Saturday, August 7, 2010

The author of Malay Dictionary

The Malay language, also known locally as Bahasa Melayu, is an Austronesian language spoken by the Malay people who are native to the Malay peninsula, southern Thailand, Singapore and parts of Sumatra. It is the official language of Malaysia and Brunei, and one of the four official languages of Singapore. It is also used as a working language in East Timor.

The official standard for Malay, as agreed upon by Indonesia, Malaysia and Brunei, is Bahasa Riau, the language of the Riau Archipelago, long considered the birthplace of the Malay language.


Malay Dictionary = Marsden

Who is Marsden?

William Marsden ( 1754 -1836 ) was a retired navy officer in Hertfordshire when he began to work on Grammar and Dictionary of the Malay Language. Prior to this, he had published The History of Sumatra , which brought him recognition as a scholar. He acquired his knowledge of Malay language during his eight years spent in Sumatra as a young man with his elder brother,John. If you think this makes his dictionary pro-Indonesian then you may be surprised to note that he somehow chose to use the dialects of Peninsular Malaysia as the standard of pronunciation in his dictionary.

Marsden was fond of collecting Malay manuscripts-which of course were put to good use in his writings. In the introduction to his malay grammar, he quoted from the manuscripts to derive meanings of words. I learnt a lot about the actual meaning of "Jawi" from there. He discussed the probability of jawi being a derivative of Java and at least four other different meanings. Finally, he quoted Raffles who said that "jahwi" is a term for anything mixed or crossed. For example, a child of mixed race is "anak jahwi". The Malay language written in Arabic character is therefore, termed "b'hasa jahwi."