History of the Development of Writing and the Language Spoken in Indonesia

History of the Development of Writing and the Language Spoken in Indonesia


Indonesian has indeed become the official language of the Indonesian state and is the unified language of our country. How could it not be, Indonesia consists of approximately 18 thousand islands which are inhabited by 350 ethnic groups and speak 750 local languages ​​and dialects. Thus, a language is needed that functions to unite the Indonesian population.



However, before the official Indonesian language was used in Indonesia, people in the archipelago used a different language, as well as the way of writing. So the claim that formerly Indonesians were illiterate is certainly not entirely true. They just have a language and writing that is different from that known to the colonizers.


1. Old Malay


From the earliest recorded records, Malay is the native language used by both sides of the area where the Malacca Strait is separated, namely Sumatra and the Malay peninsula. Ancient Malay was the initial language used before traders from India came to the archipelago. After receiving influence from India, the language used was then named
into Old Malay.


In the 7th to 13th centuries, Old Malay became a language that was widely used in peninsular Malaysia, Sumatra, and Riau. The ancient Malay language is simple, easily receptive to external influences and has no differences in usage based on the structure of social strata. This makes the Malay language develop faster.


The Old Malay language then received a lot of influence from the Sanskrit language because many people embraced Hinduism. Sanskrit itself has actually been used but by the nobility and those who have a high hierarchy in society. Hindu influence in this language eventually formed a letter system or writing using Pallawa or Devanagari letters originating from India, as well as Kawi letters which are modifications of Pallawa letters.


These influences explain why there are many inscriptions using the Malay language with Palawa or Nagari letters in Sumatra and Java. For example, the Kedukan Bukit inscription in Palembang (683M), the Talang Ruwo inscription in Palembang (684M), the Kota Kampur inscription on Bangka Island (686M), the Karang Brahi inscription in Jambi (692), and the Gandasuli inscription in Central Java (832) which use the letters Nagari.


2. Classical Malay


Subsequently, Old Malay turned into Classical Malay. This transition occurred because of the increasingly strong influence of Islam in Southeast Asia in the 13th century. This language was later used by the Sultanate of Malacca, the Sultanate of Aceh, and several other political figures from the 14th to the 18th century.


The transition to Classical Malay is marked by the presence of various borrowed words from Arabic, Persian, and Portuguese. Written records such as saga texts, laws and regulations, and letters between the rulers of the archipelago which were found were recorded in Classical Malay. The writing used also began to get influence from Arabic letters which became known as Jawi letters.




Three important inscriptions that serve as evidence of the transition to Classical Malay are the Pagar Ruyung inscription in Minangkabau (1356), the Minyetujoh inscription in Aceh (1380), and the Kuala Berang inscription in Trengganu, Malaysia (1303-1387). The Pagar Ruyun inscription is written in Indian script with Old Malay prose and a few lines of Sanskrit poetry. However, the language used is slightly different from Malay in the 7th century. The Minyetujoh inscription is the first inscription to record the use of Arabic words such as "Allah", "prophet", and "grace". Furthermore, the Kuala Berang inscription was written using Malay Arabic letters which proves that Arabic script has been used in Malay.


The influence of Islam is felt in Classical Malay such as the use of long and repetitive sentences, many passive sentences, using palace language, there are classical vocabulary (example: edan kesmaran, sahaya, masyghul), a lot of use of words at the beginning of sentences (example: sebermula , alkisah, hatta, adapun), many particles even and lah, using Jawi characters or characters borrowed from Arabic with some additional letters, as well as the presence of various Arabic vocabulary and phrases with Arabic nuances.


3. Indonesian



style="text-align: justify;">In Indonesia, Malay later developed into Indonesian which is used as a social language or everyday language. Even so, at the beginning of its use, not many people used it as their mother tongue because the regional language with so many numbers was still the main language used in everyday life.


Balai Poestaka was established to print textbooks and literature. The existence of this printing made the Malay language increasingly popular and gave rise to language variants that began to be different from the main language of Riau Malay. Indonesian language history researchers refer to it as Balai Pustaka Malay or van Ophuijsen Malay.


Van Ophuijsen was a Dutchman who devised the spelling of the Malay language with Latin letters for use in the Dutch East Indies. He is also the editor of a book published by Balai Pustaka. So that in the end the language used became attached to Indonesian national identity and culminated in the Youth Pledge.


Indonesian was coined for the first time as the language of unity on October 28, 1928 in the Youth Pledge. In his speech at the second National Congress in Jakarta, Muhammad Yamin who is a politician, writer and historian said, "When referring to the future of languages ​​in Indonesia and their literature, there are only two languages ​​that can be expected to become the unifying language, namely Javanese. and Malay. But of the two languages, it is Malay that will gradually become the language of association or the language of unity."


Furthermore, Riau Malay was used as the unified language with several considerations namely Javanese is more difficult to learn than Malay because there is a language level that requires the speaker to understand Javanese culture in order to be able to convey sentences properly and politely. Riau Malay was chosen because it was the least influenced by other languages ​​such as Chinese Hokkien or Tio Ciu Ke.


Malay language users are also not only in Indonesia. In 1945, Malay speakers in other countries such as Malaysia, Brunei Darussalam and Singapore were still colonized by the British. By using the Malay language as the language of unity, it is hoped that other Malay countries will have a stronger spirit of nationalism so that they can quickly break away from colonialism.


4. Republic spelling


The Republic spelling or Soewandi spelling is used to determine the Indonesian spelling which has been in effect since March 17, 1947. This spelling is used to replace the previous spelling, namely the Van Ophuijsen Spell which has been in effect since 1901.


Some of the differences in this spelling include the change in the letter 'oe' to 'u' (example: doeloe becomes first), the jerk sound that was previously written with a sign (') is written with the letter 'k' (example: no, sir, you know), repeated words may be written with the number 2 (example: jellyfish, playful, western). In addition, in Republican spelling, the prefix 'di' and the prefix 'di' are both written in a series with the following words such as at home, in the fields, bought, eaten.


5. New Spelling or LBK Spelling and Enhanced Spelling (EYD)


The New Spelling was used since 1967 before being refined with the emergence of EYD in 1972. The changes contained in the LBK Spell include 'tj' to 'c' (tjutji towash), 'dj' to 'j' (distance to distance), 'j' becomes 'y' (dear to dear), 'nj' becomes 'ny' (to mosquito), 'sj' becomes 'sy' (conditional to conditional), 'ch' becomes 'kh' (end to end ).


Meanwhile, the improvements in EYD include the use of the letters f, v, and z which are foreign absorption elements, the letters q and x are still used in science (furqan, xenon), the use of the prefix 'di' and the preposition 'di' is different. , as well as repetition words must be written in full and do not use the number 2 as a repetition sign.


Apart from that, the EYD also regulates the writing of letters including capitals and italics, word writing, punctuation, abbreviations and acronyms, numbers and number symbols, as well as absorption elements.


So, that was the history of the development of the Indonesian language since the early days of the kingdom. So, now we know how the Indonesian people can actually use the Indonesian language as it is today.