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Unveiling Secrets of the Past through the Passage of Malay Scripts

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Early civilisations have left behind vestiges of their existence such as artefacts and monuments that glorify their achievements and accomplishments. Their scripts especially allow modern researchers to peer into the soul of their civilisations. Tham2 deduced that there are interplays between language and culture, and between culture and the environment, with regards to the Malay language and its scripts. Such synergies can be observed in the journey of the Malay manuscript from its earliest form to its modern day script. Consequently the interaction culminates with the oldest Malay script in the world, the oldest manuscript in Southeast Asia, and, more importantly resurrecting new insights on ancient stone inscriptions.

The Tarumanegara Stone in west Java is believed to bear the oldest known Malay script dating as far back as AD 400. Such stone inscription artefacts are widely found in and about the Indonesian islands of Sumatra: Kota Kapur in west Bangka (686), Karang Brahi between Jambi and Sungai Musi (686), Kedukan Bukit in south Sumatera (683) and Talang Tuwo in south Sumatra (684).

Forming part of the Austronesian language family, which includes Polynesian and Melanesian languages, Malay is widely used in the Malay Archipelago among about 300 million speakers in Indonesia, Malaysia, Brunei and Singapore as well as a diaspora in Thailand and other parts of Southeast Asia, Asia, East Timor and the Malay people of Australia’s Cocos Keeling Islands in the Indian Ocean. It is understood in parts of the Sulu area of the southern Philippines and traces of it are to be found among people of Malay

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This article is written by Mohamed Pitchay Gani Bin Mohamed Abdul Aziz, a Teaching Fellow I with National Institute of Education, Nanyang Technological University for National Library Board (Singapore)’s biblioasia, Vol 6, Issues 2, July 2010. You can download full collection of biblioasia from this url.