Indonesian Language and Indonesian Independence

Based on the Decree of the Second Indonesian Language Congress (Keputusan Kongres Bahasa Indonesia II) in 1954 in Medan, Indonesian language is said to be derived from Malay language. Indonesian language grew and developed from Malay language which has been used as a lingua franca throughout Southeast Asia. Malay language was even used before Indonesia’s independence in 1945, both among the Indonesian society and between the Indonesian society and the Dutch who at that time colonized Indonesia.

The use of Malay language began in the 7th century with the discovery of evidences in the form of inscriptions scattered in various cities, such as Palembang, Bangka, Jambi, Gandasuli, and Bogor. During the reign of the Sriwijaya Kingdom, Malay language was also used as the language of culture in Buddhist textbooks, the language of inter-tribal relations, and the language of trade (both between Nusantara tribes and with traders from outside the archipelago).

The development of the use of Malay language is clearer from the heritage of the Islamic kingdom, with evidences in the form of inscribed stones and even literary results, such as Syair Hamzah Fansuri, Hikayat Raja-Raja Pasai, etc. The spread of Malay language to various parts of the archipelago occurred simultaneously with the spread of Islam. This language is easily accepted by the people of the archipelago because it does not recognize the level of speech. In addition, Malay also absorbed the vocabulary of other languages, such as Sanskrit, Chinese, Persian, Arabic, Portuguese, and Dutch. For example, the words “bendera” and “pesta” from Portuguese “bandeira” and “festa”, “alfabet”, “filosofi”, “haram”, and “halal” from the same word in Arabic, “dirgahayu” and “nama” from Sanskrit “dirghayu” and “naam”, respectively.

It was only on October 28, 1928, within the Youth Pledge (Sumpah Pemuda) that Malay language was officially renamed Indonesian language and pledged as the national language. The youth meeting that produced the Youth Pledge was called the Youth Congress (Kongres Pemuda). This meeting was sparked by the growing sense of brotherhood and unity of the Indonesian people who share the Malay language.

Along the way, Indonesian became more widely used during the Japanese colonization due to the ban on the use of Dutch language in Indonesia. This language also began to be used in the realm of politics and government, replacing Dutch language.

The day after Indonesia’s independence was proclaimed on August 17, 1945, the 1945 Constitution (UUD 1945) stipulated an article that read “The State Language is Indonesian” (Bahasa Negara adalah Bahasa Indonesia). At this point, Indonesian was officially used in all spheres of Indonesian life, especially those related to government and state.

After independence, an institution that took care of linguistic affairs was formed, namely the Language Development and Development Agency (Badan Pengembangan dan Pembinaan Bahasa). This institution continues to strive for the development, guidance and protection of Indonesian language and literature to this day. The fruit of this institution’s hard work is the development of the Indonesian language from Ejaan Van Ophuijsen or Ejaan Lama (Old Spelling) which had been used during the Dutch colonial era, Ejaan Suwandi or Ejaan Republik which had been used since March 1947, Ejaan yang Disempurnakan (EYD) which had been used since 1972, up to Ejaan Bahasa Indonesia (EBI) which has been used since November 2015.

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