North Moluccan Malay

North Moluccan Malay
Bahasa Pasar
Native to Indonesia
Region North Maluku
Native speakers
700,000 (2001)[1]
Malay Creole
  • East Indonesian

    • North Moluccan Malay
Language codes
ISO 639-3 max
Glottolog nort2828[2]

North Moluccan Malay (also known as Ternate Malay) is a language spoken in Ternate, Tidore and Halmahera islands, North Maluku for intergroup communications, and in the Sula Islands. The local name of the language is Bahasa Pasar, and the name Ternate Malay is also used, after the main ethnic group speaking the language. Since North Moluccan Malay is used only for spoken communication, there is no standard orthography.

This creole resembles Manado Malay, but with different accents and vocabulary. A large percentage of its vocabulary is borrowed from Ternatean, such as, ngana "you (sg.)", ngoni "you (pl.)", bifi "ant" and ciri "to fall".



The vowel system of North Moluccan Malay consists of five vowel phonemes and five diphthongs.[3]:15

High iu
Mid eo
Low a

The five diphthongs are /ai/, /ae/, /ao/, /oi/ and /ei/.[3]:15


North Moluccan Malay has eighteen consonants and two semivowels.[3]:19

Nasal mnɲŋ
Plosive p bt dc ɟk ɡʔ
Fricative fs h
Lateral l
Trill ɲ
Semivowel w j


Personal Pronouns

Personal pronouns in North Moluccan Malay only distinguish between person (first, second and third person) and number (singular and plural). Some pronouns can also be used to show respect to other speakers.[3]:142

Person Singular Plural
Full Shortened Full Shortened
1 kita
saya (respectful)
- (ki)torang tong
2 ngana - ngoni -
3 dia de dorang dong


The use of the first person singular pronouns kita and saya is dependent on the speech situation. Kita is used when talking to others of the same or lower age, rank or status. On the other hand, saya is used in more formal situations or when conversing with someone with a higher rank or status, to show respect to the other person.[3]:143

The second person singular and plural pronouns, ngana and ngoni also share a similar distinction. Ngana is used to refer to an addressee if they of the same or lower age, rank or status. Otherwise speakers may use personal names or kinship terms to refer to the addressee.[3]:144 Alternatively, the plural second person pronoun ngoni can occasionally be used to refer to a single addressee respectfully, although it is typically reserved for addressing a group of people.[3]:147

These distinctions are demonstrated in example (1) where the speaker telling his friends of a situation where he explains to a woman that he does not want to accept money for helping to carry her shopping onto the bus. Since he is talking to his friends he refers to himself as kita, but because he is not familiar with the woman he uses the more respectful saya to refer to himself and ngoni to address her.

(1) kita bilang, "Ibu... sayabantusaja pa ngoni."
1SG say mother 1SG assist only to 2
"I said: 'Madam, I'm only helping you.'"[3]:143

Full and shortened forms

For pronouns with a full and shortened form, the two forms may be used interchangeably in most contexts. However, following the conjunction deng or prepositions (such as di, ka, dari or pa) only the full form may be used.[3]:142 This is seen in example (2) where the short form de is used except following the preposition pa, where the full forms dia and torang appear instead:

(2) tikus ini, kalo manakalpadia, de manakalpatorang.
mouse this when be.naughty to 3SG 3SG be.naughty to1PL
"this mouse, if we harm it, it will harm us"[3]:145

In addition, the shortened forms do not appear post-verbally (i.e. after predicates).[3]:144–147 Hence in the following example tong cannot appear after the verb bunu "kill", only the full form torang is allowed:

(3) iblis tara mungkin bunutorang
devil NEG possible kill 1PL
"it's impossible for a devil to kill us"[3]:146

It should be noted that the full form of the first person plural pronoun torang is actually a shortening of kitorang which is sometimes used by older speakers however younger speakers rarely use this form.[3]:145

The only exceptions to the two restrictions mentioned above is when the pronoun is part of a Y pe X possessive construction in which case the shortened form may be used as the possessor Y.[3]:142 Example (4) shows a possessive Y pe X construction containing the first person plural short form pronoun dong occurring after a preposition pa:

(4) tong brenti pas padongpe muka.
1PL stop exact to 3PL POSS face
"we stopped precisely in front of them."[3]:148

Similarly, example (5) shows the third person singular short form pronoun de occurring after the verb iko "follow" also as part of a Y pe X possessive construction. This contrasts with the use of the full form dia after the second instance of iko, where the pronoun is no longer part of a possessive construction:

(5) de pe lalar ikodepe luka,bukangikodia.
3SG POSS fly follow 3SG POSS woundNEGfollow3SG
"the flies are following his wounds, they are not following him."[3]:145


  1. North Moluccan Malay at Ethnologue (18th ed., 2015)
  2. Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin; Bank, Sebastian, eds. (2016). "North Moluccan Malay". Glottolog 2.7. Jena: Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History.
  3. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 Litamahuputty, Bathseba Helena Johanna (2012). Ternate Malay: Grammar and Texts. Utrecht: LOT. ISBN 978-94-6093-088-1.
North Moluccan Malay test of Wikipedia at Wikimedia Incubator
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