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The Malay is the principal vernacular tongue used by the people who inhabit that vast region and chain of islands comprehended between ninety-three and one hundred and thirty-five degrees of East longitude, a space of about two thousand two hundred and twenty miles; and extending from fourteen degrees North to eleven degrees of South latitude, comprehending twenty-five degrees, about one thousand seven hundred and forty miles. This vast extent of country over which the language is spoken includes the peninsula of Malacca, the islands of Sumatra, Java, Borneo, Maccasser, Balee, Cumbava, Sallayer, Bootoon, Booro, Ceram, Pulo Pinang, the Moluccas, and innumerable others.

The Malays have not any proper national character, except that which has been introduced by the Mohammedan priests, who have from time to time settled in the peninsula of Malacca and the adjacent islands; therefore it resembles the Arabic Nishki alphabet, excepting some slight alteration to express a sound which the Arabians had no character to delineate. In conformity then with the principal of the Eastern nations, Arabians, Turks, Persians, &c. they read from the right hand to the left.

The acute accent (') is always used to mark a very long sound of the vowel over which it is placed; but when inserted after a consonant, it shows that the syllable ends with it.

The Malay Alphabet

Malay Alphabet
Chart of the Malay Alphabet in image mode Enlarge

In the above alphabetical arrangement, the second and fourth columns from the right hand are used only when they are connected with a preceding letter; as, banyak banyak, many. Every letter should be connected with that which follows it, except these five: aulif aulif, aulif dal, aulif ré, aulif zé, and aulif vau; neither of which can possibly be joined to the following letter.

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