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The Vowels.

The five vowels have the continental sounds :

  • a as in father.
  • e as the ey in they.
  • i as in ravine.
  • o as in hole.
  • u as in rude.

In open syllables these vowel sounds have always a greater degree of intensity than in closed syllables.

In addition to the above there is in Malay, as in nearly all Orien- tal languages, another simple vowel sound which is often called the short vowel sound. In the different systems of romanizing, this short vowel sound has been variously represented by a, a, e, e, i, i, u. u; but all these different methods of representing this vowel sound are open to the great objection that they mislead Europeans and even natives into giving it an incorrect pronunciation, and in a dictionary they have the additional disadvantage of giving rise to so much divers- ity and uncertainty in the spelling of words containing the short vowel that prolonged search is often necessary before it can be dis- covered which of these vowels has been used by the lexicographer to represent the short vowel in the particular word which is being sought for. Experience has shown that the best way to spell words contain- ing the short vowel with a view to helping the student to a correct pronunciation, is to omit the vowel altogether, and it is believed that the omission of the vowel will obviate the difficulty of finding such words in the vocabulary. The exact sound of the short vowel should be learnt if possible from a Malay; it is almost identical with the half-vowel sound in the first syllable of such words as " machine " and " balloon."

When two vowels come together, both must be sounded, but the first must be run into the second; thus au has very nearly the sound of ow in "cow," as pisau, man; and oi has almost the sound of the English i in "ice," as, sunjai, pakai.


The consonants in Malay are pronounced as in English, except that the r should always be sounded much more clearly and with more of a riig than in English. The consonant ry represents a single sound in Malay, and should be pronounced like the ng in " singer," never as in " single ;" the latter sound is represented in Malay by njg; thus the two sounds are found in the words: si-nja and sirg-gah. The letter k in Malay when it occurs at the end of a word is not sounded like the