Malay, Ambonese


A language of Indonesia

Alternate Names
Ambonese, Ambong, Malayu Ambon, Moluccan (Maluku) Malay

200,000 in Indonesia (1987 J. Collins). Population total all countries: 245,020. L2 users: 1,400,000 in Indonesia (2013 M. Connor).


Maluku Province, central area: Ambon, Haruku, Nusa Laut, and Saparua islands, coastal areas of Seram island; southern area: northwest Aru island group, Wamar island.

Language Status

3 (Wider communication).Became an LWC through trade, and is used in inter-cultural ommunication, market, and some media.


Dobo Malay. Marginal intelligibility with Indonesian [ind]. Difficult intelligibility with North Moluccan Malay [max]; speakers switch to Indonesian. Lexical similarity: 81% with Indonesian [ind]. Banda Malay [bpq] may best be considered a dialect of Moluccan Malay [max].

Language Use

Also use Dutch [nld], Indonesian [ind]. Used as L2 by Aputai [apx], Buru [mhs], Dai [dij], Dawera-Daweloor [ddw], Dobel [kvo], Fordata [frd], Galolen [gal], Haruku [hrk], Ili’uun [ilu], Imroing [imr], Laha [lhh], Lisabata-Nuniali [lcs], Lola [lcd], Luang [lex], Luhu [lcq], North Babar [bcd], Perai [wet], Seit-Kaitetu [hik], Southeast Babar [vbb], Tela-Masbuar [tvm], Tugun [tzn], Wemale [weo], West Masela [mss], West Tarangan [txn], Yamdena [jmd].

Language Development
Literacy rate in L1: 1%–5%. Literacy rate in L2: 50%–75%. New media. Dictionary. Grammar. Bible portions: 2007–2012.

Latin script [Latn].

Other Comments

Developed from Sabah Malay [msi] and still reflects some archaic forms. Further diverged by adapting to the vernaculars of central Maluku. Many varieties of trade Malay are considered Malay-based creoles (Grimes 1988, 1991; Holm 1989) and as Austronesian with contact features (Collins 1980; Gil 2001; Wolff 1988). Christian, Muslim.