Friday, August 09, 2013

Chasing the Words

This Indonesian sign has been hanging all over in different variants.  "Idul Fitri" is the holiday that occurs at the end of Ramadan.  "Hari Raya" means celebration day.  The most interesting word to me is the common introduction "Selamat" which is usually translated as "blessed" or "peaceful".  This word is believed to have arrived in Indonesian via Arabic and is thus the basic Semitic term SLM, which we know as Shalom in Hebrew: Peace.

There is a family of languages scattered through the south east Asian Islands and some of the mainland with similar linguistic structures.  The settled ones include Balinese, Javanese and Sundanese.  There was a separate dialect that was scattered around through a nomadic sea people that is essentially Malay.  They brought their language to ports throughout the region.  Some decades ago, the Indonesian government chose the Malay dialect with some updates to impose on the general population as the Indonesian national language.  Being sea faring people with interactions with India, Arabic speaking peoples, Dutch, English and Chinese, the words just seem to come from here and there to make a very curious language.  For those traveling around Indonesia, the Indonesian language serves as a convenient vehicle to communicate with the various subgroups, yet there always is a dialect in the background that the natives. use among themselves

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