Indonesian Homophone – Understanding – Example

Welcome back!

You have learned Indonesian to English Grammar as well as about Giving Directions in Indonesian and many more. What else do we need to learn? I tell you, there’s plenty. But, this time let’s focus to more specific linguistics lesson, which is about Indonesian Homophone.

What is homophone? Homo means ‘same’ and phone means sound. Therefore, homophone (homofon in Bahasa Indonesia) is words that has same pronunciation, but different meaning, either it has different spelling or not. It is part of linguistics branch, semantics (study about meaning which more focus with grammar and vocabulary, but not the context). Outisde homophone, there are also homonym (same spelling and pronunciation, but different meaning) and homograph (same spelling, different pronunciation and meaning). Here are the examples.

English :

  • read (v1) and read (v2) = homograph
  • bear (animal) and bear (give birth to a child) = homonym
  • two, to, too = homophone

Bahasa Indonesia

  • apel [apəl] means apple and apel [apel] means assembly – homograph
  • bulan could means either ‘month’ or ‘moon’ – homonym
  • bank (bank) and Bang (to address older man/older brother/lover [male of course]) – homophone

Notes: homonym is different with hyponym (a word that has many meaning). It is accidentally has same spelling. Although some said that homophone may differ in spelling, in this lesson we will focus more in homophone that has different spelling, so you may not be confused with homonym.

Homophone Words in Bahasa Indonesia

Even though probably every language has homophones in theirs, some of homophone phenomena happened because of translation. It could also caused by dialects or pronunciation. Moreover, it may also has same pronunciation with certain area or local language (mostly popular one). Let’s take a look of the cases!

  • sanksi [saŋsi] = punishment, sanction
    sangsi [saŋsi] = doubtful, hesitate
  • syarat [ʃarat/sarat] = requirement
    sarat [sarat] = fully contain
    *it depends on individual pronunciation
  • rock [rɔk] = rock music
    rok [rɔk] = skirt
    *In Indonesia, rock is not translated so it use their original form from English
  • masa [masa] – (refer to certain period), e.g. masa lalu (past), masa depan (future)
    massa [masa] – tremendous amount of people, usually for demonstration
    massa [masa] – mass (physics)
  • khas [kas/has] – unique, typical
    kas [kas] – treasury (for accounting/monetary)
  • babad [babat] – chronicle (Ancient Indonesian Literature) e.g. Babad Tanah Jawi
    babat [babat] – tripe (innards, usually cow’s)
    *In Indonesia, the sound [d] would soften to [t] if it placed as the last letter in a word (Check:Indonesian Phonemes)
  • pink [piŋ] – pink
    ping [piŋ] – PING! like the Blackberry feature, also similar to ‘Roger! Roger!’ (to be noticed) expression in English)
    *Similar to rock, both word are not translated (even though pink has a synonym as merah muda or ‘light red’). Moreover, the sound [k] in pink also do not pronounced. Therefore, it has homophone relation with ‘ping’. 
  • beli [bəli] – (to) buy
    bli [bəli/bli] – Balinese polite translation for ‘Mr.” for a little older man/peer/stranger)
    *Again, depends of the individual pronunciation
  • band [ben] – band (music)
    ben [ben] – similar to ‘never mind!’, ‘so be it’, ‘let it go’ (Javanese)
  • selow [səlo] – slank word derived from word slow (English)
    Selo [səlo] – a sub-district in Boyolali, Center Java
    *Usually the sound [w] in selow is not pronounced
  • skip [skip/səkip] – truant/skipping classes
    Sekip [səkip] – a village in Medan, also a village in Yogyakarta
    *sometimes Indonesian people use mix code (two languages) in a sentence. Therefore, sometimes it is more comfortable and common to use some English word than its equivalent in Bahasa Indonesia.
  • maya [ma’ya] = virtual, illusion, unreal (usually used to refer media or mirror)
    Maia [ma’ya] = a name (there is Indonesian musician name Maia and her name pronunciation is same with ‘maya’)
  • jarum [jarum] – needle
    Djarum [jarum] – a cigarette brand in Indonesia
    *Djarum is one of the brand that maintains it spelling based on Indonesian old-spelling while others Indonesian words followed the recent rules (EYD and PUEBI). For your additional information, the letters are (1) ‘tj’ to ‘c’, (2) ‘dj’ to ‘j’, (3) ‘oe’ to ‘u’ and (4) ‘j’ to ‘y’.
  • gajah [gajah] – elephant
    Gadjah [gajah] – Gadjah Mada (a unity) is a notable figure of Majapahit Kingdom, it is also used as a name of one of the best Indonesian university in Yogyakarta, Universitas Gadjah Mada (UGM)
    *because it is refer to name, the spelling do not follow the recent rules. Because it has very different sense and meaning, do not get it wrong because it is sensitive for the latter one. 

More to Know about Indonesian Homophone!

Have you ever played an unfunny riddles about guessing names or changing popular people name? Believe it or not, it is an example of homophone implementation (also Indonesian Phonetics). Here are the examples!

  • Sparrow and Separo (informal words for halves)
    Bajak Laut apa yang bisa dibagi dua? (Which pirate could be cut into halves?)
    Jack Sparrow (Jack Separo/Jack Halves)
    *some Indonesians have difficulty to say ‘Sparrow’ [spærəʊ], so it is sometimes changed to separo [səparo]. It is an informal form of ‘separuh’. Beside that, both also have similar sounds.
  • Busuk [busʊk] – rotten/decayed
    Siapa nama istrinya Pak Sug? (What is the name of Mr. Sug’s wife?)
    Bu Sug  [busʊk] (Mrs. Sug)
    *In Indonesia, the sound [g] will be soften to [k] if it placed at the end of the word.

Now, you have known more about Indonesian Homophone. But, please check also these following articles. Good luck!