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The History of Madura Language

by Annisa Putri Adriza

Madura is an island located in the northeastern coast of Java. It is part of the East Java Province even though it is separated from Java by the narrow strait of Madura. The Madura people are the third largest group in Indonesia, the majority still lives on the island and also the eastern part of Java.  Since there is a lot of local language that exist in Indonesia, the Madura contributes to having their own language as well as several dialects.  In this article we are going to see more about the history of madura language.

There are around 15 million speakers of Madura language, not only Madurese people and eastern Java people but it is also spoken in Kangean Islands and Sapudi Island. Moreover, there is a Madura community in Kalimantan centered in region of Sambas, Pontianak, Bengkayang, Ketapang, Central Kalimatan and West Kalimatan so the madura language speakers reach to this part of Indonesia. Although the number of speakers are actually shrinking but it is still one of the most widely spoken language in Indonesia.

Madurese language is a from the Austronesia language branch Malayo-Polnesia, therefore it is still in common with other local languages in Indonesia. There is a variant of Madurese that is Bawean which is spoken by Baweanese descendants in Malysia and Singapore. This language is influenced by other local languages such as Javanese, Melayu, Bugis and Tionghoa. It is most influenced by Javanese language in the system of language hierarchy as a result of the Mataram throne over the Madura island. Some say there is a link between Bali-Sasak language and this language but it is in the low form. Between Madurese and Filipino language and between Madurese and Banjar there are some common words.

For example like the word taddha’ which means none, this word is similar to the word tadak in Bahasa Melayu Pontianak. Another example is the word dhimmah that has a meaning where, this is similar to the word dima in Minangkabau. Histrorically, the spelling of Madura language is dynamic since it always go through change and improvement. The first use of formal Madura spelling is started years before the pre independence of Indonesia, around the 1900s.

Before 1918 to 1939 the Balai Pustaka spelling is guided by the Ch.A. Van Ophuysen spelling for Bahasa Melayu, then known to be Van Ophuysen spelling. In 1940, the Van Ophuysen spelling changed to East Java Province spelling, Inspector Hoofd der Prov Onderwijs aangelenheden van Oost Java made this official. After the Independence, the spelling of Madura language or the Province spelling changed again or harmonized with the Suwandi spelling or the Republik spelling that is set according to Keputusan Presiden (Keppres) RI Nomor 57 Tahun 1972. After that the Madura language spelling is improved on the 28 until 29 May 1973 through the discussion result in Gedung Pertemuan Kantor Karesidenan, Pamekasan, Madura, Jawa TImur which is still being use up until now.

The history of Madura language still continues, this language has a unique pronunciation. For people from outside Madura has difficulty of learning the language because of its unique pronunciation. The language has a hard pronunciation and the pronunciation is pressed mainly on the letters b, d, j, g, jh, dh and bh or in a double consonant like jj, dd and bb. Usually this pronunciation is used on the middle syllables. For the vowel system, Madura language know the letter A schwa other than the strong A. Other vowel system is i,u,e and o.

As mentioned before there are several dialects for this language, the reference for the standard Madurese language is the Sumenep dialect because Sumenep in the old days was the central for the monarchy and culture of Madura.  The other dialect are Bangkalan, Sampang, Pamekasan, and Kangean. Examples on replacing the word kamu (you) :

  • be’en is commonly used in Madura but the word be’na is used in Sumenep.
  • kakeh is used in the east part of Bangkalan and Sampang.
  • heddeh and seddeh is used in the Bangkalan rural area.

Having a daily conversation in Indonesia sometimes can be difficult especially if you still live in the area that is very traditional. How to speak to an elderly, friend and family members is important to know well, since there are rules that is used.  Like Balinese and Javanese language, Madura language also has levels, here are the 3 levels which are :

  • Enje’-iya which is the lowest level of Madura language, it is usually used by an elder person by age to the younger person or to a friend that is in the same age group. It is not allowed to be use by a young person to the elder.
  • ‘Engghi-Enten this is the second level, it is usually used by people that just know each other and used between husband, wives, and in-laws.
  • Engghi-Bhuten which is the highest level. This is best used by a young person to the elderly. Like to their parents, a student to the teacher. This is the most polite level of the Madura language.

The history of Madura language is quite intresting, it used to be traditionnaly written with the Javanese alphabet, but today it is usually written in the Latin alphabet.  The language have evolved  throughout time. It is still spoken daily until today by its native and in other part of Indonesia that is influenced by this language.  Madura people can be found in Jakarta, Kalimantan, Sulawesi even Singapore. Their common saying is “E tembang pote matah, angok pote tolang” means “it is better to die than to be humiliated” Madura people are known to be hard workers and most loyal to their friends.

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