Indonesian (Bahasa Indonesia) is the official language of Indonesia. Indonesian is a standardized dialect of the Malay language that was officially defined with the declaration of Indonesian independence in 1945, and the two languages remain quite similar.
The language is spoken fluently as a second language by most Indonesians, who use a regional language (examples are Minangkabau and Javanese) at home and in their local community. Most formal education, as well as nearly all national media and other communication, are in Indonesian. Indonesian is also spoken by some people in East Timor, and in Suriname among that nation's large community of people of Indonesian descent.
The Indonesian name for the language is Bahasa Indonesia (literally language of Indonesia); this name is sometimes used in English as well. The language is sometimes called "Bahasa" by English-speakers, though this simply means "language" in Indonesian.
Indonesian is a normative form of the Malay language, an Austronesian (or Malayo-Polynesian) language which had been used as a lingua franca in the Indonesian archipelago for centuries, and 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. It is very similar to the official Malaysian form of the language. However it does differ from the Malaysian form in some ways, with differences in pronunciation and also in vocabulary, due in large part to the many Dutch words in the Indonesian vocabulary.
It is spoken as a mother tongue by only 7% of the population of Indonesia, but altogether more than 200 million people speak it, with varying degrees of proficiency. It is an essential means of communication in a region with more than 300 native languages, used for business and administrative purposes, at all levels of education and in all mass media.
However, most native Indonesian speakers would admit that the standard correct version of the language is hardly ever used in a normal daily conversation. One can read standard correct Indonesian in books and newspaper, or listen to it when watching the news on television, but few native Indonesian speakers use formally correct 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 the fact that most Indonesians tend to mix aspects of their own local dialects (Javanese, Sundanese, Balinese, and even Chinese) with Indonesian when speaking, which results in the creation of various types of accented Indonesian, the very types that a foreigner is most likely to hear upon arriving in any Indonesian city or town. This phenomenon is exacerbated by the use of slang, particularly in the cities. A classic example of a speaker of accented Indonesian is former president Soeharto, whose Javanese dialect came through whenever he delivered a speech.
The Dutch colonization left an imprint on the language that can be seen in words such as polisi (police), kualitas (quality), kopi (coffee), rokok (cigarette), kantor (office), and resleting (zipper). There are also some words derived from Portuguese (sabun, soap; meja, table; jendela, window; and gereja, church), Chinese (pisau, knife or dagger; loteng, [upper] floor), Hindi (kaca, mirror) and from Arabic (khusus, special; maaf, sorry; selamat ..., a greeting; kursi, chair). There are also words derived from Javanese (aku, I (informal), and its derivative form mengaku, confess).
Indonesian is part of the Western Malayo-Polynesian subgroup of the Malayo-Polynesian branch of the Austronesian languages. According to the Ethnologue, Indonesian is modeled after the Riau Malay spoken in northeast Sumatra.
Indonesian is spoken throughout Indonesia (and East Timor), although it is used most extensively in urban areas, and less so in the rural parts of Indonesia.
Indonesian is the official language of Indonesia.
Indonesian as a modern dialect of Malay has borrowed heavily from many languages, among others: Sanskrit, Arabic, Portuguese, Dutch, Chinese and many other languages, including other Austronesian languages. It is estimated that there are some 750 Sanskrit loanwords in modern Indonesian, 21,000 Arabic (Persian and some Hebrew) ones, some 25 Portuguese (also Spanish and Italian) ones 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 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 West 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 lives. The Sanskrit influence came from contacts with India long ago before 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. Unlike other loanwords, Sanskrit loanwords have entered the basic vocabulary of Indonesian, so by many these aren't felt as foreign anymore.
The loanwords from Arabic are mainly concerned with religion, in particular with Islam, as can be expected. 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.
The Portuguese loans 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 who sailed 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 Indonesian government, the relative number of people of Chinese descent in Indonesia is only 3.5%. Whether this is true or not is still a matter of debate, many think the number is much higher. But what is sure is that in urban centres the number can be as high as between 10–25%.
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.
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, as can be expected, 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 guidances. The Indonesian word for the Bible is Alkitab, thus 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, there are also direct borrowings from various languages in the world, such as "karaoke" from Japanese, and "modem" from English.
Spoken and informal Indonesian
In spoken Indonesian, the ai on the end of base words is typically pronounced as /e/. In informal writing (personal communication and "trendy" magazines and newspapers) the spelling of such words is modified to reflect the actual pronunciation. E.g.: capai becomes cape or capek, pakai become pake, kalau becomes kalo.
In verbs, the me- prefixes are often dropped, although the transformed initial vowel is usually retained.
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