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Comparison of Austronesian Languages

The Austronesian language group probably enjoyed the widest physical dispersion of a single language family prior to the European colonial expansion following Columbus. From the island of Madagascar, off the east coast of Africa, all the way to tiny, isolated Easter Island (Rapa Nui), and extending into Taiwan, Vietnam, Northern Australia, New Zealand and most of the Melanesian and Polynesian Islands, the languages in this single family show the common ancestry by the many cognates (words in common) present. Today the single language from this family that is spoken by more than 210 million people is Bahasa Indonesia (meaning "The Language of Indonesia"). It is a modern language, based on the centuries-old lingua franca of the East Indian archipelago that comprises Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore and parts of the Philippines. This is the region whose spices were sought by European explorers and trading companies -- the very thing that drove Columbus westward to accidentally find the New World that was inhabited by "Indians". The foundation of modern Indonesian is Malay as spoken on both sides of the Straits of Malacca (Selat Melaka). It was endorsed at the inception of the Indonesian Independence movement in the late 1920's, and became the official language of the Republic of Indonesia upon the Proclamation of Independence on 17 August 1945. Today Indonesia encompasses over 18 thousand islands of which perhaps some 6000 have permanent settlements. Despite that, within Indonesia there are hundreds of regional languages, most of which are members of this Austronesian Language family. By browsing the list below you can see the striking similarities between some of the regional languages and their language cousins found many thousands of kilometers away in almost every direction that the monsoon winds blow. Remarkably, right in the middle of this region, there exists another even richer language family, that of the Papuan Languages. These are found scattered among the inland valley tribes that inhabit present day Papua New Guinea and Indonesia's provinces of Irian Jaya, which cover the western half of the same island. The density of the rainforest and the rugged terrain have combined to keep tribes in almost complete isolation from one another, resulting in the world's greatest diversity of languages for such a small area (it is, in all fairness, the second largest island in the world, roughly the size of Turkey or 15% larger than Texas). It has been said that the Papuan languages on this island account for over 20% of the total number of languages still spoken in the world today.

The Words
These are the words that compare a very basic vocabulary from representative languages of the Austronesian language family. Some words illustrate a large number of cognates across many or all of the languages represented. Others illustrate that differences exist.

The Languages
Indonesian: Formal language of Indonesia, adapted from Malay, which
was the lingua franca of the East Indies for over a thousand years. Bahasa Indonesia was officially endorsed as the official language of the emerging independence movement in 1928, and became the official language upon independence from the Dutch in 1945. Its Dutch-based orthography was revised in 1972 when DJ and TJ pairs were dropped (among other improvements). The population of Indonesia is just over 200 million.

Javanese: This is the language of the central and eastern part of the
island of Java. It is actually a multi-level language where the level spoken is in direct relationship to the social status or politeness required between the individual speakers. In the list below words capitalized are of the higher levels; all CAPS represent the highest level. There are three basic levels, but linguists have identified many more levels comprised of mixtures of vocabulary from adjacent levels according to the particular circumstance. Many words are based on Sanskrit and Kawi, which is an old literary language still used in the famous Wayang shadow puppet plays. This influence goes back to the Hindu and Buddhist period, roughly from the first to tenth centuries of the Christian era. Today approximately 65 million people speak Javanese.

Balinese: This is spoken on the island of Bali. Like Javanese, it is a multilevel language, and words listed below with capitalization are from the higher level. Its roots go back to Javanese, Kawi and Sanskrit since many Javanese Hindus fled to Bali when Islam began to take hold in Java.

Sundanese: Sunda is the westernmost third of the island of Java. Madurese: Madura is the long, narrow island off the northern coast of
eastern Java, very close to the port of Surabaya. The language spoken in Madura is related to Javanese, Malay and other languages from coastal groups on nearby islands, such as Makassar and Bugis people of Sulawesi.

Sawu: This small island lies directly south of the central part of Flores in the
arc of islands that includes Sumba, Roti and Timor. There are about 25 languages in this sub-group, including those on Sumba, Roti, Timor, Komodo, and parts of Flores and Sumbawa. Sawu is a unique island in that it has historically been more populated than neighboring islands because its people have learned to avoid seasonal famines through cultivation of the lontar palm, Borassus flabelifer, whose nutricious juice could be consumed when all other food sources were unavailable. About 60000 people live on this island, which was visited by Captain James Cook in 1770 (although the Dutch had already established contact as early as 1648 and had a firm trade treaty when Cook arrived).

Toraja: This language (Toraja Sa'dan) is spoken in the interior of Sulawesi,
from the popular tourist destination area called Tana Toraja ("Torajaland"). The people in this area are famous for their burial sites in cliffside caves. Their language is one of a fertile and relatively isolated inland valley culture which seems to have not needed a word for "island".

Acehnese: Acehnese is spoken along the coastal regions of the province
of Aceh. There are also some numbers of Acehnese immigrants in Malaysia. Other languages spoken in the province of Aceh include Bahasa Kluet, Bahasa Gayo, Bahasa Alas, and Bahasa Tamiang (a variety of Malay). The indigenous name for Acehnese is 'Basa AcŹh.'

Tetun: Tetum, or Tetun, is one of about 26 languages spoken in East Timor,
which is now an independent country. Tetun Praca or Tetun Dili has become a the dominant form throughout most of East Timor. It has also become one of only about four languages spoken in the Indonesian part on Timor Island that lies to the west of East Timor. It is difficult to say whether Tetun will have the linguistic strength to serve as an official language of the new government, since its vocabulary is noticeably thin for such needs.

Tagalog: This is the official language of the Philippines, but only one of
many regional languages found on the hundreds of islands.

Hiligaynon: A regional language of the Philippines, Hiligaynon is the
lingua franca of the Western Visayas, particularly in the region around Iloilo (Panay Island) but also in parts of Negros, Romblon. There are approximately 7 million speakers of Hiligaynon.

Maori: This is spoken by the Maori people of Aotearoa, which presently is
known as New Zealand. Orthography: in the list below the appearance of a tilde ( ~ ) character indicates the preceeding vowel is lengthened.

Fijian: Another Polynesian language from the group of islands comprising Fiji.
Despite striking similarities between certain Maori, Rapanui and Hawaii words in the list below, Fijian shows differences. Even between the extreme eastern and western Fijian islands there are significant differences that preclude mutual understanding, unless English or Standard Fijian are used.

Hawaiian: The indiginous language of the people of Hawaii, who are
believed to have emigrated from the islands in and around the Philippines centuries ago. It is a phonetically minimized language, with only P, K, H, W, M, N, L, plus vocals and an important glottal stop.

Malagasy: This is spoken on the island of Madagascar, off the coast of
Africa. It represents the westernmost member of the Austronesian language group. It has many influences from mainland African languages, but is classed as an Austronesian language by virtue of its overwhelmingy Austroesian vocabulary and structure.

Rapanui: This langauge is spoken by the approximately 2000 inhabitants
of Easter Island (Rapa Nui), which is one of the most isolated inhabited islands in the world. It too is a member of the Austronesian Language Family, of the Polynesian branch.


• • • •

( ' ) indicates a significant glottal stop (like "uh-uh" in English, which would be thusly notated as: uh'uh). This is found in Hawaiian, Madurese and Toraja orthographies, but is common in most Austronesian languages. ( ~ ) indicates the preceeding vowel is lengthened. This is found in some Maori words. ( ~ ) indicates a stress to the preceeding vowel. A few words in Tagalog may be marked as such. Words with the first letter capitalized are polite forms used when speaking to elders and respected peers. WORDS appearing in all capital letters are extreme polite forms and usually further distance the speakers socially or economically in languages such as Javanese and Balinese. Words appearing inside double parenthises ((example)) are impolite or coarse, and would be used to emphasize a social gap by "speaking down", e.g., to mischevious children, or lax servants. For Fijian only: b= mb ("number"), n = nd ("sender"), c = th ("those"), g = ng ("singer"), q = ngg (finger), j = ch ("choose"), v = w-v (a bilabial V). For Achenese: eu is a single vowel, back high unrounded; it is not a diphthong. ô is more closed than the o.

The List
The compiler's comments appear in this color. Clicking on a heading will take you back to the complete word list.

Indonesian: satu Javanese: siji, Setunggal Balinese: besik, Asiki Sundanese: hiji, eka

Madurese: settong, tonggal Sawu: ahi Toraja: misa Acehnese: sa Tetun: ida Tagalog: isa Hiligaynon: isa Maori: tahi, kotahi Fijian: dua Hawaiian: kahi Malagasy: isa Rapanui: tahi

Indonesian: dua Javanese: loro, Kalih Balinese: dua, Kalih Sundanese: duwe Madurese: dua Sawu: due Toraja: dua Acehnese: duwa Tetun: rua Tagalog: dalawa Hiligaynon: duha Maori: rua Fijian: rua Hawaiian: lua Malagasy: roa Rapanui: rua

Indonesian: tiga Javanese: telu, Tiga Balinese: telu, Tiga Sundanese: tilu Madurese: tello Sawu: tallu Toraja: tallu Acehnese: lhèe Tetun: tolu Tagalog: tatlo Hiligaynon: tatlo Maori: toru Fijian: tolu Hawaiian: kolu

Malagasy: telo Rapanui: toru

Indonesian: empat Javanese: papat, Sekawan Balinese: papat, Catur Sundanese: opat Madurese: empa Sawu: apa Toraja: a'pa' Acehnese: peuet Tetun: haot Tagalog: apat Hiligaynon: apat Maori: wha Fijian: va Hawaiian: ha Malagasy: efatra Rapanui: ha

Indonesian: lima Javanese: lima, Gangsal Balinese: lima, Panca Sundanese: lima Madurese: lema' Sawu: lami Toraja: lima Acehnese: limong Tetun: lima Tagalog: lima Hiligaynon: lima Maori: rima Fijian: lima Hawaiian: lima Malagasy: dimy Rapanui: rima

Indonesian: enam Javanese: nem Balinese: nem, nemnem, sad Sundanese: genep Madurese: enem Sawu: anna

Toraja: annan Acehnese: nam Tetun: neen Tagalog: anim Hiligaynon: anum Maori: ono Fijian: ono Hawaiian: ono Malagasy: enina Rapanui: ono

Indonesian: tujuh Javanese: pitu Balinese: pepitu, sapta Sundanese:tujuh Madurese: petto' Sawu: pitu Toraja: pitu Acehnese: tujôh Tetun: hitu Tagalog: pito Hiligaynon: pito Maori: whitu Fijian: vitu Hawaiian: hiku Malagasy: fito Rapanui: hita

Indonesian: delapan Javanese: wolu Balinese: aktus, Astha Sundanese:dalapan Madurese: bellu' Sawu: aru Toraja: karura Acehnese: lapan Tetun: ualu Tagalog: walo Hiligaynon: walo Maori: waru Fijian: walu Hawaiian: walu Malagasy: valo Rapanui: vau

Indonesian: sembilan Javanese: sanga Balinese: sia, asia, Sanga Sundanese: salapan Madurese: sanga' Sawu: heo Toraja: kasera Acehnese: sikureueng Tetun: sia Tagalog: siyam Hiligaynon: siyam Maori: iwa Fijian: ciwa Hawaiian: iwa Malagasy: sivy Rapanui: iva

Indonesian: sepuluh Javanese: sepuluh, Sedasa Balinese: dasa, adasa Sundanese: sapuluh Madurese: sapolo Sawu: henguru Toraja: sang pulo Acehnese: siplôh Tetun: sanulu Tagalog: sampu Hiligaynon: pulo Maori: tekau Fijian: tini Hawaiian: 'umi Malagasy: folo Rapanui: angahuru

Indonesian: sebelas Javanese: sewelas Balinese: solas Sundanese: sabeulas, sawelas Madurese: sabelles Sawu: henguru ahi Toraja: sang pulo misa Acehnese: siblah Tetun: sanulu resin ida

Tagalog: labing isa Hiligaynon: napulo kag isa Maori: tekau ma tahi Fijian: tini ka dua Hawaiian: 'umi kumakahi Malagasy: iray ambin'ny folo Rapanui: ?

Indonesian: duabelas Javanese: rolas, Kalih Welas Balinese: roras Sundanese: dua belas Madurese: du bellas Sawu: henguru due Toraja: sang pulo dua Acehnese: duwa blah Tetun: sanulu resin rua Tagalog: labing delawa Hiligaynon: napulo kag duha Maori: tekau ma rua? Fijian: tini ka rua Hawaiian: 'umi kumalua Malagasy: roa ambin'ny folo Rapanui: ?

Indonesian: dua puluh Javanese: rong puluh, Kalih Dasa Balinese: duang dasa Sundanese: dua puluh Madurese: dupolo Sawu: due nguru Toraja: duang pulo Acehnese: duwa plôh Tetun: ruanulu Tagalog: dalawampu Hiligaynon: duha ka pulo Maori: rua tekau Fijian: rua sagavulu Hawaiian: iwakalua Malagasy: roapolo Rapanui: ?

One Hundred

Indonesian: seratus Javanese: satus, Balinese: satus Sundanese: saratus Madurese: saratos Sawu: hengahu Toraja: saratu' Acehnese: sireutôh Tetun: atus ida Tagalog: isang daan Hiligaynon: gatus (isa ka gatus) Maori: rau, kotahi rau Fijian: dua na drau Hawaiian: hanele Malagasy: zato Rapanui: hanere

One Thousand
Indonesian: seribu Javanese: sewu Balinese: siu Sundanese: sarebu Madurese: saebu Sawu: hetapa Toraja: sang sa'bu Acehnese: siribèe Tetun: rihun ida Tagalog: isang libo Hiligaynon: libo (isa ka libo) Maori: kotahi mano Fijian: dua no udolu Hawaiian: kaukani Malagasy: arivo Rapanui: piere

Me, I
Indonesian: saya, aku Javanese: aku, Kula, DALEM Balinese: icang, Titiang Sundanese: urang, kuring, Abdi Madurese: sengkok, Kaule, ABDINA Sawu: ya Toraja: aku Acehnese: kèe, ulôn, ulôntuwan Tetun: ha'u Tagalog: ako Hiligaynon: ako

Maori: au, ahau Fijian: au/noqu Hawaiian: a'u Malagasy: izaho/ahy Rapanui: au/kooku

Indonesian: kamu, engkau, Anda Javanese: kowe, Panjenengan, Balinese: cai, nyai, Ida, Dane, Iratu Sundanese: maneh, Anjeuna (Anjeun) Madurese: be'na, Sampiyan, Panjenengan (?) Sawu: mu Toraja: ((iko)), kamu Acehnese: kah, gata, droeneuh Tetun: o, ITA Tagalog: ikaw Hiligaynon: ikaw Maori: koe Fijian: iko/nomu Hawaiian: 'oe Malagasy: ianao/anao Rapanui: koe/toau

Indonesian: pulau Javanese: pulo Balinese: nusa, pulau Sundanese: pulau, nusa Madurese: polo, daret Sawu: rai Toraja: (no word apparently exists for island) Acehnese: pulo Tetun: nusa, illa Tagalog: pulo~, isla Hiligaynon: polo, isla Maori: motu Fijian: yanu-yanu Hawaiian: moku, mokupuni, moku 'aina Malagasy: nosy Rapanui: motu

Indonesian: laut, lautan, samudra Javanese: segara Balinese: pasih, Segara

Sundanese: laut, sagara Madurese: tasek, sagare Sawu: lau Toraja: tasik Acehnese: laôt Tetun: tasi Tagalog: dagat Hiligaynon: dagat Maori: moana Fijian: wai tui (literally "king water") Hawaiian: kai, moana Malagasy: ranomasina (literally "salty water"?) Rapanui: vai kava (literally "salty water")

Indonesian: air Javanese: banyu, Toya Balinese: yeh, Tirta, Toya Sundanese: cai Madurese: aing Sawu: ai (the same word is used for fire and water!) Toraja: uai Acehnese: ie Tetun: bee Tagalog: tubig Hiligaynon: tubig Maori: wai Fijian: wai Hawaiian: wai Malagasy: rano Rapanui: vai

Indonesian: ikan Javanese: iwak Balinese: be, Mina, Ulam Sundanese: lauk, ikan Madurese: juko' Sawu: nadu'u Toraja: bale Acehnese: eungkôt Tetun: ikan Tagalog: isda Hiligaynon: isda Maori: ika Fijian: ika Hawaiian: i'a

Malagasy: tsondro Rapanui: ika

Indonesian: ular Javanese: ula Balinese: lelipi, Ula Sundanese: oray Madurese: olar Sawu: doboho Toraja: ula' Acehnese: uleue Tetun: samea Tagalog: ahas Hiligaynon: man-ug, bitin Maori: neke (not indigenous, an alliteration) Fijian: gata Hawaiian: --Malagasy: bibilava, menarana Rapanui: ?

Indonesian: burung Javanese: manuk, Peksi Balinese: kedis, Peksi Sundanese: manuk Madurese: mano Sawu: dowila Toraja: dassi Acehnese: cicèm Tetun: manu, fuik Tagalog: ibon Hiligaynon: pispis Maori: manu Fijian: manu-manu vuka Hawaiian: manu Malagasy: vorona Rapanui: manu

Indonesian: anjing Javanese: asu, Segawon Balinese: cicing, Asu Sundanese: anjing Madurese: pate' Sawu: ngaka

Toraja: asu Acehnese: Tetun: Tagalog: asu Hiligaynon: Maori: kuri~ Fijian: koli Hawaiian: 'ilio Malagasy: alika Rapanui: 'uri

Indonesian: bunga Javanese: kembang, Sekar Balinese: bunga, Sekar Sundanese: kembang, kusuma Madurese: kembang, Sekar Sawu: bunga Toraja: bunga Acehnese: bungong Tetun: ai funan Tagalog: bulaklak Hiligaynon: bulak Maori: pua Fijian: senikau Hawaiian: pua Malagasy: vonikazo Rapanui: tiare

Indonesian: buah Javanese: woh Balinese: buah, Woh Sundanese: buah Madurese: buwe Sawu: wue Toraja: Acehnese: boh Tetun: ai funan Tagalog: prutas [Spanish], bungang-kahoy Hiligaynon: prutas, bunga Maori: hua Fijian: vuanikau ("kau"= "tree") Hawaiian: hua Malagasy: voankazo Rapanui:

Indonesian: kelapa Javanese: krambil, klapa Balinese: nyuh, Kelapa Sundanese: kalapa Madurese: nyior Sawu: nyiu Toraja: kaluku Acehnese: u Tetun: nuu Tagalog: buko Hiligaynon: niyog, lubi, buko, makapuno Maori: kokonaiti, kokonata (not indigenous, an alliteration) Fijian: niu Hawaiian: niu Malagasy: coco Rapanui:

Indonesian: pisang Javanese: gedhang, Pisang Balinese: biu, Pisang Sundanese: cau Madurese: geddhang Sawu: womu'u Toraja: punti Acehnese: pisang Tetun: hudi Tagalog: saging Hiligaynon: saging Maori: maika Fijian: jaina Hawaiian: mai'a Malagasy: akondro Rapanui: maika

Indonesian: api Javanese: geni, Latu Balinese: api, Geni Sundanese: seuneu Madurese: apoy Sawu: ai (the same word is used for fire and water!)

Toraja: api Acehnese: apuy Tetun: ahi Tagalog: apoy Hiligaynon: kalayo Maori: ahi Fijian: buka Hawaiian: ahi Malagasy: afo Rapanui: ahi

Indonesian: gunung Javanese: giri, gunung Balinese: gunung, giri Sundanese: gunung Madurese: gunong Sawu: lede Toraja: buntu Acehnese: glè Tetun: foho Tagalog: bundok Hiligaynon: bukid Maori: maunga Fijian: ulunivanua Hawaiian: mauna Malagasy: vohitra Rapanui: maunga

Indonesian: matahari (mentari) (mata = eye, hari = day) Javanese: srengenge, Surya Balinese: matanai, Surya Sundanese: panonpoe Madurese: are Sawu: mada loto Toraja: allo Acehnese: mata uroe Tetun: loro Tagalog: araw Hiligaynon: adlaw Maori: ra~ Fijian: siga (matanisiga, matanivanua) Hawaiian: la Malagasy: masoandro (maso = eye, andro = day) Rapanui: ra'a

Indonesian: bulan Javanese: rembulan, Wulan Balinese: bulan, Sasih Sundanese: bulan, Sasih Madurese: bulen Sawu: waru Toraja: bulan Acehnese: buleuen Tetun: fulan Tagalog: buwan Hiligaynon: bulan Maori: marama Fijian: vula Hawaiian: mahina Malagasy: volana Rapanui: mahina

Indonesian: bintang Javanese: lintang Balinese: bintang Sundanese: bentang Madurese: bintang Sawu: moto Toraja: bintoen Acehnese: bintang Tetun: fitun Tagalog: tala Hiligaynon: bitu-on Maori: whetu~ Fijian: kalo-kalo Hawaiian: hoku Malagasy: kintana Rapanui: hetu'u

Person (M\F)
Indonesian: orang Javanese: wong, Tiyang Balinese: jlema-jatma, Anak Sundanese: jalma, jelema Madurese: oreng Sawu: dau

Toraja: tau Acehnese: ureueng Tetun: ema Tagalog: tao Hiligaynon: tawo Maori: tangata, koroke~ Fijian: tamata Hawaiian: kanaka, mea, kama Malagasy: olona Rapanui: tangata\vi'e

Sources & Links
Indonesian: numerous sources. Javanese: Sri Rahmawati Weisling (Solo, Indonesia -- my wife). Balinese: Andrew Toth (Bali, Indonesia). Sundanese: Madurese: Arif Suratman (Surabaya, Indonesia) Also, the above five languages together: Ir. Sugiarto et al., Kamus Indonesia Daerah, PT Gramedia Pustaka Utama, Jakarta 1993. (This five-language dictionary contains, regrettably, numerous errors.) Sawu: Benyamin Lebe (born and raised on Sawu, now living in Solo, Indonesia). Toraja: Angela Spilsbury (Rantepao, Sulawesi, Indonesia). Acehnese: Mark Durie, Dept. of Linguistics and Applied Linguistics, Univ. of Melbourne Tetun: Geoffrey Hull, "Standard Tetum-English Dictionary." Allen & Unwin, publ., Sydney. Tagalog: Paula Angeles and website. Hiligaynon: Horst Ibelgaufts Maori: Kimi Kupu Hou Lexical Database*, Manuhuia Barcham Fijian: Valerie Nayacakalou and website. Hawaiian: Hawaiian On-Line Dictionary* Malagasy: Andry Rakotonirainy. Rapanui: Adam Dobrzycki. Other contributions: Waruno Mahdi, & Dr. dr. Bulantrisna Djelantik.
* Web site with on-line searchable dictionary

Get more info on the entire Austronesian langauge family from the Summer Institute of Linguistics.