Thursday, 27 November 2008

Kumaha damang? = how are you?

To ask one's condition, just say, "Kumaha damang?". Kumaha means how, damang means healthy or fine. So, the expression literally means "are you healthy/fine?" This is "how are you?" in Sundanese.

To reply to the question, you can say, "Sa
é." You can also say, "Pangésto." The word saé means "good, well, fine". Pangésto is derived from the basic word ésto which means "to serve someone loyally". Pangésto literally means "blessing". In this context, pangésto means "well (thanks to your blessing)".

Wednesday, 26 November 2008

The pronunciation of é, e and eu

There are seven vowels in Sundanese language: a, i, u, o, é, e and eu. The last three vowels (é, e and eu) are interesting. The vowel e should be pronounced as ə, just like the sound of a  as 
indefinite article in English, e.g. a book. The vowel é should be pronounced as e as in bed. The vowel eu should be pronounced as əu, something like eu in entrepreneur. Here are some words: begang  = thin, belegug = churlish, kénca = left, sépak = kick, beunghar = rich, seuri = to laugh.

Sunday, 23 November 2008

The occurrence of f, v, x and z in Sundanese words

One of the interesting features of Sundanese dictionaries shows that there is no entry of f, v, x and z. We can refer to, for instance, A Dictionary of the Sunda Language of Java by Jonathan Rigg (Lange & Co., 1892). In the preface to his dictionary Mr. Rigg, among other things, provides the following explanation:

F occurs only rarely in words from the Arabic, when it has generally been converted into p, as f is a sound which the Malays, Javanese and Sundanese are unable to pronounce. Thus fikir to think, becomes pikir, and fasal becomes pasal

V does not occur in any Sunda word…

X does not occur; its sound would be represented by ks, as kraksan, a place in the Residency Basuki should never be written kraxan

Z does not occur, and when occurring in Arabic words is replaced by s, as the holy well at Mecca, zamzam is called samsam.


We can also refer to Hollandsch-Soendaneesch Woordenboek (Dutch-Sundanese Dictionary) by S. Coolsma (A.W. Sijthoff’s, 1910). Here we can consider how words from Dutch, the form of which consists of one of the four alphabets, were introduced into Sundanese, e.g. fabriek (Dutch) becomes pabrik (Sd); verlak (Dutch) becomes perlak (Sd); zoopje (Dutch) becomes sopi (Sd). Similar cases due to the alphabets that are lacking appear in Soendaas-Nederlands Woordenboek (Sundanese-Dutch Dictionary) by F.S. Eringa (Foris, 1984).

An interesting feature, however, appears in the Sundanese-English Dictionary by R.R. Hardjadibrata (Pustaka Jaya, 2003). Even though the dictionary is said as “based on” Mr. Eringa’s woordenboek, it compiles some entries with initial alphabet of f or v. Some examples can be pointed out: fajar (dawn), faktur (invoice), féodalisme (feudalism), frustrasi (frustration), valid (valid), variable (variable), véteran (veteran), etc.

It reflects the development of Sundanese words.



Saturday, 22 November 2008

Sundanese-English Dictionary

Jonathan Rigg, an English planter working in West Java in 19th century, compiled the first Sundanese-English dictionary. His monumental work, A Dictionary of the Sunda Language of Java (Lange & Co., 1862) , was published in 1862. The dictionary consists of some 9,300 entries.

Some 141 years since the publication of Mr. Rigg's dictionary, that is in the year 2003, there has been issued a new Sundanese-English dictionary by R.R. Hardjadibrata, a Sundanese lexicographer working in Australia. In his essay Mr. Hardjadibrata states, "The Sundanese-English Dictionary is a general dictionary of 27,127 entries of headwords. This number is a pittance in comparison to some English or any other language dictionary."

You can find the latest dictionary at some main bookstores in Bandung and Jakarta.

Friday, 21 November 2008

Sundanese Language

Sundanese language (basa Sunda) is one of ethnic languages of Indonesia, which is spoken by Sundanese people (urang Sunda). It is the mother tongue of the majority of inhabitants of the Western part of Java.

This language is not only spoken in everyday conversation, but is also used in songs and poems. There are many Sundanese books, both fiction and nonfiction, including collection of poems. There are also Sundanese magazines (e.g. Bandung-based Cupumanik and Manglé) and newspapers (e.g. Bandung-based Galura and Giwangkara), some of which have their own websites.

Sundanese people had spoken in their own language since time immemorial. Sanghyang Siksa kanda ng Karesian, the oldest manuscript that was written in Old Sundanese, was dated from 16th century. Some Old Sundanese manuscripts were even written in Old Sundanese script. It is believed that Sundanese oral tradition is much older than its literary tradition.

Modern version of the language is a little bit different from the old one. Words develop and change. Modern Sundanese writing is composed in Latin script.

Foreigners may be confused by the problem of speech levels (undak-usuk basa). You need not to worry, however. Just think about different situations where you are supposed to decide whether you should speak in “formal” or “polite” (lemes) manner or in “informal” or “familiar” (loma) manner.  You can remember different words for different situations. Why not?