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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.



language of the Indonesians; official language of the Republic of Indonesia. It belongs to the Sumatran group of the Indonesian branch of the Austronesian (or Malayo-Polynesian) language family. After the formation of the Republic of Indonesia in 1945, the name of the language was firmly established as “Indonesian,” in place of the earlier term, “Malay.” Indonesian represents a further stage in the development of the Malay language and differs from it both in vocabulary and in morphology.

The oldest records of the Old Malay language (seventh century) were discovered on the island of Sumatra. From the third century until the 1930’s, Malay was preserved as the language of intertribal and interisland communication. Various alphabets have been used for Malay during the period of its existence: a version of Devanagari through the 13th century; an Arabic-based script, supplemented by a few additional letters, from the 14th to 19th centuries, and a Latin-based alphabet since the early 19th century.

During the process of its development, Malay (Indonesian) was enriched by a number of words from Chinese, Sanskrit, Arabic, Dutch, and other languages, including related languages of the Indonesian branch, such as Javanese, Sundanese, and Menangkabau. The phonemic inventory is made up of six vowels, four diphthongs, and 18 consonants, forming voiced-voiceless oppositions.

The parts of speech are weakly differentiated morphologically, and the same root morpheme can serve as a stem for the formation of words pertaining to several parts of speech without the addition of derivational morphemes. The noun system lacks the categories of number, case, and gender. Nouns can take only affixes of possession (pronominal enclitics): ajah, “father”; ajahku, “my father”; ajahmu, “thy father”; ajahnja, “his father.” Words denoting processes and states, as well as qualities perceived as states, are included among the parts of speech called predicatives. Process predicatives have the category of aspect— general aspect, intensive aspect (formed by gemination of the root morpheme), and perfective aspect (formed by means of the prefix ter-). Transitive predicatives are characterized by the presence of the prefix me—(phonetic variants men—, mem—, meng—, and menj—) in the active voice form and the morphemes ku— for the first person and kau— for the second person, and the prefix di— in the passive form. Relations among the parts of the sentence are expressed by prepositions.


Teselkin, A. S., and N. F. Alieva. Indoneziiskii iazyk. Moscow, 1960.
Lordkipanidze, A. G., and A. P. Pavlenko. Russko-indoneziiskii uchebnyi slovar’. Moscow, 1963.
Bulygin, N. F., and L. G. Ushakova. Karmannyi indoneziisko-russkii slovar’. Moscow, 1959.
Grammatika indoneziiskogo iazyka. Moscow, 1972. (Contains a bibliography.)


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
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