Malay, Sabah


A language of Malaysia

Alternate Names
Bazaar Malay, Pasar Malay, Sabah Malay Dialect
Bahasa Sabah

3,000,000 (2013 SIL), all users. L1 users: Mostly second-language speakers, but growing number of L1 speakers (2015 J.K.L. Wong). Ethnic population: No ethnic community (2015 J.K.L. Wong).



Language Status

3 (Wider communication). Used throughout the state of Sabah in virtually all non-formal domains. Estimated more than half (60%) of Sabah population, and almost all other language groups use Sabah Malay.


A member of macrolanguage Malay [msa].



Language Use

Widely spoken in Sabah, beginning as a lingua franca for interaction with other ethnic groups for trading purposes. Since then, its function as a trade language has expanded. There is an increasing number of L1 speakers, especially children of mixed-ethnic parentage. This happens more often in urban areas than rural areas where mono-ethnic groups are concentrated. Mixed use: Home, Friends, Religion, Work. Used by all. Mixed attitudes. Used as L2 by Abai Sungai [abf], Bonggi [bdg], Brunei [kxd], Bugis [bug], Cocos Islands Malay [coa], Gana [gnq], Hakka Chinese [hak], Ida’an [dbj], Iranun [ilm], Javanese [jav], Kadazan Dusun [dtp], Kalabakan Murut [kve], Keningau Murut [kxi], Kimaragang [kqr], Klias River Kadazan [kqt], Kolod Murut [kqv], Labuk-Kinabatangan Kadazan [dtb], Lamaholot [slp], Lanas Lobu [ruu], Lotud [dtr], Lundayeh [lnd], Mapun [sjm], Minokok [mqq], Molbog [pwm], Northern Tidung [ntd], Rungus [drg], Sabah Bisaya [bsy], Selungai Murut [slg], Sembakung Murut [sbr], Serudung Murut [srk], Southern Sama [ssb], Suluk [tsg], Tahol Murut [mvv], Tatana [txx], Timugon Murut [tih], Tobilung [tgb], Tombonuo [txa], Toraja [sda], Upper Kinabatangan [dmg], West Coast Bajau [bdr].

Language Development

The Sabah Malay orthography has not been standardized. Reading and writing is done using the Standard Malay [zsm] orthography. Literature. Radio. Videos.


Latin script [Latn].

Other Comments

Sabah Malay is a simplified variety of Standard Malay [zsm], greatly influenced by Malay Brunei [kxd]. It has adopted many lexical items from the indigenous languages of Sabah. Muslim, Buddhist, Christian, traditional religion.

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