Language in Bali Indonesia – Characteristics – Types

The Balinese language is one of the regional languages in Indonesia which is well maintained by its speakers that is the Balinese. The Balinese language acts as the mother tongue and also the first language for most Balinese people. The language is widely used as a means of communication in various activities within the household and outside the confinement of home that encompass various activities of Balinese social life.

Therefore, the Balinese language is a key factor of Balinese culture development that remains alive and thriving in Bali. Judging from the number of speakers, the Balinese language is supported by approximately half a million people and has a tradition of writing so that the language of Bali will always be learned thus make the Bali language classified as a regional language among several regional languages in Indonesia.

See Also


The existence of the Balinese language has quite a complex variation due to the Sor-Singgih system that is determined by the speaker, the person the speaker is talking to, and the things that are discussed.

Modern Balinese language is also familiar with the Sor-Singgih system (especially the Balinese language for Mainland) as it is influenced by Javanese. In the time of the Javanese kingdom, the kings of Bali often went to Java and the Java-Bali relationship was so close that the Javanese (Hindu) culture greatly influenced the Balinese (Hindu) culture.

In the era of the kingdom, the system of Sor-Singgih for the Balinese language is very deeply implanted on the everyday life of the Balinese people. The upper group in traditional Balinese community layer called Triwangsa when communicating to the lower group (sudra or ordinary people) then they are allowed to use lower level of Balinese language, instead when the lower group (sudra) tried to communicate to the upper group (Triwangsa) then they must use higher level of Balinese language to convey their honors for the higher position.

See Also:

In general, variations in The Balinese language can be distinguished by 3 dimensions:

  • The Temporal

The temporal dimension of the Balinese language gives a historical indication and language development even in a very limited sense. Temporally Balinese language is distinguished from the ancient Balinese language which is often called with Balinese language Mula or Bali Aga, Balinese Middle or Balinese Kawi language, and the language of Bali Kepara which is often called the New Bali language or Modern Balinese language.

  • Regional

Regionally, the Balinese language is divided into two dialects, the Bali Aga dialect (Balinese dialect) and the Mainland Balinese dialect (common dialect), each with its own subdial characteristic. Based on the social dimension, Balinese language based on the Sor-Singgih system or Balinese speech level that closely related to the development history of Balinese people who accustomed with the system of caste, which is divided into Ttriwangsa (Brahmana, Ksatriya, Wesia) and Jaba or Sudra (most people).

  • Society

Based on this social strata, the language of Bali presents its own history of the level of speech in the layers of traditional society in Bali. On the other hand, in the development of Balinese society in modern times then a new elite was formed which included a class of words that no longer considered for any caste. This new elite is the public officials or the rich that is always respected and honored by the lower classes and this is reflected also in the use of the language.

See Also


The Balinese language is the oldest Balinese language in Bali which is widely found in the 804 Śaka (882 AD) inscription until the reign of King Anak Wungsu in 904 Śaka (1072 AD). The influence of Javanese (Hindu) culture appears to be growing stronger in the Wungsu Children’s government.

That influence also appears in the language. Inscriptions that are written in Old Balinese language are then copied in Old Javanese language so that the use of Old Javanese language became a custom in Bali.

Such conditions led to the Old Balinese language (especially the variety of writing) barely usable and replaced with Old Javanese. However, the use of the ancient Balinese language of verbal speech remains alive and evolved, which is the forerunner of modern Balinese language. The development of the ancient Javanese language that has a lot of influence from the Sanskrit language.

On the other hand, until the 11th century, Javanese developed a variety of Old Javanese language from the common language used in the original Indonesian Javanese called the Kidung. In its development, this language is called the Central Java language (commonly used in the literary variety), which then spreads and develops in Bali side by side with everyday language. Thus in Bali, this Central Java language is evolved into the Balinese language called Tengahan.

See Also

From a historical point of view, the naming of the Balinese language completely ignores the development of the Old Balinese language into the Modern Balinese language. The Balinese language of Bali (Kawi Bali) is a lexical mixture of Javanese words (Tengahan) with The Balinese language at that time. This influence came from the Majapahit Kingdom when Patih Gajah Mada took over Bali Island. Java Tengahan and New Java languages that recognize the existence of the unda usuk system affect the Balinese language (Tengahan and Baru) so that the Balinese language also recognize the Sor-Snggih system or special language levels for the Mainland Bali language.

In Bali, the Balinese language is well-spoken and is used by authors in the work of literary and arts. Evidently, the number of literary performance born at that time included such as the hymn, Tatwa, Kalpa literature, Kanda, and Babad. In the performing arts, the Balinese language is used in performing arts of masks, Arja, Prembon, wayang, and the like.

See Also:

Best Places to Learn

The best places to learn The Balinese language is of course by going there yourself to Bali and you should try to learn Bahasa Bali Kepara. Bahasa Bali Kepara (Modern) is the Balinese language that is still alive and used in the context of oral and written communication for the people of Bali until now. The term Kepara in Balinese means commonplace or ordinary which in the Indonesian language means ‘general’.

The Balinese language Kepara (Modern) recognizes two types of spelling, the spelling with the Balinese characters and Latin letters. The naming for this Modern language is because the language of Bali Kepara is still being developed in modern times as it is today. The life and development of Modern Balinese language which is also a mean and vehicle of cultural life, religion, and customs of ethnic Balinese society that developed from the kingdom era, colonization, and until after the independence period.

See Also:

In the colonial era, especially the important influence on the development of Balinese language that is done during the Dutch colonial era, many schools were established as a means of formal education. The Dutch were able to conquer the kingdoms in Bali from 1846 to 1942. In the early 19th century, before the Japanese occupation, schools began to emerge which was established by the VOC government. Aiming for the people to write, read and learn to count.

From then on, the Balinese language of Kepara (Modern), apart from being developed outside of formal education, was also developed as informal education through teaching and learning process. On the contrary, in the Japanese colonial era, beginning in 1942, the history of the Balinese language of Kepara (Modern) had a darker time because, in addition to no Balinese lessons in school, as well as the number of books in Balinese (Modern) that were burned by the occupying forces.

See Also:

The fall of Japan in the hands of the Allies forces is exploited by the Indonesian people to liberate themselves. Meanwhile, the Allies again wanted to colonize Indonesia in that causes a physical revolution. The revolution also took place in Bali which caused many teachers in Bali to enter the forest to do guerrilla warfare. The circumstances make the Balinese language development of Kepara not being considered seriously.

It went on until the 1950s. Only in 1968 the Balinese language was included in the curriculum and continued to be nurtured and becoming more advanced, in addition to the mastery of the Balinese language as the language of most Balinese people, the mastery of Indonesian language is also increasingly steady resulting in the formation of a bilingual society.

See Also:

Based on the above description, the Balinese language throughout its journey experienced development and modification. Development, meaning expansion or growth naturally without planning. Modification, meaning the growth of Balinese language in a deliberate way based on planning. The Balinese language used today is the result of the renewal of development and modification since the first effort was started centuries ago.

Finally, those are complete explanation about language in Bali which every people in Bali, Mostly Balinese people, used it for daily conversation. Hope it can help you when you want to adapt with Bali society.