KUALA LUMPUR, May 23 — The term Bahasa Melayu cannot be replaced with Bahasa Malaysia, according to local Malay language expert Professor Emeritus Datuk Asmah Omar.

The Malay grammarian told the International Symposium on Bahasa Melayu that changing the name of the language will drown out its history entirely, Berita Harian reported today

"The name of a language is important because it is where you have its history, its ethnic background, where it originated and the time-depth of its use.

"If Bahasa Melayu is replaced with another name, such as Bahasa Malaysia, then it will erase its origins and history,” she was quoted as saying during her speech titled Martabat Bahasa Kebangsaan (The Dignity of the National Language) at the Wisma Dewan Bahasa dan Pustaka here yesterday.


She gave the use of English as an example, noting that it was used as the "first language" in the United States of America, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and Singapore.

"This shows how the name of a language is an exponent of the language’s dignity," she was quoted saying.

She further said that if Bahasa Melayu were to be known as Bahasa Malaysia, its history would be erased and gave the example of the term Selat Melaka, known in English as the Straits of Malacca.


She explained that the old name for it was Tasik Melayu as tasik meant the sea, adding that the term selat only emerged in the 15th-century.

She also reportedly said that the use of the name Bahasa Melayu was in accordance with the Tujuh Wasiat Raja-Raja Melayu (Seven Wills of the Malay Kings) that was handed down on August 31, 1957.

Listing the first declaration, which named the country the Federation of Malaya, and the fifth declaration ("we determine the national language to be Bahasa Melayu”), she said the name Bahasa Malaysia was not compatible with what the Malay kings of old wanted.

"The use of the name Bahasa Malaysia which was not in accordance with the will of the Malay kings was used for only a short period of time with the aim of returning peace after the events of May 13, 1969,” she was quoted as saying.

The symposium was the result of a partnership between the Prime Minister’s Office, Dewan Bahasa dan Pustaka, Institut Alam dan Tamadun Melayu, and Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia.

It was held in conjunction with the Prime Minister Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri Yaakob’s desire to see the Malay language be used as Asean’s lingua franca.