Ancient Indonesian Writing – History – Structures – Example

Hello! Welcome back!

Learning language means learning every form of it, both oral and writing, even including sign language because all of it used to help us communicate our mind and feeling. Why writing in Bahasa Indonesia yang Baik dan Benar (Good and Right Bahasa Indonesia) usually is considered harder than other skills?

Do you know that in recent year many think that people handwriting is getting worse than people at the past. Maybe it’s true because in recent years, we are mostly type, both in our laptop or gadget. Therefore, maybe we lack of aesthetic-writing skill.In addition, beside handwriting, Bahasa Indonesia has several changes of its spelling and also alphabet system. Then, why don’t we learn about Ancient Indonesian Writing? Before we start, check also these articles.

Before Dutch Colonialism

Do you know before the era of colonialism, Indonesian did not use Latin letter on their writing? If you read about Indonesian history or Indonesian manuscript, most of them used their own letter as Indonesian Ancient Writing. These includes Javanese, Jawa Kuna, Melayu, Malay-Arabic (Arabic letter, but Melayu language), or Pallawa (that used for Sanskrit manuscript).

You would rarely find Bahasa Indonesia as you know now, and won’t find any Latin letter back then. Don’t be shock if it is harder than Russian or Chinese because those are very ancient and rarely used by people either.

Read also: Indonesian Words Derived from Arabic and Sanskrit Words in Indonesian Language

1901–1947: van Ophuijsen Spelling

After 1901, in Indonesian (was called Hindia Belanda), was implied Dutch Ethical Politics. One of the main concern is education. Therefore, many schools was established. In language, there were van Ophuijsen Spelling to help standardize Bahasa Indonesia.

Therefore, the alphabet system and pronunciation were similar with Dutch (and German to because both are quite similar). The main difference are these following alphabets.

  • ‘oe’ as [u] = oeoang [uwaŋ]
  • ‘tj’ as [c] = tjahaya [cahaya]
  • ‘j’ as [y] = jang [yaŋ]
  • dj as [j] = djaja [jaya]
  • nj as [ñ] = njamuk [ñamuk]
  • ch as [k] = chabar [kabar]
  • sj as [ʃ] = sjair [ʃa’ir}
  • apostrophe [‘] for glottal stop ], e.g. ma’lum [ma’lum]ʃ]

In addition, some names and words also influenced by Dutch, e.g. the spelling ‘ie’ is pronounced as ‘i’ (Titiek, Fauzie) or ‘ij which pronounced ‘ei’ (Armijn, Partij) 

Ejaan Rebuplik [Republican Spelling System]

It was known as Ejaan Soewandi too. It was used from 1947–1972. Some changes includes

  • ‘oe’ became ‘u’
  • [‘] became ‘k’, e.g. ‘ma’lum’ became ‘maklum’
  • reduplicated words could be replaced by ‘2’, e.g. buku-buku -> buku2
  • differentiation of ‘di-‘ as prefix and ‘di’ as preposition writing (‘di’ as preposition is written with space to the word following it)
    e.g. dipenjara (jailed, ‘di-‘ as prefix), di penjara (in jail, ‘di’ as preposition)
    Check also: prefix di-

Ejaan yang Disempurnakan (Perfected Spelling System)

The spelling rules we used right now is ‘ejaan yang disempurnakan’, even though there is a new term of it, Pedoman Umum Ejaan Bahasa Indonesia (The General Rules of Indonesian Spelling). But, the previous name is still more popular and do not have significant differences with the latter. Here are some changes that was made from the ‘Ejaan Republik’

  • ‘tj’ become s’c’
  • ‘dj’ becomes ‘j’
  • ”nj’ becomes ‘ny’
  • ‘sj’ becomes ‘sy’
  • ‘ch’ becomes ‘kh’

Notes: The many changes of Indonesian spelling indirectly caused many difficulty of native speaker to differentiate standard or non-standard language, especially in writing because in one period it was considered correct but is incorrect in recent days. Don’t be surprised if you found native speaker that still use the older writing rules, because they might be feel more comfortable with it. 

Additional information about Ancient Indonesian Writing

In the Hindunese-Buddhist-Muslim Empire era, most of the writing would be in a stone or ancient manuscripts. In fact, people that wrote it were not a ‘usual’ people. It is considered as skills. Therefore, in case you have visited some of Indonesian museum, they all very beautifully handwritten and transcripted. In addition, mostly the older educated generation also had beautiful cursive handwriting, while it eventually fade away through generation because we move from handwriting to type.

One of very great example of ancient Indonesian writing is Indonesian Proclamation Declaration that was written by Indonesian founding father, Soekarno, before it was typed. You could learn the older (Ophujisen) spelling, the choice of words and of course the cursive handwriting! Furthermore, you could also compare the language using in Indonesian short story and novel at one period to others.

Okay, that’s all you should know about ancient Indonesian Writing. Here are some articles to you before we end this lesson.