Kelantan-Pattani Malay

Kelantan-Pattani Malay
Baso Pattani
Baso Kelate
بهاس جاوي
Bahasa Jawi
Native to Malaysia, Thailand
Region Kelantan, Pattani, Narathiwat, Yala, Songkhla (Thailand), Merapoh (Pahang), Besut and Setiu (Terengganu), Baling (Kedah), Hulu Perak and Grik (Perak)
Ethnicity Thai Malays, Kelantanese Malays
Native speakers
1 million in Thailand (2006)[1]
1.5 million in Malaysia
Latin script, Arabic Script, Thai script
Language codes
ISO 639-3 mfa (Pattani)
Glottolog patt1249[2]

Kelantan-Pattani Malay, often referred to in Thailand as Yawi (in Thai) or Jawi (in Patani Malay), and in Kelantan as Baso Kelate, is a Malayan language spoken in the Malaysian state of Kelantan and the neighbouring southernmost provinces of Thailand. It is the primary spoken language of Thai Malays, but is also used as a lingua franca by ethnic Southern Thais in rural areas, Muslim and non-Muslim, and the samsam, a mostly Thai-speaking population of mixed Malay and Thai ancestry.

Kelantan–Pattani Malay is a highly divergent dialect of Malay because of the geographical isolation of the dialect from the rest of the Malay world by high mountains, deep rainforest and the South China Sea. In Thailand, it is influenced by Thai. Several varieties exist, but they are mutually comprehensible to the extent that native speakers of Pattani and Kelantanese often cannot differentiate each other.

Kelantanese–Pattani Malay is distinct enough that radio broadcasts in Standard Malay cannot be understood easily. However, one major difference is that in Thailand, nobody is required to learn Standard Malay and so there is potentially less language influence from standard Malay but potentially more from Thai, but in Malaysia, Standard Malay is required by the school curriculum. It is different also from Kedah Malay and Terengganuan Malay, but both dialects have close similarities with the Kelantanese-Pattani Malay dialect.


The language is often referred to in Thai as Phasa Yawi (Thai: ภาษายาวี  [pʰāːsǎː jāːwīː]), which is a corruption of the Malay name for the modified Arabic alphabet for writing Malay, Jawi (Yawi: جاوي, Rumi: Jawi, IPA: [dʑaˈwi]). It is also referred to in Thai as Phasa Malayu Pattani (Thai: ภาษามลายูปัตตานี  [pʰāːsǎː mālāːjūː pàttāːnīː]) and similarly locally in Malay as Bahasa Malayu Patani (Jawi: بهاس ملايو ڤطاني, Rumi: Bahasa Melayu Patani, local pronunciation: [baˈsɔ ˈnːaju ˈtːaniŋ]). The dialect is often simply just called Bahasa Patani.

Kelantanese is known in Standard Malay as Bahasa Kelantan, and in Kelantanese as Baso Kelate.


Pattani Malay is the main language of the provinces of Narathiwat, Yala, Pattani where the Malay ethnic group is the dominant one. It is less spoken in Satun, where even the ethnic Malays generally speak Southern Thai and Kedah Malay. It is also spoken in scattered villages as far north as Hat Yai. In the past, Malay was the main language as far north as the Isthmus of Kra, the traditional division between Central Thailand and Southern Thailand, based on the preponderance of etymologically Malay place names.

Kelantanese is spoken in the state of Kelantan, as well as in Besut district of Terengganu and the Perhentian Islands. Many people in the districts of Baling, Sik and Padang Terap in Kedah speak dialects similar to Kelantanese, since most of the people there are the descendants of Pattani refugees.

Writing system

Kelantanese Malay has an older and a richer literary history than standard Malay. It is written in the Jawi alphabet, based on the Arabic script, which is where the name "Yawi/Jawi" for the language comes from. This is in stark contrast to the rest of the general population of Malay speakers in both Malaysia and Indonesia that now use the Latin script, known in Malay as rumi (رومي), for daily communication. Today, Pattani Malay itself is generally not a written language, though it is sometimes written in informal settings or eye dialect. When writing is needed, an old-fashioned variety of standard Malay is used rather than the local dialect. A phonetic rendering of Pattani Malay in the Thai alphabet has been introduced, but it has not met with much success, due to the socio-religious significance of Jawi to Muslim Malays, as well as because of numerous inconsistencies and inaccuracies.


Southern Thailand has continued to be a region affected by two cultural spheres: the mainly Buddhist, Thai-speaking Siamese kingdoms and the mainly Muslim, Malay-speaking sultanates. The region was a warehouse of trade where merchants from Europe, India, Arabia, China, Siam, and the other Malay world met. At first dominated by Hindu-Buddhist Indian influences, the great kingdom of Srivijaya would later fall in chaos. Islam was introduced by Arab and Indian traders in the 11th century and has been the dominant religion ever since, replacing the Buddhism and Hinduism that had held sway before. By the 14th century, the area became vassals to Ayutthaya, but the region was autonomous and never fully incorporated into the modern Thai nation-state till 1902. This political autonomy and isolation from the rest of the Malay world allowed for preservation of the Malay language and culture but also led to the divergence of the dialect.

Differences between Yawi and Standard Malay

Kelantanese is different enough from Standand Malay that it is often unintelligible to speakers of the standard language. Differences include different vocabulary, but also involve regular sound changes. The influence of Southern Thai and Pattani Malay upon each other is great, and both have large numbers of loanwords from the other. The influence of the Thai language is one factor that makes comprehension between Pattani Malay and Standard Malay difficult.



  1. Kelantan-Pattani Malay at Ethnologue (18th ed., 2015)
  2. Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin; Bank, Sebastian, eds. (2016). "Pattani Malay". Glottolog 2.7. Jena: Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History.
Kelantan-Pattani Malay test of Wikipedia at Wikimedia Incubator
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