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?

  8. After all these years, I still think that’s an excellent question!

  9. This question is explored in depth in Jan Gonda (1952) Sanskrit in Indonesia, available here. See especially pages 33ff.

  10. Thanks, interesting stuff:

    Some Indonesian languages, and especially Malay and Javanese have, to begin with, essentially affected each other. Unfortunately many details bearing upon this interrelation will be unknown forever because of the serious gaps in our historical knowledge and the lack of reliable linguistic information dating from former centuries. For an appreciation of various important phenomena—such as, for instance, the occurrence of a considerable number of doublets in Javanese, two and two looking like an inherited Javanese and a Malay form respectively—we for the present depend almost entirely on mere conjectures as to whether Malay influence has played a part in it or whether we have to take full account of Javanese dialect variants. Anyhow, commercial relations will have brought Malay elements, to Javanese seaports from very ancient times, the Malay inhabitants of the coasts of Malacca and East-Sumatra having always been traders and navigators. The empire of Śri-Vijaya has, in all probability likewise furthered the spread of Malay over adjacent countries which felt its influence. Islam, coming from the Malayan to the Javanese sea-ports, demonstrably was to a considerable extent instrumental in the diffusing of Malay terms over Java.

  11. Also, if any LH readers wish to learn more about the current state of research into this question, they could start with the bibliography of Arlo Griffiths here.

  12. Isidore Dyen’s 1956 review of Gonda’s book is very thorough, praising it as exhaustive but finding much to take issue with. Heh, look at Dyen’s concluding remarks:

    It seems unfortunate that the author has not learned proper humility when dealing with any one or any collection of those beautiful products of human society called languages. All of the observable natural languages have undergone thousands of years of pre-literate use. Languages like Latin and Greek did not change in structure upon the passage of their speakers from pre-literacy literacy any more than need be associated with the passage of the time required. The author’s attempt to characterize parts of the structure Indonesian languages as being “primitive,” no matter how this last term be defined and qualified, suggests a (perhaps unconscious) continuation of the arrogant assumption of the “superiority” of speakers of Indo-European languages (among whom are the Dutch) over speakers of Indonesian languages.

    Is Gonda’s huge work available elsewhere, in unprotected PDF form for example? I couldn’t make a searchable OCR version for enhanced perusal because it’s password-protected (I’m not enough of a hacker).

  13. I’m confused — Xerîb’s Internet Archive link has various download options, including ABBYY GZ, DAISY, epub, full-text, and pdf. Do they not work for you?

  14. Aha! It’s I that was confused. The unmaximised window in which I opened the link just happened to show, quite neatly, only the upper portion of the page – and there the only download options were shown, at the left, as ePub (which yielded “file not found”) and PDF.

    Thanks. I’ve got PDF+text now. And wow, what a resource it turns out to be!

Speak Your Mind