Embracing the Past, Present and Future of Bahasa Malaysia


How has the national language evolved, and how will it continue to evolve? These are the questions that KATA KATA 2100 hopes Malaysians ask themselves during its month-long exhibit.

From its role as a regional lingua franca during the Malacca Sultanate to its present status as Malaysia’s national language, Bahasa Malaysia has evolved through exposure to different cultures over the centuries. It contains a rich mix of loan words borrowed from Sanskrit, Arabic, Persian, Portuguese, English, Tamil and Chinese. The political and social dynamics it has experienced and evolved within have been earth-shaking – from Islamisation to colonisation, migrant settlement to Westernisation and now, modern technology.

Dr Mustafa Kamal Anuar, a fellow and head of Nusantara Studies at Penang Institute, notes that Bahasa Malaysia’s continuous evolvement is dependent on its ability to adopt and adapt to the terminology of other languages.

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