Level in Javanese

Discussion in 'Etymology, History of languages, and Linguistics (EHL)' started by mignons, May 15, 2010.

  1. mignons

    mignons Member

    Indonesian, Javanese
    Hi all,

    I'm not a linguist and I just like to learn languages. I'm a native Indonesian and Javanese. Despite being in the same language family, they have differences that make me wondering.

    Indonesian doesn't have level, but Javanese does. In fact, Javanese has 3 level, they are called: Inggil, Madya, and Ngoko.
    - Inggil and Madya is used when you are talking to older people or someone whom you respect.
    - Ngoko is used when you are talking to your friends or someone younger.

    For example:
    Inggil: Panjenenganipun sampun dhahar sonten niki.
    Ngoko: Dheweke wis mangan sore iki.

    Translation: He/She has eaten this evening.

    The question is why would my ancestors create such different words for different levels? I may say that Inggil and Ngoko are two set of different languages which are called as one.

    Why is that? Is there any other language like this? AFAIK Sundanese has the same level.
    Thanks for your time.
    Last edited: May 15, 2010
  2. sokol

    sokol Senior Member

    Vienna, Austria; raised in Upper Austria
    Austrian (as opposed to Australian)
    This sounds to me like the Japanese forms used to address respected persons - as with "level" you mean "social level", obviously.

    Just to formulate a very wild hypothesis - it could be that this is a trait of Austronesian languages in general, and that it has been omitted in Indonesian (Bahasia Indonesia) either to avoid complications and/or to avoid social self-classification through language (after all, the latter*) is the result of a "deliberate" standardisation process).

    *) "latter" referring to language = Bahasa Indonesia

    And the connection to Japanese even could be a genetic one - however, that's again a hypothesis only (I have quoted a source in the Japanese-Turkish thread - see here - suggesting that Japanese might have evolved as a mixed language based, basically, on Austronesian substrate and "Altaic" = Mongolic (?) superstrate).

    But that's two wild, wild guesses. Note that I have no deeper knowledge of genetic relations of East and South-East Asian languages. :)
    Last edited: May 16, 2010
  3. Alxmrphi Senior Member

    Reykjavík, Ísland
    UK English
    Sokol, did you mean to write Japanese and not Javanese?

    Javanese has 3 different levels (triglossia), very complicated, and the social situation is really hard (at least for me) to get my head around. The levels are called "High", "Middle" and "Low" and so for example, 3 forms for "Are you going to eat rice and cassava now?" in the 3 forms are: (accented characters missed off for easiness' sake)

    High: Menapa pendjenengan bade dahar sekul kalijan kaspe samenika?
    Middle: Napa sampejan adjend neda sekul lan kaspe saniki?
    Low: Apa kowe arep mangan sega lan kaspe saiki?

    Obviously as to be expected the lower form shows the increased development in loss of consonants and change in respect to the higher / formal / more well preserved forms. Anyway, I just wanted to clear up that it was Javanese, not Japanese being discussed.
    Last edited: May 17, 2010
  4. mignons

    mignons Member

    Indonesian, Javanese
    yes, I may say it is a social level.

    If it is so, there must be lot of Austronesian languages having the same levels. Is it the same case in Tagalog? I have no knowledge of this language.

    If it is omitted in Indonesian, when did it occur? Indonesian is from Malay language, and as far as I know there's no such level in the Malay either.
  5. Alxmrphi Senior Member

    Reykjavík, Ísland
    UK English
    Mignons, you didn't say it wasn't Japanese in your last post, but you said Javanese in your first post, I thought you would make a correction since Japanese is a completely different language (and there's often an immediate instinct to think of Japanese like I used to do). You mentioned Ngoko, Madya andKrama, which are Javanese, not Japanese.

    Javanese in its extremity is an often quoted example when mentioning di/triglossia, I'm not aware of any other language that has it within the same language, of course there are places where different languages are spoken, but a 3 level structure of language like such I believe is very limited in the world's languages and in this case it's not a trait of a general language family but rather a (possibly-)unique trait to Javanese.

    It's a lot deeper than just using forms of address, all sorts of words including nouns / adjectives are just almost a different language, in which a clear relation can be seen (referring to my example above).

    @Mingons, the wiki article says this:

    Given that it doesn't mention Indonesian, I don't think it'd be the case of it did have it at one point but then dropped out, but it was a development of Javanese to assume this kind of structure of speech levels. Elements of politeness don't really come from a trait of it being in a language but rather a more real-world focused / cultural situation that makes a situation like this, for example if it wasn't such a heirarchical society I don't think this would have occurred in the language (though that's just my opinion), if there was a much more "level playing field" so to speak, and it wasn't about farmers talking to business people, and then people in high-office I don't think it would have worked the same way it did now.

    Unfortunately, although the wiki article does talk about Old Javanese and Middle Javanese, it doesn't mention anything about the triglossical nature of the language in these periods to confirm if / when things started to be that way (or if they always were that way) so it's not easy to track down how it came about. Maybe someone more knowledgeable can let us know.
    Last edited: May 17, 2010
  6. mignons

    mignons Member

    Indonesian, Javanese
    Oh sorry my bad. Yes I mean it is Javanese not Japanese. I was thinking what sokol says is still related since Japanese is in the same regional (though I dont really know what language group Japanese belongs to).
    or don't you think they are just from different languages? I mean, the loss in consonants are visible in the word "Menapa" but not in the others.

    I have the same opinion also and I really need references to back this up.
    Thanks a lot.
  7. Alxmrphi Senior Member

    Reykjavík, Ísland
    UK English
    I just re-watched the lecture about it and it was confirmed that it is all the same language, can't you see it yourself?

    Sekul -> Sekul -> Sega (consonant deletion and intervocalic voicing of [k] to [g])
    Samenika -> Saniki -> Saiki (Samenika -> Saniki)
    Kalijan -> lan -> lan
    Kaspe -> Kaspe -> Kaspe.

    But in your example it does seem a different set of vocabulary is used, though you can see the similarity between niki -> iki. This could be due to habits of speaking whereby different usages of the levels require different words / expressions (that aren't related to each other) so it looks completely different in a comparison like the one you gave. Maybe they do have (now possibly extinct) forms in the usages of other levels? (This is just an idea)
    I just re-read sokol's post, I think I misunderstood what he was saying completely. You asked about a link and he immediately started talking about Japanese, while I thought he was referring back to the language in question (Javanese, where your example was originally taken from), he was talking about other languages of that geographical area that share a similar idea to it (different levels of politeness). (sorry sokol! :p)

    You're welcome! I think this topic is really interesting so I'm glad you asked as it gives us a reason to talk about it :D.
    Last edited: May 17, 2010
  8. bart150 New Member

    Netherlands / West Java
    British English
    Hallo, I've done some research into this 'level' concept (though I don't care for the term 'level' itself).
    Here is a list of the twelve most spoken languages of Indonesia, showing which do and which don’t have an elaborately structured synonym system related to social status.

    Java and nearby islands:
    Sundanese, Javanese, Madurese, Balinese, Sasak – all five do have such a system
    Sumatra: Karo Batak, Toba Batak, Minangkabau, Malay, Indonesian (the national language derived from Malay) – all five do not have such a system
    Buginese, Makassarese - both do not have such a system

    The systems in these languages are analogous, not identical (just as, for example, French and German have an analogous but not identical feature of attaching gender to nouns).
    I have made a detailed study of the way the system works in Sundanese, the language of West Java.
  9. fdb Senior Member

    Cambridge, UK
    French (France)
    Actually, most languages have specialised vocabulary for different social situations. French has two words for “you” (tu and vous) depending on levels of politeness or intimacy, and the same is the case in most European languages. But there are some languages where this is much more highly developed. The most intricate system is in Japanese, followed by Korean. It is highly developed in Khmer and in Javanese. It is prominent also in Vietnamese. Most of the languages that I have mentioned belong to different language families. So this is not a question of genetic grouping, but of culture. It is prominent in several languages of East and South East Asia, in Sinicised cultures (Japan, Korea, Vietnam), though not very prominent in Chinese itself, as well as in Indianised cultures (Cambodia, Java), though not very prominent in Sanskrit itself.
  10. turkjey5 Senior Member

    English - USA
    Thai has a separate vocabulary for addressing royalty.
  11. bart150 New Member

    Netherlands / West Java
    British English
    Turkjey5, Can you tell us more about the Thai system, please?
    Are there synonyms for simple things like 'house', 'to sleep', 'to eat' etc?
    Is the vocabulary used for addressing royalty the same as that used when royalty addresses non-royalty, or different?
    Are there two sets of synonyms or more than two?
  12. turkjey5 Senior Member

    English - USA
    It's basically a vocabulary, synonyms as you mentioned, that is used with royalty and religious figures, monks basically. Most of it's based on Sanskrit and Pali, ancient, dead languages that still have some trace in everyday Thai but are strongly felt in rachasup, as the royal language is called. I say it's a vocabulary because most users will mix in normal Thai, based on how much rachasup they know. The royal language has to be learned and the level of proficiency will vary, those with more contact with monks or who have a higher level of education will be more adept. Commoners are unlikely to interact with royalty and foreigners never, unless you're Tiger Woods. :D You can hear commoners interacting with royalty, princes and princesses mostly, on TV shows and movies set in ancient times; and there you will hear rachasup. Royalty does not respond to a commoner in the royal language, rather in normal Thai.
  13. bart150 New Member

    Netherlands / West Java
    British English
    The following notes are about Sundanese, but the principles apply just as well to Javanese, Madurese, Balinese and Sassak.

    For many basic concepts there are three synonyms; eg for ‘sleep’: ‘kulem’, ‘leleson’, ‘sare’.
    The fully competent speaker uses all three, each time choosing the most appropriate synonym for the specific context. (The social status of speaker and listener is one context factor, although not the only one.).
    But only a minority of the 30 million speakers do this. All the others standardise on just one word ‘sare’, whatever the context. Thus they speak what I call the light version of the language.
    However, light-version speakers have no difficulty understanding full-version words when they hear them. They know very well what ‘kulem’ and ‘leleson’ mean.
    There is no such thing as an ‘intermediate-version’ speaker; eg a person who uses all three synonyms for ‘sleep’ adeptly, but standardises on just one of the three synonyms for ‘eat’.

    This asymmetry within the speech community is pretty important to know about if you want to understand how Sundanese works, and yet I have not found it stated clearly in any of the numerous hits on ’Sundanese’ that Google provides, even including some academic articles.

    I’d be interested to know if the above applies to Thai and to the other languages of South-east Asia and Korea and Japan.

Share This Page