Sat, 08 Oct 1994

Bahasa Indonesia becoming feudalist

JAKARTA (JP): Bahasa Indonesia, originally an egalitarian language, is turning into a language that is being used more and more in a feudalistic manner, according to language expert Taufiq Ismail.

Taufiq, a prominent man of letters, a productive writer and former student activist during President Sukarno's rule, said yesterday that he sensed a feudalistic atmosphere prevailing in the country after observing the recent developments in the language.

"There are too many euphemisms used these days," he said.

Several examples he cited were the placing of the word "bapak" (mister) in front of "datuk" (a more respectful term for mister, taken from the Melayu dialect).

Datuk, he said, already contains the meaning "sir" and the additional term bapak is therefore unnecessary.

The common term of "bung" or "saudara," both mean older brother, are no longer used and have been replaced by the more respectful term "bapak."

"It's not only a matter of meaning but rather the deep sense of friendliness which comes with the word bung," he said.

President Sukarno, Indonesia's first president from 1945 to 1967, insisted on being referred to as Bung Karno, creating a greater sense of camaraderie among fellow independence fighters. Golkar chairman Harmoko has tried to revive the usage of bung since his appointment to the helm of the ruling political organization though the idea has not yet fully caught after almost one year of trying.

Taufiq pointed out that the euphemistic use of these terms indicates the user's tendency to be "over-polite" and even deceitful.

Such changes in language are in fact a reflection of the way the country's culture is changing, he said.

He also considered the use of slogans and phrases taken from the ancient Sanskrit language like Parasamya Purnakarya Nugraha, the award for distinguished cities, as a sign of "anti- modernization."

Sanskrit language

Bahasa Indonesia has roots in the Sanskrit language which comes from the region of India.

"We shouldn't take words from an already defunct language when we already have numerous ethnic dialects that could enrich Indonesian vocabulary," he pointed out.

Taufiq felt that younger Indonesians also lacked an understanding of Indonesian literature.

The younger generation, he said, only knows men of letters by their names and the titles of their literary works and lacks knowledge of the actual content of their works.

Literature, he said, should comprise a bigger part of school curriculums. Currently only one twelfth of total time spent in the subject of Bahasa Indonesia is dedicated to literature while the subject of Bahasa is only given a twentieth of the time spent on all subjects taught in Indonesian schools.

"I think literature should actually be separated altogether from Bahasa Indonesia to increase the students' understanding and appreciation of Indonesian literature works," he stressed.(pwn)