• Nathan John Albury
  • Khin Khin Aye


This paper examines the motivations behind Malaysia’s national language policy in theoretical terms to allow the Malaysian narrative to be positioned in an international context. To do this, it applies Spolsky’s (2004) theory of what influences language policy making in contemporary nation-states, namely national ideology, the role of English in globalisation era, the nation’s sociolinguistic situation, and an interest in linguistic minority rights. The paper argues that all factors are relevant in the Malaysian context. However, the domestic sociolinguistic situation only influences policy in so far as Malaysia’s response to its ethnolinguistic minorities is limited to minimal linguistic rights in the education system. This limited acceptance of linguistic diversity continues a tradition of protecting what Malaysian law sees as the supremacy of Malay culture and language. The paper concludes with an invitation to apply this theory in the study of other nations in the region to foster a robust body of comparative data on national language policies in Southeast Asia.


Keywords: Malaysia, national language policy, ethnocracy, national identity, language rights

Cite as: Albury, N.J., & Aye, K.K. (2016).  Malaysia’s national language policy in international theoretical context. Journal of Nusantara Studies, 1(1), 71-84.

Author Biographies

Nathan John Albury
Center for Multilingualism in Society across the Lifespan, University of Oslo, Postboks 1102 Blindern, Oslo 0317, Norway
Khin Khin Aye
Faculty of Language and Communication, Swinburne University of Technology, Jalan Simpang Tiga, 93350 Kuching, Sarawak, Malaysia
How to Cite
John Albury, N., & Khin Aye, K. (2016). MALAYSIA’S NATIONAL LANGUAGE POLICY IN INTERNATIONAL THEORETICAL CONTEXT. Journal of Nusantara Studies (JONUS), 1(1), 71-84.