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What I've found is that word-final /a/ in native Malay words and words up to the time of the Portuguese invasion (16-17th century) undergo reduction, e.g.:

/a/ → [ə] / __#

Mata (eye) - [matə]
Kura-kura (tortoise) - [kurə kurə]
Gila (crazy) - [gilə]

Jendela (janela, window) - [dʒəndelə]
Kemeja (camisa, shirt) - [kəmedʒə]
Tinta (tinta, ink) - [tintə]

Non-native words retain /a/, e.g.:

Sfera (sphere) - [sfera]
Koma (coma) - [koma]
Tuala (towel) - [tuʷala]

Surprisingly, the vowel in 'bola' (ball) does not undergo change.

Bola (ball) - [bola]

Based on the retention of the word-final /a/, we could arguably say that 'bola' is a foreign word.

If so, what might the native word for such a basic word be? If not, why is the vowel not reduced?

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  • bola very much looks like a loan word, either from Portuguese (wiktionary adheres to this hypothesis) or later from English ball. Aug 14 '17 at 14:21
  • @jknappen Based on the phonological rule, it should have entered Malay later than Portuguese loan words. Aug 14 '17 at 14:37

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