- Indonesian language
Indonesian Bahasa Indonesia Spoken in East Timor (as a "working language") Region Southeast Asia Native speakers 23 million (2000)
140 million L2 speakers (no date)
Language family Writing system Latin alphabet Official status Official language in Indonesia Regulated by Pusat Bahasa Language codes ISO 639-1 id ISO 639-2 ind ISO 639-3 ind This page contains IPA phonetic symbols in Unicode. Without proper rendering support, you may see question marks, boxes, or other symbols instead of Unicode characters.
Indonesian (Bahasa Indonesia) is the official language of Indonesia. Indonesian is a normative form of the Riau Islands dialect of Malay, an Austronesian language which has been used as a lingua franca in the Indonesian archipelago for centuries.
Indonesia is the fourth most populous nation in the world. Of its large population the number of people who fluently speak Indonesian is fast approaching 100%, thus making Indonesian one of the most widely spoken languages in the world.
Most Indonesians, aside from speaking the national language, are often fluent in another regional language (examples include Javanese, Minangkabau and Sundanese) which are commonly used at home and within the local community. Most formal education, as well as nearly all national media and other forms of communication, are conducted in Indonesian. In East Timor, which was an Indonesian province from 1975 to 1999, Indonesian is recognised by the constitution as one of the two working languages (the other is English, alongside the official languages of Tetum and Portuguese).
The Indonesian name for the language is Bahasa Indonesia (literally "the language of Indonesia"). This term can sometimes still be found in written or spoken English. In addition, the language is sometimes referred to as "Bahasa" by English speakers, though this simply means "language" and thus does not technically specify the Indonesian language.
Indonesian is a normative form of the Riau dialect of the Malay language, an Austronesian (and Malayo-Polynesian) language originally spoken in Northeast Sumatra which has been used as a lingua franca in the Indonesian archipelago for half a millennium. It was elevated to the status of official language with the Indonesian declaration of independence in 1945, drawing inspiration from the Sumpah Pemuda (Youth's Oath) event in 1928. Indonesian (in its most standard form) is largely mutually intelligible with the official Malaysian form of Malay. However, it does differ from Malaysian in several aspects, with differences in pronunciation and vocabulary. These differences are mainly due to the Dutch and Javanese influences on Indonesian. Indonesian was also influenced by the "bazaar Malay" that was the lingua franca of the archipelago in colonial times, and thus indirectly by the other spoken languages of the islands: Malaysian Malay claims to be closer to the literary Malay of earlier centuries even though modern Malay has been heavily influenced, in lexicon as well as in syntax, by English.
Whilst Indonesian is spoken as a mother tongue by only a small proportion of Indonesia's large population (i.e. mainly those who reside within the vicinity of Jakarta and other large predominantly Indonesian-speaking cities such as Medan), over 200 million people regularly make use of the national language – some with varying degrees of proficiency. In a nation which boasts more than 300 native languages and a vast array of ethnic groups, it plays an important unifying and cross-archipelagic role for the country. Use of the national language is abundant in the media, government bodies, schools, universities, workplaces, amongst members of the Indonesian upper-class or nobility and also in many other formal situations.
Standard and formal Indonesian is used in books and newspapers and on television/radio news broadcasts; however, few native Indonesian speakers use the formal language in their daily conversations. While this is a phenomenon common to most languages in the world (for example, spoken English does not always correspond to written standards), the degree of "correctness" of spoken Indonesian (in terms of grammar and vocabulary) by comparison to its written form is noticeably low. This is mostly due to Indonesians combining aspects of their own local languages (e.g., Javanese, Sundanese, Balinese, and Chinese dialects) with Indonesian. This results in various 'regional' Indonesian dialects, the very types that a foreigner is most likely to hear upon arriving in any Indonesian city or town. This phenomenon is amplified by the use of Indonesian slang, particularly in the cities.
The language is spoken throughout Indonesia (and East Timor), although it is used most extensively as a first language in urban areas and usually as a second or third language in more rural parts of Indonesia. It is also spoken by an additional 1.5+ million people worldwide, particularly in the Netherlands, Suriname, East Timor, the Philippines, Australia, Saudi Arabia, New Caledonia, and the United States.
Indonesian is written with the Latin alphabet. Consonants are represented in a way similar to Italian, although ⟨c⟩ is always /tʃ/ (like English ⟨ch⟩), ⟨g⟩ is always /ɡ/ ("hard") and ⟨j⟩ represents /dʒ/ as it does in English. In addition, ⟨ny⟩ represents the palatal nasal /ɲ/, ⟨ng⟩ is used for the velar nasal /ŋ/ (which can occur word-initially), ⟨sy⟩ for /ʃ/ (English ⟨sh⟩) and ⟨kh⟩ for the voiceless velar fricative /x/. Both /e/ and /ə/ are represented with ⟨e⟩.
It is important to note the spelling changes in the language that have occurred since Indonesian independence. The changes include:
oe u tj c dj j j y nj ny sj sy ch kh
The first of these changes (⟨oe⟩ to ⟨u⟩) occurred around the time of independence in 1947; all of the others were a part of the Perfected Spelling System, an officially-mandated spelling reform in 1972. Some of the old spellings (which were derived from Dutch orthography) do survive in proper names; for example, the name of a former president of the Indonesia is still sometimes written Soeharto, and the central Java city of Yogyakarta is sometimes written Jogjakarta.
Pronunciation and grammar
The Dutch colonisation left an imprint on the Indonesian language that can be seen in words such as polisi (from politie = police), kualitas (from kwaliteit = quality), wortel (from wortel = carrot), kamar (from kamer = room, chamber), rokok (from roken = smoking cigarettes), korupsi (from corruptie = corruption), persneling (from versnelling = gear), kantor (from kantoor = office), resleting (from ritssluiting = zipper), kelas (from klas = class), and gratis (from gratis = free).
Alongside Malay, Portuguese was the lingua franca for trade throughout the archipelago from the sixteenth century through to the early nineteenth century. Indonesian words derived from Portuguese include sabun (from sabão = soap), meja (from mesa = table), boneka (from boneca = doll), jendela (from janela = window), gereja (from igreja = church), bola (from bola = ball), bendera (from bandeira = flag), roda (from roda = wheel), gagu (from gago = stutterer), sepatu (from sapato = shoes), kereta (from carreta = wagon), bangku (from banco = chair), keju (from queijo = cheese), garpu (from garfo = fork), terigu (from trigo = flour), mentega (from manteiga = butter), and Minggu (from domingo = Sunday).
Some of the many words of Chinese origin (presented here with accompanying Hokkien/ Mandarin pronunciation derivatives as well as traditional and simplified characters) include pisau (匕首 bǐshǒu – knife), loteng, (楼/层 = lóu/céng – [upper] floor/ level), mie (麵 > 面 Hokkien mī – noodles), lumpia (潤餅 (Hokkien = lūn-piáⁿ) – springroll), cawan, (茶碗 cháwǎn – teacup), teko (茶壺 > 茶壶 = cháhú [Mandarin], teh-ko [Hokkien] = teapot), 苦力 kuli = 苦 khu (bitter) and 力 li (energy) and even the widely used slang terms gua and lu (from the Hokkien 'goa' 我 and 'lu/li' 你 – meaning 'I/ me' and 'you'). From Sanskrit came words such as भाषा bahasa (language), कच kaca (glass, mirror), राज raja (king), मणुष्य manusia (mankind), भुमी bumi (earth/ world) and अगम agama (religion). Words of Arabic origin include dunia (from Arabic دنيا dun-ya = the present world, as opposed to the after-life world), Sabtu (from Arabic السبت as-Sabt = Saturday), kabar (خبر = news), selamat/ salam (سلام salam = a greeting), senin (الإثنين al-Itnain = Monday), selasa (الثلاثاء at-Tulata = Tuesday), jumat (الجمعة al-Jum'at = Friday), ijazah (عجازة 'ijazah = diploma), hadiah (هدية hadiyyah = gift/present), mungkin (from ممكين mumkin = perhaps), maklum (معلوم ma'lum = understood), kitab (كتاب kitab = book), tertib (ترتيب tartib = orderly) and kamus (قاموس qamus = dictionary). There are also words derived from Javanese, e.g. aku (meaning I/ me (informal) and its derivative form, mengaku (to admit or confess).
Indonesian as a modern dialect of Malay has borrowed heavily from many languages, including: Sanskrit, Arabic, Persian, Portuguese, Dutch, Chinese and many other languages, including other Austronesian languages. It is estimated that there are some 750 Sanskrit loanwords in modern Indonesian, 1,000 Arabic loans, some of Persian and Hebrew origin, some 125 words of Portuguese (also Spanish and Italian) origin and a staggering number of some 10,000 loanwords from Dutch. The latter also comprises many words from other European languages, which came via Dutch, the so-called "International Vocabulary". The vast majority of Indonesian words, however, come from the root lexical stock of its Austronesian (incl. Old Malay) heritage.
Although Hinduism and Buddhism are no longer the major religions of Indonesia, Sanskrit which was the language vehicle for these religions, is still held in high esteem and is comparable with the status of Latin in English and other Western European languages. Residents of Bali and Java tend to be particularly proud of the Hindu-Buddhist heritage. Sanskrit is also the main source for neologisms. These are usually formed from Sanskrit roots. The loanwords from Sanskrit cover many aspects of religion, art and everyday life. The Sanskrit influence came from contacts with India long ago before the time of Christ. The words are either directly borrowed from India or with the intermediary of the Old Javanese language. In the classical language of Java, Old Javanese, the number of Sanskrit loanwords is far greater. The Old Javanese — English dictionary by prof. P.J. Zoetmulder, S.J. (1982) contains no fewer than 25,500 entries. Almost half are Sanskrit loanwords. Sanskrit loanwords, unlike those from other languages, have entered the basic vocabulary of Indonesian to such an extent that, for many, they are no longer perceived to be foreign.
The loanwords from Arabic are mainly concerned with religion, in particular with Islam, as can be expected. Allah is the word for God even in Christian Bible translations. Many early Bible translators, when they came across some unusual Hebrew words or proper names, used the Arabic cognates. In the newer translations this practice is discontinued. They now turn to Greek names or use the original Hebrew Word. For example, the name Jesus was initially translated as 'Isa, but is now spelt as Yesus. Psalms used to be translated as Zabur, the Arabic name, but now it is called Mazmur which corresponds more with Hebrew.
Loanwords from Portuguese are common words, which were mainly connected with articles the early European traders and explorers brought to Southeast Asia. The Portuguese were among the first westerners to sail east to the "Spice Islands".
The Chinese loanwords are usually concerned with cuisine, trade or often just exclusively things Chinese. There is a considerable Chinese presence in the whole of Southeast Asia. According to the 2000 census, the relative number of people of Chinese descent in Indonesia is almost 1%, although this may likely be an underestimate.
The former colonial power, the Netherlands, left an impressive vocabulary. These Dutch loanwords, and also from other non Italo-Iberian, European languages loanwords which came via Dutch, cover all aspects of life. Some Dutch loanwords, having clusters of several consonants, pose difficulties to speakers of Indonesian. This problem is usually solved by insertion of the schwa. For example Dutch schroef [ˈsxruf] → sekrup [səˈkrup].
As modern Indonesian draws many of its words from foreign sources, there are many synonyms. For example, Indonesian has three words for "book", i.e. pustaka (from Sanskrit), kitab (from Arabic) and buku (from Dutch). These words have, unsurprisingly, slightly different meanings. A pustaka is often connected with ancient wisdom or sometimes with esoteric knowledge. A derived form, perpustakaan means a library. A kitab is usually a religious scripture or a book containing moral guidance. The Indonesian words for the Bible and Gospel are Alkitab and Injil, both directly derived from Arabic. The book containing the penal code is also called the kitab. Buku is the most common word for books.
In addition to those above (and the borrowed words listed under the sub-heading History towards the top of this article), there are also direct borrowings from various other languages of the world, such as "karaoke" from Japanese, and "modem" from English.
Generally Indonesian does not make use of grammatical gender, and there are only selected words that use natural gender. For instance, the same word is used for he and she (dia/ia) or for his and her (dia/ia/-nya). No real distinction is made between "girlfriend" and "boyfriend", both pacar (although more colloquial terms as cewek girl/girlfriend and cowok guy/boyfriend can also be found). A majority of Indonesian words that refer to people generally have a form that does not distinguish between the sexes. However, unlike English, distinction is made between older or younger (a characteristic quite common to many Asian languages). For example, adik refers to a younger sibling of either gender and kakak refers to an older sibling, again, either male or female. In order to specify the natural gender of a noun, an adjective must be added. Thus, adik laki-laki corresponds to "younger brother" but really means "male younger sibling".
There are some words that are gendered, for instance putri means "daughter", and putra means "son" and also pramugara means "air steward" (male flight attendant) and pramugari meaning "air stewardess" (female flight attendant). Another example would be olahragawan, which equates to "sportsman", and olahragawati, meaning sportswoman. Often, words like these (or certain suffixes such as "-a" and "-i" or "-wan" and "wati") are absorbed from other languages (in these cases, from Sanskrit through the Old Javanese language). In some regions of Indonesia such as Sumatera and Jakarta, abang (a gender-specific term meaning "older brother") is commonly used as a form of address for older siblings/ males, whilst kakak (a non-gender specific term (meaning "older sibling") is often used to mean "older sister". Similarly, more direct influences from dialects such as Javanese and Chinese languages have also seen further use of other gendered words in Indonesian. For example: Mas (Jav. = older brother), M'bak (Jav. = older sister), Koko (older brother) and Cici (older sister).
Spoken & informal Indonesian
In very informal spoken Indonesian, various words are replaced with those of a less formal nature (e.g. tidak (no) is often replaced with the Javanese nggak whilst seperti (like, similar to) is often replaced with kayak (pronounced kai-yah)). As for pronunciation, the diphthongs ai and au on the end of base words are typically pronounced as /e/ and /o/. In informal writing the spelling of words is modified to reflect the actual pronunciation in a way that can be produced with less effort. E.g.: capai becomes cape or capek, pakai become pake, kalau becomes kalo.
In verbs, the prefix me- is often dropped, although an initial nasal consonant is often retained. E.g.: mengangkat becomes ngangkat (the basic word is angkat). The suffixes -kan and -i are often replaced by -in. E.g.: mencarikan becomes nyariin, menuruti becomes nurutin. The latter grammatical aspect is one often closely related to Indonesian found in Jakarta and surrounding areas. For more, and to listen to examples, see SEASite Guide to Pronunciation of Indonesian
- Bahasa, for other language referred with that word
- Languages of Indonesia
- Language families and languages
- Demographics of Indonesia
- Indonesian slang language
- Indonesian abbreviated words
- Differences between Malay and Indonesian
- List of English words of Indonesian origin
- ^ James Neil Sneddon. The Indonesian Language: Its History and Role in Modern Society. UNSW Press, 2004. Page 14."
- ^ a b Ethnologue - An encyclopedic reference work cataloging all of the world’s 6,909 known living languages.
- ^ "Bahasa Indonesia: The Indonesian Language," George Quinn, Australian National University
- ^ Ricklefs, M.C. (1991). A History of Modern Indonesia Since c.1300, 2nd Edition. London: MacMillan. pp. 26. ISBN 0-333-57689-6.
- ^ This is a research led by Prof. Dr. J.W. de Vries of the University of Leiden in the Netherlands
- Phrasebook for the Indonesian language from Wikitravel
- Indonesia History
- Learning Indonesian
- Learning Indonesian on the Internet
- Indonesian Swadesh list of basic vocabulary words (from Wiktionary's Swadesh-list appendix)
- Indonesian Vocabulary List with Loanwords
- Indonesia WWW Virtual Library
- Bahasa Indonesia Dictionary
- Learning Indonesian in 7 Days (SEAsite)
- Indonesia Translator
- Google Indonesia Translator
- Indonesia Dictionary
- Indonesian Text To Speech
- Online Indonesian Phrasebook
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