The Javanese language is part of the Austronesian family, and is therefore related to Indonesian. Many speakers of Javanese also speak Indonesian for official and business purposes, and to communicate with non-Javanese Indonesians.
Outside Indonesia, there are large communities of Javanese-speaking people in the neighbouring countries such as East Timor, Malaysia, Singapore, Australia, and also Hong Kong and Taiwan. In addition there are also Javanese-speaking people in Suriname, the Netherlands, and New Caledonia. The Javanese speakers in Malaysia are especially found in the states of Selangor and Johore. (For example, the former Chief Minister of Selangor, Khir Toyo, is an ethnic Javanese.) For distribution in other parts, as far as Suriname, see Demographic distribution of Javanese speakers below.
Javanese belongs to the Sundic sub-branch of the Western Malayo-Polynesian (also called Hesperonesian) branch of the Malayo-Polynesian subfamily of the Austronesian super family. It is a close linguistic relative of Malay, Sundanese, Madurese, Balinese, and to a lesser extent, of various Sumatran and Borneo languages, including Malagasy and Filipino.
Javanese is spoken in Central and East Java, as well as on the north coast of West Java. In Madura, Bali, Lombok and the Sunda region of West Java, Javanese is also used as a literary language. It was the court language in Palembang, South Sumatra, until their palace was sacked by the Dutch in the late 18th century.
Javanese can be regarded as one of the classical languages of the world, with a vast literature spanning more than 12 centuries. Scholars divide the development of Javanese language in four different stages:
Although not currently an official language anywhere, Javanese is the Austronesian language with the largest number of native speakers. It is spoken or understood by approximately 80 million people. At least 45% of the total population of Indonesia are of Javanese descent or live in an area where Javanese is the dominant language. Four out of five Indonesian presidents since 1945 are of Javanese descent. It is therefore not surprising that Javanese has a deep impact on the development of Indonesian, the national language of Indonesia, which is a modern dialect of Malay.
There are three main dialects of Modern Javanese: Central Javanese, Eastern Javanese and Western Javanese. There is a dialect continuum from Banten in the extreme west of Java to Banyuwangi, in the foremost eastern corner of the island. All Javanese dialects are more or less mutually intelligible.
The pronunciation of the vowels is rather complicated. The main characteristic of the standard dialect of Surakarta is that /a/ in open-word final syllables and penultimate syllables is pronounced as [ɔ] (as in English ought or in French os).
|Stop||ʈ ɖ||ʧ ʤ||ʔ|
Note: The phones in parentheses are allophones.
A Javanese syllable can be of the following type: nCsvVC. n=nasal, C=consonant, sv= semivowel and V=vowel. In Modern Javanese, however, a bi-syllabic root is of the following type: nCsvVnCsvVC. As in other Austronesian languages, native Javanese roots consist of two syllables; words consisting of more than three syllables are broken up into groups of bi-syllabic words for pronunciation.
Javanese, together with Madurese, are the only Austronesian languages to possess retroflex phonemes. (Madurese also possesses aspirated phonemes including at least one aspirated retroflex phoneme.) These letters are transcribed as "th" and "dh" in the modern Roman script, but previously by the use of a dot: ḍ and ṭ. Some scholars assume this might be an influence of the Sanskrit, but others believe this could be an independent development within the Austronesian super family. It is interesting to note that a sibilant before a retroflex stop in Sanskrit loanwords is pronounced as a retroflex sibilant whereas in modern Indian languages it is pronounced as a palatal sibilant. Though Acehnese and Balinese also possess a retroflex voiceless stop, this is merely an allophone of /t/.
Both sentences mean: "He (S) comes (V) in (pp.) the (def. art.) palace (O)". In the Old Javanese sentence, the verb is placed at the beginning and is separated by the particle ta from the rest of the sentence. In Modern Javanese the definite article is lost in prepositions (it is expressed in another way).
Verbs are not inflected for person or number. Tense is not indicated either, but is expressed by auxiliary words such as "yesterday", "already", etc. There is also a complex system of verb affixes to express the different status of the subject and object.
However, in general the structure of Javanese sentences both Old and Modern can be described using the so-called topic-comment model without having to refer to classical grammatical or syntactical categories such as the aforementioned subject, object, predicates, etc. The topic is the head of the sentence; the comment is the modifier. So our Javanese above-mentioned sentence could then be described as follows: Dhèwèké = topic; teka = comment; nèng kedhaton = setting.
Many Sanskrit words are still in current usage. Modern Javanese speakers refer to much of the Old Javanese and Sanskrit words as kawi words, which may be roughly translated as "literary". However the so-called kawi words also contain some Arabic words. Furthermore there has been significant word borrowing from Arabic, Dutch and Malay as well, but none as extensively as from Sanskrit.
There are far fewer Arabic loanwords in Javanese than in Malay. These Arabic loanwords are usually concerned with Islamic religion, but some words have entered the basic vocabulary, such as pikir ("to think", from the Arabic fikr), badan ("body"), mripat ("eye", thought to be derived from the Arabic ma'rifah, meaning "knowledge" or "vision"). However, these Arabic words typically have native Austronesian and/or Sanskrit equivalents. In the cases mentioned, pikir = galih, idhĕp (Austronesian), manah, cipta, or cita (Sanskrit), badan = awak (Austronesian), slira, sarira, or angga (Sanskrit), and mripat = mata (Austronesian), soca, or netra (Sanskrit).
Dutch loanwords usually have the same form and meaning as in Indonesian, but there are a few exceptions. Consider this table:
|pit montor||sepeda motor||motorfiets||motorcycle|
|sepur||kereta api||spoor, i.e. (rail)track||train|
The latter is interesting, as the word sepur also exists in Indonesian. The Indonesian word has preserved the literal Dutch meaning of "railway tracks", while the Javanese word follows Dutch figurative use, where "spoor" (lit. "rail") is used as metonymy for "trein" (lit. "train"). (Compare the corresponding metonymic use in English: "to travel by rail" may be used for "to travel by train".)
Malay was the lingua franca of the Indonesian archipelago before the proclamation of Indonesian independence in 1945, and Indonesian, which was based on Malay, is now the official national language of Indonesia. As a consequence, there has been an influx of Malay and Indonesian vocabulary into Javanese recently. Many of these words are concerned with bureaucracy or politics.
In Javanese these styles are called:
In addition, there are also "meta-style" words – the honorifics and humilifics. When one talks about oneself, one has to be humble. But when one speaks of someone else with a higher status or to whom one wants to be respectful, honorific terms are used. Status is defined by age, social position and other factors. The humilific words are called krama andhap words while the honorific words are called krama inggil words. For example, children often use the ngoko style, but when talking to the parents they must use both krama inggil and krama andhap.
Below some examples are provided to explain these different styles.
The use of these different styles is complicated and requires thorough knowledge of the Javanese culture. This is one element that makes it difficult for foreigners to learn Javanese. On the other hand, these different styles of speech are actually not mastered by the majority of Javanese. Most people only master the first style and a rudimentary form of the second style. Persons who have correct mastery of the different styles are held in high esteem.
The Central Javanese variant, based on the speech of Surakarta (and also to a degree of Yogyakarta), is considered as the most "refined" Javanese dialect. Accordingly standard Javanese is based on this dialect. These two cities are the seats of the four Javanese principalities, heirs to the Mataram Sultanate, which once reigned over almost the whole of Java and beyond. Speakers spread from north to south of the Central Java province and utilize many dialects, such as Muria and Semarangan, as well as Surakarta and Yogyakarta.
Western Javanese, spoken in the western part of the Central Java province and throughout the West Java province (particularly in the north coast region), contains dialects distinct for their Sundanese influences and which still maintain many archaic words. The dialects include North Banten, Banyumasan, Tegal, Jawa Serang, North coast, Indramayu (or Dermayon) and Cirebonan (or Basa Cerbon).
Eastern Javanese speakers range from the eastern banks of Kali Brantas in Kertosono to Banyuwangi, comprising the majority of the East Java province, excluding Madura island. However, the dialect has been influenced by Madurese, and is sometimes referred to as Surabayan speech.
The most aberrant dialect is spoken in Balambangan (or Banyuwangi) in the eastern-most part of Java. It is generally known as Basa Osing. Osing is the word for negation and is a cognate of the Balinese tusing, Balinese being the neighbouring language directly to the east. In the past this area of Java was in possession of Balinese kings and warlords.
In addition to these three main Javanese dialects, there is Surinamese Javanese. Surinamese Javanese is mainly based on Central Javanese dialect, especially from the Kedu residency.
When there is a condition of phoneme stem VCV (Vowel-Consonant-Vowel) with the same vowels, Central Javanese speakers drop the second vowel into another sound, with the following formula: "i" becomes /e/ and "u" becomes /o/, the Easterns drop both of the vowels, whereas Western Javanese maintains the sounds "i" and "u". So the word cilik (Eng.= small), is pronounced /ʧileʔ/ in Central, /ʧeːleʔ/ in Eastern, and /ʧilik/ in Western Javanese; the word tutup is pronounced /tutop/ in Central, /toːtop/ in Eastern, and /tutup/ in Western Javanese.
The 8th and 9th centuries are marked with the emergence of the Javanese literary tradition with Sang Hyang Kamahayanikan, a Buddhist treatise and the Kakawin Ramayana, a Javanese rendering in Indian metres of the Vishnuistic Sanskrit epic, Rāmāyaṇa.
Although Javanese as a written language appeared considerably later than Malay (extant in the 7th century), the Javanese literary tradition is continuous from its inception to present day. The oldest works, such as the above mentioned Rāmāyaṇa, and a Javanese rendering of the Indian Mahabharata epic are studied assiduously today.
The expansion of the Javanese culture, including Javanese script and language, began in 1293 with the eastward push of the Hindu-Buddhist East-Javanese Empire Majapahit, toward Madura and Bali. The Javanese campaign in Bali in 1363 has had a deep and lasting impact. With the introduction of the Javanese administration, Javanese replaced Balinese as the language of administration and literature. Though the Balinese people preserved much of the older literature of Java and even created their own in Javanese idioms, Balinese ceased to be written until the 19th century.
The Majapahit Empire fell due to internal disturbances and attacks by Islamic forces of the Sultanate of Demak on the north coast of Java. There is a Javanese chronogram concerning the fall which reads, "sirna ilang krĕtaning bumi" ("vanished and gone was the prosperity of the world"), indicating the date AD 1478. Thus there is a popular belief that Majapahit collapsed in 1478, though it may have lasted into the 1500s. This was the last Hindu Javanese empire.
Javanese culture spread westward as Mataram conquered many previously Sundanese areas in western parts of Java; and Javanese became the dominant language in more than a third of this area. As in Bali, the Sundanese language ceased to be written until the 19th century. In the meantime it was heavily influenced by Javanese, and some 40% of Sundanese vocabulary is believed to have been derived from Javanese.
Though Islamic in name, the Mataram II empire preserved many elements of the older culture, incorporating them into the new religion. This is the reason why Javanese script is still in use as opposed to the writing of Old-Malay for example. After the Malays were converted, they dropped their form of indigenous writing and changed to a form of the "script of the Divine", the Arabic script.
In addition to the rise of Islam, the 16th century saw the emergence of the New Javanese language. The first Islamic documents in Javanese were already written in New Javanese, although still in antiquated idioms and with numerous Arabic loanwords. This is to be expected as these early New Javanese documents are Islamic treatises.
Later, intensive contacts with the Dutch and with other Indonesians gave rise to a simplified form of Javanese and influx of foreign loanwords.
Javanese has been traditionally written with Javanese script. However, it is also written in Arabic and Roman script.
|Majuscule Forms (also called uppercase or capital letters)|
|Minuscule Forms (also called lowercase or small letters)|
Below, a table with the number of native speakers in 1980 is provided.
|Indonesian province||% of the pop.||Javanese speakers (1980)|
Based on the 1980 census, persons in approximately 43% of Indonesia's households spoke Javanese at home on a daily basis. By this reckoning there were well over 60 million Javanese speakers.. In 1980, the total number of the Indonesian population was 147,490,298.
Above only 22 provinces of the then 27 provinces of Indonesia are taken. In each of these provinces, more than 1% of the population are Javanese speakers.
The distribution of persons living in Javanese-speaking households in East Java and Lampung requires clarification. For East Java, daily-language percentages are as follows: 74.5 Javanese; 23.0 Madurese; and 2.2 Indonesian. For Lampung, the official percentages are 62.4 Javanese; 16.4 Lampungese and other languages; 10.5 Sundanese and 9.4 Indonesian.
These figures are somewhat outdated for some regions, especially Jakarta while they remain more or less stable for the rest of Java. In Jakarta the number of Javanese has increased tenfold in the last 25 years. On the other hand, because of the conflict the number of Javanese in Aceh might have decreased. Furthermore it has to be noted that Banten has separated form West Java province in 2000.
In Banten, Western Java, the descendants of the Central Javanese conquerors who founded the Islamic Sultanate there in the 16th century still speak an archaic form of Javanese. The rest of the population mainly speaks Sundanese and Indonesian as this province borders directly on Jakarta. Many commuters live in the Jakartan suburbs in Banten, among them also Javanese speakers. Their exact number is however unknown.
At least one third of the population of Jakarta is of Javanese descent and as such speak Javanese or have knowledge of it. In the province of West Java, many people speak Javanese, especially those living in the areas bordering Central Java, the cultural homeland of the Javanese.
The province of East Java is also home of the Madurese people, who number almost a quarter of the population (mostly on the Isle of Madura), but many Madurese actually have some knowledge of colloquial Javanese. Since the 19th century, Madurese was also written in the Javanese script. Unfortunately, the aspirated phonemes of Madurese are not reproduced in writing. The 19th century scribes apparently overlooked, or were ignorant of, the fact that Javanese script does possess these characters.
In Lampung the original inhabitants, the Lampungese, only make up some 15% of the population. The rest are the so-called "transmigrants", settlers from other parts of Indonesia, many as a result of past government transmigration programs. Most of these transmigrants are Javanese who have settled there since the 19th century.
In the former Dutch colony of Suriname (formerly called Dutch Guiana), in South America, approximately 15% of the population of some 500,000 are of Javanese descent, thus accounting for 75,000 speakers of Javanese.
Although Javanese is not a national language, it has a recognised status as a regional language in three Indonesian provinces where the biggest concentrations of Javanese people are found, i.e. Central Java, Yogyakarta and East Java. Javanese is taught at schools and is also used in some mass media, both electronically and in print. There is, however, no longer a daily newspaper in Javanese. Some examples of Javanese language magazines include: Panjebar Semangat, Jaka Lodhang, Jaya Baya, Damar Jati, and Mekar Sari.
Since 2003, an East Java local television station (JTV) has broadcast some of its programmes in Surabayan dialect. Three such programmes are Pojok kampung (News), Kuis RT/RW and Pojok Perkoro (a criminal programme). Later on JTV also broadcast programmes in Central Javanese dialect which they call 'the western language' (basa kulonan) and Madurese.
In 2005, a new Javanese language magazine Damar Jati, saw its conception. The interesting fact is that, it is not published in the Javanese heartlands, but in Jakarta, the national capital of Indonesia.