05 February 2012

Pusat Rujukan Persuratan Melayu

There is a splendid on-line resource for looking up words in Malay: Pusat Rujukan Persuratan Melayu ('Malay Literature Reference Centre'). Not only are the explanations, often in both Malay and English, pretty good, but lots and lots of valuable examples of actual usage are also provided.

For example, this morning I wanted to look up muafakat, a word that occurs in the main headline on the front page of today's Media Permata; and I easily found that it means 'to agree with' or 'to be in accord with', with plenty of good examples of how it is used.

One thing that is interesting about the entries in this resource is the widespread use of abbreviations. For example:
  • dengan ('with') is always written as 'dgn'
  • yang ('which', 'who') is written as 'yg'
  • kepada ('towards') is 'kpd'
and many, many more. The basic rule seems to be that all vowels are omitted, and 'ng' is simplified to 'g', though I am sure this is too simplistic.

Given that such abbreviations seem to be sanctioned by the compilers of official dictionaries, does that mean that teachers of Malay in schools are less opposed to the use of SMS-style abbreviations among their pupils than their English-medium colleagues? There seems to be a widespread (but probably unfounded) fear that use of SMS abbreviations is undermining the ability of children to write properly in English. Does the same concern affect Malay? Or are Malay teachers more relaxed about the issue?


  1. It does bring headache. Dealing with today's children's essays is never as easy as it used to be.

    Because of the emergence of technology and social media, the beauty of languages has become deteriorated. A 10-year-old pupil writes his essay in Malay and English - both are carved with acronyms, short-forms, abbreviated and blended words.

    Language teachers are restless over this problem. I'm not sure about Brunei. But here in Malaysia, using simplified and abbreviated words in academic writing is trending widely. And it's worrying.

  2. That's interesting. You say it "is never as easy as it used to be". But do we really have any evidence that it used to be easier?

    There are two schools of thought over this: SMS language is destroying the ability of children to write; and SMS language is encouraging children to write. In support of the second viewpoint is the fact that much of SMS language is phonologically sophisticated, so l8 (for 'late') requires children to realise that 'eight' and 'late' rhyme, which is immensely helpful for literacy.

    So, is SMS language really destroying the ability of children to write? We really don't know. Most teachers seem to believe it is; and who am I to dispute that? But I would like to see some solid evidence for it.

  3. Haha. The schools of thought you mentioned are both true. In my humble opinion, we do encourage children to write. And yes, SMS language is somewhat helpful in promoting writing skill among and within school children.

    However, I think we need to guide today's learners how to accommodate "where and when" they can use SMS language, and where and when they should/must use proper or standard language.

    Destroying is a big word. For SMS Language, creativity is there. But I can't deny the fact that it has somehow gone a little bit overboard. But then again, it's just a small chunk of my humble opinion. Evidence? I would love to see some as well. =)

  4. What you say is exactly right: we have to teach children what is appropriate in each situation. And if we can get home the message that SMS-style abbreviations are not suitable for formal writing, then the fact that they occur elsewhere may not be a problem.