Languages of Indonesia
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More than 700 living languages are spoken in Indonesia.1 Most belong to the Austronesian language family, with a few Papuan languages also spoken. The official language is Indonesian (locally known as Bahasa Indonesia), a modified version of Malay,2 which is used in commerce, administration, education and the media, but most Indonesians speak local languages, such as Javanese, as their first language.1
Since Indonesia only recognizes a single official language, other languages are not recognized either at national level nor regional level, thus making Javanese the most widely spoken language without official status, and Sundanese the second in the list (excluding Chinese dialects).
Below is a chart of several Indonesian languages. Most of them belong to Austronesian languages family. While there has been misunderstandings on which ones should be classified as language and which ones should be classified as dialect, the chart confirms that most have similarities, yet are not mutually comprehensible. These languages are arranged according to the numbers of native speakers.
There are 726 languages spoken across the Indonesian archipelago in 2009 (dropped from 742 languages in 2007), the largest multilingual population in the world only after Papua New Guinea. Indonesian Papua which adjacent with Papua New Guinea has the most languages in Indonesia.5 Based on Summer Institute of Linguistic 637 languages are endangered with less than 100,000 native speakers. This is due to the Indonesian language becoming more dominant and many scholars believe that local languages are associated with ancient values as opposed to modernity. Thus, multilingualism is endangered. It is more like a battlefield of linguistic survival than a melting pot of languages.6
Indonesia's Minister of Education and Culture Muhammad Nuh affirmed in January 2013 that the teaching of local languages as school subjects will be part of the national education curriculum. Nuh stated that much of the public worry about the teaching of local languages being left out of the curriculum is misplaced and that the new curriculum will be conveyed to them. 7
Several prominent languages spoken in Indonesia sorted by its language family are:
- Austronesian languages – (Malayo-Polynesian branch). Most languages spoken in Indonesia belong to this family, who in return related to languages spoken in Madagascar, Philippines, New Zealand, Hawaii and various Polynesian countries.
- Javanese language, spoken Yogyakarta, Central Java and East Java. Also found throughout Indonesia and by migrants in Suriname. Most populous Austronesian language by number of first language speaker.
- Lampung language, two distinct but closely related languages spoken in Lampung, South Sumatra and Banten
- Rejang language, spoken in Bengkulu province.
- Malayo-Sumbawan languages:
- Malay/Indonesian languages, spoken throughout Indonesia. Also used as national language.
- Aceh language, spoken in Aceh, especially coastal part of Sumatra island.
- Minangkabau language, spoken in West Sumatra.
- Banjar language, spoken in South, East, and Central Kalimantan.
- Sundanese language, spoken in West Java, Banten and Jakarta.
- Balinese language, spoken in Bali.
- Madurese language, spoken in Madura, Bawean and surrounding islands off the coast of Java.
- Sasak language, spoken in Lombok, West Nusa Tenggara.
- Barito languages:
- Northwest Sumatran languages:
- South Sulawesi languages:
- Philippine languages:
- West Papuan languages, indigenous languages family found only in eastern Indonesia (northern Maluku and western Papua). Not closely related with other language families. Distinct from surrounding Austronesian languages.
- Trans–New Guinea languages, indigenous languages family found in eastern Indonesia (Papua, Flores, Timor islands) and New Guinea. Consisting hundreds of languages, including languages of the Asmat and Dani people.
Like most writing systems in human history, Indonesia's are not rendered in native-invented systems, but devised by speakers of Sanskrit, Arabic, and Latin. Malay, for example, has a long history as a written language and has been rendered in Indic, Arabic, and Latin scripts. Javanese has been written in the Nagari and Pallava scripts of India, as well as their derivative (known as Kawi and Javanese), in an Arabic alphabet called pegon that incorporates Javanese sounds, and in the Latin script.
Chinese characters have never been used to write Indonesian languages, although Indonesian place-names, personal names, and names of trade goods appear in reports and histories written for China's imperial courts.8
- Lewis, M. Paul (2009). "Ethnologue: Languages of the World, Sixteenth edition.". SIL International. Retrieved 2009-11-17.
- Sneddon, James (2003). The Indonesian Language: Its history and role in modern society. Sydney: University of South Wales Press Ltd.
- Muhadjir. 2000. Bahasa Betawi:sejarah dan perkembangannya. Yayasan Obor Indonesia. p. 13.
- "90 Persen Bahasa Ibu di Dunia Terancam Punah". June 27, 2012.
- Taylor, Jean Gelman (2003). Indonesia: Peoples and Histories. New Haven and London: Yale University Press. p. 29. ISBN 0-300-10518-5.