Variation and Brunei Malay
One important reason for variation is that, for most speakers, Standard Malay is a second language or dialect, existing in a diglossic relationship with a local variety. That local variety can be a distinct language, or it can be a local dialect of Malay which, as with Brunei Malay, can diverge greatly from Standard Malay in many respects.
The local varieties naturally differ quite substantially phonetically and phonologically from Standard Malay, and these differences influence the varieties of Standard Malay that are spoken in each place. In Malaysia this has given rise to two groups of standard varieties, which can be termed the ‘a-varieties’ and the ‘schwa varieties’, as they differ in the realisation of word-final orthographic <a> (pronounced as either /a/ or /ə/) in addition to a range of other features (Asmah Haji Omar 1977). Pronunciation of Indonesian also varies considerably depending on the first language of the speaker, as van Zanten (1986) and van Zanten, Goedemans & Pacilly (2003) have demonstrated.
In Brunei, the pronunciation of Standard Malay similarly reflects influences from Brunei Malay (Dialek Melayu Brunei), the dominant vernacular variety of Malay in the country. Brunei Malay differs markedly from Standard Malay in its phonology, grammar, and lexis (Clynes 2001, Dewan Bahasa dan Pustaka 2007), to the extent that some might regard it as a separate language (Martin 1996). One major difference in the phonology involves the vowels: Brunei Malay has only three vowels, /i a u/, rather than the six vowels of Standard Malay, so for example perang /pəraŋ/ ‘war’ in Standard Malay is parang /paraŋ/ in Brunei Malay; and orang /oraŋ/ ‘person’ in Standard Malay is urang /uraŋ/ in Brunei Malay.