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By James Sneddon

This crucial publication, the 1st of its variety, is a historic, social, cultural and linguistic examine of Indonesian. Indonesia is the fourth such a lot populous country on the planet, and some of the most linguistically advanced. Its ethnic teams converse greater than 500 languages and of those Malay, renamed Indonesian, was once selected to be the only nationwide and legitimate language.

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Nevertheless they reveal considerable Sanskrit influence on the language at this early stage; clearly, Sanskrit words were already beginning to enter the Malay language. 10 The earliest of the six, the inscription of AD 682, was discovered in the village of Kedukan Bukit in Palembang in 1920. 11 The text of the inscription, the earliest known example of Malay, is given on page 38, together with a translation. Scholars have found some words difficult to identify or interpret and there are differing opinions on how to translate some sections of the text.

26 BORROWING FROM SANSKRIT Indian cultural penetration during the Hindu–Buddhist period in Indonesian history had a profound and in many ways permanent influence on Indonesian society and culture, not only in Malay areas but also, and to a greater extent, in Bali and Java. While the first contacts with India were with merchants and seamen, it was not they who were responsible for Sanskrit influence. They were of lower caste and did not possess the learning characteristic of Indian culture in Southeast Asia.

While Sanskrit words would have been entering the language, certainly by later Srivijayan OLD M A L AY • 45 times, the large number of Sanskrit words in the inscriptions does not point to large-scale borrowing in the 7th century. Rather, Sanskrit was partly used precisely because it was not familiar; its mystery enhanced the power and efficacy of the texts. The next known examples of Malay are three inscriptions from the 14th century, 700 years after the Srivijayan inscriptions. Two of these are Islamic, the Trengganu inscription, written in Arabic script, and a gravestone found at Minye Tujuh in northern Sumatra, discussed in Chapter 4.

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