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Balinese Language

Balinese language is one dialect of West Malay-Polynesian group which is spoken in Malaysia, Indonesia to the East as far as Molluccas.This includes further variation of dialects spoken in Sumatra, Java, Madura, Bali, Kalimantan, Malaysia, Vietnam, and Philippine. Among those variation, more detail variation can still be identified.

Balinese language is one dialect that got various influences in the course of it's history, such as Sanskrit, Arab, Chinese, Dutch and English. Thanks to the writing which was already introduced since 8th century which can preserve and keep the language more stable. Based on the writing we can traced back the lexicon and pattern of the language, although in it's small representation. During 8th to 10th century it was probably predominantly Sanskrit. Starting 10th until 14th century the old Balinese language were recorded well on various inscriptions issued by the kings. From 14th century we know a bit difference language preserved on various manuscripts. This language was probably used only in writing, since it shows mixed old Balinese, old Javanese and Sanskrit. It is not well known what is the form of spoken language during the course of history. We could assume that it must be closed in term of pattern and lexicon to those used in writings. If we compare with modern version of spoken Balinese language, it looks that older versions are much different. This version is now totally not in use, except for dialogues of wayang puppet show and some traditional dances. For younger generation this version is not understood anymore.

Modern Balinese is the version that got the influence from Dutch, Chinese, and English. Modern Balinese language at least introduces further variation such as :
  • Written language, as mentioned above mostly unknown for daily communication,
  • Polite language ( Basa Alus ). This level introduces what is called "Alus Sor and Alus Singgih". Alus Sor means words that used to put the speaker's status lower than his/her speaking counterpart, and "Alus Singgih" is the words that used to put the position of his/her speaking counterpart at higher status,
  • Formal language ( Alus Madia ), is a generally accepted language spoken at the public by some one as presenter, head of meeting, and among those do not know each other.
  • Folk language ( Basa kasar ), is spoken by the largest part of Balinese and mostly among Sudra cast.
This level of language is related with the status of Balinese in cast system. Higher cast will be respected with special words that attributes their actions, possession, character and others. The difference between the level of the language is not in the pattern or grammatical rule, but in the level of lexicon. Due to this multi level layers of Balinese society, it has created a complex lexicon, especially in referring the relation between those casts.

Written language is closer to ancient Balinese language which used different affixation such as [ --in], [--im], and [ --na], and as mentioned above that the influence of Sanskrit was very strong. It is written in Balinese character which is an evolution of various local characters in India, but it is believed that the root of the influence was coming from Pallava scripts, then followed by Çera and Vengi scripts of South India.

Other 3 groups will be discussed together, since it's difference is only at the level of lexicon. The first we think that it is important to give the idea about the difference of the words for each of the cast which is valid for their own cast. Below table give some example of the difference.
Brahmana Cast Kesatrya/Waisya casts Sudra cast English
Griya Jero Umah, Pondok, Kubu House
Ngiyunin Ngajeng Madahar Eat
Nyurya Nyingak Nolih See
Masucian Masiram Manjus Take bath
Mantuk Budal Mulih Back home
Yatra Lunga Luas Go, travel
Mapaos Ngandika Ngomong Speak
Mapica Ngicen Maang Give
Sameton Sameton Nyama Relatives
Cokor Cokor Batis Foot
Sor - Singgih is the reflection of a way to respect other person, do not just because of the higher casts position, but it is also used to communicate with other person which is not closed. Because of this way of communication, many people said that Balinese language having a feudal nature. The problem for the phaedagogy is that there is no grammatical rule that can be used to explain the lexicological phenomenon, so it can only be apprenticed by learning every word. Such as Japanese language although they introduces also the level such as Balinese, but from grammatical pattern it can be explained with rules. Take for example:
Have you eaten any meal?
Moo tabetaka? Suba madahar? Folk language
Moo tabemashitaka? Sampun ngajeng? Polite/formal
Moo tabe ni narimashitaka? Sampun ngiyunin? High language
To respect each other by adjusting the position of speaker/partner is used the concept that the partner be higher in position while the speaker be lower in position. Take for example the discussion between a Brahmaha cast and a lower cast for example sudra cast:
Sudra : Tu Ida Bagus, benjang wenten ring griya? = Tu Ida Bagus, are you available at home tomorrow?
Titiang wenten di kubu benjang = I will be at home tomorrow.
Brah. : Cang ada jumah buin mani = I will be at home tomorrow.

Please note that the words spoken by Brahmana is the folk language, a language only spoken between sudra cast and among their closed friend or relatives. " Titiang " means " I am " can not be classified as belong to what level, since it is used to refer himself when speaking with Brahmana, and " Tiang " when speaking with other higher cast and with those people whom are not closed with speaker. See between " griya " and " kubu ". Kubu refers to a very simple house, but when Balinese speak with higher casts or with strangers he/she will mentioned his/her house as "kubu", although the word "umah" is a representative of folk word. So, it is probably besides there are level of respectability, there is also a system of communication with the concept : " word for you and word for me" ( your respectfully and my humbleness ). If we see in Japanese language there are something like this:
X o yonde agemasuka? = I call X for you ( your respectfully)
X o yonde kuremasuka? = Would you please call it for me ( my humbleness )

The following discussion will not cover above version of the language since it will need a very big deal of discussion, we will just give the introduction by using the low Balinese language with some discussion with formal language. We hope at other time will be able to present more comprehensive Balinese language. To give the idea about the pattern or grammatical aspect of Balinese, we need to discuss about the word formation ( conjugation ) with simple composition of sentence and it's structure.


Until now the complete dictionary of Balinese is not yet available. The first Balinese dictionary was composed by Dutch scholar Dr. H.N. Van der Tuuk between 1872 - 1894. This dictionary listed various Balinese words with the explanation from Old Javanese to Balinese and to Dutch. It is called Kawi - Balineesch - Nederlandch Woordenboek in 4 volumes. The problem is that the list was not composed alphabetically, so it would be very difficult to search for a word.

Currently available small dictionary composed by Kersten, and I.G.B Sugriwa which are available in bigger bookstores here in Denpasar, Bali. One department in Udayana University of Denpasar which is aimed to study and develop the heritage of Balinese language is probably not very active in collecting, and publishing the new effort toward the publication of Balinese language dictionary. It is well realized that the practical use of Balinese is not as important as Indonesian and far from Japanese or English or other international language, due to the contribution of Balinese to the world heritages is not yet significant. That is probably why there is not any one to be interested in studying more about the language. As the other languages, Balinese language introduces also the form of infinitive and derivative. Derivative is formed from infinitive with nasalization and affixation. Nasalization if the most important formation from infinitive into transitive verb which will be directly conjugated with the affixation. Below will be discussed these two important etymology.

Infinitive get nasal sound such as /m/, /n/, /ng/, /nge/, and /ny/ to form transitive or intransitive verb.
Words beginning with /t/, /d/ got nasal /n/ and /t/, /d/ assimilated:
Tembok = wall --> Nembok = constructing wall
Damprat= shout --> Namprat = shouting at
I Made nembok = I Made is constructing wall

Words beginning with /p/, /b/ got nasal /m/ and /p/, /b/ assimilated:
Pancing = fishing kit --> Mancing = doing fishing
Bading = back --> Mading = flipping over
I Made mancing di tukadé = I Made is fishing in the river.

Words beginning with /s/, /c/,/j/ got nasal /ny/ and /s/, /c/,/j/ assimilated:
Jarah = confiscate Nyarah = confiscating
Sambung = tie Nyambung = tying
Catet = record Nyatet = recording
I Made nyambung tali = I Made is tying the rope
Words beginning with vowels got /ng/
Abas = cut (grass) Ngabas = cutting grass
Intuk = pounder Ngintuk = poundering
Upah = fee Ngupah = hiring
Ewer = joke Ngewer = kidding
Empuk = big mouth Ngempuk = lying
Oleg = swing Ngoleg = swinging

Words beginning with weak vowel of /e/ also got /ng/, where /e/ is normally not written, when it got nasalization /e/ become strong.
(e)juk = catch Ngejuk = catching
(e)bor = drill Ngebor = drilling
(e)koh = reluctant Ngekoh = being reluctant

Words beginning with /l/, /r/, got nasal /nge/
Lampah = walk Ngelampah = walking
Rembug = discuss Ngerembug = having natter
Lantur = continue Ngelantur = continuing
Words beginning with /k/ got nasal /ng/, and /k/ assimilated
Kamar = room Ngamar = hospitalized
Kecor = flow Ngecor = flowing
Kacir = run Ngacir = running

Balinese language introduces affixation. This affixation consist of independence morphemes which has no meaning by themselves unless they are conjugated with infinitive, or nasalized infinitive. This affixation consist of pre-fix such as [ma---], [pi---], [ka---], and others, in-fix such as [-in-], [-im-], [-um-], and [-y-], and sub-fix such as [--an], [--in], [--né], [--é], [--a], and others.

Any word including affixation ending with /a/, the /a/ is to be read as /e/ as in arena or a book in English. Although pre-fix is already conjugated for example [ma] + [tapa] = [matapa], is to be read [ metape ].

Pre-fix [ ma -- ] to be conjugated with infinitive or nasalized When it is conjugated with infinitive it forms the verb, while it is not always need [ma--] for nasalized word if not to give an emphasize to the action. Some words do not need [ma--] in the spoken version, since it sounds funny. But we could not list the words here, it must be learnt by word, since it is no rule.
[ma --] forms transitive verb meaning emphasizing the action:
Tembok = wall Manembok = constructing wall
Damprat = shout Manamprat = shouting at
Abas = cut (grass) Mangabas = cutting grass
Juk = catch Mangejuk = catching

I Nyoman manembok umah = I Nyman construct the wall of the house
[ma --] meaning to have
Tikeh = mat Matikeh = having mat
Tembok = wall Matembok = having wall
Bok = hairs Mabok = having hairs
Baju = shirt Mabaju = have shirt
Dipane matikeh plasa = the bed has plasa mat
Umahe matembok batu = the house has stone wall

Pre-fix [pi--] form the noun. In spoken language it is often replaced with [pa --]
Tutur = advise Pitutur = the advise
Keneh = thinking Pikeneh = the thinking
Dadab = process Pidabdab = the process
Uning = know Piuning = announcement

When [pi]+[infinitive] got pre-fix [ma--], than it changes into transitive verb again.
Tutur = advise Bapa mapitutur teken cai = Dad advises you
Keneh = thinking Ia mapikeneh tuling melah = He think unfair
Dadab = process Karyane mapidabdab sapuniki = The ceremony does the process like this
Uning = know Pemangku mapiuning ring panjake = The Pamangku announces to the people.
Please note that only some words that can be conjugated with [pi--].

Pre-fix [ka--] form passive structure, and some means "unintentional action both done or intimidation"
Tembok = wall Katembok = to be walled, or unintentionally walled or will wall if you ..................
Juk = catch Kajuk = to be caught, or unintentionally caught or will catch if you .......................
Tombplog = collide Katomplog = to be collided or unintentionally collided or will collide if you .......................
Jemak = take Kajemak = to be taken or unintentionally taken, or will be taken if you ..........
Durin umahé katembok = Back of the house has been walled
Durin umahé katémbok sawiréh ada céléng lepas = Back of the house unintentionally walled since there is wild pig
Durin umahé katémbok yén céléngé ngeléb dogén = Back of the house will be walled if your pig is always roaming.

Sub-fix [--a] forms passive structure
Juk = catch Juka = to be caught Kopiné alapa The coffee is harvested
Ambil = take Ambila = to be taken Siapé juka The chicken is caught
Alap = harvest Alapa = to be harvested Tasé ambila The bag is taken
Simpan = save Simpena = to be saved Pipisé simpena The money is saved

Manya words before getting [--a] must be affixed with [--an], and [--an] changes into [--ang]
Asah = plain Asahanga = to be made plain
Entung = throw Entunganga = to be thrown
Antep = collide Antepanga = to be collided
Madahar = eat Pedaharina = to be nurtured
Melaib = run Pelaibanga = to be abducted
Natahé asahanga tekén I Ketut = The floor is made plain by Ketut
Bukuné entunganga tekén Nyoman = The book is thrown by Nyoman Sub-fix [--né] indicates possession or definite article
[--né] as possessive without directly mentioning the owner
Bapa = Dad Bapanné = his/her dad Bapanné teka mai = his/her dad is coming here
Biyu = Banana Biyunné = her/his banana Biyunné ento nasak = That banana is ripe
Nasi = rice Nasinné = his/her rice Nasinné pasil = his/her rice is stale.

If the possessive is followed by their owner, personal or impersonal ending with vowel got [--né], [--né] changes into [--n], while the owner or personal or impersonal ending with vowels got [--né], and ending with consonant got [--é]
Bapan Ketuté teka ibi = Ketu's dad came yesterday
Biyun Nyomané ilang = Nyoman's banana was lost
Nasin Wayané pasil = Wayan's rice is stale

f the possessive is followed by their owner, personal or impersonal ending with consonant got nothing, while the owner or personal or impersonal ending with vowels got [--né], and ending with consonant got [--é]
Umah Ketuté gedé = Ketut's house is big
Natah Nyomané kedas = Nyoman house floor is clean

Sub-fix [--né] as definite article. Words ending with vowel got [--né], and words ending with consonant got [--é]
Bapa = Dad Bapané = the dad Bapané ané teka = The dad who is coming
Biyu = Banana Biyune = the banana Biyuné ané ilang = the banana that lost
Arit = Sickle Arité = the sickle Arité dija = where is the sickle?

Sub-fix [--an] form various meaning. [--an] after conjugation changes into [--ang]
[--an] means doing something for others.
Juk = catch Jukang = catch for ....... Wayan ngejukang Made siap = Wayan caught chicken for Made
Jemak = take Jemakang = take for ... Made nyemakang tiang nasi = Made took rice for me
Gambar = draw Ngambarang = drawing for .. Nyoman gambarang Ketut bunga = Nyoman drew flower for Ketut

[--an] forms transitive verb
Sampat = Sweep Sampatang = sweeping Ketut nyampatang luhu = Ketut sweeps the wastes away
Entung = Throw Entungang = throwing Made ngentungang batu = Made throws stone
Galang = clear Ngalangang = make clear Wayan ngalangang kamar = Wayang made the room clear
There is no rule to indicate which of the words be classified as each of above [--an]. It can only be learnt by word.

Sub-fix [--in] forms verb with various meaning
Amplas = glass paper Ngamplasin = rub with glass paper Nyoman ngamplas patung = Nyoman rubs the sculpture with glass paper
Jagur = puch Nyagurin = giving punch Ketut nyagurin timple = Ketut punch his friend
Siram = pour Nyiramin = pouring Wayan nyiramin tanaman = Wayan pouring plants
Idup = live, on Ngidupin = switch on Bapa ngidupin TV = Dad switched on TV
Sampat = Sweeper Nyampatin = sweeping Made nyampatin natah = Made swept the floor

In-fix [-in-] form various meaning
Tandur = plant Tinandur = various plants Sarwa tinandur mokoh = All plants grow well
Tuut = follow Tinut = obedience Ketut anak tinut = Ketut is obedient man
Tunggal = one Sinunggal = oneness A lan B singunggal umah = A and B have one house
Pandita = priest Pinandita = priesthood Nyatwaang pinandita = discuss about priest
In-fix [-um-] form abstract noun

Dadi = to become Dumadi = reincarnation Sang dumadi tan kauningin = Who is reincarnating is not known
Ton = see Tumon = visible Bintangé tumon asiki = The star only visible one
Ganti = fate Gumanti = truth Niki gumanti sweca = This is really blessing
Tuuh = age Tumuwuh = long live Abian tumuwuh makelo ngasilang = Long live plant give late result

There are not many word that can be conjugated with [-in-] and [-um-]. In daily conversation these affixations are not productive except for poetic phrases. It is mostly used in writing version of the language.
Adjectve Structure
Adjective is to be placed after the noun
Buku putih = White book
Buku putih tipis = White thin book
Buku putih tipis mael = White thin and expensive book
The most important character or adjective of the noun be placed directly after the noun, while the other characters needed to limit the choices can be put afterward. For example: " Buku putih tipis mael. " This phrase indicate that the most important character of the book that is " white " one has to focus his attention to the " white book " Since there could be many white books, you can take the thin one. May be there are many thin books, but you can take the expensive one.

Adverbial Structure
Adverb can be formed by repeating the word or just used as it is, depend on the emphasizing of the action.
Keras = loud Ngomong keras-keras = speak loudly
Adeng = slow Jalan adeng-adeng = walk slowly
Tegeh = high Makecos tegeh-tegeh = jump highly
If the adverb is not repeated it gives more emphasize on the natural character of the noun or subject such as:
Ketut ngomong keras, means that Ketut has the character to speak loudly.
Made majalan adéng, means it is the behavior of Made that he walks slow, not because he is tired or careful.

Degrees of Comparison
Tegeh = high Genjang = quick Gancang = movable
Tegehan = higher Genjangan = quicker Gancangan = more movable
Paling tegeh = highest Paling genjang = quickest Paling gancang = most movable
Wayan awakné tegeh = Wayan's body is high
Ketut awakné tegehan tekén Wayan = Ketut is higher than Wayan
Made awakné paling tegeh di kampung = Madé's body is the highest in the village. Preposition
Ka = to ( toward ), Uli = from, Antuk = by, about, on, Di = at, in, on, among, Betén = under, Duur = above, on, Tengah = among, between.
Sawireh, kerana = bacause, Nanging, sakéwala = yet, but, Yadiastun = although,
Niki = this, these, Nika = that, those, Asampuniki = such as this, Asampunika = such as that.
Napi, apa = what, Pidan = when, dija = where, Nyen, sira = who, Kénkén = how
Sentence Structure
Subject + Predicate + Object
Wayan ngaba buku putih tipis Wayan is bringing white thin book.
Made nulis surat énggal-énggal. Made is writing a letter quickly.
Nyoman negakin kursi coklat Nyoman is sitting on brown chair.
Nyoman negak di atas kursi coklat Nyoman is sitting on brown chair.
Ketut ngalap pohé ané kondén nasak Ketut picked up the un-mature mangos

Denpasar, early January 2003
I Made Terima

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