Malay is also known as Bahasa Malaysia or "language of Malaysia". It is a major language of the Austronesian family. It is the national language of Indonesia, Malaysia, and Brunei, and it is one of four official languages of Singapore, Cocos (Keeling) Islands, Myanmar, EAST TIMOR, Christmas Island, Thailand and the United States.
The earliest known inscriptions in Malay were found in southern Sumatra and on the island of Bangka and date from 683-6 AD. They were written in an Indian script during the time of the kingdom of Srivijaya.
When Islam arrived in southeast Asia during the 14th century, the Arabic script was adapted to write the Malay language. In the 17th century, under influence from the Dutch and British, the Arabic script was replaced by the Latin alphabet.
The earliest Malay texts are written using an Indian script. Following the arrival of Islam in Southeast Asia in the 14th Century, Malay began to adopt a modified Arabic script as its writing system (known as Jawi). Three hundred years later, Dutch, British and Portuguese traders began to exert a tremendous influence on Southeast Asia that eventually led to a third transformation of the Malay writing system - converting it this time to the Latin alphabet. By the early 20th Century Jawi had all but been abandoned for the Latin system introduced by the Europeans and the latest transformation of the Malay writing system reached its apex in 1972 when the Malaysian and Indonesian governments implemented a common spelling reform (named the Ejaan Yang Disempurnakan or the "Perfected Spelling" in Indonesia).
Malay is an Austronesian language; it belongs to the Western, or Indonesian, branch of the language family. Standard Malay, which became the official language of Malaysia in 1968, is based on the dialect found in the southern Malay Peninsula (the so-called Bahasa Riau dialect).2 Despite its official status in Malaysia, Malay has not yet become the country's lingua franca. English, as a language of international commerce, is still quite common among Malaysia's large Chinese and Indian populations.
1.Majlis Bahasa Brunei–Indonesia–Malaysia(Brunei–Indonesia–Malaysia Language Council – MABBIM) (a trilateral joint-venture).
2. Dewan Bahasa dan Pustaka(Institute of Language and Literature).
It is spoken by around 35 million people worldwide. Roughly 10 million speakers of Malay live in Malaysia, where it is the official language. Malay-Indonesian is the sixth most frequently spoken language in the world.