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Language Ecology and Language Communities in the Malay World


The Malay World can be described, on geographic and linguistic grounds, as those parts of Southeast Asia where the Malay language is spoken, whether as a first or second language. This simple description encompasses many parts of Southeast Asia. In Indonesia, Malaysia, Brunei, Singapore, and Thailand, Malay is spoken as a home language; while, in the Philippines, Cambodia, and Vietnam, Malay is spoken by some communities as a second or third language. The Malay World, then, straddles two regions usually identified separately in surveys of Southeast Asian ethnic groups: Mainland Southeast Asia (LeBar, Hickey, and Musgrave, 1964) and Insular Southeast Asia (LeBar 1972). 1 This orientalistic bipartition rests on significant differences among the hundreds of languages of the region as well as complex patterns and traditions of language use. Malay is sited in this complex ecology as the main language of Southeast Asia.