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Malaysian English

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Malaysian English (MyE) or formally known as Malaysian Standard English (MySE) is a form of English used and spoken in Malaysia as a second language. Malaysian English should not be confused with Malaysian Colloquial English which is famously known as Manglish or Street English, a portmanteau of the word Malay and English although mostly spoken by the non-Malays.


1 Features 2 Varieties of English in Malaysia 3 Malaysian English and British English 4 Malaysian English Spelling 5 -ise 6 Words only used in British English 7 Words or phrases only used in Malaysian English 8 Different Meanings 9 Vocabulary 10 Syntax 11 Phonology and Pronunciation 12 The "Lah" word 13 What 14 Miscellaneous 15 Role of Malaysian English in Independent Malaysia 16 See also 17 External links 18 References

[edit] Features

Malaysian English is generally non-rhotic. Malaysian English originates from British English, back then in the British Colonial Period. It has components of American English, Malay, Chinese, Indian, and other languages: vocabulary, pronunciation, and grammar. Unlike northern English English and most forms of American English, Malaysian English employs a broad A accent, so words like bath and chance appear with // and not //. The /t/ phoneme in words like butter is usually not flapped (as in most forms of American English) or realised as a glottal stop (as in some other forms of English English, including Cockney). There is no h-dropping in words like head. Malaysian English does not have yod dropping after /n/, /t/ and /d/. Hence, for example, new, tune and dune are pronounced /nju/, /tjun/ and /djun/ rather than /nu/, /tun/ and /dun/. This contrasts with many East Anglian and East Midland varieties of English English and with most forms of American English.

[edit] Varieties of English in Malaysia

According to The Encyclopedia of Malaysia: Languages & Literature, p 61, p 61, English in Malaysia has been categorized into three levels: the acrolect, mesolect and basilect. The acrolect is near-native, and not many Malaysians fall into this category - only those educated in core English-speaking countries from early schooling up to university may be found to speak the acrolect variety, so only tiny percentage of Malaysians are proficient in it. As with other similar situations, a continuum exists between these three varieties and speakers may code-switch between them depending on context. Most academicians, professionals and other English-educated Malaysians, speak mesolect English. Malaysian English belongs to mesolect, and it is Malaysian English that is used in daily interaction.

[edit] Malaysian English and British English

In the first half of the 20th century, Malaysian English was exactly similar to British English (BrE) (albeit spoken with a Malaysian accent). However in the post-colonial era (after 1957), the influx of American TV programmes has influenced the usage of Malaysian English. There is no official language board, council or organisation to ensure the correct and standard usage of Malaysian English, because after independence, Malay replaced English as the official language. The University of Cambridge Local Examinations Syndicate continues, however, to set and mark the GCE O-Level English Language "1119" paper which is a compulsory subject for the Malaysian Certificate of Education (the English Language paper set by the Malaysian Ministry of Education is the same as the English Language "1119" paper for GCE O-Level).

Unofficially, however, NST English (after New Straits Times, the oldest English language daily in Malaysia) is often used as the reference point for Malaysian English.

[edit] Malaysian English Spelling

This article or section appears to contradict itself. Please help fix this problem. Officially, Malaysian English spelling still follows the British English standard. However, it is now quite common to see American spelling on signs and in correspondence. This is not surprising, as many Malaysians are educated in the United States. Malaysians have come to accept American spelling as an alternative correct spelling. American spelling in Malaysia is usually seen in the private sector. Examples include, "center" (American) instead of "centre" (British) while "colour" and "color" are used interchangeably. In schools and in the print media, Malaysians usually default to the British spelling, i.e. "vapour" instead of "vapor" and "organise" instead of "organize". Where there is a distinct difference between British and US spelling (such as words like colour/color and travelled/traveled), the British spelling is universally found in Malaysia. Malaysian English sticks very closely to British English in spelling, more so than do other former British Colonies in Asia Pacific such as Australia and Singapore. Some Americanisms have begun to creep into the country through their exposure in mass media (such as "thru" for "through"), though these spellings are frowned upon and are definitely regarded as non-standard. Despite mass media exposure (through early childhood programmes such as Sesame Street) to the American English pronunciation "zee" for the last letter of the alphabet, the British English "zed" is standard. The exposure to the different spellings of British and American English leads to a certain amount of spelling variation such as organise/organize. British spelling is generally preferred, although some words are usually written in the American form, such as program and jail rather than programme and gaol (although commonly one could be 'jailed' in a 'gaol'). Publishers, schools, universities and governments typically use the British English as a standard spelling reference. Both -ise and -ize are accepted, as in British English, but '-ise' is the preferred form in Malaysian English. Some parties in Malaysia, propose certain standards:

the use of the "-our" ending in words such as neighbour and colour; the use of the "-re" ending in words such as centre and theatre; the use of the "-ce" ending for nouns and the "-se" ending for the equivalent verbs, such as a licence (noun), to license (verb) and practice (noun), to practise (verb); the use of the "-ise" ending in words such as analyse, galvanise, etc;

the use of double letters in words such as travelled, leveller, etc.

Certain American spellings remain common or equally treated as part of Malaysian English.

[edit] -ise
Possibly the most significant difference between Malaysian and British spelling is in the ending -ise or -ize. Although -ise is the more popular ending in both countries, some British dictionaries and style manuals prefer the -ize ending and Malaysian dictionaries have started to follow the footsteps of British English.

[edit] Words only used in British English

To a large extent, Malaysian English is descended from British English, largely due to the country's colonisation by Britain beginning from the 18th century. But because of influence from American mass media, particularly in the form of television programmes and movies, Malaysians are also usually familiar with many American English words. For instance, both "lift/elevator" and "lorry/truck" are understood, although the British form is preferred. Only in some very limited cases is the American English form more widespread, e.g. "chips" instead of "crisps", "fries" instead of "chips".

[edit] Words or phrases only used in Malaysian English

Malaysian English has also created its own vocabulary just like any other former British colonies such as Australia and New Zealand and these words come from a variety of influences. Typically, for words or phrases that are based on other English words, the Malaysian English speaker may be unaware that the word or phrase is not present in British or American English. Malaysian British / American

Handphone (often abbreviated to Mobile phone or Cell phone HP)

Malaysian Chinese / Malaysian Chinese Malaysian / Indian Indian Malaysian

KIV (keep in view)

Kept on file, held for further





Means both 'out of town' and/or 'overseas/abroad'.

MC (medical certificate). Often used in this context, e.g. 'He is Sick note on MC today'


Photocopy, Xerox







[edit] Different Meanings

This is a list of words and phrases that have one meaning in British English and another in Malaysian English Word / Phrase American / British meaning

Malaysian meaning

last time


on the previous occurrence

a parking space, e.g. "That a parking garage (from US a parking lot new shopping mall has English) five hundred parking lots."

a letter of the alphabet, a set of letters used in a an alphabet e.g. "The word 'table' has language five alphabets."


A mansion for the rich and/or famous; or a fully A small house or cottage detached house, regardless usually having a single of the number of floors it storey and sometimes an has. Lately, some housing additional attic storey that developers have taken the is free standing, i.e. not abuse of this word further conjoined with another and we now see terms like unit. "a semi-detached bungalow".

to follow

to accompany, e.g. "Can I to go after or behind, e.g. follow you?" meaning "The police car was "Can I come with you?" following me"

to keep

to retain as one's own, e.g. to put away or store, e.g. a "I must decide which to parent tells a child "Keep throw away and which to your toys!" keep."

to revert

to get back to someone, e.g. in an email: "I will to return to a previous edit investigate this and revert or state to you by tomorrow."

to send

to take someone to cause something to go somewhere, e.g. "Can you somewhere without send me to the airport?" accompanying it, e.g. "I sent this letter to my

grandma." Most Malaysians are adept at switching from Manglish and Malaysian English, but are sometimes unclear as to the differences between Malaysian English and SABE (Standard American-British English). Awareness of these differences would prevent misunderstandings when dealing with people from different English-speaking backgrounds. This evolution in the use of English follows a worldwide trend and is unlikely to disappear.

[edit] Vocabulary
Main article: Malaysian English vocabulary Many Malay and Malaysian words or phrases that describe Malaysian culture have become part of Malaysian English. Some of these are:

Cik: Ms Encik: Mr kampung (archaic spelling: campong): a village lepak: loiter Mat Salleh : a white person typically a man Puan: Madam

There are also many non-Malaysian words used in Malaysian English that are not in standard English. The following are shared with Australia, New Zealand or other countries:

chips "hot chips" US "french fries" and UK "chips". having-in/having here eat-in at a restaurant takeaway take-out food.

These are unique to Malaysia:

apartment a medium-cost and high-cost flat bungalow a villa or any semi-detached house regardless of the size or number of storeys blur confused (used by Manglish speakers and considered as bad English) chop to stamp (with a rubber stamp), as well as the stamp itself. condominium a high-cost flat usually with common facilities. flat a low-cost flat. la(h)! the prominent trademark in Manglish, the colloquial Malaysian English, it is used for emphasis at the end of a sentence, la(h)! (see note above on

Malaysian influence. It originates from Chinese influence although the 'lah' is of the Malay language). Eg: Are you coming over to the party tonight? Yes, of course lah. pass up to hand in "Pass up your assignments". rubber meaning eraser as in "Can I borrow your rubber?" (This is also a sense given to the word in British English.) rubber to molest (from the Malay word "rabah" meaning to molest) send to take somebody to somewhere - "I'll send you to the airport." slippers Japanese sandals; as in US and UK "flip-flops", Australia "thongs" spoil to be damaged "This one, spoil, lah." uni in Malaysia it refers to the university (as in British English), while U is common in spoken Malaysian English.

[edit] Syntax
Syntactical differences are few although in colloquial speech 'shall' and 'ought' are wanting, 'must' is marginal for obligation and 'may' is rare. Many syntactical features of Malaysian English are found in other forms of English, e.g. Scottish English, British English and North American English:

Can I come too? for "May I come too?" Have you got any? for "Do you have any?" I've got one of those already. for "I have one of those already." It's your shot. for "It's your turn."

[edit] Phonology and Pronunciation

Officially, Malaysian English uses the same pronunciation system as British English. However, most Malaysians speak with a distinctive accent. The accent has recently evolved to become more American, due to the influx of American TV programmes and the large number of Malaysians pursuing higher education in the United States. For example, this increased the emphasis on "r" in words such as "referring" and "world".

[edit] The "Lah" word

The ubiquitous word lah (/l/ or /l/), used at the end of a sentence, can also be described as a particle that simultaneously asserts a position and entices solidarity. Note that 'lah' is often written after a comma for clarity, but there is never a pause before it. This is because in the original Malay, 'lah' is appended to the end of the word and is not a separate word by itself. In Malay, 'lah' is used to change a verb into a command or to soften its tone, particularly when usage of the verb may seem impolite. For example, "to drink" is "minum", but "Here, drink!" is "minumlah". Similarly, 'lah' is frequently used with imperatives in

Singlish, such as the command, "Drink, lah!" (Come on, drink!). 'Lah' also occurs frequently with "Yah" and "No" (hence "Yah lah" and "No lah"), resulting in a less brusque sound, thus facilitating the flow of conversation. This form is more used by Chinese in Malaysia. Lah is often used with brusque, short, negative responses:

Don't have, lah! (Brusque response to, "Lend me some money, can?") Don't know already, lah!(Brusque response to someone fumbling with an explanation. Mostly by Chinese.)

Lah is also used for reassurance:

Don't worry, he can do lah - Don't worry, he can [do it]. It's okay lah - It's all right.

Lah can also be used to emphasize items in a spoken list, appearing after each item in the list. Although lah can appear nearly anywhere, it cannot appear with a yes-no question. Another particle should be used instead. For example:

Where are you ar? (This is especially of Chinese origin.)

Most of the Manglish grammar described here is of Chinese origin since Malays do not converse in English daily, while the Indians use a different form of Manglish. The Chinese influence in Manglish, however, can be seen among other races in Malaysia, especially when conversing with Chinese-speaking people. This principle can be generally applied to all forms of non-standard English spoken in Malaysia.

[edit] What
The particle what (/wt/), also spelled wat/wot, is used to remind or contradict the listener, especially when strengthening another assertion that follows from the current one:

But he's very good at sports what. (Shouldn't you know this already, having known him for years?) You never give me what! (Or else I would have gotten it, right?)

[edit] Miscellaneous
"There is"/"there are" and "has"/"have" are both expressed using got, so that sentences can be translated in either way back into British / American English. This is equivalent to the Chinese yu (to have):

Got question? Is there a question? / Do you have a question? Yesterday ar, East Coast Park got so many people! There were so many people at East Coast Park yesterday. / East Coast Park had so many people [there] yesterday. This bus got air-con or not? Is there air-conditioning on this bus? / Does this bus have air-conditioning? Where got!? lit. Where is there [this]?, or less politely, There isn't/aren't any! also more loosely, What are you talking about?; generic response to any accusation.

Can is used extensively as both a question particle and an answer particle. The negative is cannot:

Gimme lah, can? (Give it to me, OK?) Can! (Sure!) Cannot. (No way.)

[edit] Role of Malaysian English in Independent Malaysia

Even though Malaysian English is no longer the official language of Malaysia, it is still used among Malaysians and is recognised as the language of business. About 80% of urban businesses in Malaysia conduct their transactions in English (both Malaysian English and Manglish). However, American English has quite a strong foothold in international businesses in Malaysia. There are several English newspapers in Malaysia namely The Star, The Sun, New Straits Times and Malay Mail. There are also many English radio stations such as, Mix FM, Light & Easy, Fly fm, Traxx FM and Red FM. However, Malaysia does not have any television station which is broadcasted purely in English. The Government National Language policy requires local TV stations to air at least 25% Malaysian-made programmes (either Malay or English). Some privately owned TV stations (such as TV3, NTV7, 8TV and Astro Hitz.TV) do air some English Malaysian-made programmes. A few Malaysian-made TV programmes in Malay carry English subtitles and vice-versa.