Alissa Stern of saw this LH post on digitizing Balinese and wrote to tell me about her organization’s project “to develop the first interactive, multimedia material to teach conversational Balinese and Balinese script…. We are particularly excited about this project because it brings together Balinese linguists, videographers, and animators along with Balinese focused anthropologists and historians in addition to linguists and language software specialists… We’re happy to hear from anyone working on similar initiatives and would welcome any support.” Sounds very worthwhile, and I thought I’d pass along her recommendations for Balinese language materials:
Kersten SVD, J. Bahasa Bali. Ende, Flores: Penerbit Nusa Indah, 1984.
Singaraja, Balai Penelitian Bahasa. Kamus Indonesia-Bali. Jakarta: Departemen Pendidikan dan Kebudayaan, 1975.
Spitzing, Gunter. Practical Balinese: A Communication Guide. Hong Kong: Eric M. Oey.
Sutjaja, I Gusti Made. Concise Balinese Dictionary. Hong Kong: Tuttle Publishing, 2009.
Sutjaja, I Gusti Made. Everyday Balinese. Hong Kong: Tuttle Publishing, 2009.


  1. michael farris says

    Poor thread only seems to be attracting the scammers.
    Not that I have anything to add, except that I would assume teaching the Balinese script is mostly for historical texts. It’s very pretty but I would assume that most Balinese that gets written now is in the latin script.

  2. Since this thread doesn’t seem to be attracting comments…here’s a question I’ve long had about Balinese and its neighbors: the word for “language” is BASA, versus BAHASA in Indonesian. Now, both words are borrowed from Sanskrit BHASA: neither Indonesian nor Balinese allows voiced aspirates. For BHASA to be adapted as BAHASA makes sense: but what about Balinese BASA? Is it a case of a different strategy for loanword adaptation (in which case BASA and BAHASA were each separately borrowed from Sanskrit), or does BASA go back to an earlier BAHASA? In which case the word might have been borrowed by one language of the area (Old Javanese?) and then spread to others.

  3. michael farris says

    I’ve seen both basa and bahasa used for Sundanese I assume (with no proof!) that at some point the h was dropped and then the vowels collapsed
    bahasa – h = baasa
    baasa – a = basa
    There are cases of dropping intervocalic h’s in some languages of the region, well at least in Indonesian though the general similarity of phonological systems leads me to believe it could have happened more than once.
    Alternately it might have been borrowed by people who couldn’t hear any difference between b and bh and entered the language as basa.

  4. In response to Michael’s question about the script, yes, almost everything nowadays is written in Latin script: newspapers, books, magazines, correspondence, pretty much everything except for Government signs, which are required to be written in Balinese script (for historical cultural reasons) and Latin script (so that the average Balinese can easily read the signs). You can still find Balinese script on old lontar leaves which captures so much culture and history of Bali — and Balinese school children are required to learn the script so that they don’t lose their traditions — but as a practical matter, Balinese script just isn’t used anymore, beautiful though it may be. We’re including a chapter on the script because historically, it is part of the Balinese culture.
    We also wanted to include instruction on Balinese script because the software that we are using, donated by Transparent Language, has a fabulous facility to teach nonWestern scripts in a captivating, fun, effective way. We thought that Balinese school children — who are required to learn the script at school as a cultural matter since nowadays, few learn it at home — could benefit from this program, so we also included it as a resource for them.
    I’m checking about the question of “bahasa” v. “basa.” As Michael suggests, it happens with some frequency, at least between Indonesian and Balinese. I need to consult some colleagues and will try to get back with more info.

  5. The consensus seems to be that the Balinese “basa” comes from the Old Javanese
    “bhasa”, rather than from the Indonesian “bahasa.”
    Apparently, “bhasa” was pronounced with the
    aspirated b‹i.e., /bh/ and when it was brought to Bali, the /h/ was dropped. Malay borrowed this and put an extra vowel before
    the /h/ creating “bahasa.”

  6. Alissa: thank you for answering my question. I take it that the example of “bhasa” is typical, and that all Sanskrit loans spread to languages of the Indonesian archipelago via Old Javanese. Or is there evidence (for at least some vocabulary/some languages?) of different languages of the area each having directly borrowed Sanskrit lexical items?

  7. An excellent question, Etienne, but outside of my sphere of knowledge. Perhaps others know?

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