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About the story
What’s with this “Wren” thing?
   The oldest extant version of the fable we are presenting here appeared in 1913 in the first volume of a two-volume anthology of Low Saxon folktales (Plattdeutsche Volksmärchen “Low German Folktales”) collected by Wilhelm Wisser (1843–1935). Read more ...

Basa Bali


After centuries of Malay, Dutch and Chinese influences,
and now under increasing pressure to accommodate
masses of English-speaking tourists, the Balinese people
have been trying hard to remain faithful to their culture,
religion and language.

Language information: Balinese is one of Indonesia’s numerous languages. With presently about 3.8 million speakers, it is primarily used on the island of Bali as well as by Balinese minority populations on the islands Lombok, Nusapenida, Sulawesi (Celebes) and Java. The Balinese language is most closely related to the Sasak language, which is used primarily on Lombok. It is somewhat more distantly related to Javanese, Sundanese, Batak, Indonesian and most languages of Malaysia and the Philippines, also to the indigenous languages of Taiwan. Like other languages of Indonesia, Balinese is now overshadowed by Indonesian, the national language that most Balinese can use as a second language.
     Sociolinguistic aspects of Balinese are particularly interesting in that this language has several socially determined stylistic, idiomatic and lexical registers, not unlike systems found in Javanese and Japanese, though perhaps more complex than those. Much of this is due to the Balinese having retained Hinduism that had been introduced from India in ancient times, while in other parts of Indonesia Hindu substrates have been overlayed first by Buddhism and later by Islam and Christianity. Speakers and writers must communicate in keeping with the stratification of social class, Hindu caste, gender, age and personal relationship. This makes for an extremely complex system, involving also mixtures of modes as “marginal” communication solutions:

   • Basa Lumrah (“common language”) for people on the same level,
        including friends and family,
   • Basa Sor (“low language”) addressing “inferiors” of a different
        Hindu caste,
   • Basa Madiya (“intermediate language”) blending Basa Lumrah
        and Basa Alus, expressing general courtesy, now particularly
        popular in public life,
   • Basa Alus (“fine language”) among particularly “cultured” people
   • Basa Singgih (“deferential language”) addressing “superiors” or

The Balinese translation of the story is in the Basa Lumrah mode. Its tone is thus suitable for telling simple stories to children and ordinary villagers. Most researchers and instructors present Balinese vocabulary as having three categories: ia (“low”), ipun (“polite”) and ida (“high”). In other words, depending on the sociolinguistic mode, the speaker often must choose different words to express the same things. For example, in the fifth paragraph of our ia-level translation the phrase “Father Java Sparrow inquires further” is Bapa Gelatik metakon buin. On the ipun level this would have to be Bapa Gelatik mentaken malih and on the ida level Aji Gelatik taken ring malih.

Table comparing several Balinese words on the three levels

              Balinese has borrowed many words from other languages, mostly from Sanskrit, Tamil, Persian, Chinese, Portuguese, Dutch, Indonesian and English. Because of their usual connection with Hinduism, philosophy and art, thus with an elevated status, words of Sanskrit and Tamil origin, having entered Balinese mostly by way of Kawi (a heavily Indicized poetic dialect of Old Javanese), tend to belong to the ipun and ida levels and tend to be used more in the Basa Alus and Basa Singgih modes than in the other speech modes.
     ALL languages and dialects are beautiful, precious gifts. So cherish yours and others! Share them with the world!Balinese can be written either with Roman letters (“Western script”) or with the older and far more complex Balinese-specific Carakan script that is closely related the Javanese Carakan script has been derived from Indic scripts (namely from the old Brahmi script by way of the Pallava and Old Kawi scripts). This highly stylized, elegant and decorative script, which has special letters and letter combinations for Indic words, is closely akin to the Javanese Carakan script. It is still in use today, though mostly for religious and artistic purposes, and the number of Balinese that can read and write it is dwindling. The Roman-based Tulisan Bali script, which which follows general Indonesian and Malaysian spelling and was preceded by a Dutch-based colonial script, is now taught in Balinese schools, However, most people promptly forget about it afterwards. As a result of all this, many Balinese write in Indonesian, and Modern Balinese literature in Balinese is not abundant.

Genealogy: Austronesian > Malayo-Polynesian > Sundic > Bali-Sasak

Historical Lowlands language contacts: Dutch

    Click to open the Balinese translation: [Click]Click here for different versions. >

Author: Reinhard F. Hahn

© 2011, Lowlands-L · ISSN 189-5582 · LCSN 96-4226 · All international rights reserved.
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