Malaysian: Hawanya di sini sejuk, ya
(The weather here is cold, isn't it)
Indonesian: Sejuk
Ini namanya dingin, bukan sejuk
(This is called cold, it is not fresh)
Malaysian: Ya, ini namanya sejuk
(Yes, this is called cold)
Indonesian: Sejuk itu artinya segar dalam Bahasa Indonesia
(Sejuk means fresh and windy in Indonesian)
Kalau ini namanya dingin
(This is called cold/chilly)
Malaysian: Saya kira maksudnya sama, yaitu sejuk
(I think it means the same, which is cold)

Above is the conversation between Indonesian and Malaysian. Malaysian calls the weather as cold (sejuk) and Indonesian calls the weather cold (dingin). Sejuk in Indonesian means fresh and windy. There are similar meanings to the word sejuk, which describe the weather as windy and not hot. Indoesian and Malaysian derive from the same root of language, Malay-Polynesian (Austronesian). Before 1928, Indonesian and Malaysian were basically the same language called Malay (Alisjahbana 62 ).

In Indonesia, Bahasa Indonesia or Malay, which had develop as the official language or "Bahasa Nasional", had been used not only in the government, business, law, etc., but also in the educational system from the elementary to the university level. Bahasa Indonesia had become a modern language (Alisjahbana 65).

Bahasa Indonesia underwent several developmental process before becoming a modern language; the most influential of these was itís contact with other languages. Such language contact influence language system lexically, phonologically, and grammatically (Crowley 254). This is exactly what happened with Bahasa Indonesia: exposure to an association with other language altered itsí existing phonemic system. Looking at history clearly shows the great impact outside languages exerted on Bahasa Indonesia. In this paper, I will first discuss the political and cultural domination of foreign power in Indonesia; second, the development of Malay to Bahasa Indonesia during colonial rule and Japanese occupation; and finally, the influence of these languages on Bahasa Indonesiaís phonemic system.

The Political and Cultural Domination of Foreign Power in Indonesia

The archipelago now called Republik Indonesia was once connected with Asia mainland. When the glacial period ended, the ice melted and caused the formation of the archipelago. The first people to come to Indonesia were the Vedda people (southeastern part of present India). Dating back to 3000 BC, foreign power have continued to dominate Indonesia politically and or/culturally. In 2000 BC, the Proto-Malays from Yunan Province, South China arrived, followed by the Deutero-Malays. The present Indonesian population is mixing between these two groups. Malay was spoken by both groups (Dardjowdjodjo 1).

The Hindus came between 100 AD and 400 AD. They provided the Sanskrit written inscriptions to the mother tongue in Indonesia such as Javanese, Balinese, and Sundanese (Dardjowidjodjo 1). After the Hindu period, the Arabs came bringing with them the Islamic influence. The Hindu and Arabic cultural and trading domination were followed by the Spanish and Portuguese.

While the Hindus dominated only culturally, the incoming foreign powers which followed also controlled the political scene. The Spanish, Portuguese, English, Dutch, and finally the Japanese all sought to colonized Indonesia. Most of these foreign powers wanted to posses Indonesia because of its capacity to produce the spices needed by every nation in the world. The Indonesian became familiar with the language of these foreign powers, and now, in the vocabulary of Bahasa Indonesia, we can find a large number of borrowed words from Sanskrit, Arabic, Dutch, and English (Alisjahbana 32).

The Development of Malay to Bahasa Indonesia during the Dutch Colonialism and Japanese Occupation

In 1600, the Dutch came to Indonesia and started the operation of Dutch East India Company in Batavia (now Jakarta). They tried to enforced the use of their language over Bahasa Indonesia but they met many difficulties because there were numerous the local languages and dialects. In the other hand, the majority of Indonesian understood Malay so that the Company was forced to use Malay.

As the Dutch stronghold in Indonesia increased, the government began to enforce the use of Dutch over Malay and all another spoken languages. The colonial government began their effort to educate the Indonesian people, because of the influence of European liberalism, and the need for trained officials to function in the Dutch Administration.

In 1983, the Dutch built a school for the Indonesians. The Dutch was taught in the schools and all learned to speak it. However, the position of Malay remained strong because Dutch was used only within the governmental apparatus and Malay was used for daily communication among natives.

The Dutch colonial power continued to strengthen, and in 1900, they once again tried to enforced the used of Dutch as the national language in Indonesia. Mr. J.H. Abendanon, Director of the Department of Education, made a great effort to foster and spread the used of Dutch through out Indonesia. However, in 1908, under Budi Utomo, the young people in Indonesia began to realize the need for freedom, to speak their own language. Budi Utomoís attempts to keep Malay as the national language went against the Dutch educational program. While there were many who fought to infiltrate the Dutch language, there were also who realized the great number of Indonesians who were against the use of Dutch. Because of the pressure from the Indonesians and also the Such people, the government was forced to open the publishing house, Balai Pustaka. This publishing hopuse become the center of the development of Malay (Alisjahbana 65).

Because the Malay language had been the lingua franca, the educated people in Indonesia kept struggling to encourage people to use it. On October 28, 1928, the Youth of Indonesia under Muhammad Yamin gathered together and proclaimed the unity statement called "Sumpah Pemuda," which means "The Oath of The Young People." The statement pledged the willingness of every Indonesian to be unified in one nation, one earth, and one language: Indonesia. In this congress, the word Malay was replaced by Bahasa Indonesia to describe the language of Indonesian (Alisjahbana 66).

Furthermore, in 1938, the first Indonesia Language Congress was held in Surakarta. Among the resolutions of this congress was its affirmation of the need to create an institute and a faculty of Indonesian studies, to decide on technical terminology, to codify the structure of the language, etc. Unfortunately, these resolutions did not leave the paper. No organization in congress could put them into effect (Siegel 25).

In 1942, the Japanese landed in Indonesia. Their firts priority was to abolish Dutch as the official language and to replace it with Japanese. Indonesians were taught Japanese in all schools and governmental departments. However, Japanese attempts failed; Indonesian remained the most practical language of the time (Alisjahbana 63). As war broke out between Japan and Indonesia, the number of Indonesian-speaking Indonesias grew, and the mutual solidarity grew stronger. On October 1942, the Japanese was forced to inaugurated a Commission of Indonesian Language, whose task was to decide on modern terminology, and compose a normative grammar.

The Japanese loss in World War II gave Indonesia a chance to declare her independence. On August 17, 1945, The Declaration of Indonesian was stated. This constitution established Indonesian as the official language. The work of constructing a modern and technical vocabulary had begun.

The Influence of Language Contact in Bahasa Indonesiaís Phonemic System

After Indonesia declared its independence, the Commission of Indonesian Language (Komite Bahasa Indonesia) faced the task of deciding modern terminology. Because of the continual influence of foreign power and languages, Indonesian han become infiltrated with much of their vocabulary.

For example, the Sanskrit provide the standard syllable pattern CCV such as in sas-tra (from susastra "literature"). Other adjustment occurred because of the labiodental spirant "f" introduced by the Arabic. The committee of the Indonesian had decided to make adjustments by accepting "f" as part of the phonemic system of standard Indonesian. Before this, an "f" from foreign words was usually pronounced as the bilabial explosive p (Alisjahbana ).

Arabic Bahasa Indonesia
fikir pikir
faedah paedah

The words pikir remained to be piki, but faedah is more accepted than paedah. The acceptance of "f" allowed Bahasa Indonesia to receive the pronunciation of Dutch and English borrowed words.

Dutch/English Bahasa Indonesia
faculty akultas
negative negati
professor profesor

However, the general tendency was to maintain the phonemic system as unchanged as possible (Aisjahbana 60).
Arabic Bahasa Indonesia
ëadat adat
ëumum umum
raíyat rakyat

Other developments occurred in the syllable pattern was the acceptance of CVCC, CCVCC, CCCVC, and CCCVC syllable pattern.

Dutch/English Bahasa Indonesia
text teks
instrument in-stru-men
structure struk-tur

In addition, the introduction of the borrowed words from Dutch and English made confusion in Bahasa Indonesia because of the existence of the mother language (such as Javanese and Sunadanese). In Bahasa Indonesia, it was impossible to have an e pepat or / / at the end of syllable of the word. To make a distinction between Indonesian and Javanese, the Indonesian has different pronunciation and written structure from Javanese.

Javanese Bahasa Indonesia
catet catat (taking notes)
malem malam (night)
seger segar (fresh)

Therefore, such development has occurred:

Dutch, English Bahasa Indonesia (then) Bahasa Indonesia (now)
akte, act akta akte
appel, apple apal apel
cilinder, cylinder silindar silinder
elite elita elite
methode, method metoda metode
rationalisme, rationalism rasionalisma rasionalisme

If we examine some of the borrowed words (see Appendix 2), the following changes occurred in the phonemic system:

Arabic Bahasa Indonesia
f p or f fikir ---- pikir
faedah ---- faedah
q k qursi ---- kursi
qitab ---- kitab

Dutch/English Bahasa Indonesia
kw, q kw quality ---- kwalitas
c k, s communis --- komunis
z s analyze ---- analisa
ph f photo ---- foto
nephi ---- nefi
teit, ty tas university --- universitas
faculty --- facultas

In my observation, Bahasa Indonesia doesnít have the exact rule of transforming words from foreign languages (borrowed words). However, the closest phonemic sound is the important guideline in determining these borrowed words. The written results in standardizing borrowed words to Bahasa Indonesia are the closest sound which is found in Bahasa Indonesia and the easiest sound that can be produced by Indonesian vocal tract.


Bahasa Indonesia (formerly Malay) which derived from Malay-Polynesian (Austronesian) daughter of language, has become a modern language. Bahasa Indonesia is used in law, business, trading, and educational. Looking at the history of Bahasa Indonesia shows us the languages contact with the Hindus, Islams, Dutch, English, Spanish, and Portuguese which has influenced the phonemic system of Bahasa Indonesia. Among these several foreign power domination, the colonialism of Dutch and Japanese had brought the greatest impact in the development of Bahasa Indonesia. The Hindus and Islams dominated culturally , while the ret of the foreign powers dominated politically. However, each nation left a profound and lasting impression on Bahasa Indonesia.

The guidance in transforming borrowed words in Bahasa Indonesia are bassed on the closest phonetic system (the sound of the words) and the easiest way in producing those borrowed word by Indonesian vocal tract.


Alisjahbana, S. Takdir. "Indonesian Language and Lierature: Two Essays." Michigan:

Yale University Sauth East Asian Studies, 1962.

_____ "Language Planning for Modernization: The Case of Indonesian and Malaysian."

Paris: Mouton, 1976.

Blust, Robert. A. "Austronesian Root Theory." Philadelphia: John Benjamin Publishing

Company, 1988.

Dardjowidjodjo, Soerjono. "Sentence Patterns of Indonesia." Hawaii PALI Language

Texts: The University Press, 1987.

Philips, Nigel and Khaidir Anwar. "Paper on Indonesia Language and Literature." London: University of London, 1981.

Siegel, James T. Fetish, Recognition, Revolution." New Jersey: Princeton University

Press, 1997.

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Brigham Young University
Last Updated: Monday, September 6, 1999