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.


Maluku Province. Central area: Ambon, Haruku, Nusa Laut, and Saparua islands; coastal areas of Seram island. Southern area: northwest Aru island group, Wamar island. Also in Netherlands, United States.

Language Status

3 (Wider communication).


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

Many L2 speakers. Also use Indonesian [ind] or an indigenous language of Maluku.

Language Development
Literacy rate in L1: 1%–5%. Literacy rate in L2: 50%–75%. New media. Dictionary. Grammar. Bible portions: 2007–2010.
Latin script.
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.