Strength for Today and Bright Hope for Tomorrow

Volume 9 : 4 April 2009
ISSN 1930-2940

Managing Editor: M. S. Thirumalai, Ph.D.
Editors: B. Mallikarjun, Ph.D.
         Sam Mohanlal, Ph.D.
         B. A. Sharada, Ph.D.
         A. R. Fatihi, Ph.D.
         Lakhan Gusain, Ph.D.
         K. Karunakaran, Ph.D.
         Jennifer Marie Bayer, Ph.D.



  • We seek your support to meet the expenses relating to the formatting of articles and books, maintaining and running the journal through hosting, correrspondences, etc.Please write to the Editor in his e-mail address to find out how you can support this journal.
  • Also please use the AMAZON link to buy your books. Even the smallest contribution will go a long way in supporting this journal. Thank you. Thirumalai, Editor.

In Association with




  • E-mail your articles and book-length reports in Microsoft Word to
  • Contributors from South Asia may send their articles to
    B. Mallikarjun,
    Central Institute of Indian Languages,
    Mysore 570006, India
  • Your articles and booklength reports should be written following the MLA, LSA, or IJDL Stylesheet.
  • The Editorial Board has the right to accept, reject, or suggest modifications to the articles submitted for publication, and to make suitable stylistic adjustments. High quality, academic integrity, ethics and morals are expected from the authors and discussants.

Copyright © 2008
M. S. Thirumalai


A Study of English Loan Words in
Selected Bahasa Melayu Newspaper Articles

Shamimah Binti Haja Mohideen, M.HSc. (TESL)



At present there are around 6000 languages spoken in the world and every language has its own distinct vocabulary containing thousands of words. Speakers of each of these languages are in contact with others who speak different languages. It has been found that when languages come into contact, there is transfer of linguistic items from one language to another due to the borrowing of words (Ansre, 1971; Hock, 1986; Bokamba, 1988; B. Kachru, 1989; Y. Kachru, 1982; Mkude, 1986; Pandharipande, 1982; Thomason and Kaufman, 1988; Viereck and Bald, 1986, Weinreich, 1953.) Expansion in vocabulary where new words enter a language is a natural consequence of language contact situations (Bloomfield, 1933; Hock, 1976; Aitchison, 1985; B. Kachru, 1986 and Bokamba, 1988;). Speakers learn words that are not in their native language, and very frequently, they tend to be fond of some of the words in other languages and 'borrow' them for their own use.

According to Hock (1986: 380), "the term 'borrowing' refers to the 'adoption of individual words or even large sets of vocabulary items from another language or dialect." This process is called borrowing although the lending language does not lose its word, nor does the borrowing language return the word. A better term might be 'copying' but 'borrowing' has long been established in this sense and words that are borrowed are called loan words (Trask, 1996).

According to Kachru (1994) who is one of the experts in the area of contact linguistics, there are essentially two hypotheses about the motivations for the lexical borrowing in languages. One is termed the 'deficit hypotheses' and the other one is the 'dominance hypothesis.' In the words of Kachru (1994: 139), "the deficit hypothesis presupposes that borrowing entails linguistic 'gaps' in a language and the prime motivation for borrowing is to remedy the linguistic 'deficit', especially in the lexical resources of a language." This means that many words are borrowed from other languages because there are no equivalents in a particular borrowing language. For example, one will need to borrow words when s/he needs to refer to objects, people or creatures which are peculiar in certain places, which do not exist in his/her own environment and is not significant in the lives of his/her community, so no names have been given to refer to those things. Examples of such words are kookaburra (a kind of animal) that English has borrowed from a native Australian language, Wiradhuri, and chipmunk, from Alqonquian, an Amerindian language. Lexical borrowing also applies to cultural terms relating to food, dress, music, etc peculiar to certain groups of people. English has borrowed musical terms from Italian such as soprano and tempo, culinary terms from French include casserole, fricassee, au gratin, puree and sauté (Jackson, 2002).

Conversely, some other languages have borrowed English words relating to entertainment, sports and words regarding Western culture. The Czech language has borrowed a lot of English sports terms such as 'football,' 'hockey' and 'tennis' (Vachek, 1996) Japanese has borrowed the words 'baseball,' 'table tennis,' and'golf.'. The women's magazines in Japan have borrowed English terms for cosmetics and modern fashion (Ishiwata, 1986). Words are also borrowed for new concepts and ideas for which there are no local equivalents. This especially happens when a particular concept is introduced in a particular country. For example, some mathematical concepts such as algebra and algorithm were introduced by the Arabs. Glasnost was taken into English from Russian a few years ago to denote the new political and social climate initiated by President Gorbachov in the former USSR. This borrowing is seen in education and specialized areas also (Trask, 1996).

In Higa's view (1979: 378), "the 'dominance hypothesis' presupposes that when two cultures come into contact, the direction of culture learning and subsequent word-borrowing is not mutual, but from the dominant to the subordinate." The borrowing is not necessarily done to fill lexical gaps. Many words are borrowed and used even though there are native equivalents because they seem to have prestige. This is the case in a prolonged socio-cultural interaction between the ruling countries and the countries governed. An example of the dominance hypothesis is when in the past, the English used to borrow a lot of words from the languages of their colonizers, particularly from French. Later, when the English became very powerful, they colonized many other countries around the world. The people from these countries borrowed English words into their languages. At present, since the English speaking countries have become advanced, and the English language is one of the most influential languages of the world, English lends words to other languages more than it borrows. This contact between a language and English is termed 'Englishization' (Kachru, 1994).

The number of loan words or the domains the loan words are from is determined by the degree of influence a language has on another language. For example, in the Philippines, there are more loan words from Spanish compared to English since the country was once colonized by Spain. The words from Spanish have influence in religion, social organization, law and government (Bautista, 1986).

In Malaysian history, Hinduism was the religious belief of Malays before Islamic spread to the Malay Empire. This explains the Indian influence where there are many loan words from Tamil and Sanskrit in Bahasa Melayu. After the arrival of Islam, a lot of Arabic words were borrowed for religious use. English is the third most important influence on Malay after Sanskrit and Arabic. English was imported to Malaysia through colonization, especially in the education system where the medium of instruction has been in English. Then, the early post-independence period focused on introducing and implementing Malay as the national language and medium of instruction in schools.

The medium of instruction from primary up to tertiary level in the Malay language had to be fully established if the language was to be capable of functioning as a medium of teaching. Therefore, it needed to be modernized in order to create a scientific and technical discourse for the Malay language. Its vocabulary had to be widened so that new ideas in various specialized fields including science and technology could be expressed by borrowing or adjusting English phonemes, morphemes, phrases or sentences to be inserted within the Malay language (Asmah Hj Omar: 1984: 15).

The policy of changing the medium of instruction from English to Malay has forced translation (mainly from English into Malay) to the forefront as it was crucial that science and technological information and information from other specialized areas be made available in Malay. This is when the borrowing of English words into Bahasa Melayu began. When there were no Malay equivalents for some of the English words, the words were left without being translated and instead, were borrowed for academic use. Examples of English loan words in Bahasa Melayu are petroleum, diesel, zink, elektronik, telekomunikasi, debit, kredit, invois, import, eksport, birokrasi, korporat, insentif, ego, kaunseling, etc. Such adaptation led to the expansion of the Malay vocabulary and this was given the most attention by the language planning committee. The Terminology Committee was set up to deal with the introduction of foreign words into Malay (Quah, 1999).

At present, Bahasa Melayu has found a way to further expand its linguistic resources by being in contact with English as the latter is a language of wider communication and the countries in which it is a native language possess highly advanced technology and modernized systems of communication than before. This is due to the move from an agricultural to a technology-based economy. There is mass import of English loan words, particularly in the areas of science and industry. This can be seen in many Bahasa Melayu books and the mass media.

This study will provide further insights into the understanding of the functions of English loanwords in the general process of discourse production in Bahasa Melayu. It will be conducted by a method of textual analysis of English loan words in selected Bahasa Melayu newspaper articles. The printed media is chosen because it reaches a large number of people from all walks of life and it is one of the most accessible and referred source of information The study will have as its corpus Berita Harian and Utusan Melayu. The aim of this study is to illustrate further some processes and tendencies of borrowing English words into Bahasa Melayu, at the present time. The study will examine motivations of lexical borrowing from English into Malay and the effect of the loanwords on speakers/readers and their attitude towards loanwords.


Currently, one can observe that there are many English loan words in Bahasa Melayu and this is seen in various reading materials such as books, newspapers, journals and magazines and the electronic media through television and radio programmes. The cry among the 'purists' is that the language has been too inundated with English words. When many English words enter a particular language, no doubt it will cause dissatisfaction among certain groups of people. For example, in Finland, there is a rather negative attitude towards the use of English elements, which are felt to merely have iconic functions (K. Sajavaara, in Viereck and Bald, 1986: 76). Berth (1957: 143). A German writer, felt that English elements could 'poison' the language because they are contrary to the spirit of the German language. In India, the position presented by Raghuvira (1965: 206-207) cited in Kachru (1994) was that Indians should have respect for their own languages and resist the thralldom of European languages. Purists everywhere emphasize on local cultural identities, as opposed to cultural and linguistic pluralism in which English is one of the partners.

Those with the opposing views, on the other hand, consider English as part of the local literary and linguistic traditions. To them, Englishization is not a 'deficiency' or 'decay' as it has been viewed (Hock, 1986; B. Kachru, 1989; and Y. Kachru, 1989); rather, it is a sign of linguistic innovation. Ferguson (1968: 28) cited in Kishe (1994) noted that when a language is extended for new functions and topics, linguistic resources expand to meet the new demands. Because of development in science and technology, education, business, etc, there are a lot of new phenomena and therefore, new concepts had to be introduced. To express these concepts for which there is no suitable local equivalent, when the local equivalent may alter the meaning and fail to communicate messages effectively, speakers of other languages would have to borrow the English terms until they create their own terms.

According Kishe (1994), in her article 'The Englishization of Tanzanian Kiswahili,' certain groups of Kiswahili speakers, mainly educators, feel that the Englishization of Kiswahili is indispensable considering the role English has as a language of specialization, and its usefulness as a source of vocabulary and new ideas with which to express meanings more precisely. According to them, Englishization is a valid process for modernization, which becomes necessary if the language is to communicate certain current ideas and information. However, between the purists today and the pro- English advocates, there is a debate on the question whether 'modernization' necessarily entails 'westernization' and 'Englishization.'

With the Malay speakers and writers too, some English concepts are difficult to translate into or express in Malay. Either the concepts do not have Malay equivalents or it would mean a cumbersome task of paraphrasing the meaning of the word into Malay. This is the case with the words spekulasi, resolusi, inflasi, didaktik, dinamit, roket, reaksi and reformasi (Quah, 1999). As far as the purists are concerned, if there is yet no suitable Malay words for such concepts, it would be better to go to other sources such as Indonesian, Arabic and Sanskrit or create new words in Malay itself rather than to depend heavily on English as the language clearly has done. However, as far as the man in the street is concerned, it is so much easier to use the English word, which is so near at hand, than search for some other word which may not be as appropriate for expressing concepts which are after all, long linked with English.

The argument by the 'non- purists' earlier was on the importance of English loan words to convey information in specialized areas and to fill 'gaps.' However, at present, English has much more influence and power in the less dominant languages. The use of English loans are no longer restricted to educational areas and areas of specialization. The use is no longer restricted to registers or to refer to Western cultural terms. In the Malay mass media, many English words are used even though there are Malay equivalents. For example, the word registrasi (registration) is sometimes used instead of the Malay equivalent 'pendaftaran.' Examples of other words that have Malay equivalents are dialek (logat), kos (harga), komunikasi (perhubungan), geografi (ilmu alam) and situasi (keadaan) ( Wong, 1986 ).

This phenomenon of using English words although there are local equivalents can also be observed in some other languages because of the great influence English has on these languages and their speakers. Many non-purists in countries where English is the second language seem to find the English alternatives better possibly due to psychological reasons among which English words trigger thoughts of modernity or sophistication. Japanese studies have shown that in certain contexts the English alternative is believed to be more effective in conveying messages.

One of the concerns of this study is to what extent speakers can 'Anglicize' their languages or reject English elements. Should a language be kept pure at the expense of effective communication? Or if Englishization entails 'modernization', should a language be modernized at the expense of its identity? With these questions in mind, the researcher will observe ways in which the English loan words have facilitated communicating messages in Bahasa Melayu and ways in which it has interfered with the language.


The study will address the following questions:

1. What are the loan words often used in the selected texts and what is their frequency?
2. What might be the justification of the writers in using English loan words with Malay equivalents in their articles?
3. What are the readers' and writers' attitude towards the use of such English loanwords?


1. To identify the kinds of loan words used in Bahasa Melayu.
2. To analyze the writers' purpose of using the English lexical items in their Bahasa Melayu articles.
3. To find out the writers' attitude and the readers' response towards the use of English loan words with Malay equivalents.


This study will develop further the studies conducted by Hayashi & Hayashi (1995), who analyzed speakers' motivation in using English loan words, Abdullah (1995), who identified the use of English loan words with Malay equivalents in Bahasa Melayu newspapers, Bobda (1994), Leitner & Sieloff (1998) and others by combining their methodologies and provide a wide source of information.

From this study, one will be able to further understand the process of linguistic transfer between English and Bahasa Melayu and the importance of English lexical resources as the 'giver' language in certain areas and be aware of the lexical gaps in Bahasa Melayu in certain areas that needs to be filled. Understanding functional dimensions for the lexicalization from English in written discourse, particularly in applied linguistics or any educational and informative materials can create awareness among the purists that not all English words 'poison' a language and the borrowing of certain English lexical items can enrich the vocabulary of a language in order to be able to express things one normally cannot express in Bahasa Melayu.

There is a cultural and historical importance of providing an exhaustive record of the appearance of each loan word in a language because words embody facts of history and record great social evolutions and feelings in nations. Much may be learned by noting the words which one particular nation has been obliged to borrow from other nations. Drawing conclusions on the kinds of the lexical gap in Bahasa Melayu and the nature of English lexical borrowing can enable a person to interpret the social, cultural and educational development in Malaysia. Apart from understanding the semantic functions of loan words, one will also be able to interpret the communicative function and the nature of language contact.

The findings from this study can draw the attention of English teachers on the English loan words and loan registers that are normally found in educational Bahasa Melayu articles so that they can make use of the English loans to teach English vocabulary. In this way, the students will be able to understand concepts that come from the English language when they read Bahasa Melayu reading materials.

The results from this study can also help us understand the process of linguistic transfer and the problem of linguistic interference (where the English words intrude into Bahasa Melayu.) This research will raise awareness on word borrowability so that writers will be more selective in borrowing English words and make sure that English words are borrowed only to fill in the 'gap' in Bahasa Melayu lexical resources. It is hoped that from this study, writers will understand the difference between linguistic 'transfer' and linguistic 'influence' and control the English 'influence' on Bahasa Melayu.

This research can be further developed in other studies of Englishization, particularly in the linguistic transfer from English, a language of advanced English-speaking countries, to languages of developing countries. Such studies can also find out the influence of English lexical items in domains other than specialized areas and Western culture and find out if the Englishization has extended from English 'transfer' to English 'influence' or power. There can also be a comparison of English influence on languages of former colonies and those that are not of former colonies.

This is only the beginning part of the dissertation. PLEASE CLICK HERE TO READ THE DISSERTATION IN PRINTER-FRIENDLY VERSION.

Mean Length of Utterance and Syntax in Konkani | A Study of English Loan Words in Selected Bahasa Melayu Newspaper Articles | Verb Reduplication in Tamil and Telugu | The Relevance and Usefulness of European Literature for Innovations in Indian Literature - A Review | Girish Karnad as a Modern Indian Dramatist - A Study | Code Switching and Code Mixing Among Oriya Trilingual Children - A Study | T. S. Eliot - A Universal Poet With Appeal to Indian Spirituality | Academics' Perceptions of Reading and Listening Needs for English for Specific Purposes - A Case from National University of Malaysia | Perspectives on Teaching English Literature to English Literature Major Students | Myths and Legends in the Plays of Girish Karnad | Acoustic Correlates of Stress in Konkani Language | Compassion - Leo Tolstoy's Philosophy as Seen in His War and Peace | Role of Space in the Narratives of Bharathi Vasanthan, A People's Writer from Puducherry | Teaching English in Multiracial and Multilingual Nations - A Review of Maya Khemlani David's Book, A Guide for the English Language Teacher | HOME PAGE of April 2009 Issue | HOME PAGE | CONTACT EDITOR

Shamimah Binti Haja Mohideen, M.HSc. (TESL)
Center for Foundation Studies
International Islamic University
  • Send your articles
    as an attachment
    to your e-mail to
  • Please ensure that your name, academic degrees, institutional affiliation and institutional address, and your e-mail address are all given in the first page of your article. Also include a declaration that your article or work submitted for publication in LANGUAGE IN INDIA is an original work by you and that you have duly acknolwedged the work or works of others you either cited or used in writing your articles, etc. Remember that by maintaining academic integrity we not only do the right thing but also help the growth, development and recognition of Indian scholarship.