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National Language Planning and Language Shifts in Malaysian Minority Communities

National Language Planning and Language Shifts in Malaysian Minority Communities: Speaking in Many Tongues

Dipika Mukherjee
Maya Khemlani David
Copyright Date: 2011
Pages: 208
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  • Book Info
    National Language Planning and Language Shifts in Malaysian Minority Communities
    Book Description:

    Controversies and problems with regard to language policy and language education still exist in Malaysia. Despite the attempts of language policy makers to promote multilingualism, the implementation has been marred by political and religious affiliations. Malaysia is a melting pot of many different cultures and ethnicities, the three largest being Malay, Chinese and Indian. Therefore, an analysis of the language variation in this polyglot nation will help in understanding the variety of languages and those who speak them. This book gathers the work of researchers working in the field of language change in Malaysia for over two decades. As there is no book published internationally on the language policy in Malaysia and the effects on the language change in urban migrant populations, this book is a timely contribution not only to an understanding of Malaysian linguistic pluralism and its undercurrents, but also to an understanding of the Indian Diaspora. This title is available in the OAPEN Library -

    eISBN: 978-90-485-1338-3
    Subjects: Linguistics

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. 1-4)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. 5-6)
  3. Acknowledgements
    (pp. 7-8)
  4. Foreword
    (pp. 9-12)
    Richard Powell

    The above statements – the first from the most comprehensive overview of language planning to date, the second from one of the world’s leading proponents of language as a product of social life – serve as sober warnings to anyone tempted to believe that language is just another national resource manageable via top-down controls over supply and demand. Language is indeed a resource, as can be seen from the huge income that English language teaching and English medium education generate for many anglophone nations or by the explosion in Mandarin studies that has accompanied the rise of the Chinese economy....

  5. Introduction: Language Policies at Variance with Language Use in Multilingual Malaysia
    (pp. 13-22)
    Dipika Mukherjee and Maya Khemlani David

    Most research focuses on government-determined language policies. However, it is important to evaluate language choices and language use by the common man, too, as inconsistency between the two can lead to unrest. Language planning and policy has never been an easy task for those involved in it. Whatever planning or policy is specifically utilised in choosing the national language or official language, the consequences are crucial because they affect not only a few individuals but the entire nation. The selection process is a crucial imperative, for it involves social and political factors. It must be noted that whatever language is...

  6. 1 The Importance of Ethnic Identity when Language Shift Occurs: A Study of the Malaysian Iyers
    (pp. 23-42)
    Lokasundari Vijaya Sankar

    The population of Malaysia is ethnically and linguistically heterogenous. It is made up of Bumiputra (65.1%) of whom the Malays are the majority, Chinese (26%), Indians (7.7%) and other ethnic groups (Table 1.1). The Malaysian Iyers are a part of the Malaysian Indian community and make up approximately 0.09% of the Indian population in Malaysia. Their mother tongue is Tamil, although they speak a variety known as Iyer Tamil (see Bright & Ramanujam 1981: 2; Karunakaran & Sivashanmugam 1981: 59; Varma 1989: 188).

    Research shows that there is a significant shift to English and Malay among minority Indian communities in Malaysia from...

  7. 2 Ethnic Identity in the Tamil Community of Kuching
    (pp. 43-58)
    Maya Khemlani David, Caesar Dealwis and Ponmalar N Alagappar

    Among the three main ethnic groups in Malaysia (the Malays, Chinese and Indians), Malaysian Indians are considered a minority. Despite being the majority minority, the Malaysian Indians have little political clout, and as a community they have increasingly little or no influence on public policy decision making (Appudurai & Dass 2008). The Indian migrants were brought into Malaya either as “labour” or “non-labour”. The “labour” migrants were mainly from South India and the “non-labour” migrants – known as the “literate” Indians (including Sikhs) – came from Ceylon, South India and North India to mainly man the administrative, technical, defense and security...

  8. 3 Do Exogamous Marriages Result in Language Shift? Focus on the Sindhis of Kuching, Malaysia
    (pp. 59-70)
    Maya Khemlani David and Caesar Dealwis

    Malaysia is a multi-ethnic, multilingual country with a population of 26.64 million (as of 2006) and at least a hundred languages. Of the total population of Malaysia, Bumiputras (Malays and other indigenous groups) comprise 65.1%, Chinese 26.0% and Indians 7.7% (Census Malaysia, 2002). While the Malays who form the majority of the population are indigenous, the non-Malays (i.e., the Chinese and the Indians) are considered immigrant communities since many of their ancestors were encouraged by the British colonial regime to move to Malaysia. Within each of the three main ethnic groups, a variety of languages and dialects are used. Furthermore,...

  9. 4 Malaysian-Filipino Couples and Language Choice: Heritage Language or International Language?
    (pp. 71-86)
    Francisco Perlas Dumanig and Maya Khemlani David

    Malaysia is a multilingual and multicultural country where many people can speak two or more languages. Bahasa Malaysia (Malay) is the national and official language. However, English is widely spoken and used in various domains of communication by different ethnic groups. The educational system in Malaysia has considered the linguistic plurality of the people and introduced vernacular primary schools (David 2004b). At the secondary level, Bahasa Malaysia was the medium of instruction in all subjects in public or government schools until 2003, when English was introduced for the teaching of science and mathematics. With the increasing trend towards globalisation, the...

  10. 5 I am not English but my First Language is English: English as a First Language among Portuguese Eurasians in Malaysia
    (pp. 87-100)
    Stefanie Pillai and Mahmud Hasan Khan

    The origins of Eurasians of Portuguese descent (henceforth to be referred to as Portuguese Eurasians) can be traced back to the 16thcentury when the Portuguese arrived and subsequently controlled Malacca until 1641 when the Dutch took over (Fernandis 2000; Sta Maria 1982). During their conquest of Malacca, Portuguese men were encouraged to marry local women. The hybrid population they produced (Baxter 2005; Sta Maria 1982) became the probable ancestors of Portuguese Eurasians (Guisan 1999; O’Neill 1995 reproduced in Marbeck 1999). Along with the people of Portuguese descent, a Portuguese creole commonly known as Kristang (Baxter 2005) has survived more...

  11. 6 Language and Identity: Children of Indian Bidayuh Mixed Marriages
    (pp. 101-114)
    Caesar Dealwis and Maya Khemlani David

    Exogamous marriages are a common phenomenon in Sarawak, which has 27 different ethnic groups. Sarawak has a population of 2,071,506, and the Iban forms the majority with a population of 603,735, the Chinese 537,230, the Malays, 462,270, the Bidayuh, 180,753, the Melanau, 112,984, and other indigenous groups number 117,696. Sarawak Indians belong to the minority group with a population of 3,851 people (Department of Statistics Sarawak2008). The Indians in Kuching are currently second, third and fourth-generation descendants of Indian immigrants who came in the 1900s to work as labourers for the Public Works Department in Kuching, tea and coffee...

  12. 7 The Impact of Language Policy on Language Shifts in Minority Communities: Focus on the Malayalee Community in Malaysia
    (pp. 115-126)
    Mohana Nambiar

    Research has shown that language shift, eventually leading to language loss, is not limited to any one society; it occurs all over the world, especially in immigrant communities. For a multitude of reasons, communities, especially immigrant minorities, after a period of time, stop using their mother tongues in domains where they had previously used them in favour of other languages, usually those of the dominant communities. Studies on language shift/maintenance in multilingual and multiracial settings such as Malaysia (Nambiar 2007; Sankar 2004; Ramachandran 2000; Mohamad 1998; David 1996; and Lasimbang et al., 1992) have also indicated that minority immigrant communities...

  13. 8 My Son has to maintain his Language because that is his Culture: The Persistence and Adaptation of the Bengali Community in Malaysia
    (pp. 127-150)
    Dipika Mukherjee

    This research was conducted in the immigrant Malaysian-Bengali community in Malaysia. The language behaviour of fourteen women from this community of four hundred, over a time period of 19 months, was both observed and taped. This was the first sociolinguistic study of a migrant group in Malaysia (Mukherjee 1995; for later studies see David 1996 and David 2001). Therefore a qualitative study of the language patterns of fourteen women was conducted in great detail in order to come to a deeper understanding of the motivations behind their choice of code.

    The interview questions were divided into four main sections: background...

  14. 9 Intercultural Communication in Sarawak: Language Use of the Chinese-Speaking Communities
    (pp. 151-162)
    Su-Hie Ting

    Sarawak is a Malaysian state located on the island of Borneo, flanked by Malaysian Sabah in the northeast and Indonesian Kalimantan in the south. Sarawak has a population of 2.07 million (Department of Statistics Malaysia2009). The largest ethnic group in Sarawak is the Iban, which makes up 29.1% of the Sarawak population, followed by the Chinese (25.9%) and the Malays (22.3%). After these major ethnic groups, the second largest indigenous group after the Iban is the Bidayuh (8.1%), residing mainly in the Kuching and Kota Samarahan areas. The Melanau, Bisaya, Betawan, Kayan, Kedayan, Kelabit, Kenyah, Lahanan, Lun Bawang, Penan,...

  15. 10 Malay Javanese Migrants in Malaysia: Contesting or Creating Identity?
    (pp. 163-172)
    Jariah Mohd Jan

    Modernisation and globalisation has led to immigration and at times integration with the host society. In Asia, millions of migrants from less developed countries have left their home countries in search of better job opportunities and an improved lifestyle in foreign lands. A huge number of migrant workers, mainly from Indonesia, contribute extensively to the cultural diversity in Malaysia.

    Malaysia is a multi-ethnic and multi-cultural society, with three major ethnic groups: Malays, Chinese and Indians. Besides these three major races, there are also other ethnic groups and other indigenous people. The Javanese migrants from Indonesia constitute a large number in...

  16. 11 Conclusions: Multilinguality in the Malaysian Context of Nation-Building and Globalisation
    (pp. 173-184)
    Renate Kärchner-Ober, Dipika Mukherjee and Maya Khemlani David

    The Southeast Asian region has been multilingual for many centuries, and consequently, plurilingualism and multilingualism has been the norm for Southeast Asians for centuries. More recently, Tickoo (2006: 168) has described language educational matters within the South Asian region as “shortsighted”, as they show “disregard for the sociocultural contexts of the languages in use and also for the forces that contributed to language maintenance and shift”. At the same time, the presence of English and its varieties and functions in Southeast Asia has become a widely researched topic of scholars (Kachru & Nelson 2006).

    In present-day Malaysia, linguistic diversity can be...

  17. Contributors
    (pp. 185-188)
  18. Bibliography
    (pp. 189-202)
  19. Index
    (pp. 203-206)
  20. Back Matter
    (pp. 207-209)