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Factors Influencing the Language Choices of Malay Malaysians in the Family, Friendship and Market Domains

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Journal of Language and Linguistics Vol. 2 No. 2 2003 ISSN 1475 - 8989

Factors Influencing the Language Choices

of Malay Malaysians

in the Family, Friendship and Market Domains
Hafriza Burhanudeen

Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia

The multilingual and multicultural nature of Malaysians has been the focus of many scholars in the field of Southeast Asian sociolinguistics. This paper endeavours to contribute to the development of Malaysian sociolinguistics by discerning the interaction between the language behavior of the dominant ethnic group in Malaysia, the Malays, and their unique social and cultural identity. In this paper, this goal is fulfilled by providing a descriptive account of the language choices of 219 Malay Malaysians in the family, friendship and market domains. The linguistic and cultural characteristics that emerge from this study will lead to a better understanding of the ethnolinguistic vitality of the Malay Malaysian community.

1. Introduction and Background Information
Domain analysis is a popular choice for many scholars who choose to investigate a community's norms of language use. This paper, similarly, endeavours to use domain analysis to investigate the interactive effects of education, age, role-relationships and ethnicity on the language choices of Malay Malaysians in the family, friendship and market domains. Fishman (1972:435) defines domains as classes of situations, in which individuals interact in appropriate role relationships and discuss topics appropriate to their role relationships. Fishman (1972) further contends that different kinds of multilingual speech communities should benefit from domain analysis, whether the domains are defined intuitively, theoretically, or empirically because it illuminates factors concerning the circumstances, social or otherwise, in which languages are used "where," "when" and "why." In this paper, the domains investigated are defined inituitively by the writer, a member of the Malay Malaysian community. In addition, assumptions made about the language behaviour of the 219 subjects are also empirically tested. By combining qualitative and quantitative procedures, the paper aspires to firmly document the language and cultural norms of Malay Malaysians not only in relation to “where,” “when” and “why” but also the “how,” that is how these languages choices are communicated in the domains investigated in this paper.
Two criteria serve as relevant background information to the goal of this paper; firstly the effect of language planning on the role and status of the Malay and English language before and after independence from British colonialization and secondly, the types of language choices available to

Malay Malaysians. A description of the former is necessary to provide a framework that could account for and explain the possible differences in language choices among the older subjects in this study vis a vis the younger subjects due to the fact that the older participants of this study were educated entirely in English, or bilingually in English and Malay while the younger participants are currently being educated entirely in Malay. All this, plus other factors which will be discussed during data interpretation could influence the language choices of these Malay Malaysians. The function of the second criteria mentioned, that is, a description of the types of language choices available to Malay Malaysians is to highlight the salient features of each type of language choice available. This is considered important for two reasons; Firstly, as relevant background information to the goal of this paper and secondly, as reference when each type of language choice is indicated in the data interpretation section of this paper. Being bilingual, the language choices would be either English or Malay only.

We begin by providing a general description of the first criteria aforementioned, the effect of language planning processes on the role and status of the Malay and English language. The English language was introduced to Malaysia in the 1800s by British colonialization. During this period, the role and status of English was high being the language of government and education. English was also regarded as an indispensable requirement for social and economic mobility. Due to these roles, the learning and use of English was greatly pursued by members of the local multiracial population comprising of Malays, and Chinese and Indian immigrants.
The role and status of Malay, before the British presence in the 1800s was considerable in its functions as the language of administration, education, culture, literature and arts for the Malay archipelago since 7 A.D. These roles, however, declined drastically after British colonization. During this period, the role of Malay was confined to a language of primary education, daily use among the Malays, and an interethnic means of communication in several transaction domains such as the market place. These transaction domains, in diglossic terms, were regarded as low domains. Additionally, the variety of Malay used here was a sub-standard variety containing many features of the immigrant languages. Like Malay, the role of Chinese and Indian languages were largely confined to their respective communities.
Independence in 1957 saw a dramatic change again in the role and status of English and Malay. After independence, Malay was selected as the national language as a tool of integration for the different ethnic groups in Malaysia and as an official language for purposes of nation-building. The selection of Malay was primarily linked to the fact that it was indigenous to Malaysia, the language of the majority, the Malays, and that it existed as the language of administration long before the coming of any Western power. The major vehicle used, however, to ensure the growth and use of Malay was the selection of Malay as the language of education in addition to its role as national language. Beginning in 1957, too, English was gradually phased out as medium of education in favor of Malay. From 1957 to 1983, a bilingual system existed. After 1983, Malay was the sole language of education. This gradual process meant that Malaysians who were educated in the 60s and 70s would have had more exposure to English in the education system compared to those who went through an all Malay-medium education. Given all this, it is expected that the older participants of this study who were educated in the 70s and 80s would be more comfortable in English compared to the younger participants who were eduacted in Malay.
Next, the four major types of language choices frequently made by Malay Malaysians in various domains of language use are code-mixing, code-switching and the employment of different styles within the same language. Here, I use Asmah's (1982) definition of code-mixing and code-switching to discuss the language behavior of Malay Malaysians. According to Asmah, code-switching entails that the language codes are used intersententially whereas in code-mixing, the language codes are used intrasentially.
Examples of each are given below.
Code-switching among Malays can be illustrated as follows (Asmah, 1982:132). The English translation is mine.
Speaker A : Tuan Pengerusi, saya pada dasarnya menyokong pendapat Tuan Pengerusi itu tetapi saya ingin mencadangkan supaya peraturan ini di-kenakan secara beransur-ansur. We must be careful not to force the system all at once on the people.They are sure to reject it.
(Mr. Chairman, I support your views in principle but I would like to suggest that the implementation of the regulations be carried out gradually.

(We must be careful not to force the system all at once on the people. They are sure to reject it).

Speaker B : Yes, yes, I agree with you. Bagaimana pendapat yang lain?

(Yes, yes, I agree with you. How about hearing other opinions?)

Code-mixing among Malays, on the other hand, usually takes the form illustrated below (Asmah, 1982:132). The English translation is mine.
1) We are not testing apa yang diperolehi di university.

Knowledgewise, the clerks know better, kerana dia membaca.

(We are not testing what one gains in university. Know-

wise, the clerks know better because they read)

2) Daripada analysis yang dibuat, if we go by faculty, ada perbezaan.

(From the analysis that was done, if we go by faculty, there are differences)

The types of code-shifting shown above are appropriate in formal domains such as meetings and seminars. It is additionally vigorous in semi-formal domains viz. a group of Malay professionals arguing politics or work related issues over lunch and in informal domains such as the home and among friends. Here, code-mixing tends to occur at well defined points in a conversation and the shift in codes is marked by little or no hesitation.
Code-mixing and code-switching among Malays can also take the form of switching between the standard variety of Malay and a regional Malay dialect. Both types of switchings are characteristic of informal discourse between Malay speakers who come from different regions. In the urban area, the Malay bilingual, for example, will rarely mix the regional Malay variety and the standard Malay variety in a speech situation if he is overly concerned with his social and regional identity. However, if an occasion arises where a speaker switches to his regional dialect, both he and his interlocuter could be from the same region and hence share the same regional dialect, or the interlocuter could be from a different region, but has sufficient knowledge of the dialect directed at him to achieve membership and solidarity. I have been in a situation many times when I am with Malay friends from different regions in Malaysia. I would consciously switch to the regional Malay dialects of my friends to achieve rapport and familiarity. In turn, my friends would switch to my regional dialect to achieve equality. Thus, in a single speech situation, a variety of regional varieties can go back and forth between a group of people to heighten group solidarity such that sociocultural authenticity can be shared and exchanged. All this supports Giles and Powesland's (1975) theory of speech accomodation where in language choice an individual can induce the other to evaluate him more favorable by reducing the dissimilarities between them.

The employment of different styles within the same language here refers to the variety of styles ranging from formal to informal. Whether a formal of informal style is used would depend on the situation and the participants associated with the situation. For example, formal styles are appropriate in domains such as government and education whereas very informal English or Malay are usually used in situations where it is generally assumed that the participants are not educated beyond the primary level, for example, the market domain. As mentioned earlier, very informal Malay and English are the language choices with interlocuters who are assumed to have had only a primary education. Educated speakers will use these very informal forms with the former to reduce social and psychological distance for better communication and service. Instances such as these will be discussed in more detail during interpretation of data used for this study. Sometimes, however, bazaar English and Malay are used in the family and friendship domain for a humerous effect especially among siblings and friends of the same generation.

2. Methodology
Data was gathered from 219 Malaysian Malays between the ages of 16 and 35 years concerning their language choices in the family, friendship and market domains. Subjects between the ages of 16 and 19, henceforth referred to as students, were from these following schools:
1. St. Mary's Secondary School, Kuala Lumpur

2. Maxwell Secondary School, Kuala Lumpur

3. Pantai Secondary School, Kuala Lumpur
Participants between 20 to 35 years, henceforth referred to as professionals, included university lecturers, computer analysts, lawyers, journalists, diplomats, managers of various companies, and some lower on the occupational scale like clerks and secretaries.

Questionnaires were the principal instruments used in this study followed by interviews on a smaller scale to supplement information gathered through the questionnaires. Questionnaires for the student group were distributed by the researcher in person at each school while questionnaires for the professional group were distributed through a network of friends and family. The purpose of the questionnaire was to obtain feedback on the nature of language use among Malay Malaysians. Unstructured and informal interviews were carried out with each secondary school teacher that administered the survey in the three secondary schools investigated here, and with participants such as members of the family and friends to discuss any problems that arose while they carried out the survey, or about any other observations they had that would aid data analysis. Most of the interviews lasted about an hour. Finally, discreet observation of the interaction between interlocuters in the family, friendship and market domain was carried out by the researcher to aid data interpretation. Here, most of the interactions were noted and recorded surreptitiously by her. It is important to point out that although the language choices on the questionnaire do not indicate levels of formality, semi-formality and informality, these levels do exist during communication and will be included in the discussion where relevant.

A combination of parametric and non-parametric tests was used in this study. The Friedman analysis of variance was used to test assumptions in the family, market and friendship domain. Discussion of data obtained will be handled in two ways; firstly, a description of the domains to give readers, unfamiliar to the Malaysian situation, a general sense of what usually goes on in each domain. Second, a discussion of the quantitative results. These will be interpreted primarily by introspection. Used objectively, introspection is an efficient method of interpreting data that yields objective results. It draws on the inherent knowledge of a researcher already culturally and linguistically sensitive to a given community, thus reducing the need for error-prone postulating based on outside sources.
Saville-Troike (1982:110-111, 114) provides several advantages of studying one's own culture:
1) "One of the advantages of studying one's own culture,

and attempting to make explicit the systems of understanding

which are implicit, is that ethnographers are able to use

themselves as sources of information and interpretation."

2) "..acknowledges the member of the society as the repository of

cultural knowledge, and recognizes that the ethnographer

who already possesses this knowledge can tap it introspectively

validate, enrich, and expedite the task of ethnographic

3) "..some major questions regarding validity and reliability raised by the quantitatively oriented social sciences can be at least partially resolved."
4) "Combining observation and self-knowledge, the ethnographer can plumb the depths and explore the subtle interconnections of meaning in ways that the outsider could attain only with great difficulty, if at all."
5) "..some of the problems of verification can be overcome, and a corrective to unbridled speculation provided."
6) " outsider can really understand the meaning of interactions of various types within the community without eliciting the intuitions of its members."
The raw data reveals that the subjects' language choices are influenced by the setting, the degree of formality, whether the personal repertoires of the interlocuters are equal, age, ethnicity of interlocuter and education. For example, the subjects' preferred Malay with other Malays in the market domain but only 62 percent of the time with non-Malays in the same domain. In the family domain, formal varieties are preferred with grandparents and parents while an informal variety is preferred with siblings. Such comparisons lend support to my conviction that the subjects' language choices in a given situation is not arbitrary, but governed by certain norms of appropriate language use prevalent in the Malay society.

3. Data Analysis and Interpretation
The domains investigated in this study are the family domain, the market domain and the friendship domain.
3.1. The Family Domain
Four sub-domains can generally be found in Malay families. They are
1) Conversing with grandparents

2) Conversing with mother

3) Conversing with father

4) Conversing with siblings

3.1.1. Result and Discussion of Hypothesis Testing

The hypotheses that there is a difference in language use between the Malay subjects and the participants in the family domain depending on the family member was significant (Chi-square of ranks=17.41, df=3, p<.05)

Table 1

Malay always

English & Malay equally

English more than Malay

English always













































3.1.2. Summary and Discussion

The results show that the subjects’ prefer Malay with mothers, fathers, grandparents and siblings. However, the use of Malay is most dominant with grandparents followed by parents and least dominant with siblings. The use of English either monolingually or bilingually with Malay, on the other hand, is preferred most with siblings, and almost equally used with mothers and fathers.
Interaction with the older generation has to exude a certain degree of social distance, humility and deference to indicate respect for their age and authority. This is accomplished by being formal in language and in behaviour. This formality in language and behaviour is often accompanied by the lowering of one's voice and avoiding full eye contact. To do otherwise, such as using informal varieties and talking in a loud voice, would be considered rude in Malay society.
With the above in mind, the dominant use of Malay with grandparents is also influenced by the assumption that they are not likely to be proficient in English due to informal interview data indicating a Malay-medium education among the subjects’ grandparents. Hence, the use of formal Malay accompanied by the proper social norms stated above would be appropriate and polite. The table also shows small amounts of English being used with grandparents. This could be explained by the following reason. In the Malay community, the choice of a nursing home for the care of grandparents is socially and culturally unacceptable. Members of the grandparents' immediate family usually take turns to care for grandparents. Hence, grandparents may understand some English being constantly around some younger educated members of the family who would sometimes use English. However, the grandparents would most likely answer in Malay.

The use of Malay is primarily preferred with parents but not as dominant as its use with grandparents. This is because the use of English is also favored with parents. The subjects' primary use of Malay and some English with parents may be influenced by three reasons; the subjects' parents proficiency in English and Malay, the subjects' level of proficiency in English and Malay and the formality of this sub-family domain. First, a review of the subjects' parents occupation in the initial part of the questionnaire reveal that more than half hold jobs such as laborers, shopkeepers and hospital attendants, jobs that reflect holders possessing a low to lower-mid Malay-medium education level at best. Hence, the subjects' use of Malay with these parents would be the appropriate and polite choice. This would increase the tendency for Malay to be used in this sub-domain. On the other hand, there were some parents who were employed, for example, as lecturers, diplomats, architects, bank managers and engineers. These jobs demand a high educational level. Hence it is assumed that they are more bilingually competent in English and Malay. Therefore, the tendency to use English, either monolingually or bilingually with Malay, with these parents would be higher.

Second, the fact the Malay-medium educated students form the majority of this study's sample may have also increased the tendency for more Malay, compared to English, to be used with parents even if the parents spoke English at home. Third, the reason for more Malay is also closely related to the formality of the parental domain generally in Asian culture. Due to the formality of the parental domain, the appropriate linguistic behavior would be to avoid using very informal English or Malay or slang. Thus, subjects will tend to use the language in which they are most proficient with parents. Here, the data indicates that the student subjects will be inclined to use more Malay. The professional subjects, on the other hand, would be able to achieve formality levels in both English and Malay, but would probably use more Malay to accommodate the language in which their parents are most comfortable.

The subjects' language use with their educated siblings have an inclination to be more intimate, casual and informal as the interaction is considered to be among equals. The results show that the subjects' favor Malay about 58 percent of the time while English, bilingually with Malay or monolingually was preferred a total of about 41 percent of the time. Since the majority of the respondents are more comfortable in Malay compared to English, it is not surprising to see the preference for Malay with siblings. However, the increased disposition to use English with siblings, compared to its use with parents and grandparents, may be related to two factors; One, the topic of discourse and two, the informality of this sub-family domain. The influence of the first factor may be due to the fact that siblings tend to discuss issues related to love, relationships, music, movies, and television programs among themselves rather than with their parents or grandparents. These discussions increase the tendency for English, monolingually or bilingually with Malay, to be used. The fact that lexical gaps exist in Malay, especially in the field of science and technology enhances the use of English. Indeed, the professional subjects are expected to hold more debates about advances in science, technology and politics compared to the student subjects due to various fields in which they (the professionals) are involved such as engineering, computer science and journalism. This may have caused a rise in the tendency to use English. Second, the informality of this sub-domain encourages the use of more English because language appropriacy becomes less of a concern. Thus, for the student subjects, especially, interacting with their siblings about movies and television programs in less than perfect English would be acceptable. Though imperfect, the use of English, bilingually with Malay or monolingually would be a marker of equality and educational status.

3.2. The Market Domain

Market domains are established when members of the Chinese, Malay and Indian community, from various parts of town, congregate at semi-permanent or permanent, frequently open air areas to sell a wide range of relatively cheap multiethnic food or an assortment of goods such as padlocks, fabric, sewing materials, tapes and records, clothing and kitchen utensils to customers from all walks of life. Food areas normally have Malay stalls in one row, then Chinese, then Indian, not necessarily in this order. This is generally so to facilitate selection and purchase of food type by customers. Food is cooked over kerosene or gas stoves. This creates a noisy atmosphere due to the constant contact between iron or steel ladles against iron or steel pots and pans while cooking food. Service can be trying, especially during peak hours in the afternoons and evenings because customers have to compete with one another for the attention of a small number of waiters or waitresses. These waiters or waitresses either list customers' food orders on paper or shout out the orders to the cooks working nearby. The latter method seems preferred and, this adds to the din in the hawker area. Many hawker areas offer customers places to sit to enjoy the ordered food while it is fresh and piping hot. Despite the noise and heat constantly radiating from the gas and kerosene stoves, the food is not only good but cheaper compared to larger restaurants in the downtown area of the city. Additionally, the chance to have food at or near a food stall provides a casual atmosphere for customers to relax with family and friends.

Merchandise stalls are, however, generally interspersed throughout the area without regard to ethnic origin. This is because goods tend to be similar with variation only in terms of price unlike food which is prepared differently. In some areas, hawker activity takes place all day daily or two or three times a week while in others, it would begin daily in the evenings and often end as late as four or five in the morning.
Malays tend to gravitate more towards Malay stalls when it comes to buying merchandise and food. In the first instance, goods are bought from Malay buyers even though other ethnic groups offer comparable goods. A contributing factor for this tendency is the assumption that Malay sellers would sell goods to Malay buyers at a lower price because they "are one of us," a privilege not readily extended to non-Malay buyers. This not only economically motivate Malay buyers to purchase goods from Malay sellers but the mutual trust that results from such an action also serves to strengthen the existing social, cultural and linguistic bond between them. As a result, the process of haggling for a lesser price is kept at a minimum. On the other hand, the belief that the Chinese, especially, are economically more successful than the Malays makes many Malay buyers willing to buy goods at a higher price from Malay sellers to help improve Malay sellers' economic situation. This may occur despite the fact that some non-Malay sellers price similar items cheaper or have comparable items of better quality

The purpose of the discussion above is not to imply that successful economic interaction does not occur between Malays and non-Malays, only that an ethnic bias would tend to prevail when Malays patronize transaction domains.

Malays would also favor Malay stalls especially if they desired meat or poultry dishes. This is because of the "halal" concept in Islam. Halal is similar to keeping kosher in the Jewish tradition whereby all animals must be slaughtered in the name of God. Eating non-halal meat is considered "haram," a sin. Consuming pork or pork products is also prohibited in Islam. The uneasy feeling that pork may be used as fillers in rice and noodle dishes at non-Malay non-Muslim stalls and that the oil or butter used for cooking may contain lard further motivates them to invest in malay stalls. Some non-malay stalls, to attract malay customers, advertise a "halal" sign, implying that the meat and poultry in their dishes were bought from certified Muslim butchers. While this may still deter some malay customers due to the fact many of these non-malays may also cook pork dishes at the same time, and perhaps (in the minds of some Malays) cooking pork in the same utensils that they use to cook halal meat and poultry, other Malays may choose to accept the claim and savor non-malay dishes.
3.2.1. Result and Discussion of Hypothesis Testing
The hypotheses that there is a difference in language use between the Malay subjects and the participants in the market domain depending on the ethnicity of the sellers (Malay, Indian or Chinese) was significant ( Chi-square of ranks = 29.30, df=2, P<.05).
Table 2

Malay always

English & Malay equally

English more than Malay

English always

Malay Hawkers











Chinese Hawkers











Indian Hawkers











3.2.2. Summary and Discussion

The figures in the table above indicate that the subjects preferred Malay dominantly with other Malays in this domain. Malay is also favored with non-Malays, but on a lesser scale due to the higher indication of the subjects' choice of English and Malay.
Malay and English, as indicated in the table above are very informal styles. The reason why informal styles were used in the market domain is due to the assumption that the sellers are stereotypically perceived to have had only a minimal formal education amounting to a vernacular primary education at best. Consequently, they are regarded to be proficient only in very informal, somewhat non-standard forms of English and Malay. Therefore, customers, regardless of their ethnic origin, feel that it would be polite for them to interact with participants in this domain using these forms of language. It is necessary to point out that the use of these styles with participants in this domain is influenced primarily by the co-existence of the setting and the participants. This is because without the presence of the sellers in market designated areas, language choice would be different, for example, if one were to unknowingly meet a seller in another setting such as in a bank or at the post office or if young Malaysians make use of market designated areas to play cards or hopstoch before the usual activity of a transaction domain begins.

The dominant tendency for the Malay subjects to use Malay with Malay sellers can be attributed to two reasons; One, very informal Malay is the appropriate and polite language choice considering the assumption that Malay sellers speak and understand very informal Malay better compared to very informal English. Thus, using Malay would facilitate the business transaction. Two, and more important, Malay serves the important function of reducing the social and psychological distance and establishing sociocultural authenticity between Malay buyers and sellers. Indeed, the use of Malay to lessen the social and psychological gap between Malays of higher social and economic status and those on the lower social and economic scale is regarded necessary to achieve Malay kinship and solidarity. In such interactions, it is usually the Malays in the former category that have to accomodate to the speech style of the latter. The reasons above as to why Malay is preferred with Malay sellers may also explain why formal English and Malay is seldom used with Malay sellers. Certainly, the use of formal Malay or English by Malays buyers with Malay sellers in the market domain is regarded as inappropriate. It would be indicative of the Malay buyers' need to distance themselves socially from Malay sellers or mocking their minimal formal education. Both would hurt the seller's feelings and threathen Malay kinship and solidarity. Furthermore, the Malay buyer would be considered arrogant and lacking in manners.

The need for Malays to bond socially, psychologically and culturally with non-Malays to establish kinship or solidarity with non-Malays in this domain is less. This and the fact that language becomes less associated with Malay identity and customs makes the use of English and Malay or the use of English more than Malay more possible with non-Malay sellers compared to Malay sellers. Also, the fact that the language used is less associated with Malay identity and customs may explain why Malay customers would generally not feel culturally obliged to guard against hurting the feelings of non-Malay sellers as they would have to with Malay sellers when buying merchandise. This allows for more verbally aggressive behavior during haggling with non-Malay sellers in either English and/or Malay to obtain lower priced goods.. Usually, if the outcome is not financially satisfactory, the buyer would move to another stall in search of a better bargain.
Two other factors may also account for why Malay was preferred on a lesser scale by Malays with non-Malay sellers: Firstly, non-Malay sellers are assumed to have attended Chinese-medium or Indian-medium primary schools. Even though the medium of education in these schools is Mandarin and Tamil, Malay and English would be the other languages taught as school subjects. Hence, it is assumed that they would have some level of understanding in both English and Malay. Certainly, the possibility of many Malays knowing Mandarin or Tamil is slim. Thus, their interaction with non-Malay sellers would be limited to Malay or English. Second, although both Malay and English are possible language choices with non-Malay sellers, the assumption that the learning of Malay as a subject is stressed more than the learning of English in Chinese and Indian vernacular schools because of Malay's important role as national language encourages the greater use of very informal Malay with non-Malay sellers.
3.3. The Friendship Domain
The friendship domain is regarded to be an informal setting. In this study, the friendship domain involves the subjects' interaction with Malay, Chinese and Indian friends from both sexes. Compared to friendship between those of the same sex, female-male friendship are primarily expected to reflect a certain degree of social distance and formality to prevent promiscuous behavior. This is not to imply that a healthy platonic relationship between males and females cannot exist only that the level of friendship is usually guarded, and not expected to be as open and casual as female-female or male-male friendship. Indeed, especially for a female, being seen to be too friendly or familiar with males would endanger her reputation negatively. Similarly, males who are seen to be too friendly with many females. Certainly, if community elders, who are regarded as gatekeepers of religious standards of morality, suspect that the friendship between a male and female are closer than religiously, socially and culturally expected, the couple will be reprimanded or in the worst case scenario, forced to get married.
3.3.1. Result and Discussion of Hypothesis Testing
The hypothesis that there is a difference in language use between the Malay subjects and the participants in the friendship domain depending on their ethnicity was significant (Chi-square of ranks=157.78, df=5, P<.01).

Table 3

Malay always

English & Malay equally

English more than Malay

English always

with a male Chinese friend











with a female Chinese friend











with a male Indian friend











with a female Indian friend











with a male Malay friend











with a female Malay friend











3.3.2. Summary and Discussion

The table shows that the Malay subjects consistently chose Malay as a primary preference, followed by English bilingually with Malay and least of all, monolingual English, with Malay participants in this domains. As expected, too, is the greater amount of English used with non-Malays. However, the tendency for English to be used with non-Malays here appears higher compared to the other domains.

English and Malay as represented in the table above are slightly formalized where male-female friendships are concerned and informal for female-female and male-male friendship due to the reasons given during the initial description of the friendship domain. Although a considerable amount of English is used to mark social and educational status in this domain, ethnic kinship and solidarity can again be a persistent influence on the language choice of Malay with Malays. Usually, the excessive use of English, either monolingually or bilingually with Malay, is avoided because of possible negative backlash from Malays who regard English-dominant Malays as not being "pure" Malays. This encourages the majority of Malays to use Malay with Malay interlocuters. Non-Malays, on the other hand, usually address Malay friends in English, monolingually or bilingually in Malay, but seldom in monolingual Malay. This increases the tendency for Malays to use less monolingual Malay and more amounts of English with non-Malays in this domain. The fact that ethnic bonding is not essential with non-Malays contributes to the Malays' lesser use of Malay with non-Malays.

4. Conclusion and Implications of the Study
In the ideal linguistic universe, all members of the speech community would line up and await their turns to provide the investigator with fascinating and publishable data with unlimited time, energy and money and emerge with a definitive statement about the nature of speech in that community (Anshen, 1982:37). Not being in the ideal research situation, I had to content myself with taking what was available, a portion of the speech community. This raises some theoretical questions about the representation of the sample. Another issue that has often been mentioned in the literature dealing with surveys is the reliability of self-reported questionnaire data. By this, for example, self-reported responses on surveys could reflect how the subjects' think he or she should respond rather than how they actually feel due to outside pressures such as work, limited time, religious activities or their perception of how they are expected to feel by others around.
The statistical results, however, are consistent with my experiences as a native Malay. Fishman (1983:43-44) also indicates that
"the limitations of aggregated self-report data are not as damning as is sometimes claimed to be the case. Self-report data is a very basic route to reality, not only for researchers but for all of mankind. We are forever telling others what we know, believe and think (modified, of course, at least to some extent, by whom we are interacting with and what we want them to know, believe and think), and others are forever asking us to express ourselves along these lines. Even the formal/written nature of some of the aforementioned data-gathering approaches (on certain occasions or as utilized by some investigators) need not constitute nor cause departures from reality."
Results from the quantitative and qualitative analysis of the questionnaire data indicate a correlation between the respondents' language use and and factors such as education, age, occupation, length of exposure to English and Malay and ethnicity. This is advantageous in defining the diglossic distribution of English and Malay in the Malay community. The results suggest that (based on polyglossic models proposed in Platt and Weber (1977, 1980)), a basic outline of a polyglossic model for Malays can be as follows (H=high, M=mid, L=low):
Formal Malay H1

Formal English H2

Semi-formal Malay M1

Semi-formal English M2

Regional Malay M3

Informal Malay L1

Informal English L2

Results of this study suggest that the professionals' are comfortable in both English and Malay. On the other hand, the results suggest that the students' are more comfortable in Malay, compared to English. Certainly, the professionals and the students, can affect the future diglossic distribution of English and Malay. The presence of Malay professionals now, such as those found in this study, would ensure the use of both languages. This is compared to,on the other hand, to the likely declining role and status of English among the younger Malay generation when they enter the work force.

Results also indicate that the ethnicity of the participants is a contributing factor to the Malays' languages choices. Here, the subjects dominantly preferred the Malay language with Malay participants compared to non-Malay participants even though the latter are also familiar with Malay. It appears that the Malay language, especially where language choices in domains of use are concerned, serves as a marker between Malays and non-Malays. It calls upon a shared past and present cultural, social, religious and political history, all of which are evoked in the Malay language's important role as a means for intragroup communication.
Apart from this study's contribution to Southeast Asian sociolinguistics, the results of the study could be advantageous to language and educational policy makers as it provides them the opportunity to see the kinds of effects earlier language and education policies have had on the Malays' language behavior. For example, this study suggests that language and educational policy makers have been largely successfully in raising the role and status of Malay at the expense of English through education as the major vehicle for nationalism. This is primarily evident in the language profile of the student subjects. Conversely, the results of this study should motivate policy makers to arrest the decline of English considering its importance in vast new areas of knowledge such as genetic engineering, medical advances, astronomy, marine biology, computer technology and space and nucleur technology. Indeed, even if the government increases the amount of resources and the number of translators to translate into Malay these vast outpouring of new thoughts and discoveries, vital to Malaysia's growth, there would still be an insufficient number of up to date textbooks in Malay. The fact that there are many lexical gaps in Malay where scientific and technological advances are concerned means that translators have to literally coin hundreds of new Malay words. This would delay the effort to impart new knowledge and discoveries in Malay, and delay the learning of knowledge. Thus, while factors such as the unifying effects of having one national language is recognized, Malaysia with its tradition of multilingualism, including English, should not ignore the benefits of being bilingual or multilingual as a bilingual or multilingual person has more gateways to knowledge compared to a person making do with one.
About the Author
Dr Burhanudeen works in the Center for Language Studies and Linguistics, Faculty of Social Science and Humanities, Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia.
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