chapter  48
14 Pages


ByMichael P. Oakes

Javanese is one of the Austronesian languages, belonging to the Western Malayo-Polynesian subgroup and the Sundic family. In keeping with the other members of the subgroup, most Javanese root words consist of two syllables, and from these grammatical variants are derived by means of affixes, as described in Section 4. Austronesian languages use reduplication of words to indicate the plural and other grammatical concepts, and the use of reduplication in Javanese will be discussed in Section 5. The Austronesian languages in general exhibit a high ratio of vowels to consonants. Other Sundic languages are Sundanese, Tenggerese, Osing, Madurese and Balinese, which are all spoken on or near the island of Java. Nothofer, reported in Purwo (1993: 245), estimates that Javanese is about 37 per cent cognate with Madurese, and about 33 per cent cognate with Sundanese. An ancestor language for Javanese, Proto-Malayo-Javanic, has been reconstructed by Nothofer (1975). Javanese does not have the status of an official language in Indonesia (although it

does have the status of a regional language), but has by far the largest number of native speakers of any Austronesian language. Javanese is spoken by about 90 million people, representing 40 per cent of the people of Indonesia, making it the twelfth most widely spoken language in the world (Weber 1997). It is taught in schools, and represented in the mass media (NVTC 2007), but may be losing in influence to the national language, Bahasa Indonesia. Java is the most populous island in Indonesia, and about two-thirds of the people on the island speak Javanese. Javanese is spoken mainly in central and eastern Java. It is also spoken in a thin strip along the north coast of west Java except for the area around Jakarta, where a form of Malay is spoken. There are three dialects of Javanese which are ‘more or less’mutually intelligible (NVTC

2007). The regional dialect of Solo and Yogyakarta, the historical centres of Javanese culture, is called Kejawen, and is considered the standard form of Javanese. East Javanese is spoken in Surabaya, Malang and Pasuran (Gordon 2005). West Javanese is spoken in Banten, Cirebon and Tegal; Cirebonan is much influenced by Sundanese. The Banyumasan dialect (Logat Banyumasan, spoken in Purwokerto) is the oldest Javanese dialect, where a number of Sanskrit words such as rika (you) are still used. Consonants are more stressed,

a a such as or baé (only) (Sayoga 2004). The largest group of Javanese speakers outside Java live in Malaysia, where there are about 300,000 speakers. The history of Javanese literature starts with an inscribed stone found in the area of

Sukabumi, East Java. This stone, referred to as ‘Prasasti Sukabumi’, is dated the equivalent of 25 March 804, and refers to the construction of a dam. It is the oldest text written entirely in Javanese, but is in fact a copy of a now-lost original written 120 years earlier. Old, incomplete, poems called kakawin have also been found engraved on stone. The Javanese ‘Ramayana’, thought to have been written in 856, is considered the principal, earliest, longest and most beautifully written kakawin of the Hindu-Java period (Wikipedia, Malay Wikipedia).