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Kedah Malay

Kedah Malay
بهاس ملايو قدح
Pelet Utagha
Bahasa Melayu Kedah, Bahasa Melayu Utara
Native toMalaysia, Thailand, Myanmar and Indonesia
RegionKedah, Pulau Pinang, Perlis, northern Perak (Kerian, Manjung, Larut, Matang and Selama), Trang, Satun, Ranong, Tanintharyi, Langkat, Aceh
EthnicityKedahan Malays
Thai Malays
Burmese Malays
Jaring Halus Malays
Native speakers
2.6 million (2004)[1]
  • Kedah Persisiran
  • Kedah Utara
  • Perlis-Langkawi
  • Penang
  • Northern Perak
  • Satun
  • Jaring Halus
Latin script, Arabic script, Thai script
Language codes
ISO 639-3meo
This article contains IPA phonetic symbols. Without proper rendering support, you may see question marks, boxes, or other symbols instead of Unicode characters. For an introductory guide on IPA symbols, see Help:IPA.
Distribution of Kedah Malay language
Dark Blue: Regions where Kedahan is currently spoken, Blue: Regions where Kedahan is historically spoken
A young man speaks Kedah Malay

Kedah Malay or Kedahan (Malay: bahasa Melayu Kedah; also known as Pelat Utara or Loghat Utara 'Northern Dialect') or as it is known in Thailand, Syburi Malay (Thai: ภาษามลายูไทรบุรี Phasa Malāyū Saiburī) is a Malayic language mainly spoken in the northwestern Malaysian states of Perlis, Kedah, Penang, and northern Perak and in the southern Thai provinces of Trang and Satun. The usage of Kedah Malay was historically prevalent in southwestern Thailand before being superseded by the Thai language. Enclaves of Kedah Malay can be found in Kawthaung District in Myanmar; Ranong and Krabi in upper southern Thailand; Jaring Halus, Langkat and Aceh in Sumatra, Indonesia and up north in Bangkok, central Thailand, where most of the Kedah Malay speakers are descendants of historical settlers from Kedah.[2]

Kedah Malay can be divided into several dialects, namely Kedah Persisiran (Littoral Kedah; which is the de facto prestige dialect of Kedah Malay), Kedah Utara (Northern Kedah), Perlis-Langkawi, Penang and some others outside Malaysia.[3] Speakers in Trang as well as Satun are heavily influenced by the Thai language. However in the district of Baling, they speak a different variant more closely related to Kelantan-Patani Malay than it is to Kedah Malay.[4]



Labial Alveolar Palato-alveolar Dorsal
Plosive p b t d t͡ʃ d͡ʒ k ɡ
Fricative s h
Nasal m n ɲ ŋ
Trill r
Semivowel l j w


  • Word initially:
    • /r/ is pronounced as the velar fricative [ɣ] in the syllable onset.[5]
      • In certain loan words, /r/ is pronounced as an alveolar trill [r] such as in market [market] 'market'.
  • Word finally:
    • Following /i/, velar nasal /ŋ/ is neutralised to /n/, so kucing /kut͡ʃiŋ/ 'cat' and kuning /kuniŋ/ 'yellow' are pronounced [kut͡ʃen] and [kunen] (even spelt accordingly in rare manuscript instances i.e. کوچين for the former[6]) though the final consonant is still underlyingly /ŋ/ as can be seen from the derived forms of these words such as kekuningan /kəkuniŋan/ 'yellowness' [kəkuniŋan] which still retains the [ŋ].[7]
    • /s/ is neutralised to /h/, so kurus /kurus/ 'thin' is pronounced [kuroh].[7][8]
      • After /a/, this /s/ is palatalised, so panas /panas/ 'hot' is pronounced [panaʲh].
    • /r/ is realised as a pharyngeal fricative [ʕ] so lapar /lapar/ 'hungry' is pronounced [lapaʕ].[5]



Kedah Malay has eight monophthongs, unlike Standard Malay which has six with /ɛ/ and /ɔ/ not having phonemic status.[9][10]

Front Central Back
Close i u
Close-Mid e ə o
Open-Mid ɛ ɔ
Open a


  • In open-ended final syllables and before a glottal stop (allophone of /k/ in the syllable coda) also in final syllables, /a/ is realised as [ɒ], so anak /anak/ 'son/daughter' and paksa /paksa/ 'to force' are pronounced [anɒʔ] and [paʔsɒ].


Kedah Malay has four diphthongs /ai, au, oi, ui/ with /ui/ being a surplus diphthong that does not exist in Standard Malay.[11]

Comparison with Standard Malay

Below is a comparison between Kedah Malay and Standard Malay.[12]

Sound Position Kedah Malay



(Standard Malay ≙ Kedah Malay)

/il/ Word-final syllable /e/ katil /katil/ 'bed' /kate/
/el/ /ɛ/ comel /t͡ʃomel/ 'cute' /t͡ʃomɛ/
/oh/ /o/ bodoh /bodoh/ 'stupid' /bodo/
/o/ Both syllables of two-syllable words /ɔ/ sotong /sotoŋ/ 'squid' /sɔtɔŋ/
First syllable of certain two-syllable words /u/ boleh /boleh/ 'can' /buleh/
/i.a/ Anywhere /a/ siapa /si.apa/ 'who' /sapa/
/ɛ/ biasa /bi.asa/ 'normal' /bɛsa/
/u.a/ /o/ laut /la.ut/ 'sea' /lot/
/ɔ/ kuala /ku.ala/ 'estuary' /kɔla/


Kedah Malay Standard Malay English Translation
hang awak/kamu/kau 'you' (singular)
hangpā/ampa kalian 'you' (plural)
cek/aq saya/aku 'I'
cek saya 'I' (young to old)
cek kamu 'you' (old to young)
depa mereka 'they'
sépā (In a few certain areas) / kitorang kami 'we' (exclusive)
Question Words[14]
Kedah Malay Standard Malay English Translation
siapa, sapa siapa/siapakah 'who'
apa, pa apa/apakah 'what'
bila bila/bilakah 'when'
cemana, lagu mana bagaimana/bagaimanakah 'how'
mana mana 'where'
pasai pa, awat, rokpa,

buat pa, sebab pa

mengapa 'how'
berapa, bapa berapa 'how much'
Basic Words[13]
Kedah Malay Standard Malay English Translation
camca sudu 'spoon'
habaq cakap 'talk'
mai datang, mari 'come'
mau nak 'want'
lorat susah 'difficult'
, lāni sekarang 'now'
lagu macam 'sort'
cabai cili/lada 'chilli'
hakap tamak 'greedy'
pi pergi 'go'
sat sebentar, sekejap 'one second'
mengkalā bila, apabila 'when'
ketegaq degil, keras kepala 'naughty'
geghék basikal 'bicycle'
mertun tukul 'hammer'
lempaq baling 'throw'
menghabat memanjat 'climb'
ligan kejar 'chase'
loq laq tak senonoh 'indecent'
ketit gigit kecil 'bite softly'
tokok gigit 'bite'
berlemuih comot 'messy'
cemuih bosan 'bored'



  1. ^ Kedah Malay at Ethnologue (18th ed., 2015) (subscription required)
  2. ^ Asmah Haji Omar 2017, p. 38.
  3. ^ See Malayan languages for a comparison between Kedah Persisiran and Penang dialects.
  4. ^ Mohd Noor Aswad 2019.
  5. ^ a b Shahidi A. H. 2009, pp. 309–311.
  6. ^ Gallop, Annabel Teh (Dec 21, 2015). "A Malay manuscript artist unveiled: Datuk Muda Muhammad of Perlis". Asian and African Studies. The British Library. Retrieved Feb 23, 2024.
  7. ^ a b Ajid Che Kob 1997, pp. 40–42.
  8. ^ Shahidi A. H. 2009, pp. 310–311.
  9. ^ Yunisrina Qismullah Yusuf et al. 2021, p. 78-80.
  10. ^ Shahidi A. H. 2009, pp. 305–308.
  11. ^ Yunisrina Qismullah Yusuf et al. 2021, pp. 81–82.
  12. ^ Yunisrina Qismullah Yusuf et al. 2021, pp. 68–69.
  13. ^ a b Strife 2007.
  14. ^ Fazal Mohamed Mohamed Sultan & Nurulafiqah Suhaimi 2012, p. 490.


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Kedah Malay
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