October is a month of celebration for Lontar. On October 28 we celebrate our 31st anniversary. On that day, too, the 11th Indonesian Language Congress, a four-day event that takes place once every five years, will begin in Jakarta. The congress promises to be an interesting, engaging, and informative event, with the main theme being how Indonesian can retain its identity, national character, and relevance amid the onslaught of foreign words and technical jargon that has been brought on by increased globalization and easier access to mainstream- and social media.
Of major interest at the Congress will be its focus on regional languages, which have shown encouraging signs of development these past few years, both in daily conversational usage as well as in documentation and literary works. This is a far cry from the days of the New Order when the use of regional languages and dialects in public speeches and publications was discouraged. In fact, these languages contain vocabulary items that could be adapted for use in Indonesian, a language which has historically absorbed words from foreign languages instead—Portuguese, Arabic, Dutch, and English, to name a few.
University of Indonesia linguist Adi Budiwiyanto identifies five uses of local languages. They represent a symbol of regional identity; are a source of regional pride; and a means of communication among families and communities. They also support the growth of regional and Indonesian language and serve as a source of inspiration for local, regional and national Indonesian literature. As such, in many areas, local languages have played a big role in the education sector.
While the law requires that Indonesian be used in official documents, transactions, and public speeches, we have seen an increasing usage of local languages in informal sectors such as in entertainment, literature, and religious rituals.
According to a mapping of kinship and language in Indonesia conducted by the Language Council in 2008, 442 languages were identified, with an additional 72 languages recognized at the end of 2011. This number can easily increase, given that many areas still have not been fully mapped, such as Papua, which is thought to have more than 250 distinct languages. The fourth edition of the National Dictionary of Indonesian (Kamus Besar Bahasa Indonesia) registers more than 90,000 entries from regional languages in the national language vocabulary. Of these, the highest number originate from Javanese (30.54 %), followed by Minangkabau (25.59 %), and Sundanese (6.14 %).
Like any other language, Indonesian will continue to change and evolve in step with the all the changes going on.
With Lontar reaching its 31st year, we sincerely hope friends and supporters will continue to support us in our mission to promote Indonesian cultuire and literature with your generous donations.
Illustration in the daily REPUBLIKA