67). He noted that,
in contrast, the meaning of bluff in Singaporean and Malaysian usage does not
necessarily include any threat—in fact, in many instances, bluff is used to denote
a simple attempt at deception or at pulling somebody’s leg. While some might
question Tongue’s claim that bluff in British usage necessarily involves an “attempt to intimidate,” the latter part of his observation is supported by the contexts of the different word forms of bluff in the MEN Corpus. In citations 50 and
51 above, bluff and bluffing are used in the contexts where most SIVE users
would say mislead/deceive and misleading (them) respectively. The extension of
the meaning of bluff to include “to mislead, to deceive” appears to be the result
Lexical variation
of the influence of Malay menipu “to trick, to bluff, to cheat” (Abd. Aziz, 2003,
p. 795) and/or Cantonese ੳ ngak “to cheat, to deceive, to swindle” (Cowles,
1965, p. 742). There thus appears to be an assumption that bluff, menipu and
ngak are semantically congruent.
Another example of how the languages of the community may have induced
the semantic shift of English words can be seen in the case of take a bath. In
SIVE, to take a bath typically means “to wash oneself while being immersed in
water, such as in a bathtub.” In ME, it has the rather general meaning of “having
a wash.” Citation 63 above illustrates one of the many diverse contexts of this
phrase. In this sentence, it is used to depict “having a wash, most likely next to a
public water tap, using a water scoop.” This meaning of take a bath can be related to Malay mandi “to bathe” (also “to swim”), and/or Chinese ߢ߹ 44 (Mandarin chong liang, Hokkien ciong liang [or more colloquially, ciang yik or ciang
zui], and Cantonese ch’ung leung) “to bathe.” The semantic constraints of take a
bath in SIVE—that it refers not just to the act of cleansing oneself but necessarily involves immersing oneself in water—does not seem to apply in ME. This
broader meaning appears to have been modelled on the more general semantic
properties of Malay mandi and/or Chinese ߢ߹.
In most cases of semantic modification, substrate influences are accompanied by cross-linguistic and language-internal generalisations. The extension of
the meaning of follow demonstrates this combination of SLA processes. In citations 52 and 53 above, follow is used where accompany or go with would have
occurred in SIVE. In SIVE, the verb of movement follow is generally used to
mean “to go or come after (a person or other object in motion); to move behind
in the same direction.”45 Although the Oxford English Dictionary includes “to
go after or along with (a person) as an attendant or companion; to accompany,
serve, or attend upon” and “to accompany, attend upon, ‘go with’; to be a (necessary) concomitant or accompaniment to; to be consequent upon” in its extensive denotations of the verb follow, the sense that the follower is in a subordinate
relationship with the person being followed is salient in these meanings. In ME,
follow commonly occurs with the sense “to accompany” or “to go with,” but
crucially, the status relationship between the follower and the person being followed is irrelevant to the meaning of the word. For instance, citation 52 refers to
a woman accompanying her husband to his country of origin, while citation 53
In the variety of Chinese used in the People’s Republic of China, the preferred expression is ⍇◑ (Mandarin xi zao).
Oxford English Dictionary (accessed 29 May 2012, via NIE libproxy at
Group second language acquisition
is about an uncle’s intention of going with his nephew to the town where the latter worked. This sense of follow appears frequently in the MEN Corpus.
Possible substrate models upon which the ME usage of the verb follow is
based are: (1) Malay ikut “to go with” and mengikut 46 “to go after, to follow”
(Abd. Aziz, 2003, p. 269); and/or (2) Chinese 䐏 (Mandarin gen, Hokkien gun
[colloquially, de], and Cantonese kan) “to follow, to accompany” (Mathews,
1972, p. 500). As is clear, in both Malay and Chinese, the word that expresses
the meaning “to go/come after” is also used to denote “to accompany” and “to
go with.” It seems likely that the semantic extension of the verb follow in ME is
due to the assumption of a greater overlap in the semantic properties of English
follow, Malay ikut/mengikut and Chinese 䐏 than there actually is.
Besides this, another possible route through which this shift of meaning occurred is the generalisation of the semantic features of follow. The English verb
follow is semantically very diverse. The Oxford English Dictionary lists thirteen
main and many more secondary meanings of the transitive usage of this verb
alone. Furthermore, many of these meanings have complex semantic features,
some more salient than others. The following is an arbitrary citation extracted
from the British National Corpus to demonstrate the complexity of this word:
“Good week?” he asked as he followed her into the living room.
Most SIVE users would interpret the meaning of follow above as involving the
man being temporally and spatially behind the woman as she went “into the living room.” The fact that in the process of performing this act, the man actually
ends up “going with” the woman into the room is implied. In ME, the sense of
“going with” appears to be central to the meaning of the verb follow. In fact, in
both citations 52 and 53, the spatial and temporal orientation between the participants is secondary to the meaning of this verb. It is possible that some processes
of generalisation with regard to the salience of particular semantic features of
the word follow have occurred in ME, resulting in a slight shift in its meaning.
Contact with languages that do not make a clear distinction between “to go
with” and “to go after” must facilitate this generalisation.
The processes of change described in the cases of semantic modification
discussed thus far may appear relatively clear-cut. However, the border which
defines group SLA features is in fact a very porous one. Some apparent instances of semantic shift also reflect the characteristics of borrowed features—of semantic loans, to be precise. In ME, the multiplicity observed in the processes
underlying lexical variation and change has been a major obstacle in demonstrating the existence of a category of semantic loans, as distinct from the semantic modification of English words through group SLA. In Haugen’s (1950)
Mengikut derives from the root ikut by prefixation: meng [verbal prefix] + ikut.
Lexical variation
model, a semantic loan is a form of lexical borrowing—the borrower imports a
source language meaning independently of its phonemic shape and attaches the
meaning to an existing recipient language form. The outcome of this process of
borrowing is not unlike the features discussed in this section—in both cases an
existing English word or expression gains new meaning or meanings. In Winford’s (2003) representation of language contact phenomena, the main difference between semantic loans and semantic modifications is that while semantic
loans are the outcomes of deliberate adaptation of English as it is maintained
across various intranational domains, semantic modifications are the (often unconscious) products of group SLA. On the practical level, this distinction is far
from straightforward. How auntie/aunty and uncle are used in ME demonstrates
this ambiguity.
In ME, auntie/aunty is often used as a term of respect for an older woman,
sometimes, though not necessarily, a peer of one’s father or mother (see citation
49). Likewise, uncle is a term of respect for an older man (see citation 66). In
SIVE, these words are usually reserved for the siblings of one’s father or mother, or the spouse of one’s uncle or aunt. In situations where they are used as
forms of address for non-relatives, they typically occur as prefixes to the names
of the persons being addressed (e.g., Uncle John, Auntie Betty). 47 The extension
in the meanings of these words can be attributed to the influence of substrate
models such as Malay makcik “a term of address for an aunt or a middle-aged
woman”; Malay pakcik “a term of address for an uncle or a middle-aged man”;
Chinese 䱯ဘ (e.g., Cantonese ah yee) “a term of address for a sister of one’s
mother or a female peer of one’s parents”; and Chinese 䱯਄ (e.g., Cantonese ah
suk) “a term of address for a younger brother of one’s father or a male peer of
one’s parents.” The fact that these substrate forms are often used for nonrelatives promotes the extension of the meanings of auntie/aunty and uncle in
It is nevertheless important to recognise that these words have strong sociocultural associations. In a society where age is associated with seniority and
status, and family ties often extend beyond the nuclear household, the use of
these terms of address is another way in which the language is adapted so that it
can meet the sociocultural needs of its speakers. This is especially obvious if one
considers the fact that in ME, auntie/aunty and uncle are not entirely synonymous with makcik and pakcik—while auntie/aunty and uncle are ethnicallyneutral terms, pakcik and makcik tend to be used only for Malays. Similar mani-
Oxford English Dictionary (accessed 29 May 2012, via NIE libproxy at
Group second language acquisition
festations of the influence of substrate cultures have been cited in other New
Englishes. In his work on Australian Aboriginal English, Sharifian (2005) illustrates how the “cultural conceptualisations” in Aboriginal children have led
them to assign slightly different meanings to everyday English words like home,
people and family (pp. 79-82). Similar studies by Wolf and Polzenhagen (2007),
and Wolf (2010) have demonstrated the influence of the African “cultural realities” (Wolf & Polzenhagen, 2007, p. 399) on words and expressions used in African Englishes. It is likely that the types of lexical variation examined in this
section are the outcomes of a complex combination of contact processes involving, on the one hand, substrate influences along with simplification and regularisation strategies, and on the other, the adaptation of the language so that it can
articulate the Malaysian sociocultural experiences.
5.5 Sociolinguistic ecology and group SLA
An important facet of the sociolinguistic ecology that has shaped the outcomes
of group SLA in ME is the degree to which the local languages of the community have continued to be relevant despite widespread acquisition of the English
language. Although there are Malaysians who have abandoned their ancestral
languages in favour of English (see David, 2000, p. 65 for details), this group is
relatively small. ME speakers, on the whole, do retain their ancestral languages
which are used concurrently with, though generally in different domains from,
English. The status and functions of Malay within the society have added another dominant language to this already complex language contact situation
(Schneider, 2003b, pp. 54-55). There is hence an intense and on-going interaction between English, on the one hand, and languages such as Malay, Hokkien,
Cantonese, Mandarin and Tamil, on the other. English is typically acquired either in the school contexts or through casual face-to-face interactions with other
ME speakers, but neither of these routes involves regular interactions with innercircle speakers of English. Under such circumstances, syntactic and lexical variation resulting from group SLA tends to be well-tolerated.
This is not to say that local ME variants always prevail. The fact that the
syntactic and lexical variants examined in this chapter co-occur with SIVE features is testament to the negotiation among the diverse groups that use English
intranationally. Those who are dominant in English are likely to maintain its use
across a wide range of domains and to have access to the acrolectal variety
which diverges the least from inner-circle Englishes. This group is typically represented by monolingual English speakers, bilinguals who received Englishmedium education either locally or abroad, and middle-class urban-dwelling
Sociolinguistic ecology
members of the society for whom English has become a marker of status (Tan,
2006, pp. 25-26). Those who are dominant in one of the local languages, such as
Malay, Hokkien, Cantonese, Mandarin and Tamil, are often less competent in
English, and may speak a mesolectal or even a basilectal variety in situations
where English is called for. These varieties are significantly different from the
Communal interactions inevitably bring these different varieties of ME together, often resulting in the co-occurrence of localised and SIVE features within the same discourse. The fact that the mesolect and the basilect are associated
with covert prestige (Schneider, 2007, p. 150), a Malaysian identity (Gill, 2002,
p. 91), “ethnic identities” (Lowenberg, 1992, p. 251), and “solidarity and camaraderie” (Rajadurai, 2004, p. 54), means that even monolingual ME speakers
who typically speak an acrolectal variety will have occasion to switch to basilectal ME. Such negotiations provide opportunities for the transmission of group
SLA features in ME.
Nair-Venugopal’s series of studies (2000a, 2000b, 2001, 2003) on the use of
English in the Malaysian corporate workplace provide empirical evidence of the
competition between emerging endonormative forms and inner-circle standards.
Nair-Venugopal (2001) observes that despite the standard language ideology
espoused by the Malaysian corporate world, “localized forms and patterns of
communication” (p. 48) that reflect the influences of Malay, Chinese and Tamil
flourish in this domain. English-educated members of the workforce may use
what she refers to as “Educated Malaysian English,” but even this group switches to colloquial varieties of ME in certain contexts (p. 45).
This tension between the sociolinguistic reality of ME and linguistic prescriptivism is also a characteristic of the education domain in Malaysia. In spite
of the increased awareness of the autonomy of ME and a growing appreciation
of its localised features, not only within the academic community but also across
a wide spectrum of the society, the domain of education remains largely oriented
towards inner-circle standards. A review of the secondary school English language syllabus prescribed by the Malaysian Ministry of Education revealed few
references to localised features. With the exception of the muted presence of a
few loanwords, the syllabus is, on the whole, devoid of any indication that a localised variety of English actually exists in Malaysia. The paradox becomes
even more acute if one considers the aim of the syllabus (Ministry of Education,
Malaysia, 2003), which is quoted below:
The English syllabus aims to extend learners’ English language proficiency in order
to meet their needs for English in everyday life, for knowledge acquisition, and for
future workplace needs. (p. 1)
Group second language acquisition
There is an obvious gap between the de-contextualised norms prescribed by
the Ministry and the essentially ‘local’ needs that the syllabus claims to be preparing students for. The multilingual milieu in which ME has evolved, and the
communicative and expressive needs that, in many instances, can only be fulfilled by local linguistic variants, mean that students continue to find relevance
in the local variety of English.
In summary, the study of the phenomenon of group SLA in the context of
ME involves not just the analysis of how English is restructured as it comes into
contact with local languages like Malay and Chinese, but also an investigation
of how the sociolinguistic ecology might promote or hinder these processes of
change. How lexical borrowing, lexical creation and group SLA come together
in a theoretical framework which describes language contact and change in ME,
and perhaps other New Englishes, will be explored in the final chapter.
Chapter 6: A Theoretical Model of Contactinduced Change in Malaysian English
6.1 Introduction
Although this study focuses on contemporary ME, the dynamics underlying this
variety were set in place many centuries ago. One of the most important aspects
of the historical background of ME is the gradual formation, long before the arrival of the first English-speaking traders, of a complex multiethnic network in
the Peninsula and the surrounding region. This phenomenon, extending over
more than two millennia, not only shaped the demographic structure of this region, but also transformed its linguistic topography. The arrival of the first English traders to Southeast Asia in the 17th century brought their language into contact with this already extremely heterogeneous sociolinguistic landscape. These
initial interactions resulted in some manifestations of contact in the English language, as can be seen in the travel accounts and trade logs of these early visitors.
The gradual expansion of British economic and political power over the
succeeding centuries intensified the contact between the language of the British
sojourners and the local communities. The transplantation of English in Malaya
culminated in the communal acquisition of the colonial language by the local
populace, which triggered the emergence of a local variety of English. Today,
English has fewer official functions in Malaysia, but it remains a second language in the domain of national education and the medium of instruction in private tertiary institutions, continues to be the language of the elite, and is the
main language of international trade and communication. Contributing to the
propensity for change in this new variety of English is the simultaneous maintenance of the ancestral languages of the various communities. The competition
among these languages, and their evolving status and functions in various domains are some of the key factors that influence the types of contact-induced
change observed in ME.
Given the historical and social backgrounds to the formation of ME, it is only natural that this study has been framed within the field of language contact.
Drawing on diverse theories of contact-induced change (developed by Haugen,
1950; Thomason & Kaufman, 1988; Thomason, 2001; and Winford, 2003;
among others), three categories of linguistic change in ME have been targeted
for analysis: (1) lexical features borrowed from Malay and Chinese; (2) lexical
features secondarily created in ME; and (3) syntactic and lexical variations resulting from substrate influences, simplification and regularisation strategies.
Using a corpus-based approach, these features have been analysed in terms of
Contact-induced change in Malaysian English
the processes through which they were incorporated into the linguistic system of
ME, and the factors which motivated their creation and promote their continuing
use. The findings, reported in Chapters 4 and 5 of the present work, provide
groundwork for the development of a model that describes and explains contactinduced change in ME, and theoretically in other New Englishes, especially
those that have become institutionalised in postcolonial settings.
The crux of this model is that contact-induced change in ME is characterised
by the simultaneous occurrence of two contact phenomena—the communal acquisition of the former colonial language, and the maintenance of the language
by a multiethnic, multilingual community.
6.2 Contact-induced change in Malaysian English:
Towards a theoretical model
The emergence of New Englishes in former British and American colonies has
been extensively described and diversely theorised. In the field of language contact, interest in New Englishes tends to revolve around the more radical linguistic restructuring observed in the colloquial sub-varieties or the vernaculars, with
the result that much of what we know of these varieties relates to manifestations
of substrate influences, and processes of simplification and regularisation.
Mufwene (2008), for example, considers indigenised varieties of European languages such as English to be predominantly “byproducts of L2 appropriation by
adults” (p. 184). Even Winford (2009), whose theories on language contact have
assisted in the framing of the research described in this book, considers New
Englishes to fall within the same category of contact languages as Englishlexicon creoles. He postulates that “all of these contact vernaculars are the result
of ‘natural’ or ‘untutored’ SLA, and that the theoretical framework within which
SLA has been studied is most relevant to a unified explanation of their origins”
(p. 207).
Such viewpoints however fail to address some of the most visible linguistic
features of many New Englishes. Certainly, in the case of ME, there is a vast
amount of literature that provides compelling empirical evidence of the presence
of a large number of features that are distinct outcomes of processes unrelated to
SLA (Lowenberg [1991, 1992]; Hajar & Harshita Aini [2003]; Baskaran [2005];
Norizah & Azirah [2009]; Tan [2009a, 2009b]; Azirah & Leitner [2011]; among
The language contact model proposed here offers an alternative explanation
for the linguistic characteristics of ME. Central to this model is the premise that
Towards a theoretical model
ME emerged from a contact situation defined by not one, but two contact phenomena—language maintenance, and group SLA not leading to language shift
(see Table 6.1).
The historical and sociolinguistic contexts of ME have produced groups of
ME users which differ in terms of their dominance in English, and the competing languages in their repertoire. The contacts among these groups of ME users,
and the interactions among these languages within individual multilingual ME
speakers generate dynamics which promote the diverse types of change observed in contemporary ME. Table 6.1 provides a summary of these two phenomena and how they can be distinguished in the contact situation of ME. The
rest of this chapter will elaborate on these differences, paying particular attention to linguistic outcomes, intent and motivations, agentivity and the salient historical and social factors that have shaped the outcomes.
Contact-induced change in Malaysian English
Table 6.1:
Contact-induced change in Malaysian English: Maintenance versus group SLA
Maintenance of English
Group SLA of English
Linguistic outcomes
Linguistic outcomes
Borrowed and created features
Overt influence of source languages
Syntactic and lexical variation resulting
from substrate influences, simplification
and regularisation strategies
Integration of features into the linguistic
system of English through phonological •
and morphosyntactic adaptations
Covert influence of source languages
Co-occurrence of group SLA features
with standard inner-circle variants
Intent and motivations
Intent and motivations
Deliberate introduction and use of features
Unintended introduction of features
Motivated by sociocultural needs and
prestige associated with source languages
Use of institutionalised group SLA features may be deliberate
Use of institutionalised group SLA features motivated by the need to assert particular identities, and to signal informality, familiarity, rapport and solidarity
Created features may also be motivated
by the desire to minimise infiltration of
non-English words
Typically initiated by (multilingual)
English-dominant individuals
Agents’ reliance on English promotes
awareness of gaps in its expressive resources
Typically initiated by individuals who
are more dominant in local languages
than in English
Agents retain the linguistic system of
their dominant local languages and impose them on ME
Agents tend to adopt simplification and
regularisation strategies characteristic of
Agents’ fluency in English allows them
to integrate borrowed and created features into the linguistic system of the
English language
Historical and social settings
Historical and social settings
Outcomes shaped by societal dominance •
of Malay and Chinese languages
Outcomes shaped by societal dominance
of Malay and Chinese languages
Changes promoted by association of ME •
with local identity, and pride in its autonomy and creativity
Changes may be curtailed by resistance
to non-English incursions
Changes promoted by lack of interaction
with inner-circle communities, and covert prestige associated with group SLA
Changes may be curtailed by purist attitudes which reject “ungrammatical” features.
Towards a theoretical model
6.2.1 Linguistic outcomes
The main processes of contact-induced change that are associated with the phenomenon of language maintenance are lexical borrowing and lexical creation.
The recipient language is maintained by the community, but it changes as its
speakers introduce, into that language, features from other languages which they
speak or with which they have contact. Group SLA, on the other hand, results in
changes that are similar to those which occur in situations of language shift. Indeed, the communal acquisition of an imported language can lead to the abandonment of the original languages of the community. This, however, has not
been the case in Malaysia even though there are certainly cases of individuals
who have shifted from their ancestral languages to English (e.g., David, 2006b;
and Pillai, 2006).
The data extracted from the MEN Corpus have revealed tangible differences
in the linguistic changes produced by these key processes of change. The most
crucial difference is related to the degree to which the influences of Malay and
Chinese are explicitly manifested through these processes. By far the most explicit in terms of representing source language influences are borrowed features.
Lexical borrowing involves the reproduction of a source language model in the
recipient language. Depending on whether the reproduction is total or partial
(“importation” versus “substitution” [Haugen, 1950, p. 212]), there can be as
many as nine categories of borrowed features (see Table 4.1). The vast majority
of borrowed features in ME fall under three categories—pure loanwords, compound blends and loan translations. Pure loanwords are the outcomes of complete morphemic importation. Typically nouns, 48 these simple and compound
forms are morphemically reproduced in ME as they appear in their source language. Hence, toponyms (e.g., Kedah, Pulau Pinang and Sabah), food names
(e.g., budu, char koay teow, daun kesum and pau), names of local festivals and
recreational activities (e.g., Chap Goh Meh, Hari Raya, wayang kulit and wushu), and so on, are reproduced in ME with little divergence from their original
forms in Malay and Chinese. Compound blends are hybrid forms comprising an
imported morpheme and a substituted one. The reproduction of the name of the
The borrowability of nouns, compared to verbs and adjectives is well-attested (Romaine, 1995, p. 65). Van Hout and Muysken (1994) attribute this to the fact that borrowed features are generally intended to “extend the referential potential” of the recipient language, and “since reference is established primarily thorough nouns, these are the
elements borrowed most easily” (p. 42). Myers-Scotton (2002) argues that because
nouns receive thematic roles, “their insertion into the frame of another language is less
disruptive of predicate-argument structure” compared to the insertion of verbs, prepositions and adjectives, which assign thematic roles (p. 240).
Contact-induced change in Malaysian English
traditional Malay textile, kain batik, as batik cloth illustrates this. In contrast,
loan translations go through total morphemic substitution which results in ostensibly English expressions such as rice bowl and snow skin. These features reveal
their local origin through their internal structure, which replicates that of Mandarin 依⻇ fan wan “rice bowl” (and perhaps, Malay periuk nasi “rice pot”), and
Chinese ߠⳞ “ice skin.”
Like lexical borrowing, lexical creation is a process that augments the maintained language by equipping it with new vocabulary items to describe novel
sociocultural concepts, inventions and products (e.g., drummet, dry kitchen, fivefoot way, hawker centre and wet kitchen). Unlike lexical borrowing, the outcomes of lexical creation are by definition not attributable to any source language model. There are nevertheless instances of hybrid creations in which Malay and Chinese loanwords are utilised (e.g., kebaya top, kopitiam table and sarong skirt).
Variation and change resulting from group SLA do not reflect the influences
of the source languages as explicitly as those produced through lexical borrowing and lexical creation. Some of the most common types of syntactic variation
in ME—the pluralisation of noncount nouns using the -s inflectional morpheme;
the reclassification of uninflected noncount nouns to singular count nouns; the
reclassification of uninflected noncount nouns to plural count nouns; and the use
of the general partitive construction, a piece of, with singular and plural count
nouns—are however clearly the results of contact with classifier languages like
Malay and Chinese. Other group SLA features such as innovative multi-word
verbs resulting from a combination of substrate influences, simplification strategies and the regularising tendencies of the English language, are also frequently
observed in ME. Semantic modification of existing English words like alphabet,
bluff and follow can also be attributed to group SLA. The influences of Malay
and Chinese in these features are covert, revealing themselves only in analysis
of their broader contexts of use. In other words, there is little in the form of these
features to suggest that they have been induced by contact with these languages.
Besides the varying degrees of explicitness in the manifestation of source
language influences, the three processes of change also differ in the degree to
which their linguistic outcomes are adapted. Borrowed features often go through
phonological and morphosyntactic adaptations as they are integrated into the
linguistic system of the recipient language (Romaine, 1995, pp. 60-64). In ME,
borrowing of Chinese morphemes is generally accompanied by phonemic substitution involving the levelling of tonal qualities. Morphosyntactic adaptations
involving the use of the -s inflectional morpheme to pluralise common nouns
(e.g., ang pows, bomohs, cheongsams and pondoks), and the use of derivational
morphemes to create new words (e.g., Datukship, kiasuism and non-halal) are
Towards a theoretical model
some other processes which reflect ME users’ attempts at integrating borrowed
and created features. Some Malay loanwords go through semantic substitution
which enhances the sociocultural relevance of the borrowed features. Hence,
although the Malay word dadah is the semantic equivalent of the English word
drug, the ME loanword dadah is not synonymous with drug—the former is only
ever used to refer to narcotic drugs, while the latter encompasses all medicinal
and intoxicating substances. Thus, the borrowing of dadah into ME does not
result in the displacement of the original English word drug.
Variation and change resulting from group SLA are never integrated into the
linguistic system of ME. In fact, their status within ME is often unclear. On the
one hand, these features are widespread, sometimes occurring even in formal
registers, with many ME users seemingly oblivious to the fact that they deviate
from standard inner-circle usage. On the other hand, there are purists within the
community—in particular, teachers, textbook writers and the English-educated
elite—who equate these features with the so-called deteriorating standard of
English in the country (Schneider, 2007, p. 151). This tension between the sociolinguistic reality of ME and linguistic prescriptivism means that group SLA
features are never fully integrated into ME. Instead they co-occur with the more
standard variants, existing as features of vernacular ME and hence associated
with “shared community membership and belonging” (Winford, 2003, p. 245),
but often stigmatised in formal domains where the standard variety is preferred.
Hence, the same purists who object to the community’s use of group SLA features can often be observed using these features themselves, among family and
friends, for example. This co-existence of a vernacular and a standard variety
characterises the sociolinguistic context of many New Englishes, and often leads
to “ambivalence both in attitudes and in public policy” towards them (Winford,
2003, p. 254).
6.2.2 Intent and motivations
Another crucial difference between processes of contact-induced change associated with language maintenance and those related to group SLA is the extent to
which these processes are intended: Lexical borrowing and lexical creation appear to involve a higher degree of intent and deliberation compared to group
The range, distribution and contexts of borrowed and created features examined in Chapter 4 suggest that these features are motivated by factors that can be
subsumed under Winford’s (2003) broader categories of “need” and “prestige”
(p. 37). According to Matras (2009), factors motivated by need assume that “bi-
Contact-induced change in Malaysian English
lingual or semi-bilingual speakers notice that one language is in possession of
expressive means that do not exist in the other” and that “in an effort to extend
the range of expressive choices when communicating in the other, the supposedly ‘poorly equipped’ language, they replicate the structure that is available in the
‘better equipped’ language” (p. 149). Most borrowed and created features in ME
seem to be triggered by such gaps in the English language. Besides lexical gaps,
ME speakers are often confronted with the need to make finer distinctions between referents which are generally not distinguished in English, and the need to
name new concepts arising from changes in the sociocultural and political climates of the country. These appear to be the main motivations for the borrowing
and creation of food names, names of local social and recreational activities,
forms of address and toponyms.
Prestige factors are those that assume that “speakers imitate elements of the
speech of a socially more powerful, dominant community in order to gain approval and social status” (Matras, 2009, p. 150). In the context of ME, the borrowing of Malay names of government bodies and officials in order to emphasise the singularity of the Malaysian government and to distance it from its colonial past is an example of borrowing motivated by prestige. The role of Malay
as the national and official language of Malaysia means that within the domain
of government and administration, the status of Malay surpasses that of English
(see Gill, 2005, p. 244 for details). By using features originating in Malay when
referring to organisations and people within the government, ME users are activating nationalist sentiments associated with independence and self-government.
Lexical borrowing also allows some ME users to assert their ethnic and religious
identities. For instance, a Muslim person may use Arabic forms of greeting
when speaking in ME in order to assert his identity as a Muslim and to establish
solidarity with his Muslim brothers and sisters.
Where lexical creation is concerned, another motivating factor may be to
avoid the use of borrowed features. Therefore, instead of using the Malay loanword khalwat, some ME users prefer the created feature close proximity. The
Chinese name of the Buddhist deity, 㿲丣 (Mandarin Guan Yin, Hokkien Kuan
Yim, Cantonese Kwun Yum), literally “Perceiver of Sounds,” is certainly not as
common in ME as the created feature, Goddess of Mercy. Avoidance of borrowed features could be a reflection of negative attitudes towards what may
seem to some to be the infiltration of non-English words into the language, but it
could also be due to the functions that created features are able to perform.
Loanwords like khalwat and Guan Yin are culture-specific and may not be widely understood (see Azirah & Leitner’s [2011] study on the degree to which
loanwords are “known” by ME speakers). Their created equivalents, close prox-
Towards a theoretical model
imity and Goddess of Mercy, tend to convey their meanings more explicitly, and
may be considered more appropriate in a multicultural context.
In short, lexical borrowing and lexical creation are deliberate processes of
change. Whether these processes are motivated by the need to express local sociocultural concepts, the desire to trigger associations with a particular language
or language group, or the wish to minimise the use of non-English words, they
are clearly instrumental in enhancing the communicative and expressive powers
of ME. The use of English in a non-western sociocultural milieu often requires
the language to be thus adapted, so that it can meet the complex sociocultural
and psycholinguistic needs of the community.
The introduction and utilisation of group SLA features is a much more complex phenomenon. Although the creation of SLA features is almost always unintended, the utilisation and maintenance of these features may well be deliberate
in some cases. The contexts of the group SLA features examined in this study do
not suggest any specific sociocultural motivation. Instead, these features exhibit
evidence of substrate influences, simplification and regularisation strategies—
processes which characterise the communal acquisition of a second language in
a natural setting dominated by second- or even foreign-language speakers of
English. For the most part, their users appear unaware that these features are
seen as ungrammatical in many inner-circle varieties. The fact that these patterns
occur in the two most authoritative English-language newspapers, some of the
strongest proponents of the standard language ideology in Malaysia, lends credence to this observation. Most English-language newspapers in Malaysia respond to the overt prestige of “standard” English—adherence to the grammar of
inner-circle Englishes is often regarded as a sign of quality and authority, while
the presence of “grammatical errors” is frowned upon. Schneider’s (2003b) observation that ME speakers regularly adopt localised syntactic features, even in
formal contexts, without being aware that these structures are “remarkable in
any way” (p. 59) lends further support to this conclusion.
This is not to suggest that group SLA features are never consciously utilised.
Deliberate use of group SLA features, especially those that have become institutionalised, is actually quite common in casual contexts. Many ME speakers who
are highly proficient in English often switch to mesolectal or basilectal ME,
adopting their characteristically divergent lexical, phonological and syntactic
features, in colloquial conversations with family and friends (Platt & Weber,
1980, pp. 20-21; Lowenberg, 1984, p. 12; and Baskaran, 2005, p. 18). The use
of these features is usually motivated by the need to assert one’s ethnic identity
or to indicate “informality, familiarity, rapport, and solidarity” (Lowenberg,
1984, pp. 130-132). In other words, many group SLA features do go on to acquire functional and expressive value, or covert prestige—mostly as markers of
Contact-induced change in Malaysian English
identity, affiliation and friendship. It seems likely that those linguistic features
which earlier scholars regarded as partial petrification of the interlanguage (e.g.,
Platt & Weber, 1980; Wong, 1981) are promoted in part by the community’s
discovery that creative use of some of these forms can be have a unifying effect.
Hence, although the introduction of group SLA features is usually unintended,
the use of institutionalised SLA features, especially in informal domains, can be
a matter of deliberate linguistic choice.
6.2.3 Agentivity
Besides differences in linguistic outcomes and motivations, lexical borrowing
and lexical creation can also be distinguished from group SLA in terms of their
agentivity. Central to this proposition is the assumption that beneath the societal
multilingualism in Malaysia, there is a great deal of diversity in the languages
that are maintained at the individual level. This variation in linguistic repertoires, and especially in English dominance, have produced distinct groups of
ME speakers whose use of this language impacts it in diverse ways. In Malaysia,
the interaction between the global language—English, and the local languages—
the ancestral languages of the various ethnic groups and Mandarin, has produced
three groups of people with distinct linguistic repertoires: (1) individuals who
have never learned English, maintaining only local languages; (2) individuals
who have acquired English, and maintain it to varying degrees alongside local
languages; and (3) individuals who have shifted to English, abandoning local
languages in the process.
Despite the prevalence of the English language, there are communities in
Malaysia for whom the language has little value. Comprising mainly older people who live in ethnically homogenous rural areas, these communities tend to
retain their own ancestral languages because of limited interaction with other
ethnic groups. Generally fishermen, farmers and labourers, their occupational
and social activities provide them with few opportunities to venture out of their
villages and interact with other communities. Quintessential examples of such
communities include traditional Malay fishing and farming villages, Indian plantation settlements, indigenous group settlements, and Chinese rural market
towns which emerged out of former “new villages”—Chinese resettlement areas
established in the 1950s to prevent the Chinese from offering support to communists insurgents. More recently, the prevalence of the national language has
resulted in the acquisition of some form of Malay among non-Malays who live
in such villages, but English remains a language of little consequence. Within
some Malay villages, the community’s lack of English may be attributable to
Towards a theoretical model
resistance towards the former colonial language seen by some as a threat to their
ethnic and religious identities (Rajadurai, 2011, pp. 28-36). 49 The linguistic
choices and practices of this first group do not have an immediate bearing on the
linguistic system of ME, and will thus not be further discussed.
The most influential segments of the population in terms of contact-induced
change in ME are the second and the third groups mentioned above—those who
maintain ME, either concurrently with other local languages or as monolingual
speakers. Monolingual ME speakers consist of people of mixed European and
Asian parentage (Eurasians), Malaysians of Portuguese descent who have shifted from Kristang (a Portuguese creole) to English (Baxter, 2012), children
whose parents do not share a common ancestral language, and a small group of
Chinese and Indian urbanites “for whom English has become the first language
and by whom the original ancestral language has been discarded” (David, 2000,
p. 65). This group forms a small minority in Malaysia.
The vast majority of Malaysians fall within the second group mentioned
above—those who maintain English and at least one local language. By far the
most heterogeneous, this group exhibits varying degrees of fluency in a spectrum of linguistic repertoires that can be further classified according to the
speakers’ dominant language(s).
At one end of the spectrum are multilingual Malaysians who maintain English as their “first language” (Pillai, 2006, p. 63), and are hence most dominant
in English. Comprising middle-class urbanites for whom English has become a
marker of status, members of this group acquired the language in childhood and
continue to use it as their primary language, especially in the home, work and
social domains (Pillai, 2006, p. 71). Together with monolingual ME speakers,
they are said to form approximately 2% of the population (Crystal, 2003, p. 58).
In addition to English, this group may also have some functional knowledge of
their ancestral language(s), as well as Malay or Mandarin, depending on their
ethnicity, educational background, place of residence, socio-economic status,
and so on. In this sense, this group forms “a speech community which transcends ethnicity” (Gaudart, 1995, p. 26).
At the other end of the spectrum are multilingual Malaysians who are more
dominant in local languages, be it their ancestral language, the national language
or Mandarin. Between these two extremes, lie the balanced multilinguals—
Malaysians who have more or less equivalent mastery of English and the local
This has been a long-term attitude among some in the Malay community. Mustapha
Hussain, when writing of 1930s Perak, noted that “most kampung (village) folks, especially Islamic religious teachers, considered English ‘the language of hell’” (Insun
Sony, 2005, p. 2).
Contact-induced change in Malaysian English
languages in their repertoire. These individuals rely on different languages for
different interlocutors, contexts and communicative purposes, frequently alternating between languages or varieties of a language.
I propose that, in the formation of ME, lexical borrowing and lexical creation are typically initiated by English-dominant individuals, while group SLA is
more likely to be initiated by individuals who are dominant in local languages.
To put it differently, dominance in English increases an ME user’s proclivity to
initiate the use of borrowed and created features, while dominance in local languages increases an ME user’s inclination to introduce group SLA features.
Based on the distribution of borrowed and created features in ME, and the
factors that motivate their use, it seems clear that these features were introduced
into ME by individuals who maintain the use of ME on a daily basis across a
wide range of domains. Their reliance on English means that they are the ones
who are most acutely aware of gaps in its expressive resources, especially in
communicating events and ideas that are situated within the local multicultural
milieu. Members of this group who also speak local languages are in possession
of complementary linguistic resources from these languages, and may spontaneously use them to fill such voids in the English lexicon. These imports are often
ephemeral, but some go on to become borrowed features—permanent additions
to the lexicon that are used not just by the person who initially imported the
words but also by other speakers within the community (Thomason, 2001, p.
68). Myers-Scotton (2002) suggests that successful borrowing occurs when there
is “a critical mass” (p. 238). By this, she means the following:
(Lexical borrowing) happens when persons who are well connected in the society
adopt the new words. In addition, borrowing is helped along when large numbers of
persons in the same society have some measure of bilingualism, because if speakers
care about being understood, other societal members have to be bilingual enough to
understand the imported words when they are first used. (p. 238)
Monolingual ME speakers who are exposed to these features—especially those
features that have crept into general usage—tend to find it easy to imitate their
use because of the prevalence of the relevant source languages within the society. This is likely the scenario behind the borrowing into ME of most Malay and
Chinese words examined in this study.
Another indication of the agentivity of English-dominant individuals in lexical borrowing and lexical creation is the morphosyntactic adaptations that many
borrowed and created features are subject to. These processes, generally intended to give borrowed features the linguistic characteristics of English words, require more than a functional knowledge of the grammatical structure of the English language. In his seminal work on loan phonology, van Coetsem (1988) observes that the borrowing of phonological features is generally initiated by the
Towards a theoretical model
bilingual who is dominant is the recipient language—”whose knowledge of the
(recipient language) is by definition greater than his knowledge of the (source
language)” (p. 10). A similar opinion is expressed by Thomason (2001) who
postulates that in lexical borrowing, it is fluency in the recipient language rather
than the source language that is crucial (p. 72). The distribution and contexts of
use of borrowed and created features examined in this study offer support for
these generalisations.
This is not to suggest that Malay- or Chinese-dominant individuals never initiate the use of local features when speaking in ME. It is certainly not difficult
to imagine a scenario where a less than proficient ME speaker relies on words
from his dominant languages, such as Chinese or Malay, to fill gaps in his
knowledge of English. However, unless these words have an obvious utility
which extends beyond the context of that conversation, the likelihood of them
being replicated by other ME users is low. The fact that they are used as stopgaps by non-proficient ME speakers may in fact dissuade other ME speakers
from adopting them in their own discourse.
The agentivity involved in group SLA features is less easy to speculate
about. In his work on loan phonology and language contact, van Coetsem (1988)
uses the term “imposition” (p. 11) to describe phonological changes that occur
through what, in this study, is called group SLA. In his model, what distinguishes borrowing from imposition is that while the former is initiated by bilinguals who are dominant in the recipient language, the latter is initiated by bilinguals who are dominant in the source language. It is certainly feasible that ME
speakers who are dominant in local languages introduce group SLA features.
Individuals who use Malay or Chinese for the majority of their communicative
activities must be more likely to retain the linguistic system of these languages
and to impose them on ME. Nevertheless, as the linguistic restructuring which
occurs under group SLA conditions involves not just substrate influences, but
also processes of simplification and internally-driven regularisation, dominance
in Malay and Chinese is unlikely to be the only criterion for the initiation of this
type of contact-induced change. Many of the group SLA features discussed in
Chapter 5 certainly reflect what Thomason (2001) refers to as “multiple causation” (p. 91)—a range of analogies and simplification strategies that appear to
work, either singly or together, in promoting the acceptability of these features
in the context of ME.
Unlike borrowed and created features, the introduction of SLA features is
not driven by sociocultural needs. In spite of this, many SLA patterns go on to
become permanent features of ME, existing as linguistic variants that co-occur
with inner-circle patterns. Generally, patterns that promote “positive social factors” (Matras, 2009, p. 75)—those that do not interfere with the speaker’s ability
Contact-induced change in Malaysian English
to communicate efficiently and that are not subject to negative feedback from
others within the community—are those that are likely to be transmitted. Many
of these go on to become creative linguistic devices that can be used to signal ingroup identity and intimacy. From such analysis, it is increasingly apparent that
frameworks which describe these features as imperfect learning or petrification
of the interlanguage are superficial, and ignore the obvious agentivity and complexity in the maintenance of English in a multilingual setting.
6.2.4 Historical and social settings of Malaysian English
Much of the discussion thus far has concentrated on the specific processes of
contact-induced change that have impacted ME. These processes of contact have
not occurred in a sociolinguistic vacuum, but have been conditioned by dynamics within the historical and social settings of ME. The importance of contextualising the contact between languages is stressed by Winford (2003), who postulates the following:
Without a clear understanding of the history and social dynamics of the contact situation, we are in no position to explain anything. Not just the mechanisms of change
but also its directionality and agentivity vary according to the type of situation involved. (p. 25)
In the context of ME, the social functions and varying influences of the Malay
and Chinese languages are key factors that have to be contextualised if the nature of variation and change in this variety of English is to be better understood.
This involves examining extra-linguistic elements such as the demographic
structure of the society, the ideologies underlying various language policies, the
types and degree of multilingualism among the diverse groups, and the linguistic
attitudes and patterns of social interaction.
The strong influence of Malay on ME is manifested, overtly, in the large
number of Malay borrowings and English-Malay hybrid creations, and less obviously, in some aspects of the lexical and syntactic variation of this variety of
English. Testament to what Morais (2001) refers to as the “overriding influence
of Malay” 50 (p. 35), the linguistic variation and change examined in this volume
is rooted in the historical and continuing dominance of the Malay language in
the region.
Ooi (1999) predicts that it is the “the predominant influence of Malay on Malaysian
English and that of Chinese on Singaporean English” that will eventually separate the
two varieties (p. 87).
Towards a theoretical model
Since the 15th century, Malay has had various roles and functions in the
Southeast Asian Archipelago. It was the lingua franca of trade and commerce
utilised by peoples of diverse linguistic backgrounds, the language for interethnic communication in the Peninsula, and the language of the ruling elite with
whom British colonial officers had constant interactions. After independence
and the creation of the Federation of Malaya in 1957, Malay became the national
language, and subsequently the medium of instruction of all national schools,
and the de facto High-language of Malaysia. In contemporary Malaysia, it is the
language of the largest and politically most-powerful ethnic group, and the primary inter-ethnic lingua franca in both urban and rural settings (Asmah, 1996,
p. 526). The societal dominance of the Malay language means that other ethnic
groups tend to also be reasonably fluent in Malay, using it at the very least for
some government-related communication and in the domain of education (Pillai,
2006, p. 64).
The Malays have been relatively more successful at maintaining their ancestral language compared to the Chinese, Indians and other smaller ethnic groups
in Malaysia. Their political and numerical dominance aside, the fact that their
ancestral language is widely used by other Malaysians, and the fact that the language is intimately connected to their cultural and religious identities (Rajadurai, 2011, p. 27) have all contributed to the successful maintenance of this language by members of the Malay community. Even urban-dwelling, Englisheducated Malays typically use Malay in the domains of family and religion, as
well as in the domains of friendship and transaction with Malay-speaking interlocutors.
Such is the spread and prestige of the Malay language and culture that the
introduction of Malay words and phrases into ME seldom results in comprehension breakdown. Once introduced, these words are easily transmitted as they are
recognised and understood by the vast majority of ME speakers. It is not a coincidence that words referring to food items, social and recreational activities, and
people and titles—cultural concepts which transcend ethnicity in the multicultural context of Malaysia—are some of the most frequently borrowed.
Unlike Malay, Chinese does not have an official status in Malaysia. Nevertheless, several varieties of Chinese—in particular, Hokkien, Cantonese and
Mandarin—play important functions and enjoy considerable prestige within the
society. The influences of these languages on ME are certainly more apparent
compared to those of Hakka, Hainanese, Kwangsai, Hokchiu, Henghua and
Hockchia—the other ancestral languages of Malaysians of Chinese descent.
Hokkien and Cantonese have long been the most numerically dominant Chinese
languages in Malaysia (Platt, 1977, p. 365). They were the languages of the
large number of Chinese immigrants who came to the Peninsula during the se-
Contact-induced change in Malaysian English
cond half of the 19th century to work in the tin mines and to establish small-scale
businesses. Their large number of speakers not only ensured their successful
maintenance but also allowed them to develop as regional intra-ethnic lingua
francas. The distribution of these two languages in 1970s Peninsular Malaysia
was described by Platt (1977) as follows:
The Cantonese are predominant in the tin mining areas and, in fact, generally in the
central part of West Malaysia from Seremban in the state of Negri Sembilan north to
around Ipoh in the state of Perak and including the capital, Kuala Lumpur. They are
also dominant in Cameron Highlands, Pahang, and over to the east coast, e.g.
Kuantan in Pahang. South of this area, the dominant dialect is generally Hokkien,
e.g. in Malacca and through the state of Johore. In the north-eastern states of Kelantan and Trengganu, Hokkien is the dominant dialect among the Chinese and in the
north-western region, from around Taiping, Perak northward through the states of
Kedah and Perlis and including Penang, a sub-variety of Hokkien is dominant. (p.
Until today, these urban centres are still associated with a socially-dominant
Chinese language, one which prevails over other Chinese languages, even Mandarin. As observed by Wong and Thambyrajah (1991):
… in each geographical location, there is usually a dominant Chinese dialect spoken
not only by its native speakers but also other Chinese living there. A Chinese living
in an area with a dominant dialect that is not his native one is usually forced by circumstances to acquire this dominant dialect at least sufficiently for basic communication. (p. 4)
In spite of their widespread relevance, Hokkien and Cantonese do not have
the same presence as Mandarin in the more formal spheres. While their positions
are strengthened to some degree by the popularity of Cantonese and Hokkien
television programmes from Hong Kong and Taiwan, these languages are still
generally regarded as vernaculars, even by their own speakers. Their use is
mainly reserved for the less formal domains of family, friendship and local
transactions, such as those performed in markets, neighbourhood shops, smaller
restaurants and food stalls (Platt, 1977). It is therefore unsurprising that the influences of Hokkien and Cantonese on ME are largely exhibited in the semantic
fields of food, festivals and people.
In recent decades, the maintenance of Chinese ancestral languages, especially those with fewer speakers, has been affected by the growing prestige of Mandarin, the medium of instruction in Chinese schools. Perhaps even more significantly, Mandarin is a language associated with social mobility in a world economy and mediascape in which the People’s Republic of China is playing a growing role (Cheng, 2003, p. 86). The fact that Chinese schools are becoming increasingly more popular compared to Malay-medium national schools among
Towards a theoretical model
the local Chinese community (David, Cavallaro, & Coluzzi, 2009, p. 162), and
the fact that students who attend national schools also have the option of learning Chinese under the Pupils’ Own Language Scheme (Parilah & Fauziah, 2007,
p. 65) have allowed Mandarin to gain ground in the linguistic landscape of Malaysia. Thus, despite the fact that no major group in Malaysia can claim an ancestral connection to Mandarin, the language has become an important intraethnic lingua franca, and the language of “prestige” (Wong & Thambyrajah,
1991, p. 4), especially among those who were educated in Chinese schools. Despite the prominence of Mandarin in the domain of education, the language does
not have the same spread as Malay. Lacking an official, cross-cultural function,
the language is not usually acquired by people of other ethnic groups. Even
among the Chinese, there are many who do not speak Mandarin—Englisheducated and Malay-educated Chinese in particular tend to have, at most, only a
superficial knowledge of Mandarin.
The different statuses, spreads and functions of the Malay and Chinese languages are reflected in the proportional distribution of Malay and Chinese loanwords, compound blends and loan translations in ME. As Malay is widely used
within the community, transmission of features borrowed from Malay often occurs efficiently with minimal phonological and morphemic adaptations. In contrast, Chinese words and expressions that are introduced into ME have a slightly
reduced chance of gaining currency as these features may not be as widely understood by the other ethnic groups.
As noted previously, many ME speakers do speak Malay and Chinese languages. These individuals straddle two or three typologically distinct linguistic
systems in their everyday communications. The sustained interaction of these
languages within these individuals, and within the wider community, promotes
the transmission and reinforces the acceptability of syntactic and lexical features
associated with group SLA. As has been suggested with regard to the influence
of Chinese on colloquial Singapore English, such persistent multilingualism
produces “pervasive substratal retentions” in the variety (Winford, 2003, p.
In a particular contact situation, something which might restrict language
change is loyalty to the recipient language which can be manifested in “resistance to any foreign incursions” (Winford, 2003, p. 41). Some ME speakers
do have similar purist sentiments. However, the majority of ME speakers take
pride in its autonomy and creativity, and are ever-ready to accept and use innovative features. Among Muslim users of ME, for example, the use of Malay borrowings originating in Arabic is a vital mechanism that allows them to signal
their religious identity while engaging in English-language discourse. The use of
Malay borrowings to refer to governmental entities is related to a similar func-
Contact-induced change in Malaysian English
tion—one which emphasises national independence from the colonial past. Chinese food names, terms of address and names of festivals are similarly important
devices that signal the cultural identity of Chinese speakers of ME.
In such an environment, even group SLA features which diverge radically
from inner-circle norms have the opportunity to thrive. Most ME speakers have
limited, if any, interaction with so-called native speakers of English (Tongue,
1974, p. 4). Even in the domain of education where the pedagogical model is
ostensibly “a standard form of English,” it is mostly the local variety—the variety spoken by the vast majority of Malaysian teachers of English—that students
are exposed to (Azirah, 2004, p. 22). On the whole, Malaysians regard their variety of English to be “perfectly acceptable for communicating socially and informally” (Gill, 2002, p. 47). In fact, ME speakers who adopt a native-speaker
accent risk being mocked (Habibah, 2000, pp. 57-58). These attitudes are indicative of a “social and psychological distance” (Tollefson & Firn, 1983, p. 22)
from inner-circle communities, and a generally positive mind-set towards a variety of English which is “Malaysian in identity” (Gill, 2002, p. 91). The fact that
group SLA features rarely jeopardise comprehensibility also provides users of
these features with “positive cognitive feedback” (Tollefson & Firn, 1983, p. 21)
which encourages them to preserve these features in their speech and writing.
It is thus clear that the historical and social settings of ME play major roles
in determining the outcomes of the contact between English, and Malay and
Chinese, in Malaysia.
6.3 Conclusions and future explorations
Almost four decades after the departure of the British rulers, the English language
lives on, not as a colonial language but officially as the second language of the Malaysians, second in importance only to the national language, Malay. This means
that all other languages in Malaysia, which are the tongues of the various ethnic
groups, come after English in terms of their status in the country. (Asmah, 1996, p.
Asmah’s (1996) proclamation above mirrors the official rhetoric on the status of
English in Malaysia, but masks the actual diversity in the relevance and roles of
English for different segments of the population. English is the second language
of national education, the primary language of private tertiary education, and an
important language of the media, international commerce and diplomatic relations, but its roles within the domains of home, friendship, employment and
small business are less easy to define.
Baskaran’s (2005, pp. 11-13) description of the language choices of the
main ethnic groups illustrates the difficulty in defining the status of English visà-vis the other languages of Malaysia. Although the majority of the Malays
speak their ancestral language at home, the Chinese and Indians make less predictable language choices. Many Chinese still maintain their ancestral languages
in the home domain, but there is a growing tendency, especially among the
younger generations, to shift to either Mandarin or English. Within such families, code-switching and code-alternation are common modes of language use—
Mandarin or English is used to communicate with siblings and members of the
younger generations, while the ancestral language is used when speaking with
parents and grandparents. Inter-ethnic communication involving friends and colleagues may be in Malay or English depending on the ethnicity of the interlocutors and their educational background. The same patterns are observed among
the Indians, who maintain diverse ancestral languages, as well as English and
Malay. The educated elite of Malaysia, regardless of ethnicity, tend to use English for most of their communication needs. English, therefore, cannot be said to
to be the second most important language for all Malaysians. Instead, there is
considerable variation in linguistic repertoire and dominance in English at the
individual level, a situation which goes some way to explain the co-occurrence
of features associated with language maintenance and those associated with
group SLA in ME.
The use of English, either in isolation or concurrently with the other local
languages, creates a situation of constant and intense linguistic contact. At the
societal level, the English-dominant group interacts with groups that are dominant in local languages, creating numerous opportunities for linguistic features
to transfer from one language to another. At the individual level, multilingual
speakers of ME straddle two or three linguistic systems on a daily basis as they
alternate between and switch from one language to another, negotiating changes
in domains, interlocutors and communicative needs. Even when only one language is being used, the other is just below the surface of consciousness ready to
be activated and utilised if the situation requires. Such intense and continuing
contact provides numerous opportunities for linguistic change in all the languages involved.
Where ME is concerned, the need to use the variety to talk about local sociocultural elements, to perform language acts relevant to the community, to
communicate with people of different degrees and types of multilingualism, to
express solidarity with particular groups, and to accommodate to the speech repertoire of particular individuals, promotes a largely positive attitude towards the
use of the indigenised variety. On-going acquisition of English by a community
that maintains other languages produces an environment that is generally recep-
Contact-induced change in Malaysian English
tive towards linguistic restructuring of the language, especially if this reflects
particular ways of expressing oneself within the local sociocultural milieu.
The results of this study also raise several questions for future research.
First, although this study has focused on the impact of Malay and Chinese—the
languages of the two most numerically dominant ethnic groups in Malaysia—it
must be stressed that ME also exhibits the influences of other local languages.
Features originating in Tamil (and other South Asian languages), and the languages spoken in East Malaysia, such as Iban and Kadazan, are particularly worthy of further study. A preliminary survey of the MEN Corpus revealed a substantial number of high-frequency loanwords such as Bharata Natyam <Tamil>
“religious dance originating in South India,” kavadi <Tamil> “a frame decorated
with tinsels, flowers and fruit carried by Hindus during Thaipusam as a form of
penance,” kolam <Tamil> “decorative artwork made using grains of coloured
rice, usually drawn on the floor in front of houses to mark special occasions,”
Thaipusam <Tamil> “Hindu festival of dedication to the Hindu deity, Lord
Murugan,” pua kumbu <Iban> “ceremonial blanket,” Gawai <Iban> “Iban harvest festival,” ngajat <Iban> “warrior dance,” and Kaamatan <Kadazan> “Kadazan harvest festival.” The influence of these languages on ME needs to be examined if a fuller understanding of the social and linguistic factors that regulate
the evolution of this variety is to be achieved.
Second, this study uses data from newspaper English, a relatively formal
register which tends to conform rather closely to the grammatical norms of an
international standard. Consequently, the data sampled here are relatively conservative. There are certainly other categories of contact-induced change that
have not been analysed because they do not occur frequently enough in the
MEN Corpus. These include discourse particles, localised metaphorical expressions and speech acts, and other phonological and syntactic changes that are
more commonly found in the colloquial sub-variety of ME. More research on
these features is certainly needed in order for a more encompassing narrative on
contact-induced variation and change in ME to be established.
Third, it has been suggested that contact-induced change is often constrained
by the linguistic structures of the languages involved. In the case of ME, there is
certainly some evidence that points to the veracity of Thomason’s (2001) oftcited proposition that “features which are deeply embedded in elaborate interlocking structures are less likely to be borrowed and ... transferred” (pp. 76-77).
Whether the scarcity of borrowed verbs, adjectives, prepositions and affixes in
ME can be attributed to such linguistic constraints should be investigated. Another possible linguistic predictor of change in ME, in particular where group
SLA is concerned, is “markedness” (Thomason, 2001, p. 76). At the level of lexis, semantic modification tends to occur in English words which are marked, that
is words whose meanings overlap, but not completely, with the meanings of a
Malay and/or Chinese word. Examples of such words include alphabet, bluff,
follow, stay and wear. These words are similar to those that Singleton (1999)
reports as being problematic for second language learners because their meanings “are differently structured and distributed as compared with those of the
L1” (pp. 80-81). At the level of syntax, markedness may also be a factor that
promotes the reclassification of some common nouns in ME. How these and
other linguistic predictors of change have regulated the evolution of ME is a topic that should be explored.
Finally, there is a need for this model to be tested in studies of other New
Englishes, especially those that have emerged in the postcolonial contexts of
Asian societies such as Singapore, Hong Kong, the Philippines and India. Such
continued exploration of ME and other New Englishes will enhance our understanding of how the English language has evolved in its interactions with, and
sustained use, in postcolonial Asia. Beyond this, it will provide a higher profile
to the study of New Englishes in the broader field of contact linguistics.
Appendix A: Lexical Items Borrowed from
Alhamdulillah int. Also alhamdullilah, Alhamdullillah. [Malay, orig. Arabic
al-amdu li’] Praise be to Allah, an interjection that expresses gratitude.
2001 New Straits Times 16 Aug. The 33-year-old mother of 14-monthold Mohd Aiman Armin, said: “I had a terrible flu. Alhamdulillah, it didn’t
affect my voice that much during the show.”
asam pedas n. [Malay] A sour and spicy soup.
2001 New Straits Times 28 Aug. ... dishes would include fish head curry, asam pedas and ayam panggang.
ayam pongteh n. [Baba Malay] A chicken stew with preserved soy bean paste,
a traditional Peranakan dish.
2001 The Star 29 Dec. You’ll find traditional favourites like Ayam
Pongteh and Otak-otak, ....
baba n. & a. [Malay] A n. Pl. same, -s. 1 The Straits Chinese community. 2 The
men folk of the Straits Chinese community. B a. Of language, culture, etc.:
pertaining to the Straits Chinese community.
A 1 2001 The Star 1 Nov. The Penang Babas speak the Hokkien dialect
incorporating Malay words (the Babas of Malacca and Singapore—the other
two cities that comprised the Straits Settlements—speak a type of Creole
Malay with Hokkien words). B 2001 The Star 1 Nov. Clubs such as the
Chinese Amateur Dramatic Association were not only famous for promoting
Baba bangsawan in the 1920s and 1930s but also for presenting their own
plays which centred around the stereotypical Baba household in which rich
husbands squandered money, stepmothers were strict and mothers-in-law illtreated their daughters-in-law.
baju Kedah n. [Malay, orig. Persian “jacket” + Malay Kedah “name of
state in the northwest region of Peninsular Malaysia”] A short blouse with
three-quarter length sleeves that is thought to have originated in Kedah. Also a suit comprising the blouse and a long skirt.
2001 New Straits Times 24 Nov. Key pieces in the collection include the
classical baju kurung and elegant baju Kedah as well as the more contemporary curvy baju kebaya.
baju kurung n. [Malay, orig. Persian “jacket” + Malay kurung “enclosed,
without a front opening”] A loose knee-length slip-on blouse with sleeves
Appendix A
that end at the wrists, typically worn by Malay women. Also a suit comprising such a blouse and an ankle-length skirt.
2001 The Star 6 Sept. Sri Lumandeng, who was clad in a green baju kurung, looked calm throughout the proceedings yesterday and nodded her
head as the court interpreter read out the facts of the case.
baju Melayu n. [Malay, orig. Persian “jacket” + Malay Melayu “Malay”]
A long-sleeve shirt with either a round neckline or a Mandarin collar that is
worn by Malay men. Also a suit comprising such a shirt and a loose pair of
2001 The Star 14 Oct. Clad in the same white baju melayu that he wore
on his wedding day, Mohd Sufian said he regretted what had happened.
balik kampung v. [Malay] To visit the (usually rural) home of one’s parents, inlaws, siblings or close relatives, during long weekends, festive seasons, etc.
2001 New Straits Times 20 Aug. He would keep repeating the same story everytime we balik kampung. We used to joke among us that he sounded
like a broken record.
batik n. Also batik cloth. [Malay, orig. Javanese] Traditional Southeast Asian
wax-resist dyed textile.
2001 The Star 30 Sept. With this encouragement, she started making
and selling her batik from a small hut 13 years ago. 2001 New Straits Times
31 Oct. I usually buy scarfs (sic.), batik cloth, clothes for my grandchildren,
Attrib.: batik art [Malay seni batik] the art of drawing and painting using the wax-resist batik method; batik painter [Malay pelukis batik] an artist who paints on fabric employing techniques and tools used for making batik; batik painting [Malay lukisan batik] the art of painting on fabric employing techniques and tools used for making batik.
2001 New Straits Times 29 Oct. “I spent time observing a commercial
batik painter so as to learn how to paint batik. However, when I later tried it
out myself, nothing worked,” said this renowned batik artist.
bawal hitam n. [Malay] A marine fish (Parastromateus niger). Also called
black pomfret.
2001 The Star 5 Dec. Its chairman Senator Zainal Rampak had said that
there were drastic increase in the prices of essential items like chicken,
chicken eggs, coconut, cooking oil, prawns, potatoes, long beans, kangkung,
cabbage, red chillies, ikan kembung, tenggiri, bawal putih, bawal hitam,
cencaru, ikan merah, local beef, imported beef and mutton.
Appendix A
bawal putih n. [Malay] A marine fish (Pampus argenteus). Also called white
belacan n. [Malay, orig. Minangkabau Malay] Dried shrimp paste.
Comb.: sambal belacan a condiment of blended chillies and belacan.
2001 The Star 20 Oct. Finally, cuttlefish strips are added for the flavour
and slight crunch. It is served with sambal belacan and green leaf lettuce.
bersanding ceremony n. [Malay majlis persandingan] A Malay wedding ceremony where the bride and the groom sit side by side on a dais awaiting the
blessings of the guests.
2001 New Straits Times 2 Nov. The pelamin is an integral part of the
Malay wedding ceremony. It is a decorated platform on which newlyweds
sit for the bersanding ceremony.
bomoh n. Pl. -s. [Malay, orig. Kedah Malay, Kelantan Malay] A shaman and
traditional healer of Malay culture.
2001 New Straits Times 24 Aug. A bomoh from Sabak Bernam, Selangor, claims he has caught what he believes is a langsuir or vampire near a
cotton tree two days ago.
briyani rice (tautology) n. [Malay nasi briyani, orig. Malay nasi “rice” + Hindustani, Urdu “baked rice dish”] An Indian dish made with seasoned
rice and meat or fish or vegetables. See also nasi briyani.
2001 New Straits Times 7 Sept. The buffet line is filled with assorted
Malaysian cuisine, from kurma chicken to spicy lamb, tender beef curry,
steamed fish and briyani rice.
bubur n. [Malay] Porridge or gruel made from rice, beans, lentils or other
grains; may be sweet or savoury.
2001 New Straits Times 3 Oct. Although found in other States like Terengganu, Perak or Malacca, locals insist Benta’s gula kabung is the best in
quality and taste. It enhances the flavour of bubur, local kuih or cendol, they
Comb.: bubur cha cha porridge made by boiling pieces of yam, sweet
potato, etc. in a broth of coconut milk and sugar; bubur kacang gruel made
of various types of beans; bubur lambok/lambuk savoury porridge with
meat and spices, traditionally served during the month of Ramadan; bubur
pulut hitam sweet porridge made of black glutinous rice.
budu n. [Malay, orig. Kelantan Malay] A condiment made by pickling anchovies in brine; popular in the east coast states of Peninsular Malaysia.
Appendix A
2001 New Straits Times 22 Nov. Among the fare served for the hotel’s
Ramadan buffet dinner are various types of kerabu, ulam-ulaman, sambal
belacan, budu and tempoyak.
buka puasa n. Also berbuka puasa. [Malay, orig. Malay buka “to break” +
Sanskrit “fasting”] The breaking of fast: During the month of Ramadan, Muslims fast during the day and break the fast at dusk.
2001 New Straits Times 24 Nov. If you are not one of those “busy bees”
who only have time to grab a murtabak or kuih for berbuka puasa, then stay
tuned. Starting today, this page will provide some interesting recipes, both
sweet and savoury, Asian and Western, for the aspiring chef.
bumiputera n. & a. Also bumiputra. [Malay, orig. Sanskrit bumi “earth” + putra “son”] A n. Pl. -s. A category created by the Malaysian state to designate
those citizens it considers indigenous to Malaysia. B a. Of or pertaining to
the bumiputeras.
A 2001 The Star 24 Sept. According to the latest electoral roll, Kidurong has 22,001 registered voters, with 51.3% Chinese and 48.7% bumiputras (70% Ibans and 30% Malays). B 2001 The Star 20 Oct. Amin said he
was confident that the budget measures would go a long way towards assisting bumiputra businessmen, especially the medium- and small-scale businessmen now trying to cope with the challenges of globalisation.
non-bumiputera/non-bumiputra a citizen who is considered nonindigenous to Malaysia, usually of Chinese or Indian ethnicity.
Comb.: Muslim bumiputera/Muslim bumiputra a bumiputra of the
Muslim faith, usually a Malay or a person belonging to one of the many indigenous tribes of Malaysia; non-Muslim bumiputera/non-Muslim bumiputra a bumiputra who is not a Muslim, usually of Christian or traditional
2001 The Star 3 Aug. At the conclusion of the Upko congress on
Wednesday, the party’s 315 delegates adopted a resolution asking the state
to adopt a 4:4:2 formula in all appointments and promotions in the civil service. This meant that for every 10 civil servants hired or promoted, four
should be Muslim bumiputras, another four be non-Muslim bumiputras and
two be non-bumiputras.
bunga kantan n. [Malay bunga “flower” + kantan “wild ginger”] The pink bud
of a ginger plant (Etlingera elatior) that is used to flavour many Malay dishes.
2001 New Straits Times 28 Nov. ... sourish and spicy gravy that’s absolutely heavenly with generous portions of sardines, pineapples, mint leaves,
strips of cucumber, onions, bunga kantan and otak udang.
Appendix A
bunga manggar n. [Malay bunga “flower” + manggar “old and hardened blossom of a palm”] A palm-like structure comprising a pole and plumes of glittery tinsels that it used to decorate the venue during a wedding.
2001 New Straits Times 20 Aug. Besides the beat of the kompang and
the glittering bunga manggar, no traditional Malay wedding is complete
without a silat performance.
bunga telur n. [Malay bunga “flower” + telur “egg”] A gift of a boiled egg tied
to a paper flower that is given to the guests at Malay weddings.
2001 New Straits Times 17 Sept. As the big day approaches, the neighbours congregate at the house to help make bunga telur, set up the wedding
dais and build the balai.
ciku n. [Malay] An oval fruit about the size of a large kiwifruit with pale brown
thin skin and yellowish, sweet flesh.
2001 New Straits Times 14 Aug. Ciku is a sweet-smelling brown coloured fruit, popular in Asean countries such as Thailand, Vietnam, Indonesia and Malaysia.
cincalok n. [Malay] A relish made from small shrimps.
2001 New Straits Times 10 Aug. For the main course, chef Chew recommends the special deep-fried chicken, which was marinated with cincalok.
congkak n. [Malay] A traditional Malay game played by moving counters from
one base to another on a boat-shaped board.
2001 New Straits Times 30 Aug. Traditional games such as sepak raga
bulatan and congkak were also held.
dadah n. [Malay dadah “drug”] A generic name for chemical substances, such
as narcotics or hallucinogens, that affect the central nervous system.
2001 New Straits Times 24 Aug. He said initial investigation showed
that the man could have been involved in a spate of armed robberies, motorcycle thefts, tampering of motorcycle chassis numbers, and peddling dadah
and pornographic VCDs.
dalang n. [Malay] The puppet-master of the wayang kulit or the shadow play.
2001 New Straits Times 23 Oct. I’m a writer; worse, I’m a poet. I’m a
dalang, I learn Jawi, and half the time I live in Kelantan. For most parents,
it’d be bizarre!
Datin n. [Malay] 1 A title reserved for the wife of a man who has been awarded
the title of Datuk. 2 The wife of a man who has been awarded the title of
Appendix A
1 2002 The Star 30 Jan. Dr Jeffrey was represented by Datin Marina Tiu
.... 2 2001 The Star 24 Sept. An odd-job labourer, arrested on suspicion of
murdering a Datin last year, told a Sessions Court yesterday he admitted to
police that he received stolen jewellery after they started beating him.
Datin Seri n. [Malay, orig. Malay Datin “titular honorific” + Sanskrit “a title
of veneration for deities”] The title reserved for the wife of a person who has
been awarded the title of Datuk Seri.
2001 The Star 23 Dec. Also present were the Tunku Mahkota Tunku Ibrahim Ismail, his consort Raja Zarith Sofiah Sultan Idris Shah, members of
the Johor royal family, Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad
Badawi and his wife Datin Seri Endon Mahmood.
Datuk n. Pl. -s. [Malay] 1 An honorary and non-hereditary title awarded either
by the federal government or the state rulers. 2 A person who has been
awarded the title of Datuk.
1 2001 The Star 21 Nov. The Malaysian embassy in the Republic of Ireland will open soon with Datuk Ali Abdullah appointed as its first ambassador. 2 2001 The Star 27 Nov. The Datuk, she claimed, had told her that the
police would not dare take action on any report lodged against him and his
family members.
Datukship n. the state of having been awarded the title of Datuk.
2001 New Straits Times 3 Sept. A casual perusal of the lists reveal that
the Datukship recipients range from the royals, party stalwarts, exco members, civil servants, towkays and corporate figures, police and military personnel, entertainers and even unheard-of foreign dignitaries.
Datuk Bandar n. [Malay]. Mayor.
2001 New Straits Times 20 Nov. The ceremony was officiated by Kuala
Lumpur Datuk Bandar Tan Sri Kamaruzzaman Shariff.
Datuk Seri n. [Malay, orig. Malay Datuk “titular honorific” + Sanskrit “a
title of veneration for deities”] A honorary title awarded by the state rulers
of Malaysia.
2002 The Star 2 Jan. Puteri Umno pro-tem chief Azalina Othman Said
said issues associated with Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim have become stale
and would not influence the Indera Kayangan by-election.
daun kesum n. [Malay] A pungent herb (Polygonum hydropiper) with long
pointed green leaves tinged with purple.
daun mambu n. [Malay] A bitter herb that is often used to treat measles and
chicken pox.
Appendix A
2001 The Star 14 Oct. Neem grows well in Malaysia and is common to
all the races. The Malays call it daun mambu, while the Chinese and Indians
call it chin sou chin and veepelai respectively.
daun salam n. [Malay] An aromatic leaf used in Malay cooking which has a
similar flavour to curry leaves.
2001 New Straits Times 23 Sept. What makes the nasi lemak so unusual
is the addition of fenugreek (halba) that lends a certain aroma to the rice.
Not to mention the slight hint of daun salam.
Dewan Negara n. [Malay, orig. Persian “council” + Sanskrit nagara
“city”] The national Senate.
2001 New Straits Times 8 Aug. Six syndicates were busted and 22 people arrested from January to March this year in connection with forged Malaysian identity cards, the Dewan Negara was told yesterday.
Dewan Rakyat n. [Malay, orig. Persian d “council” + Arabic ra’iyya “subjects”] The national House of Representatives.
2001 New Straits Times 27 Oct. Abdullah reportedly advised MPs to
raise any dissatisfaction with the Prime Minister first, instead of turning the
Dewan Rakyat into a bashing ground.
dikir barat n. [Malay, orig. Arabic dhikr “chanting, repeating God’s praises”] A
style of call-and-response singing popular in Kelantan.
2001 New Straits Times 3 Oct. You’ll get to see groups bantering in
dikir barat, hitting traditional drums, playing and dancing to traditional music.
dukun n. [Malay, orig. Javanese] A medicine man, healer.
2001 The Star 20 Oct. The virtues of jamu were later introduced to the
“common people” by native healers known as dukun (witch-doctor).
gamelan n. [Malay, orig. Javanese] A type of Javanese orchestra that has become an important part of the music culture of Malaysia.
2001 New Straits Times 27 Oct. The gamelan is a sound from our past,
unique to this region and its people, its melodies a record of our forefathers’
gasing n. [Malay] A giant top that weighs approximately 5kg. Top spinning
competitions are held annually, especially in the east coast of Peninsular
Malaysia, with the participants being adults rather than children.
2001 New Straits Times 19 Sept. A typical gasing is about the size of a
dinner plate and may weigh about 5.5kg. Spinning gasing is hardly child’s
play as it requires strength, great dexterity and precise timing.
Appendix A
Comb.: gasing pangkah a top-spinning competition whereby a participant hurls his top at his opponent’s in order to break or destabilise the latter;
gasing uri a top-spinning competition whereby the participant tries to keep
his top spinning for as long as possible.
2001 New Straits Times 18 Aug. Among the other events to be held are
a chess tournament from Aug 30 to Sept 2 at the Putra World Trade Centre,
a gasing pangkah competition from Sept 7 to 9 in Labuan, ....
gatal a. [Malay] Mischievous and flirtatious, usually of lecherous men.
2001 New Straits Times 13 Oct. Add in a gatal (lecherous) rich man (essential in ALL local movies) and a love triangle between Harry, Yati and
Chantal, and there you have it: 90 minutes of entertainment.
God willing [Malay insyaallah, orig. Arabic ’a’] If God wills it. Many
Muslims consider any expression of certainty about the future to be arrogant, and very often use this term to prefix any statement of positive intent
or prediction, or agreement to do something. It is this suggestion of humility
and knowledge that everything is in the hands of God that distinguishes the
use of this term in ME. See also Insyaallah.
2001 The Star 10 Oct. “His Majesty also said that with the prayers of
everyone, God willing, he will be returning home soon.”
gotong-royong n. [Malay] The traditional Malay practice of helping one another
in communal projects, preparation for festivals, etc.
2001 New Straits Times 28 Nov. ... revive traditional practices like
gotong-royong, visiting neighbours during festivals and helping neighbours
who face problems.
Hajah n. Also Hajjah. [Malay, orig. Arabic] The title used by a woman who
has performed the Haj pilgrimage to Mecca.
2001 The Star 16 Sept. The others are Mej-Jen Datuk Pahlawan Mohd
Azumi Mohamed, Hajjah Salbiah Mohd Painah, ....
Haji n. [Malay, orig. Arabic hajj] The title used by a man who has performed
the Haj pilgrimage to Mecca.
2001 The Star 23 Nov. “I had known the King since I was a little girl
because my grandfather, Haji Kassim, was the imam of Istana Alam Shah
(in Klang). He was very fond of children even then,” she said.
halal a. [Malay, orig. Arabic “permitted”] Permitted under Islamic law,
usually in reference to food.
2001 New Straits Times 4 Nov. Of the switch to halal Chinese cuisine,
he says that he and his kitchen team have been preparing for it for months,
testing various ways to get similar or almost similar flavours and textures.
Appendix A
non-halal not permitted under Islamic law, usually in reference to food
and restaurants.
2001 The Star 15 Aug. Shops that do not have a Chinese restaurant
permit, even though they are Chinese-owned and have been selling other
non-halal food like pork, cannot legally sell beer without the permit.
hantu n. [Malay, orig. Sanskrit hantu “killing, slaying”] A spirit, ghost or demon.
2001 New Straits Times 26 Aug. I think most Malaysians believe in one
kind of hantu or another.
haram a. [Malay, orig. Arabic ! “forbidden”] Forbidden by Islamic law.
2001 New Straits Times 2 Aug. Hassan said all 12 State Muftis at the
meeting unanimously agreed that the council should decree black metal music as haram.
Hari Raya n. Also Hari Raya Puasa, Hari Raya Aidilfitri. [Malay] The celebration marking the end of the fasting month.
2001 The Star 15 Dec. The Sultan of Selangor, Sultan Sharafuddin Idris
Shah, will hold an open house at Istana Bukit Kayangan here on the first day
of Hari Raya from noon to 3pm.
ikan bilis n. [Malay] 1 Dried anchovies. 2 Insignificant people, small fry.
1 2001 New Straits Times 17 Sept. Another Penang favourite is loh bak,
which is an assortment of deep-fried fish balls, fish cake, crab sticks, tau
hoo, cucur udang and other items cut into bite-size pieces and eaten with a
special sauce, which is made from ikan bilis stock, seasoning and eggs. 2
2001 The Star 7 Nov. “We don’t act only against the ikan bilis. Our action is
against all, whether they are ikan bilis or king of illegal loggers,” Rahim
said during a highly spirited question hour that focused on issues of illegal
logging, illegal immigrants and illegal fish bombings.
Comb.: sambal ikan bilis condiment made by cooking ikan bilis in chilli paste.
2001 The Star 20 Sept. “If the choice is nasi lemak, taken with a small
serving of sambal ikan bilis, a slice of boiled egg, some slices of cucumber
or fried kangkung, and a cup of coffee, hot chocolate or tea, that should be
fine. ...”
ikan kembung n. [Malay] A local species of mackerel (Rastrelliger kanagurta).
2001 The Star 17 Nov. Sabariah Ismail, 43, said ikan kembung, normally costing RM5 a kilo, was sold between RM6 and RM8 per kilo.
Appendix A
ikan tenggiri n. [Malay] Spanish mackerel (Scomberomorus commerson).
2001 The Star 5 Dec. “The standard price for other items which are not
under the controlled list like ikan selar and ikan tenggiri were also not exorbitant.”
ikan terubok n. [Malay] A sequential hermaphrodite fish from the herring family (Clupeidae) found mainly in Sarawak. Ikan terubok is sought after not only for its flesh but also for its roe.
2001 New Straits Times 16 Nov. To ensure that the ikan terubok continue to exist on a sustainable basis, we need to put in place some form of licensing for terubok catchers.
imam n. [Malay, orig. Arabic !! “leader”] The man who leads prayers in a
2001 New Straits Times 5 Oct. They allegedly performed the prayers in
a congregation separate from the one led by the imam appointed by the Federal Territory Islamic Religious Council, in contravention of a directive dated Aug 14 issued by the council.
Insyaallah Also InsyaAllah, Insya-Allah, insyallah. [Malay, orig. Arabic in’a’] If God wills it. Many Muslims consider any expression of certainty about the future to be arrogant, and very often use this term to prefix
any statement of positive intent or prediction, or agreement to do something.
See also God willing.
2001 New Straits Times 1 Oct. We are waiting for the time to sign the
Articles of Agreement with the founding members that include Sudan, Indonesia, Bahrain, Brunei and the Islamic Development Bank, to effectively
launch the IIFM project, Insyaallah this year.
Ipoh [Malay] Capital city of the Malaysian state of Perak.
2001 The Star 9 Dec. Like a treasure hunt, it takes a while to uncover
Ipoh’s culinary secrets, tucked as the food establishments are in little squatter settlements, wet markets and corner shops.
Islamic Affairs Council n. Also Islamic Council, Islamic Religious Council.
[Malay Majlis Agama Islam, orig. Arabic majlis “council” + Sanskrit !
“religion” + Arabic !] A state-level council responsible for formulating
policies aimed at the advancement of Islam.
2001 The Star 3 Aug. All the state Islamic affairs council presidents
were present at the meeting.
Islamic Affairs Department n. [Malay Jabatan Hal Ehwal Islam, orig. Malay
jabatan “department” + Arabic al-i “matter, affair” + Arabic !] A
state-level department in charge of implementing policies and programmes
Appendix A
formulated by the Islamic Affairs Council. Each state has either an Islamic
Religious Department or an Islamic Affairs Department.
2001 The Star 30 Sept. Mentri Besar Datuk Seri Dr Mohd Khir Toyo
said the students, all studying in universities in the Middle East, had been informed of the decision by the state Islamic Affairs Department.
Islamic Religious Department n. [Malay Jabatan Agama Islam, orig. Malay
jabatan “department” + Sanskrit ! “religion” + Arabic !] A statelevel department in charge of implementing policies and programmes formulated by the Islamic Affairs Council. Each state has either an Islamic Religious Department or an Islamic Affairs Department.
2001 The Star 1 Aug. Dr Hilmi, who is the State Islamic Religious
Council chairman said yesterday the Islamic Religious Department will be
writing the sermons.
jampi n. [Malay, orig. Sanskrit japa “incantation”] Spell or charm.
2001 New Straits Times 4 Nov. Information Minister Tan Sri Khalil
Yaakob, who took to the rostrum, must have sensed the politically charged
atmosphere when he said: “If I can work some jampi (charm), I will try to
bring about unity in MCA.”
Comb.: air jampi water which has been subject to an incantation and is
believed to have supernatural powers.
Jawi n. [Malay, orig. Arabic "] A writing system based on the Arabic script.
It is used as one of two official scripts in Brunei, and is employed to a limited extent in Malaysia, Indonesia and Singapore, particularly in religious
2001 The Star 22 Oct. A UNIQUE attraction in the fishing village of
Kuala Sepetang, about 17km from Taiping, Perak, is a concrete signboard
along Jalan Tepi Sungai with the name “Port Weld” rendered in four languages: English, Bahasa Malaysia (in Jawi script), Chinese and Tamil.
jembalang n. [Malay] An evil spirit.
2001 New Straits Times 10 Nov. After all, the air jampi will not lift a
gypsy curse in Oxford. Neither will the Holy Water send the Malay jembalang (evil spirits) scurrying.
joget n. [Malay] Malay folk dance characterised by quick rhythmic movements.
2001 The Star 11 Nov. The Actors Studio Academy’s traditional dance
programme offers a choice of classical Malay dances such as Asyik and Trinai or folk dances like joget, zapin, endang and layang mas.
Johor n. Also Johore. [Malay Johor] A state situated in the south of Peninsular
Appendix A
Johorean n. Pl. -s. A native or inhabitant of the state of Johor.
2001 The Star 5 Aug. The 23-year-old Johorean feels that he should be
picked based on his victory in the men’s 100m event at the MAAU Open in
Malacca last week.
kacang n. [Malay kacang “peas, beans, lentils or nuts”] Roasted nuts, usually
eaten as a snack.
2001 New Straits Times 23 Oct. I’ve rediscovered a passion for those
films, now - I have quite a collection of James Bond movies! Not out of any
fondness for the hero, but for the memories he evokes. Of me and my father,
the Majestic and Sentosa cinemas in Petaling Jaya, Coke and kacang.
Comb.: ais kacang/ice kacang local dessert of shaved ice, syrup, kidney
beans, cream corn, sago, etc.; bubur kacang gruel made of various types of
beans; putu kacang local biscuit made of mung bean meal and sugar.
2001 New Straits Times 23 Oct. For dessert, there is ais kacang with
pastries and cakes.
kadi n. [Malay, orig. Arabic qadi] A judge in Islamic affairs.
2001 New Straits Times 31 Oct. Under the ruling, couples wanting to get
married have to undergo the HIV test, the results of which must be handed
to the kadi before the wedding.
kampung n. Also kampong. Pl. -s. [Malay] A small village.
Attrib.: kampung house [Malay rumah kampung] traditional Malay
house on stilts, usually made of wood and with a thatched roof; kampung
chicken [Malay ayam kampung] local breed of chicken usually raised in the
backyard by rural folks using traditional methods and therefore regarded as
having better meat quality.
2001 The Star 22 Sept. According to Sundram, British bikes were extensively used in the estates by management staff to get around. In addition, the
police, army and postal services owned many too, especially BSAs of 250cc
and 350cc capacities. Many are still around; quite a few rotting under kampung houses all over the country. 2001 New Straits Times 26 Aug. TCRS offers customers a choice of ordinary chicken or kampung chicken with a
slight difference in prices.
Comb.: Malay kampung [Malay kampung Melayu] a Malay village.
2001 New Straits Times 11 Sept. We are sitting in her library in a middle-class enclave surrounded by Malay kampungs in Selayang, Selangor,
and she is talking animatedly about her latest project: implementing a community transport service in the Klang Valley for those unable to use, or who
have difficulty in using, public transport.
Appendix A
kangkung n. [Malay] A semi-aquatic tropical plant (Ipomoea aquatica) grown
as a leaf vegetable. Sometimes called water convolvulus.
kaya n. [Malay serikaya] Custard-like spread for bread made of coconut milk,
sugar and eggs and flavoured with pandanus juice.
2001 The Star 20 Sept. Wholemeal bread toast with a thin spread of butter or kaya, could also be your breakfast.
kebaya n. Also baju kebaya. [Malay] A form-fitting blouse with frontal opening and long sleeves, traditionally worn by Peranakan and Malay women.
Also a suit comprising such a blouse and a sarong or a form-fitting long
2001 New Straits Times 12 Aug. Dressed in black baju kebaya with a
beige and blue floral motif, the mother of four was accompanied to accept
her award by State Executive Councillor Datuk Kee Phaik Cheen and Penang Council of Datuks council member Datuk Saleena Yahaya-Isa.
Kedah n. [Malay, etymology ascribed variously to Hindi khedah “elephant trap”
and Arabic kadah “goblet”] A state situated in the northwest region of Peninsular Malaysia.
Kedahan n. & a. A n. Pl. -s. A native or inhabitant of the state of Kedah. B a. Of or relating to or characteristic of the state of Kedah or its people
or language or culture.
A 2001 The Star 13 Dec. Next year will be Kedah-born Zahir’s 20th as
the Speaker. He is an inspiring figure to many Kedahans. B 2001 The Star
11 Nov. The venue is Rumah Penghulu Abu Seman bin Nayan located in
Jalan Stonor (near the KLCC), a beautifully restored Kedahan Malay house
that was “transplanted” to KL and now hosts Badan Warisan.
Kelantan n. [Malay] A state situated in the northeast region of Peninsular Malaysia.
Kelantanese n. Pl. same. A native or inhabitant of the state of Kelantan.
2001 New Straits Times 19 Sept. Kelantanese are renowned for their
warmth and friendliness.
kemenyan n. [Malay] A type of incense made from the resin of a tree of the
same name.
2001 New Straits Times 26 Aug. It is said that close to every Umno supreme council election, Dewan Merdeka at the Putra World Trade Centre in
Kuala Lumpur would be filled with the smell of kemenyan (incense) and
lilin (candle) as some candidates sought the help of their trusted bomoh and
pawang to influence voting.
Appendix A
kenduri n. Pl. same, -s. [Malay, orig. Persian, Hindustani “feast”] A
traditional Malay feast, often religious.
2001 New Straits Times 17 Sept. In addition, the expenses are high because the host has to feed the volunteers days before the kenduri ....
kerabu n. [Malay] Malay salad.
2001 New Straits Times 26 Nov. Break fast with dates and whet your
appetite with kerabu, ulam and sambal ....
Comb.: nasi kerabu salad of rice, herbs and other greens.
kerisik n. [Malay] Lightly-roasted grated coconut. Not to be confused with desiccated coconut.
2001 New Straits Times 22 Aug. “City folk especially do not use stuff
like kerisik, hand-squeezed coconut milk, rempah-rempah (spices), real
pandan leaf extracts for colouring and taste, ...”
keroncong n. Also kroncong. [Malay, orig. Javanese] A type of Javanese music
and song performance that has some Portuguese influence.
2001 New Straits Times 27 Oct. My personal favourite for the evening
was definitely Suasana, a piece that used a range of musical styles such as
the Terengganu gamelan, keroncong, asli singing style, kompang/rebana
drums, the rebab and vocals.
kerongsang n. Pl. -s. [Malay] A set of three decorative brooches worn on the
lapel of a baju kebaya, traditionally used in place of buttons.
Comb.: ibu kerongsang the biggest of the three brooches that make up a
2001 New Straits Times 26 Nov. Traditional jewellery is actually an
amalgamation of our diversified cultures, Tan reveals. For instance, a rubystudded ibu kerongsang in his collection shows Sri Lankan influence.
ketupat n. [Malay] Rice cakes made by cooking rice in small casings made of
palm leaves.
2001 The Star 11 Dec. The island’s assistant resort manager ... also used
the opportunity to learn to make ketupat.
khalwat a. [Malay, orig. Arabic khalwa “solitude with God”] Related to the offence, under the Syariah law of Malaysia, of being in an isolated place and
in close proximity with a person of the opposite sex who is not one’s spouse.
2001 The Star 19 Aug. A gotong-royong turned into a khalwat raid
when Chief Minister Datuk Wira Mohd Ali Rustam, suspecting human presence in an abandoned house in Kampung Morten, instructed those involved
in the cleanliness campaign to check the place.
Appendix A
kompang n. [Malay] Shallow-frame hand-held Malay drum, usually played in
kompang troupe [Malay kumpulan kompang] kompang ensemble.
2001 New Straits Times 18 Aug. We arrived at the resort at 6pm, and
were welcomed by a kompang troupe, ....
Kota Kinabalu n. [Malay, orig. Sanskrit kota “stronghold” + Kadazan Dusun
aki nabalu “revered place of the dead”] Capital town of the Malaysian state
of Sabah.
2001 The Star 26 Sept. KOTA KINABALU: National bowler Ng Yiew
Hup defeated United States’s Purvis Granger over two games in the stepladder grand finals of the inaugural Kota Kinabalu International Open
Championships at the CPS Bowl here on Monday night.
Kuala Lumpur n. [Malay] Also KL. (Abbrev.) Capital city of Malaysia, Kuala
KL-ites n. Usu. in pl. Natives or inhabitants of KL.
2001 The Star 25 Aug. Originally from Kuala Lumpur, he’s been here
for the last seven years. 2002 The Star 18 Jan. And in their bid to become
the first team to win back-to-back world titles, the Dutch realise that they
need all the help in getting used to the conditions in KL. 2001 New Straits
Times 4 Nov. Rainy days and Monday, Oct 29, really got KL-ites down.
Another day that will go into the records as one of Kuala Lumpur’s “worst”
flash floods. The way it’s going, it promises to be worse when the next big
one strikes.
Kuantan n. [Malay] The capital town of the Malaysian state of Pahang.
2002 The Star 4 Jan. Kapten Nazri cheated death on Wednesday when
the Pilatus aircraft he was piloting crashed off the Kuantan coastline.
Kuching n. [Malay] Capital city of the Malaysian state of Sarawak.
2001 The Star 3 Aug. KUCHING: The fate of the five Sarawak Premier
League players, suspended over allegations of drug abuse, will be known
when the FA of Sarawak’s (FAS) disciplinary board meet today.
kuih n. Pl. same, kuih-muih, kuih-kuih. [Malay, orig. Hokkien k#e] Any type
of local cakes, puddings, biscuits, pastries and fritters, made variously from
glutinous rice flour, rice flour, wheat flour, cane sugar, palm sugar, coconut
milk, grated coconut and eggs.
2001 New Straits Times 6 Nov. For dessert, check out ais kacang, assorted ice cream, bread and butter pudding, iced longan and jelly, kuih,
French pastries and fresh fruits
Appendix A
Comb.: kuih bahulu small cupcake, traditionally baked over charcoal
fire in cast iron moulds; kuih bangkit light biscuit made of coconut milk,
sugar and rice flour; kuih kapit thin wafer made from wheat flour, coconut
milk, sugar and eggs.
kunyit n. [Malay] Turmeric.
2001 New Straits Times 23 Sept. Chew it slowly and enjoy the release of
aroma from the serai, daun kadok, daun limau purut, daun kunyit, shallots,
kunyit, dried prawns, salted fish and kerisik.
langsat n. [Malay] The oval, greyish-yellow edible fruit of a tree native to Malaysia and Indonesia (Lansium domesticum).
2001 New Straits Times 28 Nov. ... visitors are offered such local fruits
as durian, langsat, dokong, rambutan and cempedak, among others.
Comb.: duku langsat a sweeter variety of langsat, this fruit has a slightly thicker skin.
Lembaga Tabung Haji n. Also Tabung Haji, Tabung Haji Board [Malay].
Pilgrimage Fund Board, a fund management board that helps Muslims in
Malaysia to invest in ways which are in accord with Islamic principles to
eventually provide them with sufficient funds to go on the pilgrimage to
2001 New Straits Times 16 Aug. The Government will restructure Lembaga Tabung Haji to address the organisation’s weaknesses and enable it to
perform better.
lontong n. [Malay] A dish of rice cakes in a gravy of coconut milk, vegetables
and spices.
2001 The Star 20 Sept. “... Sometimes I take lontong or a bowl of vermicelli soup. ...”
madrasah n. Pl. same, -s. [Malay, orig. Arabic madrasa] An Islamic school.
2001 New Straits Times 10 Nov. Speaking to reporters later, Dr Mahathir said misinterpretation of Islamic teaching was rampant, especially
among Muslim countries. “The Government has to correct the wrong teaching of Islam because children in the madrasahs and pondoks are taught to
hate and fight the Government.”
makan n. [Malay] 1 A meal or feast. 2 Eating or feasting, usually with family or
1 2001 New Straits Times 26 Aug. The coming weekend will be a long
holiday for most people .... Naturally, Malaysians will celebrate the way
they know best—with a good makan. 2 2001 The Star 10 Sept. This activity
is for seniors especially the widowed, divorced, single or separated to get
Appendix A
together for fellowship, to share, learn and also take part in group activities
like learning computer skills, dancing, exercising, sightseeing and, of
course, makan.
Comb.: makan kecil a party where snacks and drinks are served.
2001 New Straits Times 21 Oct. There was a makan kecil at school,
handled by the Student Council members, then a trip out to the beach (“Malaysia’s Waikiki”), and finally a call on Vic and Jane Buzdon, where there
was much reminiscing about Hilo days.
makcik n. [Malay] 1 A title of respect for a middle-aged Malay woman, usually
precedes the name (usually with an initial capital). 2 Pl. -s. A middle-aged
Malay woman.
1 2001 The Star 15 Dec. Makcik Siah, 60, is one of the very few people
who still labour over the hot stove to churn out traditional delicacies for Hari
Raya. 2 2001 New Straits Times 22 Aug. I have spent close to 10 years talking with the kampung ‘makciks’ and other sources to unlock the secrets of
Malay food, ....
Malacca n. Also Melaka. [Malay] 1 A state situated on the west coast of Peninsular Malaysia, noted for its historic sites. 2 The capital city of the state of
Malaccan n. & a. A n. A native of inhabitant of the state of Malacca. B
a. Of or relating to or characteristic of the state of Malacca or its people or
language or culture.
2001 The Star 30 Oct. A true-blue Malaccan Straits Chinese, Tan teaches us to distinguish between the cooking styles of Penang and Malacca
Malaysian Islamic Economic Development Foundation n. [Malay Yayasan
Pembangunan Ekonomi Islam Malaysia, also YPEIM] Established in 1976
by the Federal Government, the foundation oversees the economic development of the Muslim community in Malaysia.
2001 New Straits Times 6 Aug. Seventeen years after its re-birth, Malaysian Islamic Economic Development Foundation (YPEIM) can be proud
of its achievement in helping the hardore poor and supporting petty traders.
mamak n. [Malay, orig. Tamil !! “uncle”] An Indian Muslim.
2001 New Straits Times 4 Nov. It does not matter whether one is a Javanese, a Mamak, a peranakan Arab or an Orang Asli. The question is: what
does it mean to be a Malay?
Appendix A
mamak stall [Malay gerai mamak, warung mamak] stall run by an Indian Muslim, usually selling humble fare like roti canai, local kuihs, noodles, teh tarik, etc.
2001 New Straits Times 29 Sept. “Sometimes, it can be really tiring as I
hate putting on make-up. I’m a jeans and T-shirt girl who loves sitting at
mamak stalls but I can’t do that too often now,” she says.
Mat Salleh n. & a. Malay slang. [Malay] A n. A Caucasian person. B a. Of or
pertaining to a Caucasian.
1 2001 The Star 14 Sept. The mat salleh might not look very intimidating now but some of them do appear rather imperious in the pages of this
volume, especially when they were our colonial rulers. 2 2001 New Straits
Times 1 Oct. I think because Brian is Mat Salleh and I’m local, the comedic
elements come in when the two cultures meet.
mee goreng n. [Malay, orig. Hokkien mee “wheat noodles” + Malay goreng
“fried”] Fried wheat noodles, usually spicy.
2001 The Star 15 Dec. For those who enjoy roti canai, mee goreng, nasi
goreng or kuey teow goreng, there are various stalls offering these along the
Pasir Bogak stretch.
mee rebus n. [Malay, orig. Hokkien mee “wheat noodles” + Malay rebus
“boiled”] Wheat noodles in a spicy sauce.
mengkuang mat n. [Malay tikar mengkuang] A mat woven from the leaves of
the mengkuang, a type of screw pine with long and broad leaves.
2001 New Straits Times 5 Sept. Malaysia’s traditional crafts like the batik sarong, rattan products and mengkuang mats ....
Menteri Besar n. Pl. Menteris Besar. [Malay, orig. Sanskrit mantri “official” +
Malay besar “big”] Chief Minister for any of the nine former Federated and
non-Federated Malay states.
2001 The Star 19 Aug. The Menteri Besar has been so pleased with
Yee’s book that the state government purchased over 600 copies to be distributed to students in Sabak Bernam.
Muar n. [Malay] An old town in Johor on the west coast of Peninsular Malaysia.
2001 The Star 7 Nov. “I am truly overwhelmed by their generosity,”
says the Muar-born beauty who is pursuing a degree in Science and Psychology at the University of North British Columbia in Canada.
naan bread (tautology) n. [Malay roti naan, orig. Hindustani, Persian nan]
Naan, a type of unleavened bread baked in a tandoor.
Appendix A
2001 New Straits Times 5 Sept. Ask for the minced beef tandoori and
naan bread ....
nasi briyani n. [Malay, orig. Malay nasi “rice” + Hindustani, Urdu “baked rice dish”] An Indian dish made with seasoned rice and meat or fish
or vegetables. See also briyani rice.
2001 New Straits Times 28 Nov. The hampers comprised rice and packets of seasoning for nasi briyani, nasi tomato and chicken.
nasi lemak n. [Malay nasi “rice” + lemak “rich, oily”] Rice cooked in coconut
milk, usually served with sambal, and traditionally wrapped in a banana
nasi lemak stall n. [Malay gerai nasi lemak, warung nasi lemak] stall
selling nasi lemak, snacks and drinks.
2001 New Straits Times 15 Oct. In the not-too-distant past, the phrase
woman entrepreneur would more likely than not conjure the picture of a
makcik minding her nasi lemak stall in the morning, a preoccupation that
takes part of her day, before she goes home to mind the husband and her
Negri Sembilan n. Also Negeri Sembilan. [Malay] A state situated on the west
coast of Peninsular Malaysia.
2001 The Star 19 Aug. Kolej Tunku Kurshiah in Negeri Sembilan
bagged two major awards for best SPM academic performance and for best
overall academic achievement last year.
night market n. Pl. night markets. [Malay pasar malam, orig. Persian “market” + Malay malam “night”] A market place where itinerant traders
gather at night to sell fresh produce, food, clothing, flowers, trinkets, CDs,
DVDs, etc.
2001 The Star 25 Dec. Church members sold pastries and cakes in a
night market to collect the money for the refugees, he said after handing the
money to The Star’s Afghan Refugees Fund during a Christmas high tea at
the centre on Sunday.
nyonya n. & a. [Malay, orig. Hokkien niu “lady” + nia “mother”] A n. Pl. -s.
The women folk of the Straits Chinese community. B a. Of cuisine, food,
culture, fashion, cooking, restaurant, etc.: pertaining to the Straits Chinese.
2001 The Star 30 Oct. The Malaccan Nyonyas add fragrant leaves,
flowers and herbs to enhance their cooking. 2001 The Star 30 Oct. Nyonya
cuisine is synonymous with sumptuous food by fastidious and meticulous
cooks who take pride in their cooking.
Appendix A
orang asli n. & a. [Malay orang asli, orig. Malay orang “people” + Arabic a%
“original”] A n. Pl. same. The aboriginal peoples of Peninsular Malaysia,
Sabah and Sarawak, comprising various nomadic and sedentary groups and
tribes. B a. Of or pertaining to the aboriginal peoples of Malaysia.
A 2001 New Straits Times 3 Sept. To date, 24 Orang Asli had been
trained as excavator operators and 40 others were working in various positions at the worksite, he said. B 2001 The Star 23 Aug. Since both nomadic
and sedentarised orang asli groups are facing a demographic crisis, the theory that resettlement has helped to develop them economically and socially is
possibly untrue except under conditions where economic development is designed to benefit them directly.
Orang Asli Affairs Department n. Also Department of Orang Asli Affairs.
[Malay Jabatan Hal Ehwal Orang Asli, orig. Malay jabatan “department” +
Arabic al-i “matter, affair” + Malay orang “people” + Arabic a%
“original”] A government department that oversees the economic development of the Orang Asli community.
2001 The Star 30 Oct. The project, a joint venture between Risda and
the Pahang Orang Asli Affairs Department, is intended to benefit about 100
orang asli families living nearby.
orang minyak n. [Malay orang “people” + minyak “oil”] A demon whose skin
is believed to be shiny, black and oily. Of Malay folklore.
2001 New Straits Times 13 Oct. Last month, on Sept 22, a bomoh, witnessed by villagers in Kuala Kedah, purportedly trapped an orang minyak,
an oily, or rather, a slippery bogey man who, in Malay myth, is believed to
prey on virgins.
orang putih n. [Malay orang “people” + putih “white”] A Caucasian.
1 2001 The Star 23 Aug. He said the commission seemed disinclined to
make an independent decision based on Malaysian values, fearing that it
would not be praised by the orang putih (whites).
Orang Ulu n. & a. [Malay orang “people” + ulu “upriver”] A n. A catch-all
phrase used to describe a large number of upriver tribes in Sarawak, including the Kayan, Kenyah, Kajang, Kejaman, Punan, Ukit and Penan tribes. B
a. Of or pertaining to any of the upriver tribes of Sarawak.
2001 The Star 26 Sept. Several Orang Ulu leaders such as Senator Joseph Balan Seling, a former Telang Usan assemblyman, have been campaigning there to convince the Orang Ulu to close ranks and vote for the party.
Appendix A
Pahang n. [Malay] A state situated on the east coast of Peninsular Malaysia.
Pahangite n. Pl. -s. A native or inhabitant of the state of Pahang.
2001 New Straits Times 24 Aug. The VSPD said in the Bentong district—the place where Genting Highlands is located—such units currently
command a median price of RM175,000, while in Cameron Highlands, it is
RM142,750 and in Kuantan, RM165,000. Needless to say, such units are not
intended to appeal to the majority of Pahangites. Instead, they are aimed at
purchasers from other states as well as foreigners who can afford a getaway
home in one of the state’s natural attractions.
pakcik n. [Malay] 1 A title of respect for a middle-aged Malay man, usually
precedes the name (usually with an initial capital). 2 Pl. -s. A middle-aged
Malay man.
1 2001 The Star 2 Sept. At the shop set up by the middleman, Pakcik
Zin is busy sorting out the bananas that have been brought in by the farmers.
pandan n. [Malay] Pandanus, a type of screw pine. The pandan leaves can be
woven into baskets and mats while the juice extracted from the leaves is
used to flavour savoury as well as sweet dishes.
2001 New Straits Times 29 Oct. ... she felt that pandan was underexploited as a raw material for handicraft.
Attrib. & Comb.: pandan leaf [Malay daun pandan] the leaf of the pandanus from which pandan juice is extracted; pandan mat [Malay tikar pandan] mat woven from pandan leaves; pandan jelly [Malay agar-agar pandan] pandan-flavoured jelly.
2001 New Straits Times 29 Oct. Bajau women in Sabah, for instance,
weave exquisite pandan mats, incorporating intricate designs which reflected their historical and cultural bonds with the Philippines.
pantun n. [Malay] A type of didactic verse that can be recited or sung.
2001 The Star 19 Aug. Despite a cold morning drizzle, the children eagerly assembled in the assembly ground, where they sang .... They also presented a pantun and dance ....
parang n. Pl. -s, same. [Malay] A short, heavy, straight-edged knife used in Malaysia and Indonesia as a tool and weapon.
2001 New Straits Times 10 Nov. Two men armed with parangs robbed a
MBf Finance branch in Taman Maluri, Cheras of RM72,000 today.
pasar malam n. Pl. same. [Malay, orig. Persian “market” + Malay malam
“night”] A night market.
Appendix A
2001 The Star 13 Aug. In Shah Alam, the Selangor Government’s ban
on VCD and videotape sales at pasar malam and five-foot ways has forced
traders to operate their businesses from the boots of their cars, ....
pasar tani n. Pl. same. [Malay, orig. Persian “market” + Malay tani
“farming”] A farmers’ market.
2001 New Straits Times 12 Nov. “Farmers who have been marketing
their produce at farmers’ markets or pasar tani managed by Fama will have a
more comfortable place to carry out their business when terminals are completed,” he said ....
pawang n. [Malay] A traditional Malay medicine man believed to be capable of
exorcising illnesses, driving out bad luck, etc.
2001 New Straits Times 26 Aug. It is said that close to every Umno supreme council election, Dewan Merdeka at the Putra World Trade Centre in
Kuala Lumpur would be filled with the smell of kemenyan (incense) and
lilin (candle) as some candidates sought the help of their trusted bomoh and
pawang to influence voting.
pelamin n. [Malay] A Malay bridal dais where the bride and the groom sit during the bersanding ceremony.
2001 New Straits Times 2 Nov. The pelamin is an integral part of the
Malay wedding ceremony. It is a decorated platform on which newlyweds
sit for the bersanding ceremony.
Penang n. Also Pulau Pinang. [Malay] A state on the west coast of Peninsular
Malaysia, comprising an island and a thin strip of land on the Peninsula.
Penangite n. Pl. -s. A native or inhabitant of the state of Penang.
2001 The Star 22 Oct. The decision by Malaysia Airlines to discontinue
its Penang-Phuket-Penang service effective end of this month came as a
shock to many as it is a popular destination among Penangites and other
Perak n. [Malay] A state situated on the west coast of Peninsular Malaysia.
2001 The Star 10 Oct. The 19 Al-Ma’unah members have been ordered
to enter their defence on a charge of waging war against the Yang di-Pertuan
Agong at three places in Perak, from June to July 6. The charge, under Section 121 of the Penal Code, carries the death sentence or life imprisonment
if convicted.
Peranakan a. [Malay] Of cuisine, culture, etc.: pertaining to the Peranakan
community—the descendants of the 17th- and 18th-Century Chinese seafarers and their local wives. See also baba, nyonya.
Appendix A
2001 The Star 29 Dec. ... Seri Nyonya also serves up hard-to-find
Peranakan dishes such as Hee Peow Soup and Ikan Goreng Cili Garam.
Comb.: peranakan Arab (rare) descendants of early Arab traders and
their local wives.
2001 New Straits Times 4 Nov. It does not matter whether one is a Javanese, a Mamak, a peranakan Arab or an Orang Asli. The question is: what
does it mean to be a Malay?
Perlis n. [Malay] The smallest state in Malaysia, situated in the northwest region
of the Peninsula.
2001 The Star 25 Dec. MCA leaders yesterday pledged to set aside their
differences to work together and ensure victory for the Barisan Nasional in
the Indera Kayangan by-election in Perlis.
petai n. [Malay] The strong-smelling green seeds of a long, flat bean (Parkia
speciosa), used in Malay cooking. The seeds can be cooked or eaten raw
dipped in a spicy sambal.
2001 New Straits Times 18 Nov. ... the sambal has the right touch of
pedas to bring out the best of the prawns and petai.
Comb.: sambal petai petai cooked in a chilli paste; sambal udang petai
a spicy dish of petai and prawns in a chilli paste.
2001 New Straits Times 25 Sept. Another thing about Gerald is that he
consumes sambal petai like ice-cream. 2001 New Straits Times 18 Nov. Another item to look out for is the sambal udang petai.
pondok n. Pl. -s. [Malay, orig. Arabic funduq] 1 An Islamic school, usually in
small villages. Also sekolah pondok, pondok school [Malay sekolah pondok]. 2 Small hut.
1 2002 The Star 28 Jan. “The sekolah pondok is not a fossil. If you want
your children to have an Islamic education, the pondok still offers the best
option ...,” said Zaidi. 2 2001 New Straits Times 30 Aug. Earlier, Ibrahim
told the court that at 10am on April 1, last year, Azhar, Mohd Rais and Abdul Aziz had asked him to meet them at a pondok (hut) near his (Ibrahim’s)
house where Azhar was also staying.
Comb.: pondok polis a hut that houses a small police station, usually
found in small villages.
2001 The Star 25 Aug. There used to be a pondok polis nearby. When it
was here, the crime rate was low.
pongteh chicken n. Also chicken pongteh. [Baba Malay ayam pongteh] A
chicken stew with preserved soy bean paste, a traditional Peranakan dish.
Appendix A
2001 New Straits Times 23 Sept. I had never really thought much of
pongteh chicken but I must admit Queenie has given it a new perspective.
pontianak n. [Malay] A female vampire.
2001 The Star 2 Sept. Many would be able to remember how their
grandmothers would scare them with ghost stories about the beautiful pontianak (female vampire) who lived in the heart of banana trees and led young
men astray, with often fatal consequences.
Puan Sri n. [Malay, orig. Malay puan “lady” + Sanskrit “a title of veneration for deities”] The title reserved for the wife of a person who has been
awarded the title of Tan Sri.
2001 The Star 15 Nov. In Seremban, Negri Sembilan Mentri Besar Tan
Sri Mohamed Isa Abdul Samad and his wife Puan Sri Hazizah Tumin went
to the open house of several Hindu leaders, including that of former state
executive councillor Datuk Muthu Palaniappan in Jalan Labu Lama.
putu beras n. [Malay, orig. Tamil puu “sweet rice cake” + Malay beras “rice”]
A type of Malay biscuit made of rice meal and sugar.
putu kacang n. [Malay, orig. Tamil puu “sweet rice cake” + Malay kacang
“peas, beans, lentils or nuts”] A local biscuit made of mung bean meal and
Raja n. [Malay, orig. Sanskrit " “king”] The sovereign of the state of Perlis.
2001 The Star 31 Dec. On Dec 13, the Raja of Perlis, Tuanku Syed Sirajuddin Syed Putra Jamalullail, is elected the 12th Yang di-Pertuan Agong
by the Conference of Rulers during a special meeting at Istana Negara.
Raja Permaisuri Agong n. [Malay, orig. Sanskrit " “king” + Sanskrit
!&' “queen” + Javanese agong “great”] 1 The official title of the
consort of the Yang di-Pertuan Agung, the head of state of Malaysia. 2 The
consort of the Yang di-Pertuan Agung.
1 2001 The Star 23 Nov. The Raja Permaisuri Agong Tuanku Siti
Aishah, Malay Rulers and members of the royalty were present at the ceremony. 2 2001 New Straits Times 22 Nov. “The House records its profound
sadness on the demise. On behalf of the House, we offer our condolences to
the Raja Permaisuri Agong and the royal family.”
rakyat n. [Malay, orig. Arabic ra’iyya “subjects”] The common people (as opposed to the government or the aristocracy) of Malaysia.
2001 New Straits Times 28 Aug. For Ayub, this statement reflects the
capricious ideologies spread by certain quarters who take advantage of the
leeway afforded them by turning the rakyat against the Government.
Appendix A
Ramadan n. Also Ramadhan. [Malay, orig. Arabic rama;] The ninth month
of the Islamic calendar, when Muslims fast from sunrise to sunset.
2001 The Star 21 Nov. Ramadan is not just about fasting during the daytime. It goes beyond that. The holy month of Ramadan is also a training
ground for Muslims to cultivate good character.
rebab [Malay, orig. Arabic ] A two-stringed fiddle believed to have originated in Arabia or Persia, and closely associated with Islamic culture.
2001 New Straits Times 7 Sept. At the same time, traditional performers
inserted another dimension into Antara Semangat by using ethnic instruments like the rebab, serunai and gendang.
rebana n. [Malay] A Malay single-headed drum.
Comb.: rebana ubi very large rebana that can be hung vertically or
placed horizontally on the floor.
2001 New Straits Times 19 Sept. Thirty years ago men used their hands
to beat the rebana ubi but players in their impetuous enthusiasm are oblivious to the fact that the palms of their hands were cut or bruised. This interfered with their work, thus padded drumsticks are now used interchangeably.
rempah n. [Malay] Spices.
Comb.: wet rempah [Malay rempah basah] A combination of spices
ground or blended with a little water to form a paste.
2001 New Straits Times 18 Nov. So we marinate the deer the day before,
using local herbs like daun ketumbar, kurma powder, ginger, serai and wet
rempah ....
rendang n. [Malay] A spicy meat dish with a rich and fragrant gravy.
2001 The Star 23 Dec. More than 100 food stalls offering local favourites such as laksa Johor, ketupat, rendang, ....
Comb.: beef rendang [Malay rendang daging] spicy beef dish with a
rich coconut gravy; chicken rendang [Malay rendang ayam] spicy chicken
dish with a rich coconut gravy.
2001 The Star 2 Sept. We naturally like to learn new things, and turning
out a fragrant apple pie or dishing out a plate of mouth-watering beef rendang from your own kitchen can be very satisfying. 2001 The Star 27 Dec.
In Malacca, Christmas joy was visible in the Portuguese settlements of
Ujong Pasir and Bandar Hilir where guests were served with the special dish
of “karisenko” (chicken rendang with long beans).
Appendix A
rice bowl n. [Malay periuk “pot” + nasi “rice.” Also Mandarin 依⻇, lit. “rice
bowl”] 1 Pl. rice bowls. Means of livelihood. 2 A reference to Kedah, the
most important rice-producing state in Malaysia.
1 2002 The Star 24 Jan. These people are truly selfish and think nothing
of throwing sand in the rakyat’s rice bowl. 2 2001 The Star 15 Nov. ... Kedah is the “rice bowl” of Malaysia.
ronggeng n. [Malay] Malay social dance in which couples dance and exchange
verses to the accompaniment of a violin and drums.
2001 The Star 1 Nov. Believed to have developed during the postPortuguese period in Malacca, ronggeng became a popular form of entertainment at Baba and Malay weddings and other festivities in Penang in prewar days.
rotan n. [Malay] n. 1 A rattan cane used for inflicting judicially-sanctioned corporal punishment in Malaysia. 2 Any of various climbing plants of tropical
Asia, having long, tough, slender stems. 3 (rare) A cane. 4 (rare) Judiciallysanctioned caning in Malaysia.
1 2001 New Straits Times 5 Sept. In allowing Tan’s appeal, the court
sentenced him to 15 years’ jail and 10 strokes of the rotan for dadah possession. 3 2002 The Star 24 Jan. ... are jointly charged with voluntarily causing
grievous hurt to nine-year-old Teoh Lee Sean by using a rotan between Oct
2000 and July 10 last year at Jalan Tiram in Cheras. 4 2001 New Straits
Times 18 Aug. He also said he understood that he could be sentenced to a
maximum 20 years jail and rotan for the offence.
roti n. [Malay, orig. Hindustani ro] Bread, usually the local version of a white
loaf, which is slightly sweet and has a very soft texture.
Comb.: roti canai South Indian fried bread usually eaten with curry; roti jala lacy pancake usually eaten with curry; roti kaya toast spread with
kaya, often served as breakfast and morning tea fare in Chinese coffeeshops
in Malaysia.
2001 The Star 20 Sept. Chef Wan seldom takes roti canai or nasi lemak
because they are “nutritionally unbalanced.”
Sabah n. [Malay] A Malaysian state situated on the northeast coast of the island
of Borneo.
Sabahan n. & a. A n. Pl. -s. A native or inhabitant of the state of Sabah.
B a. Of or relating to or characteristic of the state of Sabah or its people or
language or culture.
A 2001 The Star 21 Nov. In another development, another Sabah player,
striker Rizal Awang Jad, is set to play for Sarawak. If he seals the deal, he
Appendix A
will be the second Sabahan in the Sarawak team. B 2001 The Star 21 Nov.
The competition rules required them to buy the fabrics for their designs for
one formal/evening outfit, a haute couture piece and a casual creation, all
under one theme. The required fabrics ranged from songket, kain tenun,
tjanting batik, pua kumbu to dastar (an ethnic Sabahan fabric traditionally
used for headgear) for the first two categories and cotton batik, pua and
dastar for the casual wear.
sajak n. [Malay, orig. Arabic saj “poetry”] Various types of modern Malay poems.
2001 New Straits Times Apart from being a member in her school’s debating team, she represented it in elocution and sajak recitation contests and
organised a fund-raising drive during Hari Pahlawan.
sambal n. [Malay, orig. Tamil sambaar] Spicy condiment made variously from
chillies, tamarind, shrimp paste, etc.
2001 New Straits Times 28 Nov. “Over 70 per cent of our stay-in guests
are local business travellers, thus even our food and beverage outlets cater
for them. The coffee house serves mainly Malay food because locals tend to
miss their sambal and ‘warong’ dishes.”
Comb.: sambal belacan condiment of pounded chillies and dried
shrimp paste; sambal ikan bilis condiment of chilli paste and dried anchovies; sambal petai condiment of chilli paste and petai.
Sarawak n. [Malay] The biggest state in Malaysia, situated on the north coast of
Sarawakian n. & a. A n. Pl. -s. A native or inhabitant of the state of Sarawak. B a. Of or relating to or characteristic of the state of Sarawak or its
people or language or culture.
A 2001 The Star 6 Sept. Ironman Wong Tee Kui’s hopes of retaining
the gold medal in the SEA Games men’s hammer event took a severe jolt
yesterday when the 37-year-old Sarawakian aggravated a hamstring injury
while training in Bukit Jalil. B 2001 New Straits Times 8 Aug. Sharifah
Kirana showcased a fusion of East and West eveningwear. Sarawakian designer Tom Abang Saufi put on a collection with Sarawakian motifs. Bill
Keith’s collection of dazzling designs added glitter to the occasion.
saree cloth (tautology) n. [Malay kain sari, orig. Hindi , =] A long piece
of fabric that is worn over a petticoat by Indian women.
2001 New Straits Times 16 Aug. Materials used include songket, linen,
Chinese brocade, saree cloth and casa rubie (Indonesia’s finest cotton).
Appendix A
sarong n. Also sarung. Pl. -s. [Malay] A length of cloth used to cover the lower
body. It is worn by wrapping it around the waist and tying it in such a way
that it stays in place without a belt.
2001 New Straits Times 12 Nov. This type of batik dates back to 1793
and was commonly worn as a sarong or as a shawl by women in the palace
in Terengganu.
Comb.: batik sarong batik worn as a sarong
2001 New Straits Times 16 Aug. ... cheongsam tops that can be teamed
with batik sarong, pareos, pants and even jeans and comfy three-quarter
Selangor n. [Malay] A state situated on the west coast of Peninsular Malaysia.
Selangorian n. A native or inhabitant of the state of Selangor.
2001 New Straits Times 26 Aug. Being a transplanted Selangorian, who
lived in Hulu Langat, Bandar Baru Bangi and Subang Jaya for more than 30
years, I think I can make a fairly accurate judgment of the State’s deteriorating natural environment.
selendang n. [Malay] A shawl that is generally worn with baju kurung or baju
2001 New Straits Times 23 Oct. The dancers from Perak were all clad in
purple Putri costumes and selendang.
sepak takraw n. [Malay, orig. Malay sepak “to kick” + Thai takraw “woven
ball”] A Southeast Asian game whereby two teams of three players each use
their feet and heads to send a hard rattan or plastic ball back and forth over a
2001 New Straits Times 12 Nov. The games that were contested during
the first phase of the sports carnival in Penang were soccer, netball, sepak
takraw, swimming, hockey, tenpin bowling, tennis, badminton and table
serai n. [Malay] Lemongrass.
2001 New Straits Times 18 Nov. So we marinate the deer the day before,
using local herbs like daun ketumbar, kurma powder, ginger, serai ....
silat n. [Malay] A type of Malay martial art.
2001 New Straits Times 20 Aug. Silat has its roots as far back as 6 AD
when it was formalised as a combative system.
Comb.: silat olahraga competitive silat, silat as a sport.
2001 New Straits Times 20 Aug. However, there are those who feel that
silat olahraga will compromise its combative value.
Appendix A
songket n. Also kain songket. [Malay, orig. Kedah Malay] A traditional Malay
hand-woven fabric with gold and silver threads, usually worn during official
functions and ceremonies.
2001 New Straits Times 5 Sept. Some of the great crafts produced were
the award-winning kain songket which has broken away from the usual repetitive motif and instead has a flowing floral motif that runs boldly across
the material ....
songkok n. [Malay] A velvet foldable oblong hat worn by Malay men.
2001 New Straits Times 30 Aug. “Some of the Chinese even resorted to
wearing the songkok to deceive the Japanese soldiers into thinking that they
were Malays.”
soto n. [Malay, orig. Javanese] A spicy chicken soup with noodles or rice cakes.
2001 New Straits Times 28 Nov. I’m a soto fan and the best soto is at a
small shop by the seashore of Pasir Gudang, Johor.
Sultan n. Pl. -s. [Malay, orig. Arabic sul “ruler”] 1 The sovereign of a Muslim country. 2 A sovereign of any of the nine former Federated and nonFederated Malay states. 3 The title of the sovereign of a Muslim country or
the nine former Federated and non-Federated Malay states.
1 2001 The Star 4 Oct. The Sultan of Brunei was also conferred an honorary doctorate in Political Science by the International Islamic University
(IIU) on Tuesday. 2 2001 New Straits Times 1 Oct. The winners received
their prizes from the Sultan of Pahang at the closing ceremony .... 3 2001
The Star 2 Oct. Sultan Azlan Shah said although a conducive working environment and an effective administrative system were already in place a long
time ago in the state, he hoped it could be enhanced from time to time.
syair n. [Malay, orig. Arabic shi’r] A poem comprising successive verses of
four rhyming lines.
2001 New Straits Times 7 Sept. ... they were encouraged to express
themselves “the Malaysian way”—sing a patriotic number accompanied by
a skit, which could also include some poetry—syair, gurindam, puisi, ....
syariah n. & a. [Malay, orig. Arabic shar’iyya] A n. Islamic principles. B a.
That which is based on Islamic principles.
A 2001 New Straits Times 18 Aug. Adat, in the Middle East, represents
the unwritten customary laws and practices that have the force of social laws
and the syariah. As long as the customs do not contradict the syariah, it is
acceptable. B 2001 The Star 17 Nov. He said Syariah laws constituted three
main areas—qisas (discretion by bereaved families to either pardon an ac-
Appendix A
cused or allow the process of law to punish him), hudud (Allah’s law) and
ta’zir (enforcement of punishment).
Syawal n. [Malay, orig. Arabic ] The tenth month of the Islamic calendar. The first day of Syawal signifies the end of the fasting month of Ramadan and is celebrated by Muslims all over the world.
2001 New Straits Times 27 Oct. “We will buy as many coconuts as we
can so that we will have enough stock for Ramadan and Syawal,” he told reporters ....
Tan Sri n. [Malay, orig. Malay Tan “titular honorific” + Sanskrit “a title of
veneration for deities”] The second highest honorary, non-royal, nonhereditary title granted by the Yang di-Pertuan Agong.
2001 The Star 8 Oct. Mentri Besar Tan Sri Isa Abdul Samad said he had
advised developers to drop prices to enable them to sell their properties.
tapai n. [Malay] 1 Fermented glutinous rice or tapioca, usually eaten as a sweet.
2 Sweet rice wine.
2001 New Straits Times 20 Nov. Appetisers include dates, pisang emas,
tapai, pickles, cencaluk and tempoyak.
Comb.: tapai pulut fermented glutinous rice; tapai ubi fermented tapioca.
teh tarik n. [Malay, orig. Hokkien tê “tea” + Malay tarik “to pull”] Hot tea
which is aerated and made frothy by pouring it back and forth from one mug
to another.
2001 New Straits Times 1 Sept. The informal chats, over a glass of teh
tarik and mee goreng, have proven to be an invaluable source of information.
tempe n. [Malay] Fermented soy bean cakes.
2001 New Straits Times 19 Sept. The spread includes nasi minyak jawa
timur, daging dendeng berlado, sotong Kalimantan, salad ayam jawa, rojak
bandung, begedil tempe, mee goreng jawa, traditional desserts and complimentary teh or kopi tarik.
tempoyak n. [Malay] Fermented durian.
Comb.: gulai tempoyak tempoyak-flavoured gravy; sambal tempoyak
condiment of chilli paste and tempoyak.
Terengganu n. [Malay] A state situated on the east coast of Peninsular Malaysia.
2001 The Star 20 Oct. Two years ago, a Singaporean female diver also
lost her life under unclear circumstances in Terengganu.
Appendix A
thanksgiving kenduri n. [Malay kenduri kesyukuran, orig. Persian, Hindustani
“feast” + Arabic “thanks, usually to God”] A feast held to
give thanks to Allah, usually when one has recovered from a serious illness
or when one has achieved success in an endeavour.
2001 The Star 13 Dec. “Sometimes he delivers it in person and sometimes a police personnel would deliver the cheque,” she said, adding that she
hoped to organise a thanksgiving kenduri for the Ruler.
tidak apa a. [Malay, lit. “does not matter”] Lackadaisical or apathetic. Often
used in a disparaging sense.
2001 New Straits Times 16 Nov. I think there are two types—the ones
who don’t care (about their looks) and the ones who really DO. The vain
ones and the tidak apa types.
Comb.: tidak apa attitude [Malay sikap tidak apa] an indifferent attitude.
2001 The Star 21 Nov. All I can assume is that, as Telekom Malaysia is
monopolising fixed line services, it is too rich to bother about another subscriber, hence its tidak apa attitude.
tudung n. [Malay] A headscarf worn by Muslim women.
2001 The Star 23 Aug. Dr Lo’Lo’ said a recent photograph in the Sunday Star, which depicted a woman scuba diver wearing the tudung, showed
that she held to the Islamic requirement for women to cover their hair.
ulam n. [Malay] A selection of raw leaves and vegetables, usually eaten with
2001 New Straits Times 26 Nov. Break fast with dates and whet your
appetite with kerabu, ulam and sambal ....
Comb.: nasi ulam rice mixed with herbs, grated coconut, salted fish,
ulama n. Also ulamak. Pl. same, -s. [Malay, orig. Arabic ‘ !] A man or a
group of men with Islamic education and Islam-related professions.
2001 The Star 13 Nov. He said the main cause of weaknesses among the
Muslims was the misunderstanding perpetrated by the ulama, who misinterpret the Quran according to their own personal and political agenda, causing
many to reject knowledge and education except for those pertaining to the
ulu n. [Malay ulu, hulu “hinterland”] A rural back-country or up-country area
which is associated with a lack of worldliness. Often used in a disparaging
Appendix A
2002 The Star 20 Jan. When former Secretary of State Warren Christopher finally sat down, I remembered thinking to myself: “Life is strange.
Here am I, a two-bit hack and lawyer from the ulu addressing a guy presidential hopeful Al Gore enlisted in his desperate battle to seize the Oval office.”
umrah n. [Malay, orig. Arabic ‘umra “minor pilgrimage”] A secondary Islamic
pilgrimage to Mecca.
2001 New Straits Times 27 Sept. Abdullah said the special passport
would enable the Saudi Government to differentiate between Malaysians in
the kingdom to perform umrah and others who came for other reasons.
ustaz n. [Malay, orig. Arabic ?] 1 A male Islamic teacher. 2 Title of a male
Islamic teacher (with an initial capital).
1 2001 New Straits Times 20 Aug. Even mosque officials and ustaz are
seen on the golf course now. 2 2002 The Star 5 Dec. The other two party officials were Penang PAS deputy commissioner Khalid Man and Ustaz Othman Ibrahim from Kedah.
ustazah n. [Malay, orig. Arabic ?] 1 A female Islamic teacher. 2 Title of
a female Islamic teacher (with an initial capital).
2 2001 The Star 30 Oct. ... Training Division assistant director Ustazah
Norliah Sajuri, ....
wakil rakyat n. [Malay, org. Arabic “representative” + Arabic ra’iyya
“subjects”] A member of Parliament or State Legislative Assembly.
2001 New Straits Times 25 Oct. As the designation of the job implies,
the wakil rakyat represents all the people in his constituency whether they
voted for him or not.
wali n. [Malay, orig. Arabic ] In Islam, the mediator for women seeking
2001 New Straits Times 19 Oct. Although Semelai people are not Muslims, they still practise the nikah ceremony where a kadi marries the couple
and the wali functions as a witness.
wau n. [Malay, orig. Dutch wouw]. A large local kite, usually flown (by adults)
after the rice harvesting season, between May and July.
Comb.: wau bulan wau with a crescent-shaped tail.
2001 New Straits Times 19 Sept. Although “wau bulan” is the most
popular, they come in all shapes and sizes—hence in a variety of names.
Some are called wau katak, wau kucing, wau ikan, wau puyuh and wau
Appendix A
wayang n. [Malay, orig. Javanese] A local theatrical performance.
Comb.: wayang kulit shadow play, theatrical performance where shadow images are projected before a backlit screen; wayang peranakan theatrical performance where the characters speak the Peranakan language.
2001 The Star 2 Oct. A cultural theatre showcasing Chinese operas,
wayang kulit and traditional music is more appropriate and so much more
Yang di-Pertua Negeri n. Also Yang di-Pertua Negri. [Malay, orig. Malay
Yang di-Pertua “he who is master” + Sanskrit negeri “city, state”] 1 The title of the State Governors of the Malaysian states of Penang, Melaka, Sabah
and Sarawak. 2 One of the four largely symbolic heads of state or Governors
of Penang, Melaka, Sabah and Sarawak.
1 2001 New Straits Times 17 Sept. About 3,000 people thronged Padang
Merdeka here today to watch a parade which was held to commemorate the
71st official birthday of Yang di-Pertua Negeri Tun Sakaran Dandai and
Malaysia Day. 2 2001 The Star 2 Sept. Once dissolution is consented to by
the Yang di-Pertua Negri, he said a writ could be issued within four days ....
Yang di-Pertuan Agong n. [Malay, orig. Malay Yang di-Pertuan “he who is
lord” + Javanese Agong “great”] 1 The official title of the head of state of
Malaysia. 2 The head of state of Malaysia: Since Malaysia is a constitutional
monarchy, the role of the Yang di-Pertuan Agong is largely ceremonial. The
position is sometimes glossed as King in English.
1 2001 New Straits Times 24 Nov. Sultan Sharafuddin was proclaimed
the ninth Sultan of Selangor on Thursday following the demise of the Yang
di-Pertuan Agong Sultan Salahuddin Abdul Aziz Shah on Wednesday. 2
2001 New Straits Times 22 Nov. AS the nation mourns the passing of Sultan
Salahuddin Abdul Aziz Shah al-Haj Ibni Almarhum Sultan Hisamuddin
Alam Shah al-Haj, his subjects will always remember him as “the Ruler
with the soul of the people”. He was installed as the 11th Yang di-Pertuan
Agong in 1999. The King, who celebrated his 75th birthday in June, performed his duties outstandingly with dignity and honour.
Yang di-Pertuan Besar n. [Malay Yang di-Pertuan “he who is lord” + Besar
“big, great”] 1 The official title of the ruler of the state of Negeri Sembilan,
Malaysia. 2 The ruler of the state of Negeri Sembilan, Malaysia.
1 2001 The Star 15 Nov. When asked why none of the assemblymen
had taken part in debating the budget, Isa said it was because all of them had
participated in debating the opening speech by Yang Di-Pertuan Besar Tuanku Ja’afar Tuanku Abdul Rahman, which covered many aspects. 3 Nov. 2
Appendix A
2001 The Star As eldest son of the Yang di-Pertuan Besar of Negeri Sembilan, he wears a number of hats with ease and flair.
zapin n. [Malay, orig. Arabic zafn “dance for two persons”] Malay folk dance
and music with Islamic influence.
2001 New Straits Times 9 Oct. The dance infuses elements of zapin, silat and modern and traditional elements that are quick and funny.
zina n. [Malay, orig. Arabic “adultery”] Illicit sexual intercourse, an offence under the Syariah law of Malaysia.
2001 New Straits Times 23 Sept. Zina (unlawful sexual intercourse):
punishable by stoning to death.
Appendix B: Lexical Items Borrowed from
amah n. Also amah chieh. Pl. amahs. [Cantonese 䱯ྸက, lit. “mother-older sister”] A traditional housemaid from China, characterised by their long plait
and samfoo.
2002 The Star 14 Jan. From the second half of the 1930s the increasing
availability of the Cantonese amah chieh, the professional domestic servant,
gradually diminished the need for wealthy households to acquire mui tsai.
ang pow n. Also ang pau, angpow. Pl. -s. [Hokkien 㓒व, lit. “red packet”] A
gift of money in a red envelope given during special occasions within Chinese communities, especially during the Chinese New Year. Red is the colour of auspiciousness for the Chinese.
2001 New Straits Times 28 Nov. Hotel staff spent two hours with the old
folk serving light refreshments and distributing ang pow.
Comb.: ang pow packet [Hokkien 㓒व೺, lit. “red packet envelope”] the
red envelope in which the gift money is placed.
2001 The Star 23 Aug. A doctor who allegedly attempted to kill his 67year-old neighbour and mailed animal faeces to the police station in an ang
pow packet has been arrested and remanded for five days.
beef ball n. Pl. beef balls. [Chinese ⢋㚹Ѩ , lit. “cow meat ball”] A bite-size
chewy ball of minced beef. Usually beef balls are served in a bowl of noodles and soup.
2001 The Star 9 Dec. They have been at work since 10 in the morning
and are rushing to boil the beef soup and roll the beef balls ....
Buddha Jumps Over The Wall n. [Chinese ֋䐣້, lit. “Buddha jumps wall”]
The rather poetic name of a soup made of Chinese herbs, abalone, sharksfin,
meat, etc.
2001 The Star 3 Nov. “Szechuan Chicken and Salad Prawns are specialities but I also like cooking with salmon and fresh seafood. We require advanced notice for items such as Buddha Jumps Over The Wall but there’s no
limit to what we can do up here,” he said.
chap chye n. [Hokkien ᵲ㨌 , lit. “mixed vegetables”] Also chap choi, chap
choy [Cantonese] Stir-fried mixed vegetables.
2001 New Straits Times 1 Oct. ... and we headed to her house to join her
friend, Wendy, for a meal of fried mee, fried chicken, keropok, sambal bajak
from Indonesia and chap choy.
Appendix B
Chap Goh Meh n. Also Chap Goh Mei. [Hokkien ॱӄ meh, lit. “fifteenth
night”] Fifteenth day of the Chinese New Year. Also considered the Chinese
Valentine’s Day.
2001 The Star 1 Nov. ... the Babas used to perform dondang sayang in
beautifully-decorated bullock carts during Chap Goh Meh (the 15th day of
the Chinese New Year) in pre-World War II days.
char siew n. Also char siu. [Cantonese ৹✗, lit. “skewered roast”] Chinese-style
barbequed pork.
Comb.: char siew pau [Cantonese ৹✗व , lit. “skewered roast bun”]
steamed bun filled with Chinese-style barbequed pork.
2001 The Star 2 Oct. My friend gave me a recipe for char siew pau
dough. The ingredients are plain flour, baking powder, warm water, vinegar,
salt and lard.
chee cheong fun n. [Cantonese ⥚㛐㊹, lit. “pig’s intestine noodles”] A rice flour
roll eaten as a snack.
2001 The Star 5 Dec. ALOR STAR: A chee cheong fun seller was
found dead in his family van in front of his home in Taman Sultan Abdul
Halim here early yesterday.
cheongsam n. Pl. -s. [Cantonese 䮯㺛 , lit. “long dress”] A form-fitting dress
characterised by a Mandarin collar and Chinese-craft buttons, popular
among Chinese women.
2002 The Star 30 Jan. The fashion range at Parkson, which is priced
from RM43.90, varies from relaxing Capri pants to blouson blouses to the
more elegant dresses and cheongsams.
chicken rice n. [Chinese 呑依, lit. “chicken rice”] Rice cooked in chicken broth
and served with slices of roast or steamed chicken and cucumber.
2001 New Straits Times 26 Nov. Stall Three serves chicken rice ....
Chinese assembly hall n. Pl. Chinese assembly halls. [Mandarin ѝॾབྷՊา, lit.
“Chinese big assembly hall”] A gathering place for people of Chinese descent, usually used as a venue for various functions, meetings and performances aimed at promoting solidarity and friendship.
2001 The Star 8 Sept. ... only the presidents of the state Chinese assembly halls are eligible to contest for the Hua Zong president’s post.
Chinese sinseh n. [Hokkien ୀӪ‫⭏ݸ‬, lit. “Tang people Chinese doctor”] A doctor who treats patients using the principles of traditional Chinese medicine.
2001 The Star 17 Nov. We barraged a Chinese sinseh with enquiries,
dropped by an Indian Ayurvedic herbalist’s clinic, paid a house call to a Malay medicine man, and made an appointment with a gynaecologist.
Appendix B
Chingay n. [Hokkien ྶ㢪, lit. “dressing-up art”] A cultural event held on the
15th day of the Chinese New Year in some Chinese communities. The highlight of this event is a series of acrobatic acts in which flag-bearers balance
gigantic flagpoles on their palm, shoulder, elbow, chin, etc.
coffeeshop n. Also coffee shop, coffee-shop. Pl. -s. [Hokkien ૆஑ᓇ, lit. “coffee
shop”] A shop selling hot and cold beverages as well as simple food, usually
cheap and unassuming.
2001 The Star 9 Dec. This restaurant replaced an old coffeeshop that
used to be run by the present owner’s grandfather.
dim sum n. [Cantonese ⛩ᗳ, lit. “touch heart”] 1 Collectively, a range of Cantonese-style dumplings, buns, rolls, pastries and sweets that is usually eaten
for breakfast or lunch, and usually in a restaurant that specialises in this type
of cuisine. 2 Individually, any of the dumplings, buns, rolls, pastries or
1 2001 New Straits Times 21 Oct. At Dynasty, dim sum is served a la
carte, with customers making their selections from a two-tier tray filled with
samples of some 20 varieties available daily. I like the idea of seeing what I
would get rather than reading off a menu and trying to imagine what a
dumpling is going to look like. 2 2001 New Straits Times 13 Oct. Another
yummy dim sum is the steamed diced chicken with scallop (RM8).
drunken chicken n. [Chinese 䞹呑, lit. “drunken chicken”] A Chinese dish in
which steamed chicken is soaked in wine.
2001 New Straits Times 22 Aug. Then at JW Marriott’s Shanghainese
restaurant, chef Wong Sai Mun will put 20 years of experience in Chinese
cooking to the test with specialties like drunken chicken and imperial jewels.
Federation of Chinese Associations of Malaysia n. Also Hua Zong. [Mandarin
傜ᶕ㾯ӊॾӪ⽮ഒᙫՊ, lit. “Malaysia Chinese associations general federation”
or ॾᙫ, lit. “Chinese general”] An umbrella body of all Chinese guilds and
associations in Malaysia.
2001 New Straits Times 4 Nov. Pheng, the Federation of Chinese Associations of Malaysia deputy president, had on his guest list the Who’s Who
of the Chinese community, including MCA president Datuk Seri Dr Ling
Liong Sik and deputy Datuk Lim Ah Lek.
feng shui [Mandarin, Cantonese 仾≤, lit. “wind water”] A form of geomancy for
determining the optimum location or arrangement of buildings, graves, furniture, etc.
Appendix B
2001 The Star 24 Sept. The Nirvana Memorial Park has once again been
reaffirmed as a place of good feng shui or geomancy by world-renowned
feng shui authority, Master Yap Cheng Hai, who visited the park with 50 of
his students yesterday.
Comb.: feng shui master [Mandarin, Cantonese 仾≤‫⭏ݸ‬, lit. “wind water teacher”] practitioner of feng shui
fish ball n. Pl. fish balls. [Chinese 劬Ѩ, lit. “fish ball”] A bite-size ball of lightly-seasoned minced fish that can be boiled, steamed or fried.
2001 The Star 22 Sept. A bowl of congee comes with just about anything—birds’ nest, abalone, prawns, fish balls, ....
fish cake n. Pl. fish cakes. [Chinese 劬侬, lit. “fish biscuit”] A fried patty of
lightly-seasoned minced fish that is usually served thinly sliced.
2001 New Straits Times 17 Sept. Another Penang favourite is loh bak,
which is an assortment of deep-fried fish balls, fish cake, crab sticks, tau
hoo, cucur udang and other items cut into bite-size pieces and eaten with a
special sauce, which is made from ikan bilis stock, seasoning and eggs.
Foochow fish ball n. Pl. Foochow fish balls. [Mandarin ⾿ᐎ劬Ѩ, lit. “Fuzhou
fish ball”] A fish ball with a filling of minced meat, a specialty of the Fuzhou community.
2001 New Straits Times 26 Aug. We start with lovely Foochow fish
balls (RM5.90) in soup.
fried kuey teow n. Also fried koay teow. [Hokkien ⛂㋯ᶑ , lit. “fried cake
strips”] Fried rice noodles.
2001 New Straits Times 8 Aug. Q: What was the best food you’ve tasted
while travelling and where? A: Fried kuay teow in Nilai.
Hainanese chicken rice n. [Chinese ⎧ই呑依 , lit. “Hainanese chicken rice”]
Rice cooked in chicken broth served with slices of boiled chicken, soup and
2001 New Straits Times 26 Nov. For the main course, diners can choose
Hainanese Chicken rice or try its noodle specialities ....
Hua Zong n. (Abbrev.) [Mandarin ॾᙫ, lit. “Chinese general”] An umbrella
body of all Chinese guilds and associations in Malaysia. Also Federation of
Chinese Associations of Malaysia.
2001 The Star 8 Sept. Under the present system, each state assembly
hall is allowed to send only 10 delegates to vote in the Hua Zong elections.
Appendix B
hum sup a. [Cantonese ૨⒯, lit. “salty wet”] Lecherous, usually of men.
2001 New Straits Times 7 Oct. Some say he is gatal (itchy), some say he
is hum sup (a flirt), some say he is a dirty old man, the rest say he is a
charming joker.
ikan bilis stock n. [Hokkien ⊏劬⊔, lit. “dried anchovy stock”] A stock made by
boiling dried anchovies in water.
2001 New Straits Times 17 Sept. Another Penang favourite is loh bak,
which is an assortment of deep-fried fish balls, fish cake, crab sticks, tau
hoo, cucur udang and other items cut into bite-size pieces and eaten with a
special sauce, which is made from ikan bilis stock, seasoning and eggs.
kiasu a. [Hokkien ᛺䗃, lit. “afraid of losing”] Being afraid of missing out on
opportunities, losing out to other people, etc.
2001 The Star 16 Sept. ... Paul Jambunathan said aggressive driving has
become the nation’s number one transportation problem and that Malaysian
drivers have gained international notoriety for being selfish and kiasu, and
for defying law and authority when on road.
kiasu-ism n. The actions or conduct of people who are kiasu.
2001 The Star 19 Aug. Our neighbour Singapore, is being plagued by
kiasu-ism as their society is breaking up into individuals who are focused
only on their own personal needs and wants.
koay teow n. Also kuay teow, kuey teow, kway teow. [Hokkien ㋯ᶑ, lit. “cake
strips”] Broad rice noodles.
2001 The Star 29 Dec. Another ingredient imported from Malaysia is
kuey teow that Tam procured from a supplier in Kuala Lumpur ....
Comb.: char koay teow [Hokkien ⛂㋯ᶑ, lit. “fried cake strips”] fried
rice noodles.
2001 The Star 31 Dec. Now what sort of undisciplined, hopeless specimen of a human being are you if you can’t lose a measly 115gm a week?
After all, 115gm is only the same weight as an adequate bar of chocolate, or
a small slice of cheesecake, or a small plate of char koey teow, or two
scoops of chocolate chip ice cream ....
koay teow soup n. [Hokkien ㋯ᶑ⊔, lit. “cake strips soup”] Broad rice noodles
(and fish balls, meat, vegetables, etc.) in a broth.
2001 New Straits Times 3 Oct. Repeat local visitors to Penang cite ...
koay teow soup, lobak, murtabak, as countless reasons why they keep going
back to Penang.
Appendix B
kongsi n. Pl. -s. [Hokkien ‫ޜ‬ਨ , lit. “joint control”] 1 Corporate body, often
based on surname affiliation. 2 Shared accommodation for (migrant) labourers usually found at the worksite.
1 2001 The Star 29 Nov. PENANG: It was like a reunion of long lost
brothers for the Toh clansmen of Penang and Johor who met for the first
time here on Tuesday. Ironically, the 109-year-old Penang Toh Kongsi and
the 24-year-old Toh Association Malaysia ... were unaware of each other’s
existence until last year. 2 2002 The Star 12 Jan. ... the girl’s father lodged a
police report against the immigrant worker, who was arrested at a kongsi in
the orchard.
kopitiam n. [Hokkien ૆஑ᓇ , lit. “coffee shop”] Traditional Chinese coffee
2001 The Star 6 Oct. A typical kopitiam which dates back to preMerdeka days, Kong Heng serves some of the best hawker food in town.
kowtow v. [Cantonese ਙཤ, lit. “knock the head”] To act in an obsequious manner.
2001 New Straits Times 21 Oct. He reminded the audience that “we did
not fight to be free in order to learn to kowtow, indeed we have a duty to
work for the benefit of our people and our future”.
kung fu n. Also kungfu. [Mandarin, Cantonese ࣏ཛ, lit. “skill/art”] A form of
Chinese martial arts.
2002 The Star 22 Jan. Such wealth attracted bandits who came and
robbed the temple. Because of this, the monks were forced to learn how to
protect themselves and the temple, which probably resulted in the formation
of martial monks who concentrated on mastering the art of kung fu.
kung fu master n. Also kungfu master. [Mandarin, Cantonese ࣏ཛᐸ‫ڵ‬, lit.
“kung fu master”] A kung fu expert, often a teacher.
2001 New Straits Times 25 Oct. “My uncle learnt his skills under various sifu (masters), including a gwailo orthopaedic doctor, a kungfu master
and a Thai massage sifu.”
lotus paste n. [Chinese 㬞㫹, lit. “lotus paste”] A sweet paste made of lotus seeds
and sugar, used as filling for buns and cakes.
2001 The Star 12 Sept. According to restaurant supervisor Kum Kah
Wah, the white lotus paste mooncakes are special because the restaurant uses only the best quality lotus seeds.
Maggi mee curls [Hokkien Maggi 䶒ཤ∋, lit. “Maggi noodles head hair”] Tight
and artificial looking curls resulting from a hair perm.
Appendix B
2001 The Star 22 Sept. “It will give your hair more volume, and it is a
great way to change your looks.” “Don’t worry, I’m not giving you the
maggi mee curls,” she assures a slightly perturbed Chui-Ling.
medicine shop n. Pl. medicine shops. [Chinese 㦟ᶀᓇ, lit. “medicinal material
shop”] Shop selling mainly traditional medicines but might also stock generic over-the-counter western medicines.
2001 The Star 9 Dec. “The rafflesia is sold to the medicine shops for
RM3 each,” said an assistant forest warden.
Chinese medicine shop/Chinese medical hall [Chinese 㦟ᶀᓇ, lit. “medicinal material shop”] a medicine shop specialising in traditional Chinese
medicines but usually also selling western medicines.
2001 New Straits Times 25 Oct. ULTRACARBON Charcoal is an antidiarrhoeal medication that is now readily available in pharmacies and Chinese medical halls.
mee n. [Hokkien 䶒, lit. “noodles”] Wheat noodles.
2001 New Straits Times 10 Nov. During the open house last month, the
eatery served nasi lemak with vegetarian ikan bilis, varieties of mee, traditional briyani prepared with basmati rice, ....
Comb.: Hokkien mee [Hokkien ⾿ᔪ䶒, lit. “Hokkien noodles”] braised
noodles in a dark sauce.
mee hoon n. Also bihun. [Hokkien ㊣㊹, lit. “rice noodles”] Fine noodles made
from rice flour, vermicelli.
2001 The Star 16 Sept. When I first started teaching, one ringgit would
guarantee me a full plate of wholesome mee hoon generously spattered with
egg and succulent prawns, chicken even.
Mid-Autumn Festival n. [Chinese ѝ⿻㢲, lit. “mid-autumn festival”] A Chinese
harvest festival that falls on the 15th day of the eighth lunar month. The festival is associated with lanterns and eating mooncakes, which represent the
full moon.
2001 New Straits Times 15 Oct. Eleven-time world lion dance champions, the Kun Seng Keng lion dance troupe from Muar, Johor gave a stunning performance at the Odeon Club in Kepong, Kuala Lumpur, recently.
The event was held in conjunction with the Mid-Autumn Festival.
mooncake n. Pl. -s. [Chinese ᴸ侬, lit. “moon biscuit”] A round cake filled with
bean paste and other fillings that is eaten during the Mid-Autumn Festival.
2001 New Straits Times 25 Sept. Delectable mooncakes are on sale at
the hotel’s Salt and Pepper Restaurant and the Lotus Garden Chinese Restaurant.
Appendix B
mui tsai n. Pl. -s. [Cantonese ࿩Ԅ, lit. “younger sister-(diminutive)”] A Chinese
female domestic servant who was sold to her employer, usually by her own
2002 The Star 14 Jan. The new law forbade the practice of acquiring a
mui tsai, who was defined as a female domestic servant of 18 years and below.
Nine Emperor Gods n. [Hokkien, Teochew ҍⲷ⡧, lit. “nine emperor father”]
The nine deities that are believed to dwell in the stars of the northern heaven. They are believed to preside over blessings, life and death, peace and
harmony on Earth.
2001 The Star 22 Oct. According to legend, the Nine Emperor Gods
were once saved by a giant tortoise when the ship they were in capsized during a storm.
Comb.: Nine Emperor Gods festival [Hokkien, Teochew ҍⲷ⡧⭏, lit.
“nine emperor father birthday”] festival commemorating the Nine Emperor
Gods celebrated by the Hokkien and Teochew communities in Malaysia.
noodle soup n. [Chinese 䶒⊔, lit. “noodle soup”] Wheat noodles (with fish balls,
meat and vegetables) in a broth.
2001 The Star 6 Oct. Other hawker delights include ... satay, lam mee,
char kway teow and noodle soup.
pau n. [Chinese व, lit. “bun”] A steamed white bun, plain or filled with savoury
meats or vegetables or sweet bean paste.
2001 The Star 20 Sept. Those fighting for time in the morning, she adds,
should take something that can be prepared in a jiffy like wholemeal bread,
ready-to-steam pau, cream crackers with cheese or peanut butter, oatmeal or
tuna sandwiches.
Comb.: char siew pau [Cantonese ৹✗व , lit. “skewered roast bun”]
steamed bun filled with Chinese-style barbequed pork; tau sar pau [Cantonese, Hokkien 䉶⋉व, lit. “bean paste bun”] pau filled with bean paste.
popiah n. [Hokkien 㮴侬, lit. “thin biscuit”] A spring roll: Vegetables (and sometimes meat) are rolled up in a thin crepe.
Comb.: popiah skin [Hokkien 㮴侬Ⳟ, lit. “thin biscuit skin”] crepe used
to wrap the vegetables and meat.
2001 New Straits Times 23 Sept. The popiah skin is unusually soft.
Queenie explains that they don’t use commercial pastry. Instead, they make
their own with eggs added which account for the softness.
red bean paste n. [Chinese 㓒䉶⋉, lit. “red bean paste”] A paste made of red
beans and sugar used as filling in dumplings and cakes.
Appendix B
2001 New Straits Times 13 Oct. If you go for the sweeter side in dim
sum dishes, there are gummy sesame balls filled with red bean paste, and
custard tartlets.
salted vegetables n. [Chinese ૨㨌, lit. “salty vegetables”] Vegetables pickled in
2001 New Straits Times 21 Sept. Said Jeferi: “Malacca dishes are usually hot and spicy, using a lot of black and white pepper, fresh chilli, lime
juice, vinegar, gagangal, salted vegetables and lemon grass.”
samfoo n. [Cantonese 㺛㼔, lit. “dress trousers”] A suit consisting of a blouse
and a pair of loose trousers, traditionally worn by Chinese women.
2001 The Star 8 Oct. Kicking off with two Chinese women dressed in
Indian garb followed by a couple of Indian women dressed in samfoo, it
showcased a collaboration which represented the various races in a truly
unified manner while epitomising the rich diversity which was unique to
sar hor fun n. [Cantonese ⋉⋣㊹, lit. “sand river noodles”] A variety of rice
noodles, somewhat similar to koay teow.
2001 The Star 6 Oct. Apart from the sar hor fun, another popular dish is
the duck noodles, which is served dry or wet.
shophouse n. Also shop house. Pl. -s. [Hokkien ᓇ্, lit. “shop house”] A building of two or more storeys which has a shop front opening to the street and
residential space above.
2001 The Star 5 Dec. His father, fishball maker Yeoh Siew Hua, came
out of their shophouse at 4.30am as he heard noises from the van’s radio and
engine. He found Tieng Ling dead in the driver’s seat.
shrimp dumpling n. Also prawn dumpling [Cantonese 㲮侪, lit. “prawn dumpling”] A steamed dumpling with prawn filling.
2001 New Straits Times 13 Oct. The steamed shrimp dumplings (RM11)
are marvellous too, a translucent ivory skin filled with fresh, minced shrimp,
waterchestnut and dried scallop, folded into graceful pleats then steamed.
shrimp paste n. 1 [Cantonese 㲮䞡, lit. “shrimp sauce”] A paste made by drying,
salting, mashing and fermenting shrimp; the paste is used to flavour condiments and dishes. Also belacan. 2 [Hokkien 㲮㞿, lit. “shrimp paste”] A
black, sticky and strong-smelling paste made using prawn heads and shell;
the paste is used to flavour condiments and sauces. Also prawn paste.
1 2001 The Star 11 Dec. And while it may offer convenience, the modern food processor cannot make as good a sambal belacan (fresh chillies
pounded with shrimp paste) as the one done using the lesong batu (mortar
Appendix B
and pestle) or batu giling (grinding stone). 2 2001 The Star 6 Oct. And for
the extra “zing”—the necessary dip—which brought out the taste was the
rojak sauce, richly flavoured with shrimp paste and a generous portion of
pounded groundnuts.
sifu n. [Cantonese, Mandarin ᐸ‫ڵ‬, lit. “master”] A teacher or an expert of a particular skill or in a particular field.
2001 The Star 22 Sept. The noodles are still hand made by an old sifu
(master) as they were from the beginning.
snow skin n. [Chinese ߠⳞ, lit. “ice skin”] A particular type of mooncake, thus
called because it is not baked but chilled, causing the outer layer of the cake
to be cold when served.
2001 New Straits Times 5 Sept. Other varieties are jade lotus paste with
single yolk, pure jade lotus paste, chilled pandan snow skin (ping pei) with
jade lotus in single yolk, chilled mini snow skin with custard and mini white
lotus paste.
tai chi n. [Mandarin ཚᶱ, lit. “the ultimate”] A combination of Chinese martial
arts movements and meditation.
2001 The Star 13 Nov. The kids are introduced to the basic elements of
music, movement, drama and the visual arts as well as traditional components like tai chi and wayang kulit.
taugeh n. Also tauge. [Hokkien 䉶㣭, lit. “bean sprout”] Mung bean sprouts.
2001 The Star 16 Sept. But now for RM3, what I get in the school canteen... oh it is beyond words. Half a saucer of stiff rubbery noodles with a
few miserable taugeh tails.
towkay n. Pl. -s. [Hokkien ཤᇦ, lit. “head family”] 1 Chinese businessman or
shop owner. 2 A term used to refer to the oldest or most experienced member of a particular group.
1 2001 New Straits Times 6 Nov. ... Andy said: “I wanted to know if the
towkay (owner) had repaired the door and if he did, I wanted to ask him if
he had seen Chindra or not.” 2 2001 The Star 5 Aug. ... the former stars of
Malaysian and Singapore football showed they can still dance on the big
stage. The Selangor veterans had household names like Datuk M. Chandran,
Abdul Rashid Hassan, Ismail Ibrahim, K. Gunalan, “Towkay” Datuk Soh
Chin Aun, ....
wantan n. Also wanton, wonton. [Cantonese 侴侘 or Ӂ侘, lit. “stuffed dumpling”] Dumpling stuffed with minced meat or prawns.
wantan noodles [Cantonese Ӂ侘䶒 , lit. “stuffed dumpling noodles”]
Noodles served with wantan.
Appendix B
2001 New Straits Times 26 Aug. Fresh wantan noodles, these are reminiscent of those I had in Hongkong with that al dente bite and not in the
least bit overdone.
wushu n. [Mandarin ↖ᵟ, lit. “martial skills”] A form of Chinese martial arts.
2002 The Star 20 Jan. Wushu promotes physical well-being and a
healthy body promotes a healthy mind which in turn builds personality and
good behaviour.
Yee Sang n. [Cantonese 劬⭏, lit. “fish raw”] A salad of raw fish, vegetables,
ground peanuts, sesame seeds, etc. eaten during Chinese New Year. The salad is tossed high in the air using pairs of chopsticks and this is supposed to
bring good fortune and prosperity for the rest of the year.
yong tau foo n. [Hakka 䞯䉶㞀, lit. “ferment stuffed tofu”] A dish comprising
pieces of stuffed tofu and vegetables; the stuffing is usually minced fish.
2001 New Straits Times 26 Nov. There are also yong tau foo, roasted
chicken, meat and mutton and a variety of fish for ikan bakar. The buffet is
priced at RM29 for adults and RM18 for children under 12 years old.
Appendix C: Creations Using English
close proximity a. Related to the offence, under the Syariah law of Malaysia, of
being in an isolated place and in close proximity with a person of the opposite sex who is not one’s spouse. Also khalwat.
2001 New Straits Times 28 Nov. Mahmud said as it was also a case involving an unwed couple found together in a house, the Religious Department was informed about the incident with the intention of them being apprehended for committing the “close proximity” offence.
drummet n. Pl. -s. The first joint of a chicken wing, where it is attached to the
bird. The term is generally used in the context of food, and is rarely used in
other contexts, e.g., to describe the physical attributes of a chicken.
2001 New Straits Times 9 Sept. ... chicken drummets offered mild, medium or hot.
dry kitchen n. A kitchen, usually within the house or flat, which is generally
used for food preparation but not the actual cooking. This is also where
cookware, cutlery, appliances, etc. are kept.
2001 New Straits Times 10 Aug. The next three designs—Indah Dahlia
1, 2 and 3—are larger, with a land area of 20ft by 60ft featuring a creative
interior design with four bedrooms, three bathrooms, wet and dry kitchens
and a store.
fire-walking ceremony n. The ceremonial practice of walking over a bed of hot
coals as an expression of faith and sometimes as a form of penance. Associated with Hinduism and some forms of Buddhism, Taoism, etc.
2001 New Straits Times 25 Oct. More than 500 people took part in the
fire-walking ceremony, held at the temple’s compound during the seventh
day of the celebrations.
five-foot way n. Also five-foot-way. Pl. -s. A covered passage in front of a
shophouse; approximately five feet in width, it provides an arcade for pedestrians to walk under cover and away from traffic.
2001 New Straits Times 23 Sept. Dressed in a white shirt and a pair of
dark blue trousers, Chiew appeared like any resident walking along the fivefoot way of the shophouses greeting every passer-by.
four-digit a. Also 4D, 4-D. (Abbrev.) Of game, ticket, outlet, number, etc.: pertaining to a legalised form of gambling where players bet on permutations of
four numerals.
Appendix C
2001 New Straits Times 24 Aug. He was also believed to be involved in
the armed robbery of a finance company in Ayer Keroh in January and a
four-digit gaming outlet in Batu Berendam in February. 2001 The Star 15
Dec. And oh, as for supernatural powers, sorry pals, I still can’t predict
which 4D number you should buy .... 2001 The Star 22 Sept. THE lines are
getting shorter at various 4-D outlets ....
Goddess of Mercy n. A Buddhist deity, known among the Chinese as Guan Yin
(Mandarin) or Kwun Yam (Cantonese) or Kuan Yim (Hokkien).
2001 The Star 8 Sept. The story of the masterpiece revolves around
Guan Yin, the Goddess of Mercy, who shows the importance of practicing
kindness through the events of a small town called South P’Utuo in China.
handphone n. A cellular phone.
2001 The Star 3 Aug. “The service enables handphone users to send and
receive cross-network text messages,” a joint statement said yesterday.
hardcore poor n. & a. A n. Extremely poor. Defined by the Economic Planning
Unit of Malaysia as those households receiving income which is less than
half of that defined as poverty level income and whose living conditions are
extremely poor. B a. Of or pertaining to those who are extremely poor.
A 2001 New Straits Times 16 Nov. Meanwhile, Abdullah said investigations into the alleged misappropriation of funds for the hardcore poor were
on-going. B 2001 The Star 7 Nov. “One of the objectives of this aid is to reduce the burden of hardcore poor parents with many children,” he said.
hawker centre n. Pl. hawker centres. A large area with space for many stalls
that sell a variety of inexpensive foods.
2002 The Star 24 Jan. Many Indonesians are employed in hawker centres because there is not much language problem.
heaty a. Of food and drinks which are spicy and heavy, and believed to produce
excess “heat” in the body.
2001 The Star 20 Sept. He does not take coffee because he finds it
Hungry Ghost Festival n. A festival that is celebrated during the 7th month of
the Chinese lunar calendar. Food and entertainment are offered to the wandering spirits that are believed to have been temporarily released from purgatory during the month.
2001 The Star 20 Oct. Boo Chang said his father was hospitalised on
Sept 2 during the Hungry Ghost Festival which was considered a bad omen.
Appendix C
love letter n. Pl. -s. A thin wafer made from wheat flour, coconut milk, sugar
and eggs; thus called because of the shape of the wafer—rolled up or folded
into a triangle.
2002 The Star 12 Jan. Goh, who has been making love letters for over
30 years, is helped by her two daughters Lim Bee Lay and Lim Bee Kooi
and several grandchildren.
night market n. Pl. night markets. A market place where itinerant traders
gather at night to sell fresh produce, food, clothing, flowers, trinkets, CDs,
DVDs, etc.
2001 The Star 25 Dec. Church members sold pastries and cakes in a
night market to collect the money for the refugees, he said after handing the
money to The Star’s Afghan Refugees Fund during a Christmas high tea at
the centre on Sunday.
paddler n. Pl. -s. A table tennis player. From the bat or paddle used to hit the
2001 The Star 1 Nov. National junior hockey player Rasid Bahir, 18,
won the Promising Sportsman Award while the girls’ award went to 14year-old paddler Fan Xiao Jun.
pineapple tart n. Pl. -s. A bite-size tart topped with mashed, caramelised pineapple. Associated with Straits Chinese cuisine.
2001 The Star 16 Sept. I also learnt to bake pineapple tarts in Home Science class. I can still remember how fragrant the pineapple jam smelled, flavoured with cloves and cinnamon.
preserved shrimps n. Small shrimps pickled in brine. Also cincalok.
2001 The Star 30 Oct. In the same oil, fry the finely ground paste until
aromatic. Add the chicken, preserved shrimps and lime leaves.
preserved vegetables n. Vegetables pickled in brine.
2001 New Straits Times 4 Nov. MBF, who has acquired an aversion of
late to preserved vegetables, ....
secondary jungle n. A jungle with prolific undergrowth, where sunlight penetrates to the jungle floor. A secondary jungle grows mainly along river
banks, on jungle fringes, and where man has cleared rain forest.
2001 The Star 2 Oct. KAJANG: The body of a Form Five schoolgirl,
reported missing since Wednesday, was found in a secondary jungle along
Jalan Hulu Langat-Bangi on Saturday.
Appendix C
shuttler n. Pl. -s. A badminton player. From shuttlecock or shuttle, the small
rounded piece of cork or rubber with a conical crown of feathers or plastic,
used in badminton.
2001 New Straits Times 20 Aug. The last time Malaysian shuttlers won
medals in the women’s singles was way back in the 1989 Kuala Lumpur Sea
Games ....
steamboat n. A communal pot of simmering broth in which small pieces of
meat, seafood, fish balls, etc. are cooked.
2001 New Straits Times 24 Nov. There will also be stalls offering
steamboat and barbecue.
Straits Chinese n. The descendants of the 17th- and 18th-century Chinese seafarers and their local wives.
2001 The Star 1 Nov. In the early 20th century, the Straits Chinese
formed their own musical and theatrical clubs, which promoted hybrid
forms incorporating Malay, Chinese and British elements.
tea ceremony n. The Chinese wedding custom whereby the bride and groom
serve tea to the groom’s family members as a sign of respect.
2001 The Star 30 Sept. After prayers, they left for the bridegroom’s
home for the traditional tea ceremony.
wet kitchen n. A kitchen where cooking is done, often located outside the house
or away from the living area of a flat. The concept of an external wet kitchen
derived from the aim of keeping cooking odours away from the living areas.
2001 The Star 28 Oct. As you enter, you step into a small wet kitchen.
The main window overlooks walls splattered and layered with grease and
wet market n. A market where fresh produce, fish, meat and often live poultry
are sold.
2001 The Star 30 Oct. Mohd Rafi was among six officers who were
preparing for a routine inspection of wet markets that morning when he
came across the stranger.
Appendix D: Hybrid Creations
balik kampung rush n. The rush of city-dwellers leaving their urban homes to
go to their hometown or the home of their family during festive seasons, an
event that occurs several times each year in Malaysia, resulting in massive
traffic jams, serious road accidents, shortage of public transport, etc.
2001 New Straits Times 26 Nov. The Penang branch of the St John Ambulance Malaysia will be providing emergency ambulance services during
the Hari Raya balik kampung rush along the North-South Expressway.
bumiputra lot n. A parcel of land, or a residential or commercial property, that
can only be sold to a bumiputra purchaser, often at a discounted price.
2001 The Star 26 Oct. Kerk suggested that the Government create
guidelines to enable bumiputra lots to be sold to others after a specific
cheongsam top n. A blouse with a Mandarin collar and decorated with Chinesecraft buttons.
2001 New Straits Times 16 Aug. “I use Chinese brocade to design kebaya or create cheongsam tops from saree cloth,” he said. The end result is an
array of attractive, ready-to-wear apparel that “intermarries” updated ethnic
designs with fabrics conventionally used to make traditional garments.
kebaya top n. The blouse of the kebaya suit.
2001 New Straits Times 3 Sept. One particularly stunning design is a
modern kebaya comprising a French lace mermaid-cut skirt and a blouse
that’s painstakingly hand-knitted. The knitted kebaya top has fine latticework eyelets, fake mink trim and fuzzy balls the size of marbles.
kopitiam table n. A marble-top round dining table that is commonly found in
traditional Chinese coffeeshops.
2001 New Straits Times 16 Nov. A kopitiam table at the side of the
staircase is also used as a display area for other knick-knacks, while the
space under the stairs is turned into a mini-gallery with the owner’s paintings.
Maggi mee n. A brand of instant noodles, also used to refer to instant noodles in
2001 New Straits Times 12 Aug. There are a variety of restaurants and
well-stocked grocery shops where everything ranging from char kuay teow,
nasi lemak to Maggi mee and sambal belacan can be found.
Appendix D
Penang Baba The Straits Chinese Community of Penang which speaks a language called Baba Hokkien, essentially the Hokkien dialect with some Malay words. The Straits Chinese of Singapore and Malacca speak a type of
Creole Malay called Baba Malay.
2001 The Star 1 Nov. Today, the Penang Baba have integrated with the
non-Baba Chinese communities and much of the glamour and popularity of
Baba music and dance have been lost.
sarong skirt n. A skirt made from the same fabric used to make a sarong, usually batik.
2001 New Straits Times 12 Nov. Don’t mistake batik pelangi as being
similar to the tie-dye sarong skirts you get at pasar malam.
sarung cradle n. A baby cradle made by suspending a sarong from the ceiling
using a wire spring to allow the cradle to bounce.
2001 The Star 11 Nov. ... Priscilla also likes to sleep in the sarung cradle.
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structural aspect. Paper presented at the Regional Seminar of the
SEAMEO Regional Language Centre, Singapore.
Wong, I. F. H. (1982). Native-speaker English for the Third World today? In J.
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Newbury House.
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Author and Subject Index
Abd. Aziz Rahman, 61, 127-128
Abdul Hamid Mahmood, 113-114
Abdul Razak, Tun, 34
acculturation, 9
acrolect, 9-10, 106, 130-131
see also speech continuum
African Englishes, 130
“Age of Commerce”, 18, 22
agentivity, 55, 135-136, 142-146
Alisjahbana, S. T., 32
American English, 7, 56-57, 59
American Portuguese, 58-59
ancestral language, 11-12, 14, 18-19, 3637, 53-55, 130, 133, 137, 142-143,
147-148, 151
Anchimbe, E. A., 102
Appel, R., 13, 56
Arabic influence, in Malay, 20-22, 24-25,
47, 73-74, 81, 91, 93, 150
archaic English, 82
ASEAN, English as a lingua franca in,
119, 122
Asmah Omar, 3, 5-6, 13, 17, 20, 31, 36,
55, 72, 147, 150
Australian Aboriginal English, 130
Austronesian languages, 19-20, 71
Awang Sariyan, 61
Ayamas Food Corporation Berhad, 92
Aziah Tajudin, 61
Azirah Hashim, 1, 4, 6, 35-36, 104, 134,
140, 150
Baba Malay, 17, 72
Bahasa Malaysia, 3-4, 61, 72
see also Malay language
bahasa pasar “market language,” 22, 72
bahasa utama “primary languages,” 3
Bamgbo€e, A., 118
Banda, F., 102
Bank Negara “Central Bank,” 5
basilect, 9-10, 39, 131, 141
see also speech continuum
Baskaran, L. M., 6, 9, 39, 51, 104, 134,
141, 151
Baxter, A., N., 23, 143
belief systems, 88
Bell, A., 46
Bellwood, P., 20
Benson, P., 6
Bhatt, R. M., 102, 104
Biber, D., 15
bilingualism, 13, 61, 144
Blagden, C. O., 21-22
blended compound, 57
see also compound blend
blended derivative, 57
see also derivational blend
blended stem, 57, 59
Blussé, L., 18
Bolton, K., 28
British colonial period, 2, 8, 25-35, 74, 82,
89, 147
British East India Company (EIC), 11, 2426, 55
de facto auxiliary arm of the British
Empire, 24
British English, 2, 7, 33, 103, 122
British Malaya, 1, 2, 18, 24, 29-35, 95
language contact (1867 to 1957) in, 2935
British National Corpus, 128
British Residents, 30
Brown, A., 90
Bumiputera “sons of the soil,” 18-19, 30,
35, 95
Burnell, A. C., 26, 62
calque, 57, 82, 86
Cantonese, 8, 10, 17, 19, 21, 33, 50, 55,
62, 83-86, 90, 114-115, 117, 122,
127-131, 140, 147-148, 189-194,
196-199, 202
Author and subject index
influences on Malaysian English (ME),
83-86, 90, 114-115, 117, 122,
127-129, 148, 189-194, 196-199
intra-ethnic lingua franca, as, 55, 147148
medium of instruction, as, 32
see also Chinese languages
Carson, J. C., 107, 112
Cavallaro, F., 35, 149
Chaisuwan, B., 20, 24
Chandrasegaran, A., 9
Chao, Y. R., 114
Cheng, K. K. Y., 148
Chew, P. G. L., 9
Chierchia, G., 115
Chinese Dialect Research Group under the
Chinese Language and Literature
Research Institute of Xiamen University, 62
Chinese education system, 19
Chinese languages, 17, 19, 32, 55, 61-62,
83-86, 114, 117, 136, 146-149
classification of common nouns in, 114118, 138
features borrowed from, 70-71, 83-91,
influences on Malaysian English (ME),
83-91, 93, 95, 97, 101, 112, 114118, 121-123, 126-129, 133, 137138, 140-141, 147-150, 189-199,
media, 37
see also Cantonese, Hokkien, Mandarin,
Chinese schools, 19, 32, 34, 36-37, 148149
Chinese-Southeast Asia contact, early, 18,
classroom experiment, 11
Coats, R., 40
code-alternation, 151
code-mixing, 1, 38
code-switching, 1, 37-38, 151
Coluzzi, P., 35, 149
commercial neologism, 92-93
compound blend, 57, 59, 62, 64-71, 73,
79-80, 84-85, 123, 137, 149
see also blended compound
Conrad, S., 15
contact linguistics, 1, 13-14, 153
Corney, B., 24
corpus analysis software, 41, 47
corpus-based approach, 1, 12, 14-15, 51,
Court and Bone, 28
covert prestige, 7, 91, 131, 136, 141
see also overt prestige
Cowles, R. T., 62, 127
Crawfurd, J., 26, 61
creole, 13, 17, 23, 72, 103, 134, 143
cross-cultural marriages, 22
crown colony, 25, 29
Crystal, D., 13, 39, 143
cultural competence, 8
Dalgado, S. R., 23
Dao-yi zhi-lue “Description of the Barbarians of the Isles,” 21
David, M. K., 1, 4-5, 7, 35-36, 130, 137,
143, 149
Department of Statistics, Malaysia, 18-19
derivational blend, 57, 59, 79
see also blended derivative
“Developing Local English”, 33-34
Dewan Bahasa dan Pustaka “Institute of
Language and Literature,” 6
Chinese, of, 17, 83, 114-115
English of Singapore and Malaya
(ESM), of, 7
Malay, of, 17, 72
differentiation, 11
see also Dynamic Model
Dutch East India Company, 23
Dynamic Model, 11-12, 14, 104
Early Modern English, 82
“Educated Malaysian English”, 131
Author and subject index
see also acrolect
Education Act, 1996, 4
education during the British colonial period, 2, 8, 12, 19, 30-35
Chinese-medium education, 19, 32
English-medium education, 2, 8, 12, 3035
Malay-medium education, 32
sekolah pondok “hut school,” 31-32
Tamil-medium education, 32
Edwards, E. D., 21-22
EIC (British East India Company), 11, 2429, 55
Elcum, J. B., 32
electronic media, English in, 5-6, 103
endonormative stabilisation, 11-12
see also Dynamic Model
English Department of the Beijing Foreign
Languages Institute, 62
English in Malaysia
corporate workplace, 5, 131
curtailment of roles and functions of, 3,
12, 36, 133
de facto official language, 3, 35
decline in, 36
education domain, 3-5, 36, 131-133,
former colonial language, 3, 38, 133134, 143, 150
legal domain, 6
literature, 6
marker of status, as, 130-131, 143
roles and functions of, 2, 3-7, 9-10, 1213, 103, 133, 150-151
status of, 3-6, 12-13, 35-36, 103, 131,
140, 143, 150-151
English of Singapore and Malaysia (ESM),
2, 7, 10, 106
English-knowing bilinguals, 33, 37, 55, 91,
English-medium education, 2, 4, 8-9, 3036, 102, 130
exonormative stabilisation, 11-12
see also Dynamic Model
familiarity, 9, 136, 141
colloquial Malaysian English (ME),
and, 9, 141
group second language acquisition
(group SLA) features, and, 136,
see also friendship, identity, solidarity
Farid M. Onn, 113-114
Farrington, A., 24
Fauziah Ahmad, 149
Faxian, Chinese Buddhist monk, 21
Federated Malay States, 19, 29, 32-34
Federation of Malaya, 1, 3, 11, 29, 35, 147
Fernando, J. M., 29
Fernando, L., 6
Firn, J. T., 150
foundation, 11
see also Dynamic Model
Fox, J. J., 20
Fraser, B., 119
friendship, 34, 91
colloquial Malaysian English (ME),
and, 34
lexical borrowing, and, 91
see also familiarity, identity, solidarity
Gaudart, H., 144
Giles, H., 98
Gill, S. K., 2, 131, 140, 150
global English, 2
globalisation, 38
Goddard, C., 112-113
Gonzales, A., 118
Görlach, M., 3
Government Gazette, 25
see also Prince of Wales Island Gazette,
Prince of Wales Island Government Gazette
Govindasamy, S., 35-36
Greenbaum, S., 106, 110-112, 115
Groeneveldt, W. P., 21
Author and subject index
group second language acquisition (group
SLA), 14, 101-132, 135-139, 141142, 144-145, 149-152
definition, 102- 105
lexical variation, and, 123-130, 136,
138, 141-142,145-146, 149, 152153
sociolinguistic ecology, and, 105, 130132, 146-150
syntactic variation , and, 105-123, 136,
138, 141-142, 145-146, 149, 152153
see also individual second language acquisition (individual SLA)
Habibah Salleh, 150
Hajar Abdul Rahim, 1, 98, 104, 134
Harshita Aini Haroon, 1, 104, 134
Hasan Hamzah, 61
Hashim Musa, 113-114
Haugen, E., 53, 56-58, 60-62, 74, 79-80,
82, 128, 133, 137
Hilts, C., 57
Ho, M. L., 3
Hokkien, 8, 13, 17, 19, 21, 30, 32, 50-51,
70, 83-86, 89, 96, 114-115, 117,
122, 127-128, 130-131, 140, 147148, 155, 169, 172-173, 184, 189198, 202, 206
influences on Malaysian English (ME),
30, 50-51, 83-86, 89, 114-115,
117, 122, 127-128, 189-198
intra-ethnic lingua franca, as, 55, 147148
medium of instruction, as, 32
see also Chinese languages
Hong Kong English, 71, 82, 153
Hopper, P. J., 113
“hut schools” (sekolah pondok), 31-32
Huzir Sulaiman, 6
Iban, 17, 152
influences on Malaysian English, 152
Ibrahim Ahmad, 61
identity, 11, 39, 91, 98, 131, 136, 140-142,
146, 149
ethnic, 141, 150
group, 98, 146
Islamic, 91, 140, 149
Malaysian, 131, 136, 150
markers of, 141-142
see also familiarity, friendship, Malaysian English, solidarity
“imperfect learning”, 9, 14, 53, 101-102,
importation, 56-59, 73-75, 79-80, 84-86,
129, 137
see also substitution
indentured labourers, 18, 30
Indian English, 26, 34, 71
Indianisation, 20, 72
indigenised varieties, 103, 134, 151
individual multilingualism, 13, 135, 142,
see also multilingualism, societal multilingualism
individual second language acquisition
(individual SLA), 103
influence of Portuguese on English, during
the EIC administration, 26-27
inner-circle varieties of English, 14, 51, 71,
82, 91, 106, 109-111, 119, 122-123,
130-131, 139, 141, 150
Institute of Language and Literature (Dewan Bahasa dan Pustaka), 6
institutionalised features, 39-40, 51, 104,
136, 141-142
institutionalised second language varieties
of English, 9, 102, 104, 134
Insun Sony Mustapha, 143
intelligibility, 7-8, 72, 119
“interlanguage,” 8, 34, 102, 142, 146
intermarriage, 20
internal variation of Malaysian English
(ME), 7, 9, 12
formal, educated sub-variety, 2, 7, 9,
40, 53, 123, 139, 141, 152
see also acrolect
Author and subject index
informal, colloquial sub-variety, 2, 7, 9,
34, 142
see also basilect, mesolect
Islamisation, 20-21
Jabatan Perangkaan Malaysia, 83
Jacq-Hergoualc'h, M., 20
Japanese occupation, 29, 34
Jawi, writing system, 21, 32
Jit Murad, 6
Jomo, S., 95
Jones, R., 20, 23-24
Kachru, B. B., 2, 9, 29
Kachru, Y., 8, 102
Kadazan, 17, 152
influences on Malaysian English (ME),
Kang, K. S., 21
Kaufman, T., 54, 105, 133
Kaur, K., 6
Kee, T. C., 6
Kennedy, G., 15, 43
Kidon Media-Link, 40
Kirkpatrick, A., 103, 118-119, 122
Kow, K. Y., 1
Kratoska, P., 29
Kristang, Portuguese creole, 17, 23, 143
labour migration, 11
Lam, T. M. D., 20
language, and identity, 7, 11-12, 39, 91,
98, 131, 136, 140-142, 146-147, 149150
language contact, 11-14, 25, 29, 35, 37, 44,
54-55, 104, 129-130, 132-134, 145
British East India Company (EIC) administration, during, 25-29
British Malaya (1867 to 1957), in, 2935
postcolonial Malaysia (1957 to present),
in, 35-37
language contact theories, 11-12, 14
language maintenance, 14, 55, 60-61, 9799, 101, 123, 133-137, 139, 146-148,
language shift, 13-14, 36, 135, 137, 143,
Lee, E., 29
Lee, K. S., 119
Leech, G., 106, 110-112, 115
Lehrer, A., 115
Leitner, G., 1, 104, 134, 140
Leo, D., 90
Leong, S. H., 20-21
Leow, P. T., 6
Levin, M., 39
lexical borrowing, 1, 14, 53-91, 136-142,
144-146, 149
definition, 54-59
integration of borrowed features, 55, 74,
79, 85, 136, 138-139
Malaysian English, in, 11, 14, 30, 6191, 97-98, 135-142, 144-146, 149
motivations for, 87-91, 97, 135-136,
lexical creation, 14, 91-98, 136-142, 144145
definition, 60-61
Malaysian English, in, 14, 91-98, 136142, 144-145
motivations for, 93-97, 139-141
lexical gaps, 88, 140
lexical variation associated with group
second language acquisition (group
SLA), 123-130, 136, 138, 141-142,
145-146, 149, 152-153
LexisNexis Academic, 83
Li, Y.-H. A., 114
Lieb, J., 40
Light, F., EIC official, 25, 32
Lim, C., 89
Lim, G., 98
Lim, J. S. H., 94-95
Lim, P. H., 32
Lim, S., 6
linguistic borrowing, 53
Author and subject index
linguistic ecology, 39-40, 51
linguistic system of Malaysian English
(ME), 1-2, 7, 18, 39, 53, 85, 87, 104,
134, 136, 139, 143, 149
Ljung, M., 44
loan homonym, 58, 59
loan synonym, 58, 59
loan translation, 57, 62, 64-71, 73, 80-84,
85-86, 123, 137-138, 149
see also calque
loanblend, 56-57, 59-60, 79
loanshift, 56-57, 59
loanword, 23, 45, 56-57, 59-60, 62, 64-71,
73-79, 82-85, 87, 89, 123, 131, 137139-140, 149, 152
Loh, P. F. S., 33
Lowenberg, P. H., 1-2, 7, 9-10, 18, 51,
102, 104, 106, 112, 118, 131, 134,
Lufti Abas, 61
Lyons, J., 112-113, 115
Mahathir Mohamad, 4
constitutionally defined as Muslims, 81
Malay language
Arabic influence, in, 20-22, 24-25, 47,
73-74, 81, 91, 93, 150
classification of common nouns in, 112114, 116-117
de facto High-language, 147
features borrowed from, 24-28, 30-31,
47-48, 63-82, 87-91, 137-140,
hegemony of, 35, 38
influences of Chinese languages on, 22,
influences of Indian languages on, 72,
influences on Malaysian English (ME),
61-82, 87-91, 93, 95-96, 101, 112114, 116-118, 121-122, 127-129,
131, 136-140, 146-147, 149
lingua franca, as, 18, 22-25, 147
medium of instruction of national
schools, as, 5, 18, 34-36, 147
Persian influence, in, 20-22, 24-25, 80
Portuguese influence, in, 23
prerequisite for admittance to the Bar, 6
prerequisite for university admission, 35
prestige of, 18, 140, 147
Sanskrit influence, in, 20, 72-73
see also Bahasa Malaysia
Malay nationalism, 3, 12, 35, 89
Malay ruling class, 18, 25, 30
“Malay School” of Penang Free School, 32
Malay secular education, 32
Malayan Union, 29
Malay-knowing bilinguals, 37, 54
Chinese languages in, 17, 147
creation of, 3
educational hub, as, 4, 36
English-language newspapers in, 40-41
historical background of English in, 3-7,
17-38, 146-150
independence of, 3, 12, 18, 29, 35, 140,
147, 150
internet penetration rate in 2000, 40
languages in, 17,
linguistic landscape of, 3, 18, 23-24, 35,
36, 38, 133, 149
Malay dialects in, 72
national language of, 3-4, 34-35, 72, 89,
98, 142-143, 147, 150
New Economic Policy (NEP), 95
official ethnic categories in, 19, 30
Population and Housing Census 2000,
Population Distribution and Basic Demographic Characteristics 2010,
pro-Malay policies, 35, 91, 95
status of English in, 3-6, 12-13, 35-36,
103, 131, 140, 143, 150-151
Malaysian English (ME)
Chinese loanwords in, 70-71, 84-85, 8990, 137-138, 149
earlier studies of, 7-12
Author and subject index
ethnic identity, and, 141, 150
evolution of, 1, 11-12, 14, 17, 19, 103,
152, 153
familiarity, and, 9, 136, 141
friendship, and, 34, 91
group identity, and, 98, 146
group second language acquisition
(group SLA) features in, 14, 101132, 135-139, 141-142, 144-145,
historical and social settings of, 17-38,
historical background of, 17-38
influences of Chinese languages on, 8391, 93, 95, 97, 101, 112, 114-118,
121-123, 126-129, 133, 137-138,
140-141, 147-150, 189-199, 205
see also Cantonese, Chinese languages, Hokkien
influences of Iban language on, 152
influences of Indian languages on, 72,
80, 152
influences of Kadazan language on, 152
influences of Malay language on, 61-82,
87-91, 93, 95-96, 101, 112-114,
116-118, 121-122, 127-129, 131,
136-140, 146-147, 149
see also Malay language
Islamic identity, and, 91, 140, 149
lexical borrowing in, 1, 14, 53-91, 136142, 144-146, 149
lexical creation in, 14, 91-98, 136-142,
lexical variation in, 123-130, 136, 138,
141-142,145-146, 149, 152-153
linguistic prescriptivism, 131, 139
literature in, 6
Malay loanwords in, 63-71, 73-79, 85,
89, 137-140, 149
Malaysian identity, and, 131, 136, 150
markers of identity, 141-142
multilingualism in, 12, 13, 37, 135, 142
multi-word verbs in, 118-123, 138
reclassification of common nouns in,
105-118, 138, 153
Schneider’s account of the evolution of,
1, 4-5 11-12, 14, 37, 130-131, 139
solidarity, and, 9, 34, 91, 98, 131, 136,
140, 141, 151
Malaysian English Newspaper Corpus,
(MEN Corpus), 15, 39-52, 61-63, 7374, 76-78, 81, 84-85, 87, 92, 104105, 107, 110, 112, 119, 123, 126,
128, 137, 152
analysing the, 47-52
compilation of data, 45-47
construction of, 40-47
extracts, 47-49, 51-52, 61, 73, 85, 87,
104, 107-111, 119-120, 124-126,
sampling procedure, 42-43
selection of issues, 43-45
selection of newspapers, 40-42
size, 43-45
Mandarin, 18-19, 32, 37, 80-81, 83-86, 93,
114-115, 117, 122, 127-128, 138,
147-149, 151
influences on Malaysian English (ME),
80-81, 83-86, 93, 114-115, 117,
122, 127-128, 138
lingua franca, as, 19, 149
medium of instruction, as, 19, 32, 37,
see also Chinese languages
Manguin, P.-Y., 20
Mathews, R. H., 50, 62, 128
Matras, Y., 139-140, 145
McMahon, A. M. S., 74
ME, see Malaysian English
Chinese, 37, 148
English, 5-6, 30, 103, 150
see also electronic media, English in
Malay, 37, 72
Melaka Sultanate, 23
MEN Corpus, see Malaysian English
Newspaper Corpus
Merican, F., 6
mesolect, 9-10, 131, 141
see also speech continuum
Author and subject index
Mesthrie, R., 102, 104
Meyerhoff, M., 98
Ministry of Education, Malaysia, 3, 5, 34,
36, 131-132
Moag. R. F., 11
Mohd. Nor Abd. Ghani, 61
Mohd Roslan Mohd Nor, 31
monolingual Malays, 36
monolingual Malaysian English (ME)
speakers, 130-131, 143-144
monolingualism, 36, 54, 130-131, 143-144
Morais, E., 9, 104, 146
Mufwene, S. S., 103, 134
multilingualism, 12-13, 36-37, 61, 97, 142,
146, 149, 151
see also individual multilingualism, societal multilingualism
Muysken, P., 13, 56, 137
Myers-Scotton, C., 116, 137, 144
Nair-Venugopal, S., 2, 5-6, 131
Najib Tun Abdul Razak, 90
national education, 3-4, 133, 151
National Education Policy, 3-4
National Language Act, 3, 6
national language of Malaysia, 3-4, 34-35,
72, 89, 98, 142-143, 147, 150
native speakers of English, 7, 9-10, 39, 55,
native varieties of English, 2, 9-10
native-like fluency, 8, 102, 104
native-speaker bias, 9
nativisation, 2, 9-12, 14, 74, 106, 119
see also Dynamic Model
Nelson, C. L., 102
New Economic Policy (NEP), 95
New Englishes, 2, 8, 97, 99, 101-104, 121,
130, 132, 134, 139, 153
see also World Englishes
“New Spelling System” (Sistem Ejaan
Baru), 74
“new villages,” 142
Newbrook, M., 6, 39, 104
newspapers, 5, 25, 27-28, 31, 39-47, 9596,141
British colonial period, during, 25, 2728, 95-96
“cyclicity” of, 44
data for MEN Corpus, 40-47
see also Malaysian English Newspaper Corpus
NewspaperSG, 31, 95
online newspapers, 40-41
“standard” English, and, 141
study of language variation and change,
and, 39-42
Nigerian English, 118
Nik Safiah Karim, 113-114
non-native varieties of English, 2, 11, 104
Noresah Baharom, 61
Norizah Hassan, 104, 134
Norman, J., 17
Northcote Parkinson, C., 29
Old English, 13
Old Malay, 20
Ooi, V. B. Y., 146
overt prestige, 141
see also covert prestige
Oxford English Dictionary, 62, 127-128
Pakir, A., 17
Parameswara, Sumatran prince, 21-22
Parilah Mohd Shah, 149
“partial ‘petrification’ of interlanguage,” 8,
34, 142, 146
partitive constructions, 106, 110-111, 116118, 138
a piece of, 106, 110-111, 116-118, 138
an article of, 118
an item of, 118
Penang Free School, 30, 32
Philippine English, 71, 118, 153
phonological features, 7-8, 10, 14, 38, 53,
141, 152
Pidgin English, 34
Author and subject index
Pillai, S., 137, 143, 147
pious English, 82
Islamic identity, and, 91
Platt, J., 2-3, 7-10, 18-19, 22, 30, 32-34,
51, 102, 123, 141-142, 147-148
politeness strategies, 8
Polzenhagen, F., 130
Population and Housing Census of Malaysia, 83
Portuguese occupation of Melaka, 18, 23
Postcolonial Englishes, 11-12, 14, 17, 104,
see also Schneider’s Dynamic Model
Powell, R., 6
Prince of Wales Island Gazette, 25, 27
see also Government Gazette, Prince of
Wales Island Government Gazette
Prince of Wales Island Government Gazette, 25, 27-29
see also Government Gazette, Prince of
Wales Island Gazette
purists, 2, 7, 119, 136, 139, 149
Quayum, M. A., 6
Quirk, R., 106, 110-112, 115
race riots, 95
Rademann, T., 39
Raffles, S., EIC official, 94
Rahamah Othman, 61
Rajadurai, J., 1-2, 6, 131, 143, 147
Razak Report, 34
regularisation strategies, 51, 103, 130, 133134, 136, 141, 145
see also group second language acquisition
Reid, A., 18, 22-23
Report of the Education Committee of
1956, 34
Reppen, R,. 15
Retnam, N., 119
Rockhill, W. W., 21
Romaine, S., 104, 137-138
Rosnani Hashim, 31
rubber industry, 30
Rullmann, H., 114
Rusli Abdul Ghani, 61
Sadka, E., 29
Saheed Ahmad Rufai, 31
Salmah Jabbar, 61
Sanskrit, 20, 72-73
see also Malay language
Schneider, E. W., 1, 4-5, 11-12, 14, 37,
104, 119, 130-131, 139, 141
Dynamic Model, 11-12, 14, 104
Seidlhofer, B., 119
sekolah pondok, “hut schools,” 31
semantic confusion,58-59
semantic displacement, 58-59
semantic loan, 57-59, 128-129
semantic modification, 75, 123-130, 138,
semantic shift, 127-128
Sen, T., 21
Sharifian, F., 130
Siemund, P., 13
simplification strategies, 8, 51, 101, 103,
106, 117-118, 122-123, 130, 133134, 136, 138, 141, 145
see also group second language acquisition
Sinclair, J., 43
Singapore English, 71, 82, 89-90, 98, 149
Singapore, language policies in, 98
Singapore-Malayan English (SME), 2, 810, 74, 102, 123
Singleton, D., 153
Sistem Ejaan Baru “New Spelling System,” 74
SIVE, see standard inner-circle varieties of
SLA strategies and processes of change,
112-118, 120-123
Smith, L. E., 8
societal multilingualism, 13, 135, 142, 151
Author and subject index
see also individual multilingualism,
sociolects, 10-12, 39
see also speech continuum
sociolinguistic ecology, 105, 130-132,
see also group second language acquisition (group SLA)
solidarity, 9, 34, 91, 98, 131, 136, 140,
141, 151
colloquial Malaysian English (ME),
and, 9, 34, 131, 141
group second language acquisition
(group SLA) features, and, 136,
141, 151
lexical borrowing, and, 91, 98, 140
see also familiarity, friendship, identity
“sons of the soil” (Bumiputera), 18-19, 30,
35, 95
South African Indian English, 104
Southeast Asian Archipelago, 18, 20-26,
37, 147
speech act, 8, 152
speech community, 9, 143
speech continuum, 9-10
acrolect, 9-10, 106, 130-131
basilect, 9-10, 39, 131, 141
mesolect, 9-10, 131, 141
sociolects, 10-12, 39
speech repertoire, 2, 8, 151
sports jargon, 96
Standard British English, 7
Standard English of the United Kingdom,
standard inner-circle varieties of English
(SIVE), 104-108, 110-111, 116-117,
122, 126-131
Stockwell, A. J., 29
*\^! †}! ‰Š
Straits Chinese, 33-34, 72
Straits Settlements, 19, 25, 29, 31-34
Straits Times Weekly Issue, 30-31
substitution, 56-59, 73-74, 77, 79-80, 84,
86, 137-139
see also importation
substrate influences, 99, 103, 106, 116117, 122-123, 126-130, 133-134,
136, 138, 141, 145
see also group second language acquisition (group SLA)
Svartvik, J., 106, 110-112, 115
syntactic variation associated with group
SLA, 105-123, 136, 138, 141-142,
145-146, 149, 152-153
multi-word verbs, 118-123, 138
reclassification of common nouns, 105118, 138, 153
Tai, J. H. Y., 115
Tamil, 8, 13, 17, 22, 38, 130-131, 152
influences on Malaysian English, 152
Tamil schools, 32, 34
Tan, L. E., 32
Tan, P. K. W., 74, 79, 104
Tan, S. I., 131, 134
Teochew, 17, 19, 32, 83, 86
influences on Malaysian English (ME),
83, 86, 196
medium of instruction, as, 32
see also Chinese languages
Thambyrajah, H., 19, 148-149
Thio, E., 29
Thomason, S. G., 14, 53-55, 101,105, 123,
133, 144-145, 152
tin-mining industry, 30-31, 50, 148
Tollefson, J. W., 150
Tongue, R. K., 2, 7, 10, 18, 51, 106, 118,
123, 126, 150
Town Building Committee, 94
Trudgill, P., 91
Tryon, D., 20
twinning programmes, 4, 36
Unfederated Malay States, 29
United Malays National Organisation
(UMNO), 29
Utusan Online, 116
Author and subject index
van Coetsem, F., 144-145
van Hout, R., 137
vernacular education, 32, 34
Vision 2020, 4
Wade, G., 21, 25, 83
Wang Da-yuan, Chinese trader, 21
Weber, H., 2-3, 7-10, 18-19, 22, 30, 32-34,
51, 102, 123, 141-142
Weinreich, U., 88
Westin, I., 39
Wheatley, P., 18, 21, 20
Wilkinson, R. J., 50, 61
Williams, J., 104
Winford, D., 13-14, 54, 56-58, 60, 79, 9192, 101, 103-104, 129, 133-134, 139,
146, 149
Winstedt, R. O., 32
Wolf, H.-G., 130
Wong, I. F. H., 7-9, 19, 51, 104, 106, 112,
142, 148-149
World Englishes, 102, 119
see also New Englishes
“World System”, 24
World War II, 34
You, A, 114
Yule, H., 26, 62
Zheng He, admiral, 22
Zuraidah Mohd Don, 72
Malaysian English Feature Index
air jampi, 69, 165
ais kacang, 64, 166
Alhamdulillah/alhamdullilah/Alhamdullillah, 67,
74, 155
alphabet “letter of the alphabet,” 124, 138,
amah/amah chieh, 71, 189
ang pow/ang pau/angpow, 71, 84-85, 138,
ang pow packet, 71, 189
asam pedas, 64, 87, 155
ask /s/, 10
attached to “be an employee of,” 124
attaps, 26-27
auntie/aunty “term of respect for an older
woman,” 124, 129-130
ayam pongteh, 64, 155
bluff “to deceive, to mislead,” 124, 126127, 138, 153
bomoh, 69, 77, 88, 138, 157
brinjolls, 26-27
briyani rice, 64, 80, 157, 173
see also nasi biryani
bubur, 64, 73, 157
bubur cha cha, 64, 157
bubur kacang, 64, 157, 166
bubur lambuk/lambok, 64, 74, 157
bubur pulut hitam, 64, 157
Buddha Jumps Over The Wall, 70, 189
budu, 65, 72, 137, 157
buka puasa/berbuka puasa, 67, 158
bumiputera/bumiputra, 66, 77, 158
bumiputra lot, 95, 205
bunga kantan, 65, 158
bunga manggar, 65, 159
bunga telur, 65, 159
baba, 66, 73, 155, 176
badminton player, 96
bahar, 24
baju Kedah, 69, 88, 155
baju kurung, 69, 87-88, 155-156
baju Melayu, 69, 156
bakau, 30
balik kampung, 70, 95-96, 156
balik kampung rush, 95-96, 205
batik, 69, 87, 156
batik art, 66, 156
batik cloth, 69, 79, 138, 156
batik painter, 66, 156
batik painting, 66, 156
batik sarong, 69, 182
bawal hitam, 65, 156
bawal putih, 65, 157
beef ball, 70, 189
beef rendang, 63-64, 79, 179
belacan, 65, 157, 197
bersanding ceremony, 65, 79, 157
Bharata Natyam, 152
cadjans, 26-27
caracoas, 24
catchang, 26-27
catty, 26-28
chap chye/chap choi/chap choy, 70, 189
Chap Goh Meh/Chap Goh Mei, 71, 84, 87
137, 190
char koay teow, 70, 84, 137, 193
char siew/char siu, 70, 190
char siew pau, 84-85, 87, 190, 196
chee cheong fun, 70, 84-85, 87, 190
cheongsam, 71, 84-85, 87, 93, 138, 190
cheongsam top, 93, 205
chicken pongteh, 64, 177
chicken rendang, 63, 64, 179
chicken rice, 70, 190
Chinchew, 29
Chinese assembly hall, 71, 190
Chinese medicine shop/Chinese medical
hall, 71, 195
Chinese sinseh, 71, 88, 190
Chingay, 71, 191
Malaysian English feature index
chittacks, 26-27
chop “to stamp,” 10
Chulan, 28-29
chunam, 26-27
chupah, 26-27
ciku, 65, 159
cincalok, 65, 87, 94, 98, 159, 203
see also preserved shrimps
close “to turn off (taps, etc.),” 10, 123
close proximity, 93, 140-141, 201
see also khalwat
coffeeshop/coffee shop/coffee-shop, 71,
comprise of, 119
congkak, 65, 88, 159
coolie, 30-31, 50
coyan, 26-27
cut “to overtake,” 123
dadah, 70, 75, 139, 159
dalang, 66, 159
dammer, 26-27
Datin, 47-48, 66-67, 90, 159
Datin Seri, 67, 90, 160
Datuk, 47-48, 66-67, 77, 90, 160
Datuk Bandar, 69, 89, 160
Datuk Seri, 67, 90, 160
Datukship, 47-48, 66, 77, 138, 160
daun kesum, 65, 137, 160
daun mambu, 65, 160
daun salam, 65, 161
demand for, 119, 121
Department of Orang Asli Affairs, 68, 174
Dewan Negara, 68, 89, 161
Dewan Rakyat, 68, 89, 161
dholl, 26-27
dikir barat, 66, 161
dim sum, 70, 83-84, 191
discuss about, 51, 119, 121-122
discuss on, 51, 119, 121
do deletion, 10
drummet, 92, 138, 201
drunken chicken, 70, 86, 191
dry kitchen, 94, 138, 201
duku langsat, 65, 170
dukun, 69, 88, 161
dunniah, 26-27
emphasise on, 120-121
Federation of Chinese Associations of Malaysia, 71, 191-192
see also Hua Zong
feng shui, 71, 191
feng shui master, 71, 192
fire-walking ceremony, 93, 201
fish ball, 70, 86, 192
fish cake, 70, 192
five-foot way, 94-96, 138, 201
follow “to accompany, to go with,” 124,
127-128, 138, 153
Foochow fish ball, 70, 192
four-digit, 201
fried kuey teow/fried koay teow, 70, 192
gamelan, 66, 72, 161
gantons, 26-27
gasing, 65, 88, 161
gasing pangkah, 65, 162
gasing uri, 65, 162
gatal, 70, 75, 90, 162
Gawai, 152
ghee, 26-27
God willing, 67, 80-82, 91, 162, 164
see also Insyaallah
Goddess of Mercy, 93, 140-141, 202
gotong-royong, 70, 162
gram, 26-27
gravy “liquid in which meat and vegetables
are cooked,” 124
guglets, 26-27
gulai tempoyak, 64, 184
Hainanese chicken rice, 70, 192
Hajah/Hajjah, 67, 90, 162
Malaysian English feature index
Haji, 67, 90, 162
halal, 67, 72, 162
handphone, 93, 202
hantu, 69, 73, 88, 163
haram, 67, 72, 163
hardcore poor, 202
Hari Raya/Hari Raya Puasa/Hari Raya
Aidilfitri, 67, 87, 137, 163
hawker centre, 93-94, 138, 202
heaty, 92-93, 202
Hokkien mee, 70, 84, 195
Hua Zong, 71, 84, 191-192
see also Federation of Chinese Associations of Malaysia
hum sup, 71, 84, 90, 193
Hungry Ghost Festival, 93, 202
Hyson, 28-29
ibu kerongsang, 69, 168
ice kacang, 64, 166
ikan bilis, 65, 66, 73, 86, 163
ikan bilis stock, 70, 86-87, 193
ikan kembung, 65, 163
ikan tenggiri, 65, 164
ikan terubok, 65, 164
imam, 67, 72, 164
Insyaallah/InsyaAllah/InsyaAllah/insyallah, 67, 74, 81-82, 162,
see also God willing
Ipoh, 68, 164
Islamic Affairs Council/Islamic Council/
Islamic Religious Council, 68, 164
Islamic Affairs Department, 68, 164
Islamic Religious Department, 68, 165
jaggery, 26-27
jampi, 69, 165
Jawi, 70, 165
jeerah, 26-27
jembalang, 69, 88, 165
joget, 66, 165
Johor, 68, 165
Johore, 68, 165
Johorean, 68, 77, 166
Kaamatan, 152
kacang, 26, 64, 75-76, 166
kadi, 67, 72, 166
kampung/kampong, 69, 166
kampung chicken, 65, 79-80, 166
kampung house, 69, 166
kangkung, 65, 167
kavadi, 152
kaya, 64, 167
kebaya/baju kebaya, 69, 88, 167
kebaya top, 93, 138, 205
Kedah, 68, 137, 167
Kedahan, 68, 77, 167
keep “to put away,” 123
Kelantan, 68, 167
Kelantanese, 68, 77, 167
kemenyan, 69, 167
kenduri, 65, 168
kerabu, 64, 168
kerisik, 64, 168
keroncong/kroncong, 66, 74, 168
kerongsang, 69, 77, 168
ketupat, 64, 168
khalwat, 67, 72, 93, 140-141, 168, 197,
see also close proximity
kiasu, 71, 85, 89-90, 193
kiasu-ism, 71, 85, 89-90, 138-139, 193
kismisses, 26-27
KL, 169
KL-ites, 68, 169
koay teow/kuay teow/kuey teow, kway
teow, 70, 84-85, 88, 193
koay teow soup, 70, 85, 193
kolam, 152
kompang, 66, 169
kompang troupe, 66, 169
kongsi, 30-31, 48-51, 71, 85, 194
kongsis, 48, 49, 85
kopitiam, 71, 84, 194
kopitiam table, 93, 95, 138, 205
Malaysian English feature index
Kota Kinabalu, 68, 169
kowtow, 71, 194
Kuala Lumpur, 68, 169
Kuantan, 68, 169
Kuching, 68, 169
kuih, 64, 72, 169
kuih bahulu, 64, 170
kuih bangkit, 64, 170
kuih kapit, 64, 93, 170
see also love letters
kuih-kuih, 169
kuih-muih, 169
kung fu/kungfu, 71, 83, 85, 88, 194
kung fu master/kungfu master, 71, 85, 194
kunyit, 65, 91, 170
langsat, 65, 170
last time “in the past,” 125
Lembaga Tabung Haji/Tabung
Haji/Tabung Haji Board, 68, 170
list down, 120-121
list out, 120
lontong, 64, 170
lotus paste, 70, 194
love letter, 93, 203
see also kuih kapit
lower down, 119-121
madrasah, 67, 72-73, 170
Maggi mee, 205
Maggi mee curls, 71, 194
makan, 65, 170
makan kecil 65, 171
makcik, 66, 67, 90, 129, 171
Malacca, 68, 74, 171
Malaccan, 68, 171
Malay kampung, 69, 166
Malaysian Islamic Economic Development
Foundation, 68, 171
mamak, 66, 171
mamak stall, 69, 79, 172
Mat Salleh, 67, 73, 172
medicine shop, 71, 195
mee, 70, 84, 88, 195
mee goreng, 64, 72, 172
mee hoon/bihun, 70, 88, 195
mee rebus, 64, 172
Melaka, 68, 171
mengkuang mat, 70, 79, 172
Menteri Besar, 69, 72, 88-89, 172
Mid-Autumn Festival, 71, 86-87, 195
mooncake, 70, 83, 86, 195
Muar, 68, 172
mui tsai, 71, 196
Muslim bumiput(e)ra, 66, 158
naan bread, 64, 80, 172
nasi briyani, 64, 72, 80, 157, 173
see also briyani rice
nasi kerabu, 64, 168
nasi lemak, 64, 80, 173
nasi lemak stall, 69, 173
nasi ulam, 64, 80, 185
neebongs, 26-27
Neg(e)ri Sembilan, 68, 173
ngajat, 152
night market, 69, 81-82, 98, 173, 203
Nine Emperor Gods, 71, 86, 196
Nine Emperor Gods festival, 71, 86, 196
non-bumiput(e)ra, 66, 77, 158
non-halal, 67, 77, 138, 163
non-Muslim bumiput(e)ra, 66, 158
noodle soup, 70, 196
nyonya, 66, 72, 77, 173, 176
open “to turn on (taps, etc.),” 10, 123
orang asli, 66, 174
Orang Asli Affairs Department, 68, 174
orang minyak, 69, 88, 174
orang putih, 66, 174
Orang Ulu, 66, 174
paddler, 92, 96, 203
Pahang, 68, 175
Pahangite, 68, 175
Malaysian English feature index
pakcik, 67, 90, 129, 175
pandan, 65, 91, 175
pandan jelly, 64, 175
pandan leaf, 65, 175
pandan mat, 70, 175
pantun, 66, 175
parang, 70, 175
particles, 10
ah, 10
la, 10
man, 10
what, 10
partitive construction, a piece of, with
count nouns, 110-111, 112, 116117,138
piece of garment, 110
piece of result slip, 110, 117
pieces of bags, 110
pieces of bulk bags, 110
pieces of cards, 111, 117
pieces of CDs, VCDs and DVDs, 111,
pieces of chokers, hairpins and bracelets,
pieces of coupons, 111
pieces of diapers, 111
pieces of discs, 111
pieces of forged notes, 111
pieces of gloves, 111, 117
pieces of logs, 111
pieces of street buntings, 111
pieces of T-shirts, 111, 117
pasar malam, 69, 82, 98, 175
pasar tani, 69, 176
pau, 70, 86, 137, 196
pawang, 69, 73, 88, 176
pecul, 26-27
pelamin, 65, 88, 176
Penang, 68, 74, 176
Penang Baba, 206
Penangite, 68, 77, 176
Perak, 68, 176
peranakan, 66, 176
peranakan Arab, 66, 177
Perlis, 68, 177
petai, 65, 177
pice, 26-28
pineapple tart, 203
pluralisation of noncount nouns, 106-107,
112, 118, 138
clothings, 107, 118
jewelleries, 107, 118
machineries, 107, 118
references, 107
sceneries, 107, 118
signages, 107, 118
stationeries, 107
terminologies, 107, 118
pondok “hut”, 69, 77, 138, 177
pondok/sekolah pondok/pondok school,
67, 79, 177
pondok polis, 70, 177
pongteh chicken, 64, 177
pontianak, 69, 88, 178
pooloot, 26, 28
popiah, 70, 84-85, 196
popiah skin, 70, 196
‹#, 24
prawn dumplings/shrimp dumpling 70, 88,
prawn paste/shrimp paste, 70, 197
preserved shrimps, 93, 98, 203
see also cincalok
preserved vegetables, 93, 203
see also salted vegetables
pua kumbu, 152
Puan Sri, 67, 90, 178
Pulau Pinang, 68, 137, 176
pulo, 24
putu beras, 64, 72, 178
putu kacang, 66, 166, 178
raise up, 119-120, 122
Raja, 69, 72, 90, 178
Raja Permaisuri Agong, 69, 178
rakyat, 66, 75, 77-78 178
Ramadan/Ramadhan, 67, 74, 179
rebab, 66, 179
rebana, 66, 179
Malaysian English feature index
rebana ubi, 66, 179
red bean paste, 70, 196
reduction of verbal inflections, 10
rempah, 65, 91, 179
rendang, 63, 64, 87, 179
request for, 120-121
rice bowl, 70, 80-81, 138, 180
ronggeng, 66, 180
rotan, 70, 75-77, 180
roti, 64, 72, 75, 180
roti canai, 64, 180
roti jala, 64, 180
roti kaya, 64, 180
Sabah, 68, 137, 180
Sabahan, 68, 180
sabandar, 24
sagoe, 26, 28
sajak, 66, 181
salted vegetables, 70, 93, 197
see also preserved vegetables
sambal, 64, 72, 181
sambal belacan, 64, 157, 181
sambal ikan bilis, 64, 163, 181
sambal petai, 64, 177, 181
sambal tempoyak, 64, 184
sambal udang petai, 64, 177
samfoo, 71, 84, 197
samiers, 26, 28
sar hor fun, 70, 84, 197
Sarawak, 68, 181
Sarawakian, 68, 77, 181
saree cloth, 69, 80, 181
sarong/sarung, 69,74, 182
sarong skirt, 93, 138, 206
sarung cradle, 95, 206
secondary jungle, 93, 96, 203
see “to watch (TV),” 123
seek for, 120
seere, 26, 28
Selangor, 68, 74, 182
Selangorian, 68, 182
selendang, 69, 182
sepak takraw, 65, 73, 182
serai, 65, 91, 182
shahbandar, 24
shake legs, 123
shophouse/shop house, 71, 197
shrimp dumpling/prawn dumpling, 70, 88,
shrimp paste/prawn paste, 70, 197
shuroots, 26, 28
shuttler, 93, 96, 204
sifu, 71, 85, 198
silat, 65, 88, 182
silat olahraga, 65, 182
slang “accent,” 125
snow skin, 70, 138, 198
songket/kain songket, 69, 72, 87, 183
songkok, 69, 87, 183
soto, 64, 72, 183
Souchong, 28-29
spell out, 120
staff “member of the staff,” 125
standard of living “cost of living,” 125
stay “to live,” 125, 153
steamboat, 93, 204
Straits Chinese, 204
stress on, 120-121
study about, 120-122
subject deletion, 10
Sultan, 69, 90, 183
Sungei Tiram, 30-31
Sungei Trong, 30-31
syair, 66, 183
syariah, 67, 183
Syawal, 67, 184
table tennis player, 96
tai chi, 71, 88, 198
take “to bring,” 125
take “to eat,” “to have,” 125
take a bath “to have a wash,” 126-127
take away “to eliminate, to reduce” 126
Tan Sri, 67, 90, 184
tapai, 64, 184
tapai pulut, 64, 184
tapai ubi, 65, 184
Malaysian English feature index
tau sar pau, 70, 196
taugeh/tauge, 70, 84, 198
tea ceremony, 204
teh tarik, 65, 72, 73 , 184
tempe, 65, 184
tempoyak, 65, 184
Terengganu, 68, 184
Thaipusam, 152
thanksgiving kenduri, 65, 185
the /d/, 10
three /tri/, 10
tidak apa, 70, 89, 185
tidak apa attitude, 70, 89, 185
towkay, 30-31, 71, 84-85, 198
tudung, 69, 185
ulam, 64, 185
ulama/ulamak, 67, 72, 74, 77, 185
ulu, 70, 75, 90, 185
umrah, 67, 186
uncle “term of respect for an older man,”
126, 129-130
uninflected noncount nouns as plural count
nouns, 109-110, 112, 116, 138
these equipment, 109-110
jewellery are, 109-110
are research, 109-110
are other information, 109-110
uninflected noncount nouns as singular
count nouns, 107-109, 112, 118, 138
an information, 108-109, 118
a machinery, 108-109, 118
a research, 108-109
a women’s underwear, 108-109, 118
one hand luggage, 108-109, 118
another advice, 108, 118
road rage, one as anophoric reference,
ustaz, 67, 186
ustazah, 67, 186
voice out, 120, 122
wakil rakyat, 69, 73, 89, 186
wali, 67, 72, 186
wantan/wanton/wonton, 70, 84, 88,198199
wantan noodles, 70, 87, 198-199
wau, 65, 88, 186
wau bulan, 65, 186
wayang, 66, 72, 187
wayang kulit, 66, 137, 187
wayang peranakan, 66, 187
wear “to put on,” 126, 153
wet kitchen, 94, 138, 204
wet market, 204
wet rempah, 65, 179
wushu, 71, 84, 88, 137, 199
Yang di-Pertua Neg(e)ri, 69, 72, 90, 187
Yang di-Pertuan Agong, 69, 90, 187
Yang di-Pertuan Besar, 69, 90, 187
Yee Sang, 70, 84, 199
yong tau foo, 70, 85, 199
Zapin, 66, 188
zina, 67, 73, 188