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Malay(mā`lā), general term for one of a population of persons inhabiting SE Asia and the adjacent islands. The Malays vary greatly in physical appearance. The term Indonesian, used as an alternative for Malayan, is sometimes applied to the people of interior districts, who are thought to be related to the Pygmies or Negritos (probably the earlier inhabitants of the region). In the coastal districts there has been intermixture with the Arabs, the Chinese, the Indians, and the Thais. Scores of languages or dialects are spoken; they form a group of the Malayo-Polynesian languagesMalayo-Polynesian languages
, sometimes also called Austronesian languages
, family of languages estimated at from 300 to 500 tongues and understood by approximately 300 million people in Madagascar; the Malay Peninsula; Indonesia and New Guinea; the Philippines;
..... Click the link for more information. . Among anthropologists the term Malayan is used exclusively to describe an inhabitant of the Malayan Peninsula.
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