Language of the Week: Javanese

Aksarajawa-small2Since I’m a translator, I like learning new cultures and languages like most of you. The idea that there are hundreds of different languages makes me excited because it means there are soooooo many things to learn. Each language is a new culture and a new area of exploration. 

Although we couldn’t visit the natives of this language, let’s go over what Javanese language is and how it looks like 🙂


PS: The information is taken from Wikipedia. I just quote the parts that are more interesting.

Javanese language is the language of theJavanese people from the central and eastern parts of the island of Java, in Indonesia. There are also pockets of Javanese speakers in the northern coast of western Java. It is the native language of more than 75,500,000 people (more than 30% of total population in Indonesia).

Javanese is part of the Austronesian family, and is therefore related to Indonesian and other Malay varieties. Most speakers of Javanese also speak Indonesian: for official and commercial purposes, and to communicate with non-Javanese Indonesians.

While evidence of writing in Java dates to the Sanskrit “Tarumanegara inscription” of 450 AD, the oldest example written entirely in Javanese, called the “Sukabumi inscription”, is dated 25 March 804.

Javanese can be regarded as one of the classical languages of the world, with a vast literature spanning more than twelve centuries. The language developed in four stages:

  • Old Javanese, from the 9th century
  • Middle Javanese, from the 13th century
  • New Javanese, from the 16th century
  • Modern Javanese, from the 20th century (but this stage is not universally distinguished)

Screen Shot 2013-03-24 at 13.31.04 Screen Shot 2013-03-24 at 13.31.10

Javanese, like other Austronesian languages, is an agglutinative language, where base words are modified through extensive use of affixes.

Modern Javanese usually employs SVO word order. However, Old Javanese sometimes had VSO and sometimes VOS word order. Even in Modern Javanese, archaic sentences using VSO structure can still be made.

Sanskrit words are still very much in use. Modern speakers may describe Old Javanese and Sanskrit words as kawi (roughly meaning “literary”); but kawi words may also be fromArabic. Dutch and Malay are influential as well; but none of these rivals the position of Sanskrit.


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