Malay, Ambonese


A language of Indonesia

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

1,600,000 in Indonesia, all users. L1 users: 200,000 in Indonesia (1987 J. Collins). L2 users: 1,400,000 (2013 M. Connor). Total users in all countries: 1,650,000 (as L1: 250,000; as L2: 1,400,000).


Maluku province: Kepulauan Aru regency, Aru island group, Wamar island; Seram Bagian Barat regency, Ambon city, Kamarian to Seriholu on Hoamoa peninsula; Maluku Tengah regency, Nusa Laut island, upper Elpaputih bay east to Sepa; Ceram sea coast from Karlutu east to Sawai.

Language Status

3 (Wider communication). Became an LWC through trade, and is used in inter-cultural communication, 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 Alune [alp], 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%. 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 1991a, Grimes 1991b, Holm 1989) and as Austronesian with contact features (Collins 1980, Gil 2001, Wolff 1988). Christian, Muslim.

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