Exploring the Slang Words in Malay Language

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Table of Contents

  • Background of the Study
  • Statement of the Problem
  • Research Objectives
  • Research Questions
  • Significance of the Study

Background of the Study

In everyday life, spoken or verbal language is more widely used than non-verbal or written language. Spoken language as an interaction tool plays a major role in human life from informal to formal situation such as daily conversation, jokes, slogans, documentation, especially to inform, to persuade, to order, to sell etc. Spoken language constructed by the combination of words with meaning because human language is innovative considering human ability to produce and to perceive new words (Kreidler, 1998). So, an individual who uses the appropriate words can communicate information clearly.

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However, a rapid development of social media emanate a new term called “virtual language”, it is part of written language which widely used in virtual world of social networking sites such as Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Wechat, Blogs, etc. According to Ili Hadri Khalil (2018) Malaysia ranked ninth in the world’s largest social media usage with average users using social media for three hours per day. This recent cultural and technological clashes especially in today’s society according to Clem (2016) will diversify language and word used, specifically the emergence of slang words in the users virtual daily lives (Goel et al., 2016).

The language and word use in virtual world is considered as a slang language because it is an informal way to communicate in social media. However, Lars-Gunnar Andersson and Peter Trudgill (1990) claimed that slang is the erosive of standard language but slang words in a period of time gains status in dictionary or accepted as part of everyday conversation. For example, In Malay language context the word anu is a Johorean slang means “to do something” (Saya Orang Johor, 2013) while the standard meaning recorded in Pusat Rujukan Persuratan Melayu (PRPM) is “a person or thing without name” (Anu, n.d.). Then, Fishman (1991) said slang is a segment of language variation which consists of vocabulary, pronunciation, and phrases used in a small group of society or unknown to the larger society (Fishman, 1991, p. 15 – 23). While, Grossman and Tucker (1997) explained slang as a language that constantly changing from generation to generation and dominated by male users (Grossman, & Tucker, 1997). For example the word “hip” means “really good” replaced by “kickass” (Yule, 2006, p. 211). Pedersen (2007) defined slang as non-standard language which normally used taboo words but some slang words used to replace taboo phrase likes “I want to piss” replace with “answering nature’s call” or “drain the spuds”. In Malay language context, according to Abdul Rashid Daing Melebek & Amat Juhari Moain (2010) slang is categorized as temporal dialectology also known as Etat de Language or dialek seketika in Malay language; used in a short period of time, for a particular issue, or used by certain groups of people (Abdul Rashid Daing Melebek & Amat Juhari Moain, 2010, p. 95 – 104).

So, this study of “Virtual Malay Slang Words Used in Social Media Communication” carried out to explore new Malay slang words and their social meaning in Facebook because Mohd Azrone Sarabatin, Mohd Nasaruddin Parzi and Fahmy Azril (2017) reported that from the total of 31 million Malaysian, 97.3% Malaysian possess Facebook account followed by Instagram and Twitter which estimated around 56.1% and 26.6%. The researcher explored Facebook to discover the development of virtual language, particularly in the changes of Malay lexicals or Malay words.

The study of word and meaning is divided into four main linguistics branches of sociolinguistics, pragmatics, semantics, and discourse analysis. Sociolinguistics is cross-discipline researches that explore on linguistics (language) and sociology (human interaction and life), which looked into the human verbal communication along with human social aspects (Paoletti, 2011, p. 1). While, Yan Huang elaborated pragmatics as the standardized study of meaning by the linguistics ethical order, or dependent on, the mobilization of language. The central topics of inquiry of pragmatics include implicature, presupposition, speech acts, and deixis (Huang, 2007, p. 2). Generally, natural language according to Loukusa (2007) is understandable and normally use regarding to its social and cognitive factors as a result natural language usually owned by the pragmatics field. Thus, pragmatics focusing on the aspects of meaning that cannot be predicted by linguistic knowledge alone and take account knowledge about the physical and social world (Peccei, 1999, p. 2). Then, the study of meaning in linguistics, is known as semantics. Griffiths (2006) briefly defined semantics as the study of the “toolkit” for meaning which human use their knowledge to encode vocabulary used by the speakers and developing as well as elaborating an understanding to the pattern of sentences. In short, semantics is the study of meaning in language (Hurford, Heasley, & Smith, 2007). Origins of semantics explained by Siti Hajar Abdul Aziz (2009) derived from ancient Greek: σημαντικός (sēmantikos) literaly means ‘significant’, semantics is a philosophy that give a sign or symptom of something in a meaningful context. Semantics begin with the word sema which refers to the aspect of meaning usually as expressed in a language or other sign system. Lastly, discourse analysis; a linguistic field aimed at analyzing and understanding the user of a language in the context of oral, written, sign and visual. Paltridge (2006) stated that the function of discourse analysis is “focused on knowledge about language beyond the word, clause, phrase and sentences that is needed for successful communication”. Therefore, in this research, the researcher choose sociolinguistics and semantics field which indispensable for identifying the meaning of slang words in Malay language or Bahasa Melayu (BM) commonly used in virtual conversation.

Everyone is influenced by linguistic changes, this mainly happens as society is exposed with a different trajectory of multicultural activities of technologies or cultural clashes via the use of online social media communication. So, there are words used by society in social networking or also known as internet networking citizen (netizen), that have different meanings from the original intended meaning of the Malay word recorded in the main reference of Malay words, Kamus Dewan and online website of Pusat Rujukan Persuratan Melayu ( in short PRPM. There are even some words used among them are not recorded in Kamus Dewan or PRPM. This sociolinguistics study of netizen’s NSWs in Facebook and meaning in pragmatics and semantics perspective will hopefully enhance the maturity of Malay linguistics field.

Statement of the Problem

Netizens’ virtual language especially slang words in Malay language is not a widely discussed topic by researchers today in comparison with the usage of English language in Malaysia. The transition period from natural language use to virtual language use is mostly explored in formal grammar structure, psychology, and counselling field, yet the development of their NSW in BM has not received attention as Netizens’ words or NSW should be noted because the researcher believes these words potentially influence how Malay language develops in the future. This is because people’s speech patterns vary according to the environment, society and age especially in vocabulary, pronunciation and grammar structure (Holmes, 2013, p.176). Although Holmes (2013) also said that slang mostly relates to a younger generation compared to the older community, currently virtual language is used by everyone and this will make language undergo changes over a period of time (Paolillo, 1999).

The development of BM especially among younger generations should be of concern because younger generation tends to adapt the informal language system specifically colloquial and slang in formal situation (Teo Kok Seong, 2015). BM has always been highlighted to be used by Malaysians, however, the researcher wants to study on how social media communication has affected the usage of BM. Slang is uttered in many languages and accepted socially as a linguistic behaviour, yet it is still uncommon for researchers to treat slang as scholarly subject (Eble, 1996, p. 2).

In brief, the current use of BM in the virtual world has affected the use of BM among netizens whereby there are changes in the meaning and emergence of new slang words. There is a need to understand and compile these new slang words as this would be a source of reference for researchers, teachers, and society in general. BM is a national language and any change that happens to the language is a concern for Malaysians and language researchers. Thus, there is an urgent need to investigate how BM used in the virtual world is aligned with the conventional use of the language or there are new applications and interpretations of BM in its use in the virtual world. With the study of netizens’ slang, this paper hopefully will illuminate BM teachers and linguists on how to review, plan and improve the use of BM among current society.

Research Objectives

The study of meaning in this research is correlated with sociolinguistics and semantics. So, the objectives of this study will enlighten Malay language lexicographers with additional materials to be added and highlighted in Malay language temporal dialectology. The study focuses on the semantics of slang words used among netizen. The objectives identified in this study are as follows:

  1. To identify slang words in BM used in the virtual world.
  2. To analyse the semantics of these BM slang words based on the netizens applications of the words.
  3. To investigate the extent of understanding the use of Malay slang words by the experts.

Research Questions

Parallel with the statement of problem and objectives of the study, the research questions of this study formulated as follows:

  1. What are the BM slang words used among netizens in Facebook?
  2. What is society’s understanding on semantic meanings of the NSWs used by netizens in Facebook?
  3. How experts understand and view Malay slang words that used in Facebook?

Significance of the Study

This study explored the Malay slang words in Facebook although the lexical items found in this research are not intended and may not be accepted formally, but there will be some groups of society who may use the words in their daily life formally. So, this research according to Pedersen (2007) should provide more information for the linguistics field and the public as many languages have their own slang’s dictionary.

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