By Kuah Guan Oo
Pic by Mohd Hasrul Hamdan
SERDANG, 26 Nov (UPM) – From parliamentary debates to written examination answers by undergraduates, there is a dearth of “high” Malay language used, said a lecturer of Universiti Putra Malaysia.
Instead, it is the colloquial or “low” version that is used prevalently by almost all sectors of the Malaysian society, in stark contrast to the flowering of the language today to a level that is unprecedented in the history of Nusantara, said Assoc Prof Dr Sarjit Singh Gill, 40, the head of the Department of Social and Development Sciences of UPM.
A social anthropologist by training, he has studied and written extensive critique on the usage and development of the Malay language for more than a decade, and he found that it is the school system and the Malays themselves who are to be blamed for this huge disparity in the use of “high” and “low” Malay language in the Malaysian society.
“When the native speakers themselves do not make it a point to speak and write in high Malay language (bahasa tinggi), then the language would be masked by the colloquial version that we hear or read every day.”
In recognition of his work, Dr Sarjit was accorded the “Citra Sahabat DBP” or “special friend of the DBP” (or Dewan Bahasa dan Pustaka) award by the Minister of Education II, Dato’ Seri Idris Jusoh on 7th Nov 2013.
The DBP which was established in 1956, is the authority overseeing the uniform and standard development of the Malay language and writing in the country, where it is the official language.
He said the Malay language has blossomed since independence to a high level as can be seen in the Syarahan Perdana or Inaugural Lecture series where high Malay language is used.
“I hope the editors will keep it that way,” said Dr Sarjit who is the first individual to be given such recognition by DBP, which cited him for his valuable contribution to the development of the Malay language and Malay writing.
He has to date written more than 80 articles commenting mainly on the development and usage of the national language since 1999.
These articles were published by DBP’s stable of publications like Dewan Masyarakat, Dewan Budaya, Pelita Bahasa, Dewan Siswa, apart from the newspapers like Berita Harian.
“The themes of my writing were on man, society and the culture of Malaysia and where I criticized, they were constructive criticisms because I also offered suggestions for solutions.
“I guess this is why DBP appreciated my work,” he said, adding that he had also assisted DBP in organising conferences and seminars.
Dr Sarjit who was born in Sentul, had studied at SRK Jalan Kuantan I and Setapak High School near his neighbourhood, before enrolling at Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia where he obtained his Bachelor and Master degrees in Anthropology and Sociology in 1998 and 1999, respectively.
Under the tutelage of the eminent scholar in social anthropology, Distinguished Prof Datuk Dr Shamsul Amri Baharuddin whom he admired, he went on to obtain his PhD from UKM in 2005.
He said he would continue to write his critique on the Malay language despite his busy schedule as a lecturer, editor and advisor. Among them is as the Executive Editor of the Malaysian Journal of Youth Studies and a member of the Malaysian Integrity Institute (IIM) since 2009.
He was handpicked by Datuk Paul Low, Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department to be a member of the Task Force Studying the Report of a National Inquiry on the Land Rights of the Orang Asli by Suhakam, the national commission on human rights.
His next target is to compile all his writing into a book once he has written his 100th article! – UPM
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