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The standardisation of the Indonesian language and its consequences for Islamic communities

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  12 January 2015

Abstract

In the 1940s and 1950s, several organs of the newly independent Indonesian state oversaw the standardisation of the Indonesian national language. In this process, Western-oriented bureaucrats pushed the language towards European normativity, significantly decreasing the influence of Arabic. While this reform carried symbolic meaning, the practical ramifications on Indonesian orthography, spelling, and word selection also carried real, non-symbolic effects on the accessibility of this language to Indonesian Islamic leaders. Standardising orthography to use the Roman alphabet rendered many Muslims illiterate in a language they had been using for decades. Choices in word selection and spelling limited the Islamic meanings that the new language could carry, thus impacting how Muslims could use the national language for religious and other purposes. Indonesian linguistic reform carried serious social and political consequences in addition to the symbolic meanings often studied.

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Research Article
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Copyright © The National University of Singapore 2015 

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References

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Ibid

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73 There are six variants of this word still in Stevens, Alan M. and Smidgall-Tellings, A. Ed., A comprehensive Indonesian–English dictionary (Athens, OH: Ohio University Press, 2004), p. 429Google Scholar: jumaah, jumaat, jumahah, jumahat, jumat and jum'at.

74 On this point, I thank Jérôme Samuel for his cautions, and many Indonesians from across the archipelago for reading these words aloud for me, often repeatedly.

75 For example, Klinkert, Nieuw Maleisch–Nederlandsch woordenboek.

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79 Ghazali Hasan, ‘Sanggupkah Kongres Bahasa Indonesia?’, Tangkas, 27 Oct. 1954, reprinted in Kongres Bahasa Indonesia, p. 30.

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81 Ibid., p. 56.

Ibid

82 Noer, Deliar, Partai Islam di pentas nasional, 1945–1965 (Jakarta: Grafiti Pers, 1987), p. 83Google Scholar.

83 Ibid.

Ibid

84 My thanks to James T. Collins for this insight.

85 Kipnis, ‘Constructing commonality’.

86 See further Errington, ‘Continuity and change’; Anderson, ‘Languages of Indonesian politics’.

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