The Roles and Challenges of the National Language in Uniting the Various Ethnic Groups in Sabah

  • Sharifah Darmia Sharif Adam Pusat Penataran Ilmu dan Bahasa, Universiti Malaysia Sabah (UMS)
Keywords: national language, Malay language, ethnic unity


This paper discusses the roles and challenges of the national language, which is Malay as a language in uniting the various ethnic groups in Sabah. On September 16, 1963, the Federation of Malaysia was officially declared which comprised of the Malay States, Singapore, Sabah and Sarawak. In line with that, the special provisions on the national language in Sabah are contained in Article 161 of the national constitution. Although the provision of the constitution clarify that Sabah was given a 10-year period to use Malay and English as the official languages but later on September 16, 1973 the Malay language was declared the sole official language for the state of Sabah. Hence, various efforts have been made by the government to ensure the national language can play its role as a language that can unite the various ethnic groups in Sabah. However, ethnic diversity with their own ethnic mother tongue languages has resulted in the Malay language as a national language as well as the language of unity to face many challenges. Therefore, the discussion in this paper is focused on policies undertaken by the government to strengthen the national language in various fields in Sabah and the challenges faced by the national language to foster unity among the various ethnic communities in the state. This study was conducted using a qualitative analysis approach and used archive study methods as well as library study to obtain research information sources. This study will produce an analysis that can be used as a reference to improve or formulate policies particularly in matters that benefit in strengthening the multi-ethnic communities in Sabah.


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How to Cite
Sharif Adam, S. D. (2019). The Roles and Challenges of the National Language in Uniting the Various Ethnic Groups in Sabah. Malaysian Journal of Social Sciences and Humanities (MJSSH), 4(4), 1 - 11. Retrieved from