Malay is a member of the Austronesian family of languages which includes languages from Southeast Asia and the Pacific Ocean, with a smaller number in continental Asia. Malagasy is a geographic outlier, spoken in the island of Madagascar in the Indian Ocean is also a member of this linguistic family.
Malay belong to the Malayo-Polynesian branch of the family, which includes the Languages of the Philippines and Malagasy, which is further subdivided into Outer Hesperonesian languages and Nuclear Malayo-Polynesian of which Malay is a member. Malay's closest relatives therefore include Javanese, Acehnese, Chamorro and Palau (Belau), Gilbertese, Nauruan, Hawaiian, Maori, Samoan, Tahitian, Tongan and Tuvaluan.
Although each language of the family is mutually unintelligible, their similarities are rather striking. Many roots have come virtually unchanged from their common Autronesian ancestor. Many cognates are kinship terms, health, body parts and common animals. Numbers, especially, show remarkable similarities.