Indonesian Languages

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 It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Indonesian Languages


a branch of the Austronesian (or Malayo-Polynesian) language family, spoken in the Philippines, Taiwan, the Greater and Lesser Sunda islands, the Moluccas, the Malacca Peninsula, and certain regions of South Vietnam and the island of Madagascar.

The Indonesian languages have been insufficiently studied, which makes difficult a scientifically well-grounded classification. Preliminary classifications subdivide them into eight groups (the French scholar G. Ferrand) or 16 groups (the Dutch scholar J. Gonda). The most widespread are Indonesian, the official language of Indonesia; Malay, the official language of the Federation of Malaysia; Javanese (the island of Java); Sundanese (southwestern part of the island of Java); Tagalog, the official language of the Republic of the Philippines; and Malagasy, the official language of the Malagasy Republic on the island of Madagascar.

Typologically, the Indonesian languages are of the stemisolating prefixal-suffixal type. The system of vowel phonemes is highly uniform and is characterized by the presence of monophthongs and diphthongs. The number of consonant phonemes varies considerably according to the individual languages (for example, the absence of [f] and [v] in many of the Philippine languages and the presence of the retroflexes [t] and [d] in Javanese). Nevertheless, regular phonetic correspondences exist among individual languages and groups of languages. Syllables are mainly open in these languages.

In morphology, the parts of speech are weakly differentiated and cannot be isolated on the basis of criteria developed for the Indo-European languages. Various criteria for isolating the parts of speech in the Indonesian languages have been proposed by the French scholars P. Favre and A. Marre de Marin, the Dutch scholars H. Tendeloo and E. Uhlenbeck, and the Soviet scholar A. S. Teselkin. Soviet scholars distinguish in the languages nouns, pronouns, numerals, predicatives (including process words and qualitative words), syntactic words, and interjections. The vocabulary is etymologically rather uniform and is replenished through the formation of new words by means of affixations (prefixes, infixes, suffixes, and confixes), gemination of root morphemes, compounding and borrowing of new words from Sanskrit, Arabic, Dutch, French, English, and other languages. All Indonesian languages use Latin-based alphabets. A voluminous fiction literature exists in these languages.


Arakin, V. D. Indoneziiskie iazyki. Moscow, 1965.


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