Indonesian Alphabet

The modern Malay alphabet or Indonesian alphabet consists of the same 26 letters as the basic Latin alphabet without any diacritics. In Brunei, Malaysia, and Singapore it is called ‘Tulisan Rumi’, literally ‘Roman script’ or ‘Roman writing’, in Indonesia – ‘Aksara Latin’, literally ‘Latin script’.

It is the more common of the two alphabets used today to write the Malay language, the other being Jawi (a modified Arabic script). Jawi consists of the original 28 Arabic letters, and 6 additional letters constructed to fit the phonemes native to Malay but not found in Classical Arabic, which are (چ /t͡ʃ/, ڠ /ŋ/, ڤ /p/, ݢ /g/, ۏ /v/, and ڽ /ɲ/).

The Latin Malay alphabet is the official Malay script in Indonesia (as Indonesian), Malaysia (as Malaysian), and Singapore, while it is co-official with Jawi in Brunei.

Historically, various scripts such as Pallava, Kawi (both Brahmic scripts), and Rencong (a joint name for native writing systems found in central and south Sumatra) were used to write Old Malay, until they were replaced by Jawi with the introduction of Islam. The arrival of European colonial powers brought the Latin alphabet to the Malay Archipelago.

During the time Indonesia was a Dutch colony, the Latin alphabet was introduced to write Indonesian and a number of Dutch spellings were used. This alphabet was called ‘Ejaan Lama’ (Old Script) in Indonesian.

In the 1930s, as part of the independence movement, the Indonesian language was standardized and the term Bahasa Indonesia was adopted as the name of the language.

As the Malay-speaking countries were divided between two colonial administrations (the Dutch and the British), two major different spelling orthographies were developed in the Dutch East Indies and British Malaya respectively, influenced by the orthographies of their respective colonial tongues.

The Soewandi Spelling System (or the Republic Spelling System after independence), used in the Dutch East Indies and later in independent Indonesia until 1972, was based on the Dutch alphabet.

In 1972, as part of the effort of harmonizing spelling differences between the two countries, Indonesia and Malaysia each adopted a spelling reform plan, called the Perfected Spelling System (Ejaan yang Disempurnakan) in Indonesia and the New Rumi Spelling (Ejaan Rumi Baharu) in Malaysia. Although the representations of speech sounds are now largely identical in the Indonesian and Malaysian varieties, a number of minor spelling differences remain.

Indonesian Vocabulary

Coming soon!

FAQs about Indonesian

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