M’sian Grammarian Fights Against The Switch From Bahasa Melayu to Bahasa Malaysia

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Professor Emeritus Datuk Asmah Omar

Malay language expert Professor Emeritus Datuk Asmah Omar said yesterday that the name Bahasa Melayu should not be substituted with Bahasa Malaysia.

At the International Symposium on Bahasa Melayu, the Malay grammarian said that changing the name of the language would completely erase its history.

She went on to say that the name of a language is significant since it contains information about its history, ethnic background, origin, and time span of usage.

“If Bahasa Melayu is replaced with another name, such as Bahasa Malaysia, then it will erase its origins and history,” stresses the expert during her speech at the Wisma Dewan Bahasa dan Pustaka yesterday.

This statement is supported by the fact that many countries around the world are still dealing with the effects of colonialism.

Currently, over 573 languages have been reported to have gone extinct.

The sacred language of Jainism, Buddhism, and Sikhism, known as Sanskrit, went extinct following the conclusion of the Muslim confinement and as soon as the British ruled over India.

Sanskrit text

Across the world, after the fall of the Temple in Jerusalem and the dispersal of the Israelites throughout Europe and North Africa, Biblical Hebrew began to see its demise.

All of these languages were widely spoken at one point in history, but they are hard to understand now.

If Bahasa Melayu is not adequately conserved, it is not impossible that it will face the same fate.

Interestingly, Professor Emeritus Datuk Asmah Omar also said that the term “Bahasa Malaysia” didn’t fit with what the Malay kings wanted.

“The use of the name Bahasa Malaysia which was not in accordance with the will of the Malay kings was used for only a short period of time with the aim of returning peace after the events of May 13, 1969,” she concluded.

The symposium was organised by the Prime Minister’s Office, Dewan Bahasa dan Pustaka, Institut Alam dan Tamadun Melayu, and Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia.

Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri Yaakob

It coincided with Prime Minister Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri Yaakob’s wish for the Malay language to be utilised as Asean’s lingua franca.