Saturday, July 09, 2005

Indonesian and Balinese: two different languages

In Bali they speak Indonesian and Balinese. The image is of some of the Balinese characters. There is a westernised script too, compulsory in primary schools, but apparently, just like we forget about dinosaurs, explorers, and the life cycle of the chicken (not to mention long division in most people's cases), the Balinese promptly forget this script, known as Tulisan Bali, an example of which is this:
Sami manusane sane nyruwadi wantah merdeka tur maduwe kautamaan lan hak-hak sane pateh. Sami kalugrain papineh lan idep tur mangdane pada masawitra melarapan semangat pakulawargaan.
There is hardly anything published in the old Balinese alphabet (and an older language, extinct as a spoken language, Kawi) except for religious texts, often inscribed onto lontar palm leaves.

Indonesian is a great language in that its basics can be picked up within a few weeks (the essentials in one week according to this useful site). (Reminds me of Count Tolstoy's claim to have mastered understanding written Esperanto in no more than two hours.) It does not have genders, uses time indicators rather than tenses, is said to be pronounced similarly to Italian, and compared to other languages, is highly phonetic. It is not entirely without complications, though: good bye is different according to whether the speaker is staying or leaving.

It is the native tongue of hardly anyone in Indonesia (7%) and is a standardised dialect of Malaysian. It is the native tongue of only 45% of Malaysians. "Bahasa" means language, and the two countries call their languages "Bahasa Indonesia" and "Bahasa Malaya". It was a trading lingua franca of the kingdoms which predated the nation of Indonesia.

There is a slang form of Indonesian. Wikipedia is a cool encylopaedia: see their list of swearwords and find out the Indonesian slang for scrotum.

Since independence in 1945, when the language was adopted as the official language of the nation, there have been official spelling changes away from Dutch-inspired spellings to simpler spellings. Thus Soeharto became Suharto and Jogjakarta became Yogyakarta.


Anonymous Milton Bradway said...

Very nice. Keep up the good work.

6:43 am  

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