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More on Balinese Language  

by on Wednesday, 8 August 20073 Comments | 1,332 views

Balinese language clearly expresses the hierarchy in Balinese society. Balinese often speak of three broad language levels, though each of these levels has sub-levels within it. These three broad language levels can be explained as Low Balinese, Medium Balinese and High Balinese. The Low Balinese is used by a Balinese to speak to friend from same or lower caste, family members and relatives. Medium Balinese is used to speak to stranger, people from higher caste and people of status and importance. The High Balinese is used to speak to high priest (pedanda).

The rules in Balinese language in which a low caste person must use Medium or High Balinese to a high caste person or when referring to a higher caste person but a high caste person may use a Low Balinese in return and the use Medium or High Balinese for words pertaining to the body and actions of the higher caste person while the higher caste using low Balinese terms for the body and actions of lower caste are the obvious evidence of strong hierarchal structure of Balinese language and its close connection with Balinese hierarchal society.

Some of the younger generations of Balinese with their egalitarian spirits consider these Balinese language rules unjust and some of them consider these rules as humiliation to humanity. But most of Balinese still observe these rule in various different degrees or based on the situation and condition, for example, these rule is quite ignored in schools, offices or working environment but still observed outside school or other formal institution.

Most Balinese prefer to use Indonesian language in school, offices or working environment since Indonesian has no language level and gives a comfortable solution to these rules. With the recent revival of Balinese language a new trend of using the same polite, medium Balinese by low caste to high and high caste to low is introduced to ease the uneasiness posed by these rules.

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  • 3 Comments »

    • Don Bennett said:

      I have been planning to learn a local language ( at a school ), but rejected Balinese in favor of Indonesian, just because of all these extra rules ( and there disuse ). Even though we live in a rural rice growing village, Bahasa Indonesia is just fine. The younger generation must learn Indonesian in school, and may hve some English lessons too.

    • sidarta (author) said:

      Due to the non-existence of language level and widespread usage in school and offices, Bahasa Indonesia is acceptable and understanable even in the rural village of Bali. I suggest you to learn Balinese language from your neighbours, they will be more than happy to teach you, i am sure it will be an exciting experience

    • Bali Tour Guide said:

      well i can teach you balinese language but its better to learn Bahasa indonesia first..

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