Malay Language in Cyrillic Script (Абжад Сирил Мәлаю) – Part 2 – Further Explanation

Ассаламу’алаикум дан салам сәжахтәра!

It’s been a while since I posted my guide to the Malay Cyrillic alphabet, but I realised that I missed out on some very important points which I will clarify in this second section.

The Glottal Stop and the Apostrophe

In the Malay language, the glottal stop is a frequently occurring sound, especially in the middle of words such as ‘maaf’ and also at the end of words ending with ‘k’, like ‘banyak’.

Normally in the middle of the word glottal stops are not represented by any letter in the Latin Rumi alphabet. This often happens when it happens in between the vowel letters a, i, u, e and o, especially when prefixes and suffixes are added to a verb or adjective to change the nature to a noun or another form of verb.

For example, ‘aman’ means peaceful, an adjective. To make it a noun, prefix ‘ke-‘ and suffix ‘-an’ are added. The result is ‘keamanan’ meaning peace. Between e and a in the word is a glottal stop which separates the vowel sounds from blending together. Note that the glottal stop is not represented by any letter or mark, making it ambiguous to a beginner in the language.

In the Malay Cyrillic alphabet,  great care is taken to ensure that all words can be easily read the way it is pronounced. When the sound of the glottal stop occurs and is not represented in the Latin alphabet, the apostrophe should always be used, except only when the vowel letter occurs before letter Э which represents the /e/ sound exclusively in its own right. In this case the use of apostrophe is only optional, not compulsory.

On the other hand the glottal stop can sometimes be represented by letter ‘k’ in some words especially when the glottal stop appears before a consonant sound. For example in the word ‘rakyat’ the sound of k is not a k sound like in ‘kucing’, a hard k sound, rather it is a silent k to represent the usually unrepresented glottal stop. In this case the glottal stop sound would be spelled just with Cyrillic ‘К’ like in ‘ракят’.

The Apostrophe in Practice

Middle of the word – With apostrophe


Middle of the word – With letter Э (apostrophe is optional)


Representing Arabic sounds in loanwords

A substantial portion of Malay vocabulary is derived from the Arabic language,  especially in religious and Islamic terms. In the traditional Jawi Arabic script the sounds are seamlessly written in their original spelling but when the Latin Rumi was introduced, spellings for these terms often became more loosely represented. In Jawi there is distinction made with the T sound for example, where there are 2, hard ط and softer ت. Unfortunately once the Latin alphabet is used instead this distinction is lost and sometimes in an attempt to differentiate the sounds, diagraphs like ‘dh’ or ‘sy’ are used like in Ramadhan (instead of Ramadan although both spellings are used).

Although it is true that Cyrillic can never duplicate Arabic’s sounds but here is a guide on how to write Arabic terms in Cyrillic.

Three letters are specifically added for compatibility with Arabic letters. These are letters are NOT part of the standard Malay Cyrillic alphabet I have introduced, but rather just as optional additions to transcribe words of Arabic origin. Including these letters in the standard alphabet will over-complicate the system for newbie learners of the script. Nevertheless advanced learners should take note of these following letters.


The Cursive Malay Cyrillic Script

No doubt that the best way to learn a script by heart is by actually writing it down.
The Cyrillic alphabets have a long tradition of cursive handwriting. When letters are joined up in Cyrillic, they will seem totally different from their block-letter forms seen on signs and printed material – some letters change their shapes almost completely when handwritten! Speakers of Russian, Ukrainian and other Cyrillic-script languages were taught to handwrite using a standardised style of cursive Cyrillic alphabet and is universally understood.
In keeping with the tradition, I have also taught myself how to handwrite the Malay Cyrillic alphabet in a cursive way. The script is based on the Russian cursive model with the exception of the 6 non-Russian letters, where the methods for handwriting them were taken from the original languages’ cursive scripts or were improvised by myself.
To learn how to write cursive Russian handwriting (the basics of the Malay Cyrillic handwriting) watch these two videos:

This link is another site where you may learn the Russian cursive script.

The cursive script is still in the process of development. I have friends from the former-USSR republics helping me out with researching about the cursive forms of the non-Russian letters of this alphabet. I will post a chart of the whole alphabet as soon as I am able to get hold of the information from them.

Malay Cyrillic Alphabet Chart with Sample Texts (Article 1 of the UN Declaration of Human Rights)

PREVIOUSLY: Malay Language in Cyrillic Script (Абжад Сирил Мәлаю) – Part 1 – Introduction

COMING NEXT: Malay Language in Cyrillic Script (Абжад Сирил Мәлаю) – Part 3 – Computer Input



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