Malay, Ambonese


A language of Indonesia

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

1,600,000 in Indonesia, all users. L1 users: 200,000 (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 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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