08 October 2011

Txtng in Malay

It is fascinating how young people play with the language, especially shortening it, when they send text messages. And we might ask whether different groups use different abbreviations.

My Year 1 student, Nurul Radhiah binti Mohd Mussadik, who is originally from Malaysia, gave me this example:
nk g mkn x
which is the abbreviated form of:
nak pergi makan tak ('do you want to go and eat?')
For nak ('want') and makan ('eat'), just the vowels are omitted; for pergi ('go'), the letter 'g' is used to represent the prominent final syllable of the word; and for tak ('not'), an 'x' is used to represent the ✘ symbol to indicate something is incorrect.

What is further interesting is whether Bruneians can understand this. A UBD Masters student, Diyana, looked at it and read 'g' as lagi ('again') rather than pergi, and 'x' as kali ('times') rather than tak; so she was unable to understand it. This suggests that there are substantial differences between the texting of Malays in Brunei and Malaysia.

Finally, we might note that 'g' for pergi and lagi is in both cases using one letter to represent the final syllable of a word; and 'x' for tak and kali is in both cases using one letter to represent a non-verbal symbol. But the meaning that is represented by these single letter abbreviations is different for Brunei and Malaysia.


  1. ouh? that surprises me. I thought the so-called 'texting language', especially in Malay, is somewhat common within Malaysia-Brunei-Singapore-Indonesia region, no?

    need to do more reading on this...hm~

  2. I'm Bruneian. Mentally I was reading it with a Malaysian accent. Though I think this is in large part because you stated "Malaysian student" before giving the example. But even if you didn't, I think the 'nk' was a giveaway for me. 'nk' isn't a word commonly used verbally, what more in text messages. 'Nak' is something I would commonly associate with Malaysian Malay. But then again, that's just my 2cents.

  3. I'm a Malaysian Malay, I think in Malaysia, it is common to shorten "pergi" to "gi" in informal coversations, but one doesn't normally use "gi" for "lagi" even when it is informal. Can it be because "pergi" is a verb and "lagi" is more of a "function word"?