The Info List - Old Javanese

--- Advertisement ---

OLD JAVANESE is the oldest phase of the Javanese language that was spoken in areas in what is now the eastern part of Central Java and the whole of East Java . It has strong Sanskrit influence.

While evidence of writing in Java dates to the Sanskrit "_Tarumanegara_ inscription" of 450, the oldest example written entirely in Javanese, called the "_Sukabumi_ inscription", is dated March 25, 804. This inscription , located in the district of Pare in the Kediri Regency of East Java, is actually a copy of the original, dated some 120 years earlier; only this copy has been preserved. Its contents concern the construction of a dam for an irrigation canal near the river Śrī Hariñjing (nowadays Srinjing). This inscription is the last of its kind to be written using Pallava script ; all consequent examples are written using Javanese script .


* 1 Development

* 1.1 Austronesian origins

* 1.2 Sanskrit influence

* 1.2.1 Phonology * 1.2.2 Vocabulary

* 2 Old Javanese literature * 3 References * 4 Further reading * 5 See also


Old Javanese was not static, and its usage covered a period of approximately 500 years – from the Sukabumi inscription until the founding of the Majapahit empire in 1292. The Javanese language which was spoken and written in the Majapahit era already underwent some changes and is therefore already closer to the Modern Javanese language.


The most important shaping force on Old Javanese was its Austronesian heritage in vocabulary, sentence structure and grammar that it shared with its sister languages in Southeast-Asia.


The Indian linguistic influence in Old Javanese language was almost exclusively Sanskrit influence. There is no evidence of Indian linguistic elements in Old Javanese other than Sanskrit. This is different from, for example, the influence of Indian linguistic in the (Old) Malay language.

Sanskrit has had a deep and lasting impact on the vocabulary of the Javanese language. The _ Old Javanese – English Dictionary_, written by professor P.J. Zoetmulder in 1982, contains approximately 25,500 entries, no fewer than 12,500 of which are borrowed from Sanskrit. Clearly this large number is not an indication of usage, but it is an indication that the Ancient Javanese knew and employed these Sanskrit words in their literary works. In any given Old Javanese literary work, approximately 25% of the vocabulary is derived from Sanskrit.


Despite the tremendous influence of Sanskrit on Old Javanese, the latter has remained an Austronesian language. However, Sanskrit has also influenced both the phonology and the vocabulary of Old Javanese.