The Thing About Malay Language

Wednesday, February 28, 2018

In Malay we have two common 1st person pronouns which are "Aku" and "Saya". But if you go to Terengganu and listen to how we speak you would notice that some of us use the word "Ambe" instead of "Aku" or "Saya". Lately, "Saya" is more commonly use. "Ambe" is usually used by older generation and sometimes only used within a certain group of speakers. I myself don't use "Ambe" that much for my dialect has been watered down by standard Malay.

"Ambe" is derived from the word "Hamba" and it is used to refer to a singular first person speaker. Back in the olden days, "Hamba" was used widely as the 1st person pronoun. If I'm not mistaken and correct me if I do, only Terengganu and Kelantan dialect still retain the use of word "Hamba" in daily conversation.

Now you might think, "What? Why are these people still use such an outdated and degrading word? Why not use "saya"? That is less degrading".

Well, you should know that "Saya" and "Hamba" bring about the same meaning. "Saya" is originated from the word "Sahaya" which translated to "slave". The word "Sahaya" itself is used in conjunction with the word "Hamba" to enforce its meaning. Pronunciation and spelling of words change with time; therefore, "ha" in "sahaya" is dropped to form a shorter word "saya".

Why not use "aku" instead?

In most Asian languages, there is level of politeness that needs to be observed when speaking. It is not as stringent as it is for the Korean speakers, but Malay do still preserves some level of politeness when speaking to different class of people. In formal setting, "Saya" is most commonly used while "Aku" is reserved for when speaking to someone close to you or when speaking politeness is not observed.

Let's go back to "Saya" and "Ambe". By using these words, it doesn't mean that you refer yourself as a slave. The word "Hamba" and "Sahaya" are used in the context of servant. When you speak to someone, you are serve your listener by communicating with them. It shows that you are keenly and politely communicating with them. This also shows that you place a certain amount of respect to them. This is because, Malay, as a culture, emphasizes courtesy in every activity. This is apparent even after hundreds of years, Malay still maintain this conduct in mean of language.

So why am I writing about this?
No reason. I just want to.



  1. Hamba sahaya. Ya, lama sudah tidak kedengaran sesiapa menyebutnya. Baguslah tuan hamba membuka bicara mengenai topik seperti ini :D

  2. Baru hamba tahu.. Menarik bacaan ini.. OvOd

  3. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  5. Wow.. Nice sharing.. baru tahu asal perkataan Saya tu dari Sahaya.. Tq..


The way you comment is so telling...


Part time normal, most of the time comic enthusiast. Almost always borderline crazy. Still experimenting with comic blogging. An engineer with a vision to not be taken seriously. Everything you read on this blog doesn't represent my gender, religion or profession as a whole. Other name you might associate with me are Deaday, DayGoon, JaeminGoon and *cough* Mona *cough*