AN ARTICLE ABOUT JAVANESE LANGUAGE

Posted: May 8, 2009 in News n Funs
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Now, I have an interesting article that I get from someone. it tells about javanese language. I hope that this article can give you more knowledge about javanese, especially for you, my lovely indonesian friend. For the author, I hope you don’t angry because I post this article to my blog. Because it can bless many people especially indonesian to know our culture deeper and wider.

This article is an interview with Dr. Bernard Arps by Dick van der Meij.

First, let we know about Dr. Bernard Arps. Dr Bernard Arps (33) was appointed professor of Javanese on July 1, 1993. He
will deliver his inaugural address on October 14, 1994. He teaches Javanese Language and Literature at Leiden University in the Department of Languages and Cultures of Southeast Asia and Oceania. He defended his Ph.D. thesis, which was entitled Tembang in Two Traditions. Performance and Interpretation of Javanese Literature in 1992.

Interview
Bernard Arps:
‘TRYING TO UNDERSTAND THE JAVANESE WITHOUT KNOWING THE LANGUAGE? IMPOSSIBLE!’

Javanese is the mother tongue of a large number of people in the Indonesian Archipelago. In fact, in the world list of languages it occupies the 13th place, just after a language like French and before Italian. This, in itself, insignificant fact has wider implications than would appear at first sight. Although the national language of Indonesia is Indonesian, this language is by no means the mother tongue of most of Indonesia’s inhabitants. Most people in fact grow up speaking Javanese, a language which has nothing to do with Indonesian. The Javanese are the largest population group in Indonesia, thus it is most important to understand their language if we want to understand a large part of the inhabitants of the country. Moreover, many literary traditions in the Javanese language outside Java proper are found in Palembang in Sumatra, Madura, Bali, and Lombok, with the language as the vehicle of two different religions: Islam and Hinduism. In the field of the study of Indonesian literatures, Javanese is thus also a very important tool. Furthermore, Javanese is not only spoken in the Indonesian Archipelago. There are also a large number of native speakers of Javanese in Surinam in South America.

Arps: The term Javanese in itself is rather problematic. If we are confrontedwith a population of say 70 million people living in a large area, of course we find many variations in the language. Up to now, especially since the late 19th century, the Javanese language was spoken in the Surakarta area has been proclaimed “Standard Javanese”. However, this was inspired by political reasoning. Nonetheless, this dialect does give a student a good idea of what Javanese is, so this choice could have been worse. Students should bear in mind though that Javanese as spoken say around Banyuwangi in the far eastern part of Java is vastly different. I myself was rather shocked to find this out when I started my fieldwork for my doctorate in that area.
In the field of literature moreover we are confronted with older variations of the language called Old and Middle Javanese and a number of inscriptions in Javanese have been excavated. The language has its own script, which is found in many varieties through the ages. Interestingly, most of the literature in Old and Middle Javanese has been preserved in adjacent Bali and texts in this language are still being produced there today.

WHEN WE TALK ABOUT STUDYING JAVANESE, WE ARE TALKING ABOUT A LOT OF THINGS. OLD JAVANESE TEXTS, MODERN JAVANESE LITERATURE, AREA LANGUAGE STUDIES, PERFORMING ARTS — THERE IS NO END TO THE NUMBER OF INTERESTING FEATURES OF JAVANESE CULTURE. IS IT IMPOSSIBLE TO DO THEM ALL? WHAT WOULD BE THE FIELDS WITHIN THIS AREA WHICH WOULD ATTRACT YOUR ATTENTION MOST?

Arps: Traditional Western scholarship in the field of the Humanities has always sought to discover ‘the best that has been thought and said’. It is in this tradition that we read the old classics and in this tradition we also conduct our hilological research. We endeavour to find the uncorrupted text and try to discover if this constitutes something which comes near this ‘the best that has been thought and said’. This is not quite what I would like to do. In my view – as a researcher and bystander in the Javanese world – it is important to study as many aspects of Javanese as possible. In order to understand a people it is not sufficient to understand the ‘best that has been thought and said’, but rather ‘anything that has been thought and said’. It is Javanese discourse I am interested in. If we want to understand the Javanese, we should start with their language. That is the tool they themselves use to give meaning to their surroundings and their actions. In the study of their discourse we are able to understand their culture, as this is constructed in it. Thus, I would like to study what things mean for the Javanese, not so much what Javanese things mean to us. There is no end to fascinating subjects to study: literature, language, theatre, cassettes, whatever makes it possible to understand the way the Javanese talk
and thus the way they think. My theoretical tools are to be found mostly in the field of anthropological linguistics. This means that the study of the language should be conducted in close contact with the people. This has a number of implications for my research. For instance, I am not so much interested in an ‘original, unpolluted’ text and all the philological problems involved in this, but more in the use of a text. What do people do with a text? Why do they write them down so diligently? How do they sing them, understand them, digest them? Those are the sort of questions which appeal to me the most. Unfortunately this sort of interest requires going into the field, conducting fieldwork, in short, spending a lot of time in Java. Going to Java is a problem at the moment. Working at a university in Holland these days is a pretty busy job. If I want to do my job at the university well, I may find myself never able to go into the field again. That is, if I do not want to desert my duties.

ARE THERE ANY GRANTS IN THE UNIVERSITY TO ENABLE YOU TO GO INTO THE FIELD WHEN YOU DO FIND THE TIME?

Arps: Virtually none. There is very limited money available in the university. If someone wants to go out he or she has to find research grants him/herself. It is funny that people working in the departments of language and literatures are supposed to be ‘armchair’ scholars. This outdated notion still lingers on in the minds of the university policy-makers. ‘Those Humanities guys only need to be at the university, at home, or, best of all, in a library. That should suffice for their studies’, is the accepted view. If you are not an armchair scholar, then you are in trouble trying to find the support needed if you want to go out.

I GET THE IMPRESSION THAT THE RESULTS OF YOUR STUDIES WILL HAVE RELEVANCE TO A WIDER PUBLIC THAN JUST THE SCHOLARLY COMMUNITY. SINCE MANY INDONESIANS ARE JAVANESE, AN UNDERSTANDING OF THEM MAY BE OF INTEREST FOR SOMEONE WANTING TO WORK OR DO BUSINESS IN INDONESIA.

Arps: Indeed. I would like to study Javanese as it is now. My justification for studying Javanese language and culture lies not only in the past, but more importantly in the present. It is wonderful to have a collection of Javanese manuscripts, and libraries full of studies on Javanese matters, but it is the Javanese people themselves in whom we are ultimately interested. Imagine, working in Indonesia usually involves working with Javanese people. Can you imagine, trying to understand the Javanese without knowing the language? Impossible! Incidentally, did you realize there are more than 300 people currently publishing in the field of Javanese language and culture!

I UNDERSTAND THAT YOURS IS THE ONLY CHAIR OF JAVANESE IN THE WORLD. ARE THE JAVANESE THEMSELVES NOT INTERESTED?

Arps: It is, and indeed in Indonesia there is no chair for Javanese studies as here in Leiden. However, that does not mean that there are no interested scholars there, and they publish a lot of books and articles. It is more a political than an academic issue. If a chair for Javanese were to be installed in Indonesia, how about the other 400 odd languages? It would be logical to inaugurate a chair for every language, which would be way beyond Indonesia’s means, unfortunately. I would be a keen supporter of the idea of scholarly attention being paid to every language, because much of what we can say about Javanese also holds true for a number of other Indonesian languages. It is interesting to see that, viewed superficially, the Javanese themselves do not seem to be very much interested in their own language. They seem to take it for granted as it is their mother tongue. The modern literature is also rather limited and periodicals in Javanese are comparatively few. However, at a Javanese Language Congress held in 1991 there was a lot of interest from the Javanese community and they all complained about the deplorable state of the Javanese language.

IS THERE MUCH INTEREST ON THE PART OF DUTCH STUDENTS FOR JAVANESE?

Arps: In Leiden, in the Department of Indonesian Languages and Cultures, Javanese is compulsory in the first year. After that it is optional and may be chosen within the programme. The student is then able to follow courses in Javanese for another 1« years. After that they can choose to specialize even more and Javanese is one of the options. The number of students is not enormous but they are very enthusiastic. At present, we (myself, Dr Willem van der Molen and Drs Jan van den Veerdonk) are compiling a new course book for Javanese. The aim is to enable the students to learn to understand and speak Javanese in order to allow them to enter into the discourse of the Javanese. After that they may specialize in whatever they fancy: Javanese history, Javanese religions, literature, performing arts, “culture”. The programme is geared to the interests of the
students. I myself teach Text and Function and Performed Discourse, especially Javanese theatre. In the department there are only 2.5 positions for the study and teaching of Javanese, assisted by Drs. I. Supriyanto (language tutor). This is very little for the wide field the study of Javanese language and cultures presents. Moreover, we all have our own ideas and specialities. Van den Veerdonk is a morphologist, Van der Molen philologist, palaeologist, and codicologist. Sometimes I think the staff really is too small, but we do our best to provide the students with interesting programmes.

WHAT ARE YOUR PLANS FOR BOTH THE NEAR AND THE DISTANT FUTURE?

Arps: Oh, I have many plans. I have started research into the world of Javanese cassettes and their implication for Javanese discourse. I plan an edition of the Serat Jayengbaya which is an interesting late 19th century work of curious contents about a person, Mr. Jayengbaya, who would have liked to be the be all and end all but fails all the time. I would like to edit an old manuscript of the Menak which was acquired by Oxford as early as 1629. I also plan to work together with an international group of scholars in Javanese to compile a handbook of Javanese literature in the widest sense of the word. There are specialists in Javanese literature all over the world and co-operation with them is very important in this project. It has not yet materialized but hopefully we will get started in the near future. Currently I am planning a research programme on verbal art in audio and audio-visual mass media such as cassettes, radio, and television. The theoretical facets of anthropological linguistics will be on the agenda as well. Also my three promovendi at the moment take much of my time. All in all, I think I will be busy.

This is my though. I think there are many foreign people know and want to study our language, such as javanese, bataknese, etc. But, we, as indonesian, don’t have an interest to study it or let say not many people want to know and study it. How can this country can keep their culture. So let we start again a new page to study our language. Let we strive to maintain our culture

Best regard from me

SEBUAH ARTIKEL TENTANG BAHASA JAWA
(ini merupakan pikiranku. saya pikir banyak orang luar yang tahu dan ingin belajar bahasa kita, seperti bahasa jawa, bahasa batak, dll. tetapi kita, orang indonesia, tidak memiliki minat untuk mempelajarinya atau bisa dibilang tidak banyak orang ingin tahu dan mempelajarinya. Bagaimana bisa negri ini menjaga budayanya. Jadi mari kita mulai lembaran baru untuk mempelajari bahasa kita. mari berjuang untuk mempertahankan budaya kita.)

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