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Q&A

Malay languages or Indonesian languages --- which is more close to Philippine languages?

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Malay languages or Indonesian languages --- which is more close to Philippine languages?

I don't know much about any so I would not make any assumptions.

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Let me offer a frame challenge answer: it is pretty much the same (if you pick the Malay language and the Indonesian language as the representatives of the respective "clubs", and compare them to pretty much any language natively spoken in the Philippines - specifically excluding Malay or Indonesian.) The reason is that the Indonesian language is essentially a register of Malay artificially created for political reasons.[1]. So there isn't much left to compare. You could equally ask (with very little exaggeration): Is Modern Greek closer to American English, or to Canadian English?

Malay, most languages of Indonesia, and most languages of the Philippines are members of a language group called Malayo-Polynesan languages. Most languages (natively) spoken in Malaysia are either Malayo-Polynesan languages (and thus related to Malay: see above), or Mon-Khmer languages (and thus quite unrelated to all of the above - and thus way more distant than any of the above).

My use of the term "natively spoken" in this answer is highly problematic itself. You will find Chinese, Indian or Western languages spoken in Malaysia - you are probably not asking about any of these, but how do I know. Likewise for Indonesia. Likewise for the Philippines.

I'm suggesting that generalized questions or statements about groupings of languages should focus on linguistically rather than geographically defined groupings.


  1. There has been a linguistic side to the politics, too. The strongest "native" Indonesian contender for the language to be promulgated as the official language of all of Indonesia, at the time Indonesia emerged, was Javanese. But Javanese uses mandatory registers of politeness, not unlike (for example) Japanese. This linguistic trait was deemed too "undemocratic" and therefore the Indonesian language ended up defined to be a renamed Malaysian rather than a renamed Javanese. ↩︎

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