On the existing Dictionaries of the Malay Language

By Dr. H. N. Van Der Tuuk.

Art. VIII.Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society of Great Britain & Ireland

By Royal Asiatic Society of Great Britain and Ireland

Published by Cambridge University Press for the Royal Asiatic Society, 1865


The purpose of the writer of this paper is, to call the attention of Oriental Scholars to the state of our knowledge of the Malay language, and especially to the dictionaries to which we must have recourse in studying it. An Englishman naturally turns to Marsden, and there can be little doubt that he will find it a valuable help in his labour. But the scholars of Holland, who have continued to study Malay, not only complain that Marsden's Dictionary has become antiquated, but that it cannot bo relied on in a number of cases, being occasionally faulty both in the pronunciation which it teaches and in the signification which it attaches to the words. Marsden himself honestly admitted that he did not study the language until after his return to Europe, and that he had compiled his work from vocabularies made by persons who, having studied for merely practical purposes, had collected words without knowing either their orthography or correct pronunciation ; hence we find in it a great many words which are never met with by readers of Malay books.1 Notwithstanding this defect, the work of Marsden has become the basis of the dictionaries published in Holland and Batavia, and Dutch lexicographers have worked upon it without noticing its deficiency, literally copying its gravest errors.

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