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Javanese language

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båså Jåwå
باسا جاوا
Basa Jawa (Javanese language) written in the Javanese script
Pronunciation[bɔsɔ d͡ʒɔwɔ] (central and eastern dialects)
[basa d͡ʒawa] (western dialects)
[basə d͡ʒawə] (Serangese dialect)
Native toIndonesia
Native speakers
68 million (2015)[1]
Early forms
Old Javanese
  • Middle Javanese
Standard forms
DialectsJavanese dialects
Latin script
Javanese script
Pegon script
Official status
Official language in
Regulated byBadan Pengembangan dan Pembinaan Bahasa
Language codes
ISO 639-1jv
ISO 639-2jav
ISO 639-3Variously:
jav – Javanese
jvn – Caribbean Javanese
jas – New Caledonian Javanese
osi – Osing
tes – Tenggerese
Glottologjava1253  Javanesic
Dark green: areas where Javanese is the majority language. Light green: where it is a minority language.
This article contains IPA phonetic symbols. Without proper rendering support, you may see question marks, boxes, or other symbols instead of Unicode characters. For an introductory guide on IPA symbols, see Help:IPA.
The word Jawa (Java) written in Javanese script
Two Javanese speakers, recorded in Indonesia

Javanese (/ˌɑːvəˈnz/ JAH-və-NEEZ,[3] /ævə-/ JAV-ə-, /-ˈns/ -⁠NEESS;[4] basa Jawa, Javanese script: ꦧꦱꦗꦮ, Pegon: باسا جاوا, IPA: [bɔsɔ d͡ʒɔwɔ]) is a Malayo-Polynesian language spoken by the Javanese people from the central and eastern parts of the island of Java, Indonesia. There are also pockets of Javanese speakers on the northern coast of western Java. It is the native language of more than 68 million people.[5]

Javanese is the largest of the Austronesian languages in number of native speakers. It has several regional dialects and a number of clearly distinct status styles.[6] Its closest relatives are the neighboring languages such as Sundanese, Madurese, and Balinese. Most speakers of Javanese also speak Indonesian for official and commercial purposes as well as a means to communicate with non-Javanese-speaking Indonesians.

There are speakers of Javanese in Malaysia (concentrated in the West Coast part of the states of Selangor and Johor) and Singapore. Javanese is also spoken by traditional immigrant communities of Javanese descent in Suriname, Sri Lanka and New Caledonia.[7]

Along with Indonesian, Javanese is an official language in the Special Region of Yogyakarta, Indonesia.[2]


Javanese is part of the Malayo-Polynesian branch of the Austronesian language family, although its precise relationship to other Malayo-Polynesian languages is hard to determine. Using the lexicostatistical method, Isidore Dyen classified Javanese as part of the "Javo-Sumatra Hesion", which also includes the Sundanese and "Malayic" languages.[a][8][9] This grouping is also called "Malayo-Javanic" by linguist Berndt Nothofer, who was the first to attempt a reconstruction of it based on only four languages with the best attestation at the time (Javanese, Sundanese, Madurese, and Malay).[10]

Malayo-Javanic has been criticized and rejected by various linguists.[11][12] Alexander Adelaar does not include Javanese in his proposed Malayo-Sumbawan grouping (which also covers Malayic, Sundanese, and Madurese languages).[12][13] Robert Blust also does not include Javanese in the Greater North Borneo subgroup, which he proposes as an alternative to Malayo-Sumbawan grouping. However, Blust also expresses the possibility that Greater North Borneo languages are closely related to many other western Indonesian languages, including Javanese.[14] Blust's suggestion has been further elaborated by Alexander Smith, who includes Javanese in the Western Indonesian grouping (which also includes GNB and several other subgroups), which Smith considers as one of Malayo-Polynesian's primary branches.[15]


In general, the history of the Javanese language can be divided into two distinct phases: 1) Old Javanese and 2) New Javanese.[13][16]

Old Javanese[edit]

The earliest attested form of Old Javanese can be found on the Sukabumi inscription, which dates from 804 CE.[17] Between the 8th and the 15th century, this form of Javanese flourished in the island of Java. Old Javanese is commonly written in the form of verses. This language variety is also called kawi or 'of poets, poetical's, although this term could also be used to refer to the archaic elements of New Javanese literature.[13] The writing system used to write Old Javanese is a descendant of the Pallava script from India.[17] Almost half of the entire vocabularies found in Old Javanese literature are Sanskrit loanwords, although Old Javanese also borrowed terms from other languages in the Maritime Southeast Asia.[13][17]

The form of Old Javanese found in several texts from 14th century onward (mostly written in Bali) is sometimes referred to as "Middle Javanese". Both Old and Middle Javanese written forms have not been widely used in Java since early 16th century. However, Old Javanese works and poetic tradition continue to be preserved in the Javanese-influenced Bali, and the variety is also used for religious purposes.[13][18]

Modern Javanese[edit]

Modern Javanese emerged as the main literary form of the language in the 16th century. The change in the literary system happened as Islam started to gain influence in Java.[16] In its early form, Modern Javanese literary form was based on the variety spoken in the north coast of Java, where Islam had already gained foothold among the local people. Many of the written works in this variety were Islamic in nature, and several of them were translation from works in Malay.[19] The Arabic abjad was also adopted (as Pegon) to write Javanese.[16][19]

The rise of Mataram in the 17th century shifted the main literary form of Javanese to be based on the inland variety. This written tradition was preserved by writers of Surakarta and Yogyakarta, and later became the basis of the modern written standard of the language.[19] Another linguistic development associated with the rise of Mataram is the stratification of Javanese into speech levels such as ngoko and krama,[20] which were unknown in Old Javanese.[19][20]

Books in Javanese have been printed since 1830s, at first using the Javanese script, although the Latin alphabet started to be used later. Since mid-19th century, Javanese has been used in newspapers and travelogues, and later, also novels, short stories, as well as free verses. Today, it is used in media, ranging from books to TV programs, and the language is also taught at schools in primarily Javanese areas.

Although Javanese is not a national language, it has recognized status as a regional language in the three Indonesian provinces with the biggest concentrations of Javanese people: Central Java, Yogyakarta, and East Java.[citation needed] Javanese is designated as the official language of the Special Region of Yogyakarta under Yogyakarta Special Region Regulation Number 2 of 2021.[2] Previously, Central Java promulgated a similar regulation—Regional Regulation 9/2012[21]—but this did not imply an official status for the language.

Javanese is taught at schools and is used in some mass media, both electronically and in print. There is, however, no longer a daily newspaper in Javanese. Javanese-language magazines include Panjebar Semangat, Jaka Lodhang, Jaya Baya, Damar Jati, and Mekar Sari. Damar Jati, a new Javanese language magazine, appeared in 2005 is not published in the Javanese heartlands, but in Jakarta.

Since 2003, an East Java local television station (JTV) has broadcast some of its programmes in the Surabayan (Suroboyoan) dialect, including Pojok Kampung [id] ("Village Corner", main newscast), Kuis RT/RW ("RT/RW Quiz"), and Pojok Perkoro ("Case Corner", a crime newscast). In later broadcasts, JTV offers programmes in the Central Javanese dialect (called by them basa kulonan, "the western language") and Madurese. The speakers of Suroboyoan dialect are well known for being proud of their distinctive dialect and consistently maintain it wherever they go.[22]

Geographical distribution[edit]

Javanese is spoken throughout Indonesia, neighboring Southeast Asian countries, the Netherlands, Suriname, New Caledonia, and other countries. The largest populations of speakers are found in the six provinces of Java itself, and in the neighboring Sumatran province of Lampung.

The language is spoken in Yogyakarta, Central and East Java, as well as on the north coast of West Java and Banten. It is also spoken elsewhere by the Javanese people in other provinces of Indonesia, who are numerous due to the government-sanctioned transmigration program in the late 20th century, including Lampung, Jambi, and North Sumatra provinces. In Suriname, Javanese is spoken among descendants of plantation migrants brought by the Dutch during the 19th century.[23] In Madura, Bali, Lombok, and the Sunda region of West Java, it is also used as a literary language. It was the court language in Palembang, South Sumatra, until the palace was sacked by the Dutch in the late 18th century.

Javanese is written with the Latin script, Javanese script, and Arabic script.[24] In the present day, the Latin script dominates writings, although the Javanese script is still taught as part of the compulsory Javanese language subject in elementary up to high school levels in Yogyakarta, Central and East Java.

Javanese is the twenty-second largest language by native speakers and the seventh largest language without official status at the national level. It is spoken or understood by approximately 100 million people. At least 45% of the total population of Indonesia are of Javanese descent or live in an area where Javanese is the dominant language. All seven Indonesian presidents since 1945 have been of Javanese descent.[b] It is therefore not surprising that Javanese has had a deep influence on the development of Indonesian, the national language of Indonesia.

There are three main dialects of the modern language: Central Javanese, Eastern Javanese, and Western Javanese. These three dialects form a dialect continuum from northern Banten in the extreme west of Java to Banyuwangi Regency in the eastern corner of the island. All Javanese dialects are more or less mutually intelligible.

A table showing the number of native speakers in 1980, for the 22 Indonesian provinces (from the total of 27) in which more than 1% of the population spoke Javanese:[c]

Indonesian province % of provincial population Javanese speakers (1980)
1. Aceh 6.7% 175,000
2. North Sumatra 21.0% 1,757,000
3. West Sumatra 1.0% 56,000
4. Jambi 17.0% 245,000
5. South Sumatra 12.4% 573,000
6. Bengkulu 15.4% 118,000
7. Lampung 62.4% 2,886,000
8. Riau 8.5% 184,000
9. Jakarta 3.6% 236,000
10. West Java[d] 13.3% 3,652,000
11. Central Java 96.9% 24,579,000
12. Yogyakarta 97.6% 2,683,000
13. East Java 74.5% 21,720,000
14. Bali 1.1% 28,000
15. West Kalimantan 1.7% 41,000
16. Central Kalimantan 4.0% 38,000
17. South Kalimantan 4.7% 97,000
18. East Kalimantan 10.1% 123,000
19. North Sulawesi 1.0% 20,000
20. Central Sulawesi 2.9% 37,000
21. Southeast Sulawesi 3.6% 34,000
22. Maluku 1.1% 16,000

According to the 1980 census, Javanese was used daily in approximately 43% of Indonesian households. By this reckoning there were well over 60 million Javanese speakers,[25] from a national population of 147,490,298.[26][e]

Madurese in Javanese script

In Banten, the descendants of the Central Javanese conquerors who founded the Islamic Sultanate there in the 16th century still speak an archaic form of Javanese.[27] The rest of the population mainly speaks Sundanese and Indonesian, since this province borders directly on Jakarta.[f]

At least one third of the population of Jakarta are of Javanese descent, so they speak Javanese or have knowledge of it. In the province of West Java, many people speak Javanese, especially those living in the areas bordering Central Java, the cultural homeland of the Javanese.

Almost a quarter of the population of East Java province are Madurese (mostly on the Isle of Madura); many Madurese have some knowledge of colloquial Javanese. Since the 19th century, Madurese was also written in the Javanese script.[g]

The original inhabitants of Lampung, the Lampungese, make up only 15% of the provincial population. The rest are the so-called "transmigrants", settlers from other parts of Indonesia, many as a result of past government transmigration programs. Most of these transmigrants are Javanese who have settled there since the 19th century.

In Suriname (the former Dutch colony of Surinam), South America, approximately 15% of the population of some 500,000 are of Javanese descent, among whom 75,000 speak Javanese. A local variant evolved: the Tyoro Jowo-Suriname or Suriname Javanese.[28]


The phonemes of Modern Standard Javanese as shown below.[29][30]


Front Central Back
Close i     u
Close-mid e ə o
Open-mid (ɛ) (ɔ)
Open   a  

In closed syllables the vowels /i u e o/ are pronounced ʊ ɛ ɔ] respectively.[29][31] In open syllables, /e o/ are also ɔ] when the following vowel is /i u/ in an open syllable; otherwise they are /ə/, or identical (/e...e/, /o...o/). In the standard dialect of Surakarta, /a/ is pronounced [ɔ] in word-final open syllables, and in any open penultimate syllable before such an [ɔ].


Labial Dental/
Retroflex Palatal Velar Glottal
Nasal m n ɲ ŋ
stiff voice p ʈ k ʔ
slack voice d̪̥ ɖ̥ dʒ̊ ɡ̊
Fricative s h
Semivowel j w
Liquid lateral l
rhotic r

The Javanese "voiced" phonemes are not in fact voiced but voiceless, with breathy voice on the following vowel.[29] The relevant distinction in phonation of the plosives is described as stiff voice versus slack voice.[32][30]

A Javanese syllable can have the following form: CSVC, where C = consonant, S = sonorant (/j/, /r/, /l/, /w/, or any nasal consonant), and V = vowel. As with other Austronesian languages, native Javanese roots consist of two syllables; words consisting of more than three syllables are broken up into groups of disyllabic words for pronunciation. In Modern Javanese, a disyllabic root is of the following type: nCsvVnCsvVC.

Apart from Madurese, Javanese is the only language of Western Indonesia to possess a distinction between dental and retroflex phonemes.[29] The latter sounds are transcribed as "th" and "dh" in the modern Roman script, but previously by the use of an underdot: "ṭ" and "ḍ".



Javanese, like many other Austronesian languages, is an agglutinative language, where base words are modified through extensive use of affixes.

Personal pronoun[edit]

Javanese has no specific personal pronoun to express plural except for the word kita which is probably absorbed from Indonesian or Malay. Pronoun pluralization can be ignored or expressed by using phrases such as aku kabèh 'we', awaké dhéwé 'us', dhèwèké kabèh 'them' and so on. Personal pronoun in Javanese, especially for the second and third person, are more often replaced by certain nouns or titles. In addition to the pronoun described in the table below, Javanese still has a variety of other pronoun whose use varies depending on the dialect or level of speech.[33][34][35][page needed]

Personal Pronoun[33][34][35][page needed]
Gloss Freestanding form Prefix Suffix
Ngoko Madya Krama Krama InggilKrama Andhap


aku kula dalem tak-, dak- -ku
1PL.INCL kita
2SG, 2PL


kowé samang sampéyan panjenengan ko-, kok- -mu
3SG, 3PL

He, She, It

dhèwèké piyambakipun panjenengané,


di- -(n)é, -(n)ipun


Proximal Medial Distal
neutral iki, kiyi, kiyé iku, kuwi, kuwé (ika), kaé
local kéné kono kana
locative mréné, réné mrono, rono mrana, rana
modal mengkéné, ngéné mengkono, ngono mengkana, ngana
quantitative seméné, méné semono, mono semana, mana
temporal sepréné seprana





Modern Javanese usually employs SVO word order. However, Old Javanese sometimes had VSO and sometimes VOS word order. Even in Modern Javanese, archaic sentences using VSO structure can still be made.


  • Modern Javanese: "Dhèwèké (S) teka (V) ing (pp.) karaton (O)".[36]
  • Old Javanese: "Teka (V) ta (part.) sira (S) ri (pp.) -ng (def. art.) kadhatwan (O)".[h]

Both sentences mean: "He (S) comes (V) into (pp.) the (def. art.) palace (O)". In the Old Javanese sentence, the verb is placed at the beginning and is separated by the particle ta from the rest of the sentence. In Modern Javanese the definite article is lost, and definiteness is expressed by other means if necessary.

Verbs are not inflected for person or number. There is no grammatical tense; time is expressed by auxiliary words meaning "yesterday", "already", etc. There is a complex system of verb affixes to express differences of status in subject and object. However, in general the structure of Javanese sentences both Old and Modern can be described using the topic–comment model, without having to refer to conventional grammatical categories. The topic is the head of the sentence; the comment is the modifier. So the example sentence has a simpler description: Dhèwèké = topic; teka = comment; ing karaton = setting.


Javanese has many loanwords supplementing those from the native Austronesian base. Sanskrit has had a deep and lasting impact. The Old Javanese–English Dictionary contains approximately 25,500 entries, over 12,600 of which are borrowings from Sanskrit.[37] Such a high number is no measure of usage, but it does suggest the extent to which the language adopted Sanskrit words for formal purposes. In a typical Old Javanese literary work about 25% of the vocabulary is from Sanskrit. Many Javanese personal names also have clearly recognisable Sanskrit roots.

Sanskrit words are still very much in use. Modern speakers may describe Old Javanese and Sanskrit words as kawi (roughly meaning "literary"); but kawi words may also be from Arabic. Dutch and Malay are influential as well; but none of these rivals the position of Sanskrit.

There are far fewer Arabic loanwords in Javanese than in Malay, and they are usually concerned with Islamic religion. Nevertheless, some words have entered the basic vocabulary, such as pikir ("to think", from the Arabic fikr), badan ("body"), mripat ("eye", thought to be derived from the Arabic ma'rifah, meaning "knowledge" or "vision"). However, these Arabic words typically have native Austronesian or Sanskrit alternatives: pikir = galih, idhep (Austronesian) and manah, cipta, or cita (from Sanskrit); badan = awak (Austronesian) and slira, sarira, or angga (from Sanskrit); and mripat = mata (Austronesian) and soca or nétra (from Sanskrit).

Dutch loanwords usually have the same form and meaning as in Indonesian, with a few exceptions such as:

Javanese Indonesian Dutch English
pit sepeda fiets bicycle
pit montor sepeda motor motorfiets motorcycle
sepur kereta api spoor, i.e. (rail) track train
potelot pensil potlood pencil
bolpen bolpoin balpen pen

The word sepur also exists in Indonesian, but there it has preserved the literal Dutch meaning of "railway tracks", while the Javanese word follows Dutch figurative use, and "spoor" (lit. "rail") is used as metonymy for "trein" (lit. "train"). (Compare a similar metonymic use in English: "to travel by rail" may be used for "to travel by train".)

Malay was the lingua franca of the Indonesian archipelago before the proclamation of Indonesian independence in 1945; and Indonesian, which was based on Malay, is now the official language of Indonesia. As a consequence, there has been an influx of Malay and Indonesian vocabulary into Javanese. Many of these words are concerned with bureaucracy or politics.

Basic vocabulary[edit]

English Ngoko Krama
yes iya inggih or nggih[38]
no ora mboten
what apa punapa/menapa
who sapa sinten
how kapriyé or kepiyé kados pundi or pripun
why nangapa or ngapa kènging punapa/menapa
eat mangan nedha/dhahar
sleep turu saré
read maca maos
drink ngombé ngunjuk
here ing kéné ing riki or mriki
there ing kana ing rika or mrika
there is (there are) ana wonten
there is no (there are no) ora ana boten wonten
no! or I don't want it! emoh wegah
make a visit for pleasure dolan amèng-amèng


[Javanese Ngoko is on the left, and Javanese Krama is on the right.]

Numeral Javanese script Ngoko Krama Notes
0 ꧇꧐꧇ nul, das das
1 ꧇꧑꧇ siji satunggal
2 ꧇꧒꧇ loro kalih
3 ꧇꧓꧇ telu tiga Krama word is derived from Pali tiga, from Sanskrit trika
4 ꧇꧔꧇ papat sakawan
5 ꧇꧕꧇ lima gangsal
6 ꧇꧖꧇ enem enem
7 ꧇꧗꧇ pitu pitu
8 ꧇꧘꧇ wolu wolu
9 ꧇꧙꧇ sanga sanga
10 ꧇꧑꧐꧇ sapuluh sadasa Krama word is derived from Austronesian prefix sa- "one, a" and Sanskrit word dasa "ten"
11 ꧇꧑꧑꧇ sewelas satunggal welas
20 ꧇꧒꧐꧇ rong puluh kalih dasa
21 ꧇꧒꧑꧇ selikur satunggal likur
22 ꧇꧒꧒꧇ ro likur kalih likur
23 ꧇꧒꧓꧇ telu likur tigang likur
24 ꧇꧒꧔꧇ pat likur sakawan likur
25 ꧇꧒꧕꧇ selawé salangkung
26 ꧇꧒꧖꧇ nem likur enem likur
27 ꧇꧒꧗꧇ pitu likur pitung likur
28 ꧇꧒꧘꧇ wolu likur wolung likur
29 ꧇꧒꧙꧇ sangang likur sangang likur
30 ꧇꧓꧐꧇ telung puluh tigang dasa
31 ꧇꧓꧑꧇ telung puluh siji tigang dasa satunggal
40 ꧇꧔꧐꧇ patang puluh sakawan dasa
41 ꧇꧔꧑꧇ patang puluh siji sakawan dasa satunggal
50 ꧇꧕꧐꧇ sèket sèket
51 ꧇꧕꧑꧇ sèket siji sèket satunggal
60 ꧇꧖꧐꧇ sewidak sawidak
61 ꧇꧖꧑꧇ sewidak siji sawidak satunggal
70 ꧇꧗꧐꧇ pitung puluh pitung dasa
80 ꧇꧘꧐꧇ wolung puluh wolung dasa
90 ꧇꧙꧐꧇ sangang puluh sangang dasa
100 ꧇꧑꧐꧐꧇ satus satunggal atus
hundreds atusan atusan
1000 ꧇꧑꧐꧐꧐꧇ sèwu satunggal èwu
thousands éwon éwon

Registers [edit]

A Javanese noble lady (left) would address her servant with one vocabulary, and be answered with another. (Studio portrait of painter Raden Saleh's wife and a servant, colonial Batavia, 1860–1872.)

In common with other Austronesian languages, Javanese is spoken differently depending on the social context. In Austronesian there are often three distinct styles or registers.[39] Each employs its own vocabulary, grammatical rules, and even prosody. In Javanese these styles are called:

  1. Ngoko (ꦔꦺꦴꦏꦺꦴ): Vernacular or informal speech, used between friends and close relatives. It is also used by persons of higher status (such as elders, or bosses) addressing those of lower status (young people, or subordinates in the workplace).
  2. Madya (ꦩꦢꦾ): Intermediate between ngoko and krama. Strangers on the street would use it, where status differences may be unknown and one wants to be neither too formal nor too informal. The term is from Sanskrit madhya ("middle").[40]
  3. Krama (ꦏꦿꦩ): The polite, high-register, or formal style. It is used between those of the same status when they do not wish to be informal. It is used by persons of lower status to persons of higher status, such as young people to their elders, or subordinates to bosses; and it is the official style for public speeches, announcements, etc. The term is from Sanskrit krama ("in order").[40]

There are also "meta-style" honorific words, and their converse "humilifics". Speakers use "humble" words concerning themselves, but honorific words concerning anyone of greater age of higher social status. The humilific words are called krama andhap, while the honorifics are called krama inggil. This honorific system is very similar to that of the Japanese keigo, and was likely influenced by it during the Japanese Empire's occupation of Java in World War II.[citation needed] Children typically use the ngoko style, but in talking to the parents they must be competent with both krama inggil and krama andhap.

The most polite word meaning "eat" is dhahar. But it is forbidden to use these most polite words for oneself, except when talking with someone of lower status; and in this case, ngoko style is used. Such most polite words are reserved for addressing people of higher status:

  • Mixed usages
    • (honorific – addressing someone of high status) Bapak kersa dhahar? ("Do you want to eat?"; literally "Does father want to eat?")
    • (reply to a person of lower status, expressing speaker's superiority) Iya, aku kersa dhahar. ("Yes, I want to eat.")
    • (reply to a person of lower status, but without expressing superiority) Iya, aku arep mangan.
    • (reply to a person of equal status) Inggih, kula badhé nedha.

The use of these different styles is complicated and requires thorough knowledge of Javanese culture, which adds to the difficulty of Javanese for foreigners. The full system is not usually mastered by most Javanese themselves, who might use only the ngoko and a rudimentary form of the krama. People who can correctly use the different styles are held in high esteem.


Susuhunan Pakubuwono X of Surakarta. Surakarta has been a center of Javanese culture, and its dialect is regarded as the most "refined".

There are three main groups of Javanese dialects, based on sub-regions: Western Javanese, Central Javanese, and Eastern Javanese. The differences are primarily in pronunciation, but with vocabulary differences also. Javanese dialects are all mutually intelligible.

A preliminary general classification of Javanese dialects given by the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology's Department of Linguistics is as follows.[41] Pesisir (Tegalan), Banyumas and Tengger are considered to be among the most conservative dialects.[42][43] The Banten, Pesisir Lor, Banyumas and Tengger dialect do not have the vowel raising and vowel harmony features that are innovations of the "standard" Solo and Yogyakarta dialects.

Dialects description[edit]

Standard Javanese[edit]

Standard Javanese is the variety of the Javanese language that was developed at the Yogyakarta and Surakarta courts (the heirs to the Mataram Sultanate that once dominated the whole of Java and beyond), based on the Central Javanese dialect, and becomes the basis for the Javanese modern writings. It is marked with the strict usage of two speech levels for politeness, i.e. vernacular level called ngoko and high-register level called krama. Other dialects do not contrast the usage of the speech levels.[47]

Central Javanese[edit]

Central Javanese (Jawa Tengahan) is founded on the speech of Surakarta[i] and to a lesser extent of Yogyakarta. It is considered the most "refined" of the regional variants, and serves as a model for the standard language. This variant is used throughout eastern part of Central Java, the Special Region of Yogyakarta, and the western part of East Java provinces. There are many lower-level dialects such as Muria and Semarangan, as well as Surakarta and Yogyakarta themselves. Javanese spoken in the Madiun region (along with Javanese spoken in Blitar, Ponorogo, Pacitan, and Tulungagung, and central parts of Kediri) bears a strong influence of Surakarta Javanese. The variations in Central Java are said to be so plentiful that almost every administrative region (or kabupatèn) has its own local slang; but those minor dialects are not seen as distinct by most Javanese speakers.

  1. Mataram dialect, Kewu dialect, or Standard dialect is spoken commonly in Yogyakarta, Surakarta, Klaten, Karanganyar, Wonogiri, Sukoharjo, Sragen, and Boyolali.
  2. Pekalongan dialect is spoken in Pekalongan, Pekalongan regency, Batang and also in Pemalang.
  3. Kedu dialect is spoken in the former Kedu residency, including: Temanggung, eastern part of Kebumen, Magelang, and Wonosobo.
    1. Bagelen dialect is sub-dialect of Kedu spoken in Purworejo.
  4. Semarang dialect is spoken in Semarang, Semarang regency, and also Salatiga, Grobogan, Demak and Kendal.
  5. Muria (Agung) dialect or Eastern North-Coast dialect is spoken in Jepara, Rembang, Kudus, Pati, and also in Tuban and Bojonegoro.
    1. Blora dialect is sub-dialect of Muria, spoken in Blora, the eastern part of Grobogan, and the western part of Ngawi.
  6. Madiunan dialect or Mataraman dialect is spoken mainly in western part of East Java province, including Madiun, Ngawi, Pacitan, Ponorogo, Magetan, Kediri, Nganjuk, Trenggalek, Tulungagung, and Blitar.

Western Javanese[edit]

Western Javanese (Jawa Kulonan), spoken in the western part of the Central Java province and throughout the West Java and Banten province (particularly on the north coast), includes dialects that are distinct for their Sundanese influences. It retains many archaic words and original pronunciation from Old Javanese.

  1. North Banten dialect (Jawa Sérang) is spoken in Serang, Cilegon, and the western part of Tangerang regency.
  2. Cirebon dialect (Cirebonan or basa Cerbon) is spoken in Cirebon, Indramayu, and Losari.
  3. Tegal dialect, known as Tegalan or dhialèk Pantura (North-Coast dialect), is spoken in Tegal, Brebes, and the western part of Pemalang regency.
  4. Banyumas dialect, known as Banyumasan, is spoken in Banyumas, Cilacap, Purbalingga, Banjarnegara, and Bumiayu.

Some Western Javanese dialects such as Banyumasan dialects and Tegal dialect are sometimes referred to as basa ngapak by other Javanese because of the dialectal pronunciation of word apa (what).

Eastern Javanese[edit]

Eastern Javanese (Jawa Wétanan) speakers range from the eastern banks of Brantas River in Kertosono, and from Jombang to Banyuwangi, comprising the second majority of the East Java province excluding Madura island , Situbondo and Bondowoso. However, some variant like Pedalungan has been influenced by Madurese.

The most outlying Eastern Javanese dialect is spoken in Balambangan (or Banyuwangi). It is generally known as basa Using. Using, a local negation word, is a cognate of tusing in Balinese.

  1. Arekan dialect is commonly spoken in Surabaya, Malang, Gresik, Mojokerto, Pasuruan, Lumajang, central and south-western part of Jember, eastern part of Lamongan, and Sidoarjo. Many Madurese people also use this dialect as their second language.
    1. Pasisir Lor Wétan (Northeastern Coast) dialect is spoken in Mojokerto, eastern part of Lamongan, Sidoarjo, Gresik, and Surabaya.
    2. Malang-Pasuruhan dialect is spoken in Malang and Pasuruan.
    3. Lumajangan dialect is sub-dialect of arekan spoken in most part of Lumajang (except in north-east which base of madurese people's) and also spoken in southwestern part of Jember like Kencong, Jombang, Umbulsari, Gumukmas, Puger
  2. Jombang dialect
  3. Tengger dialect used by Tengger people, which is centered in thirty villages in the isolated Tengger mountains (Mount Bromo) within the Bromo Tengger Semeru National Park in East-Central Java.
  4. Osing dialect spoken in central part of Banyuwangi.


Surinamese-Javanese is mainly based on Central Javanese, especially from Kedu residency. The number of speakers of Suriname-Javanese in Suriname was estimated at 60,000 as of 2012.[48] Most Surinamese-Javanese are bi- or trilingual. According to the 2004 census, Surinamese-Javanese was the first or second language in 11 percent of households. In a 2012 study of multilingualism in Surinamese education by the Dutch Language Union,[48] 3,497 out of 22,643 pupils (15 percent) in primary education indicated Surinamese-Javanese as a language spoken at home. Most of them were living in Wanica and Paramaribo districts.

Not all immigrants from Indonesia to Suriname were speakers of Javanese. Immigration records show that 90 percent of immigrants were Javanese, with 5 percent Sundanese, 0.5 percent Madurese and 2.5 percent from Batavia. The ethnic composition of this last group was not determinable. Probably Sundanese, Madurese or Malay speaking immigrants were forced to learn Javanese during their stay in Suriname to adapt. In view of the language policies in Netherlands Indies at the time of immigration, it is unlikely the immigrants had knowledge of the Dutch language prior to immigration to Suriname. Dutch today is the official language of Suriname.

Surinamese Javanese is somewhat different from Indonesian Javanese.[49][50] In Surinamese-Javanese there is a difference between formal and informal speech. Surinamese-Javanese took many loanwords from languages like Dutch, Sranantongo, Sarnami and Indonesian. The influence of the latter language, which is not spoken in Suriname, can be attributed to the Indonesian embassy and Islamic teachers from Indonesia. Indonesian movies are popular, and usually shown without subtitles on Surinamese-Javanese television channels.

Surinamese-Javanese[49] Sranantongo Dutch English
ngabrah abra over across
bakrah bakra blanke white man
blangkeman blakaman zwarte man black man
pernangsi pernasi plantage plantation
sekaut skowtu schout (politieagent) policeman

In 1986, the Surinamese government adopted an official spelling for Surinamese-Javanese.[51] It is seldom used as a written language, however.

In the 2012 survey, pupils who indicated Surinamese-Javanese as a language spoken at home, reported Dutch (97.9 percent) and Sranantongo (76.9 percent) also being spoken in the household.

Surinamese-Javanese speaking pupils report high proficiency in speaking and understanding, but very low literacy in the language. They report a low preference for the language in interaction with family members, including their parents, with the exception of their grandparents. Pupils where Surinamese-Javanese is spoken at tend at home to speak Dutch (77 percent) rather than Surinamese-Javanese (12 percent).

New Caledonian Javanese[edit]

As expected, New Caledonian Javanese is somewhat different from Indonesian Javanese. New Caledonian Javanese took many loanwords from French. New Caledonian society, in addition to their mastery of the language according to their ethnicity (New Caledonian Javanese), is obliged to be fluent in French that is a medium that is used in all the affairs of the state, economy, and education. French is regarded as a prestigious language because it is the language of the government, an official language in France include New Caledonia, one of the major languages in Europe, and one of the official languages of the United Nations.[52]

Phonetic differences[edit]

Phoneme /i/ at closed ultima is pronounced as [ɪ] in Central Javanese (Surakarta–Yogyakarta dialect), as [i] in Western Javanese (Banyumasan dialect), and as [ɛ] in Eastern Javanese.

Phoneme /u/ at closed ultima is pronounced as [ʊ] in Central Javanese, as [u] in Western Javanese, and as [ɔ] in Eastern Javanese.

Phoneme /a/ at closed ultima in Central Javanese is pronounced as [a] and at open ultima as [ɔ]. Regardless of position, it tends toward [a] in Western Javanese and as [ɔ] in Eastern Javanese.

Western Javanese tends to add a glottal stop at the end of word-final vowels, e.g.: Ana apa? [anaʔ apaʔ] "What happened?", Aja kaya kuwè! [adʒaʔ kajaʔ kuwɛʔ] "Don't be like that!".

Dialectal Phonetics
Phoneme Orthography Central Javanese (standard) Western Javanese Eastern Javanese English
getih [g̊ət̪ɪh] [g̊ət̪ih] [g̊ət̪ɛh] blood
abuh [ab̥ʊh] [ab̥uh] [ab̥ɔh] swollen
lenga [ləŋɔ] [ləŋa] [ləŋɔ] oil
kancamu/kancané kowé [kaɲtʃamu] [kaɲtʃanɛ kowɛ] [kɔɲtʃɔmu] your friend

Final consonant devoicing occurs in the standard Central Javanese dialect, but not in Banyumasan. For example, endhog (egg) is pronounced [əɳɖ̥ɔk] in standard Central Javanese, but [əɳɖ̥ɔg] in Banyumasan. The latter is closer to Old Javanese.[44]

Vocabulary differences[edit]

The vocabulary of standard Javanese is enriched by dialectal words. For example, to get the meaning of "you", Western Javanese speakers say rika /rikaʔ/, Eastern Javanese use kon /kɔn/ or koen /kɔən/, and Central Javanese speakers say kowé /kowe/. Another example is the expression of "how": the Tegal dialect of Western Javanese uses keprimèn /kəprimen/, the Banyumasan dialect of Western Javanese employs kepriwé /kəpriwe/ or kepribèn /kəpriben/, Eastern Javanese speakers say ya' apa /jɔʔ ɔpɔ/ – originally meaning "like what" (kaya apa in standard Javanese) or kepiyé /kəpije/ – and Central Javanese speakers say piye /pije/ or kepriyé /kəprije/.

Surakarta (standard) Northern Banten Cirebon-Indramayu Tegal-Brebes Banyumas Surabaya English
aku kite kita, isun enyong inyong aku, awakku I, me
kowé, sliramu sire sira koen rika, kowè koen, riko, awakmu you
tenan pisan pisan temen temen temenan, temen truly
kepiyé, piyé kepremèn kepribèn, kepriwè keprimèn, pimen kepriwè ya'apa how
ora, ogak ore ora, belih ora, bléh ora gak not
mlebu manjing manjing manjing, mlebu mlebu melbu, menjero to enter
arep arep arep, pan, pen pan arep apé, até, katé will
saka, seka, saking(king) sing sing sing sekang teka from

The Madiun–Kediri dialect has some idiosyncratic vocabulary, such as panggah 'still' (standard Javanese: pancet), lagèk 'progressive modal' (standard Javanese: lagi), and emphatic particles nda, pèh, and .[45]


Several linguists has voiced concerns about the status of Javanese. It is believed that Ngoko Javanese enjoys a stable diglossic status, while Krama Javanese is under more serious threat.[53] The number of Javanese native speakers has significantly dwindled over the years. In a research in Yogyakarta, it was revealed that a significant number of parents do not transmit Javanese to their children.[54] Instead, Javanese speakers typically acquire Javanese through extrafamilial sources, like friend groups.[55] Although Javanese enjoys a large quantity of speaker base, it is not immune from pressures from other languages like Indonesian and English.[53]

Writing system[edit]

A modern bilingual text in Portuguese and Javanese in Yogyakarta

Javanese has been traditionally written with Javanese script. Javanese and the related Balinese script are modern variants of the old Kawi script, a Brahmic script introduced to Java along with Hinduism and Buddhism. Kawi is first attested in a legal document from 804 AD. It was widely used in literature and translations from Sanskrit from the 10th century; by the 17th, the script is identified as carakan.

The Javanese script is an abugida. Each of the twenty letters represents a syllable with a consonant (or a "zero consonant") and the inherent vowel 'a' that is pronounced as /ɔ/ in open position. Various diacritics placed around the letter indicate a different vowel than [ɔ], a final consonant, or a foreign pronunciation.

Letters have subscript forms used to transcribe consonant clusters, though the shape are relatively straightforward, and not as distinct as conjunct forms of Devanagari. Some letters are only present in old Javanese and became obsolete in modern Javanese. Some of these letters became "capital" forms used in proper names. Punctuation includes a comma; period; a mark that covers the colon, quotations, and indicates numerals; and marks to introduce a chapter, poem, song, or letter.

However, Javanese can also be written with the Arabic script (known as the Pegon script) and today generally uses Latin script instead of Javanese script for practical purposes. A Latin orthography based on Dutch was introduced in 1926, revised in 1972–1973; it has largely supplanted the carakan. The current Latin-based forms:

Majuscule forms (uppercase)
A Å B C D Dh E É È F G H I J K L M N Ng Ny O P Q R S T Th U V W X Y Z
Minuscule forms (lowercase)
a å b c d dh e é è f g h i j k l m n ng ny o p q r s t th u v w x y z
a ɔ d̪̥ ɖ̥ ə, e e ɛ f h i dʒ̊ k l m n ŋ ɲ ɔ, o p q r s ʈ u v w x j z

The italic letters are used in loanwords from European languages and Arabic.

Javanese script:

Base consonant letters
ha na ca ra ka da ta sa wa la pa dha ja ya nya ma ga ba tha nga

Sample text[edit]

The following is a sample text in Javanese of Article 1 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

Javanese Latin:[56] "Sabén uwong kalairaké kanthi mardikå lan darbé martabat lan hak-hak kang pådhå. Kabèh pinaringan akal lan kalbu sartå kaajab pasrawungan anggoné mêmitran siji lan sijiné kanthi jiwå sumadulur."
Javanese Carakan (Traditional Script)[57] "꧋ꦱꦧꦼꦤ꧀ꦲꦸꦮꦺꦴꦁꦏꦭꦲꦶꦫꦏꦺꦏꦤ꧀ꦛꦶꦩꦂꦢꦶꦏꦭꦤ꧀ꦢꦂꦧꦺꦩꦂꦠꦧꦠ꧀ꦭꦤ꧀ꦲꦏ꧀ꦲꦏ꧀ꦏꦁꦥꦝ꧉ ꦏꦧꦺꦃꦥꦶꦤꦫꦶꦔꦤ꧀ꦲꦏꦭ꧀ꦭꦤ꧀ꦏꦭ꧀ꦧꦸꦱꦂꦠꦏꦲꦗꦧ꧀ꦥꦱꦿꦮꦸꦔꦤ꧀ꦲꦁꦒꦺꦴꦤꦺꦩꦼꦩꦶꦠꦿꦤ꧀ꦱꦶꦗꦶꦭꦤ꧀ꦱꦶꦗꦶꦤꦺꦏꦤ꧀ꦛꦶꦗꦶꦮꦱꦸꦩꦢꦸꦭꦸꦂ꧉"
Javanese Pegon «سابَين اووڠ كالايراكي كانڟي مارديکا لان داربَي مرتبة لان حق۲ كاڠ ڤاڎا. كابَيه ڤيناريڠان عقل لان قلبو سارتا كأجاب ڤاسراوڠان اڠڮونَي مميتران سيجي لان سيجيني كانڟي جيوا سومادولور.»
Sound sample:
English original: "All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood."

See also[edit]



  1. ^ Dyen's "Malayic" differs from the modern established concept of "Malayic" (introduced by Alexander Adelaar). Dyen's Malayic includes Madurese, Acehnese, and Malayan (=Malayic in the modern sense).
  2. ^ Sukarno has a Javanese father and a Balinese mother, Habibie has a father of Gorontalo descent and a Javanese mother, while Megawati is Sukarno's daughter through his wife, who is from Bengkulu.
  3. ^ The data are taken from the census of 1980 as provided by James J. Fox and Peter Gardiner and published by S. A. Wurm and Shiro Hattori, eds. 1983. Language Atlas of the Pacific Area, Part II: (Insular South-East Asia), Canberra.
  4. ^ In 1980 this included the now separate Banten province.
  5. ^ The distribution of persons living in Javanese-speaking households in East Java and Lampung requires clarification. For East Java, daily-language percentages are as follows: 74.5 Javanese, 23.0 Madurese, and 2.2 Indonesian. For Lampung, the official percentages are 62.4 Javanese, 16.4 Lampungese and other languages, 10.5 Sundanese, and 9.4 Indonesian. The figures are somewhat outdated for some regions, especially Jakarta; but they remain more or less stable for the rest of Java. In Jakarta the number of Javanese has increased tenfold in the last 25 years. On the other hand, because of the conflict the number of Javanese in Aceh might have decreased. It is also relevant that Banten has separated from West Java province in 2000.
  6. ^ Many commuters to Jakarta live in the suburbs in Banten, among them also Javanese speakers. Their exact number is unknown.
  7. ^ The aspirated phonemes of Madurese are not reproduced in writing. The 19th-century scribes apparently overlooked the fact that Javanese script does possess the required characters.
  8. ^ The Old Javanese spelling is modified to suit Modern Javanese spelling.
  9. ^ For example Pigeaud's dictionary in 1939 is almost exclusively based on Surakarta speech (1939:viii–xiii).


  1. ^ Javanese at Ethnologue (27th ed., 2024) Closed access icon
    Caribbean Javanese at Ethnologue (27th ed., 2024) Closed access icon
    New Caledonian Javanese at Ethnologue (27th ed., 2024) Closed access icon
    Osing at Ethnologue (27th ed., 2024) Closed access icon
    Tenggerese at Ethnologue (27th ed., 2024) Closed access icon
  2. ^ a b c Peraturan Daerah Daerah Istimewa Yogyakarta Nomor 2 Tahun 2021 tentang Pemeliharaan dan Pengembangan Bahasa, Sastra, dan Aksara Jawa (Regional Regulation 2) (in Indonesian). Governor of Special Region of Yogyakarta. 2021.
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  9. ^ Nothofer 2009, p. 560.
  10. ^ Nothofer 1975, p. 1.
  11. ^ Blust 1981.
  12. ^ a b Adelaar 2005a, pp. 357, 385.
  13. ^ a b c d e Ogloblin 2005, p. 590.
  14. ^ Blust 2010, p. 97.
  15. ^ Smith 2017, pp. 443, 453–454.
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  36. ^ Piwulang Basa Jawa Pepak, S.B. Pramono, hal 148, Babad Hanacaraka, 2013
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  52. ^ Subiyantoro, Subiyantoro; Marsono, Marsono; Udasmoro, Wening (27 February 2017). "Integration of French Lexicons in New Caledonian Javanese". Jurnal Humaniora. 29 (1): 85. doi:10.22146/jh.22568. ISSN 2302-9269. S2CID 151751712.
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  56. ^ "OHCHR | Universal Declaration of Human Rights - Javanese". OHCHR. Retrieved 31 January 2023.
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Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]