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Balinese Language

   Balinese Language

People shouting at the world over megaphones; Size=240 pixels wide

Balinese Language



Balinese language is one dialect of West Malay-Polynesian group which is spoken in Malaysia, Indonesia to the East as far as Molluccas.This is includes further variation of dialects spoken in Sumatra, Java, Madura, Bali, Kalimantan, Malaysia, Vietnam, and Philippine. Among those variation, more detail variation can still be identified.

Balinese language is one dialect that got various influences in the course of it's history, such as Sanskrit, Arab, Chinese, Dutch and English. Thanks to the writing which was already introduced since 8th century which can preserve and keep the language more stable. Based on the writing we can traced back the lexicon and pattern of the language, although in it's  small representation. During 8th to 10th century it was probably predominantly Sanskrit. Starting 10th until 14th century the old Balinese language were recorded well on various inscriptions issued by the kings. From 14th century we know a bit difference language preserved on various manuscripts. This language was probably used only in writing, since it shows mixed old Balinese, old Javanese and Sanskrit. It is not well known what is the form of spoken language during the course of history. We could assume that it must be closed in term of pattern and lexicon to those used in writings. If we compare with modern version of spoken Balinese language, it looks that older versions are much different. This version is now totally not in use, except for dialogues of wayang puppet show and some traditional dances. For younger generation this version is not understood anymore.

Modern Balinese is the version that got the influence from Dutch, Chinese, and English. Modern Balinese language at least introduces further variation such as:

  • Written language, as mentioned above mostly unknown for daily communication,
  • Polite language ( Basa Alus ). This level introduces what is called "Alus Sor and Alus Singgih". Alus Sor means words that used to put the speaker's status lower than his/her speaking counterpart, and "Alus Singgih" is the words that used to put the position of his/her speaking counterpart at higher status,
  • Formal language ( Alus Madia ), is a generally accepted language spoken at the public by some one as presenter, head of meeting, and among those do not know each other.
  • Folk language ( Basa kasar ), is spoken by the largest part of Balinese and mostly among Sudra cast.

This level of language is related with the status of Balinese in cast system. Higher cast will be respected with special words that attributes their actions, possession, character and others. The difference between the level of the language is not in the pattern or grammatical rule, but in the level of lexicon. Due to this multi level layers of Balinese society, it has created a complex lexicon, especially in referring the relation between those casts.

Written language is closer to ancient Balinese language which used different affixation such as [ --in], [--im], and [ --na], and as mentioned above that the influence of Sanskrit was very strong. It is written in Balinese character which is an evolution of various local characters in India, but it is believed that the root of the influence was coming from Pallava scripts, then followed by Çera and Vengi scripts of South India.

Other 3 groups will be discussed together, since it's difference  is only at the level of lexicon. The first we think that it is important to give the idea about the difference of the words for each of the cast which is valid for their own cast. Below table give some example of the difference.

Brahmana Cast

Kesatrya/Waisya casts

Sudra cast




Umah, Pondok, Kubu













Take bath




Back home




Go, travel

















Sor - Singgih is the reflection of a way to respect other person, do not just because of the higher casts position, but it is also used to communicate with other person which is not closed. Because of this way of communication, many people said that Balinese language having a feudal nature. The problem for the phaedagogy is that there is no grammatical rule that can be used to explain the lexicological phenomenon, so it can only be apprenticed by learning every word. Such as Japanese language although they introduces also the level such as Balinese, but from grammatical pattern it can be explained with rules. Take for example:

Have you eaten?

 Moo tabetaka?

Suba madahar?

Folk language

 Moo tabemashitaka?

Sampun ngajeng?


 Moo tabe ni narimashitaka?

Sampun ngiyunin? 

High language

To respect each other by adjusting the position of speaker/partner is used the concept that the partner be higher in position while the speaker be lower in position. Take for example the discussion between a Brahmaha cast and a lower cast for example sudra cast:
Sudra : Tu Ida Bagus, benjang wenten ring griya? = Tu Ida Bagus, are you available at home tomorrow?
            Titiang wenten di kubu benjang                = I will be at home tomorrow.
Brah. :  Cang ada jumah buin mani                       = I will be at home tomorrow.

Please note that the words spoken by Brahmana is the folk language, a language only spoken between sudra cast and among their closed friend or relatives. " Titiang " means " I am " can not be classified as belong to what level, since it is used to refer himself when speaking with Brahmana, and " Tiang " when speaking with other higher cast and with those people whom are not closed with speaker. See between " griya " and " kubu ". Kubu refers to a very simple house, but  when Balinese speak with higher casts or with strangers he/she will mentioned his/her house as "kubu", although the word "umah" is a representative of folk word. So, it is probably besides there are level of respectability, there is also a system of communication with the concept : " word for you and word for me" ( your respectfully and my humbleness ). If we see in Japanese language there are something like this:
X o yonde agemasuka?    =  I call  X for you ( your respectfully)
X o yonde  kuremasuka?     =  Would you please call it for me ( my humbleness )

The following discussion will not cover above version of the language since it will need a very big deal of discussion, we will just give the introduction by using the low Balinese language with some discussion with formal language. We hope at other time will be able to present more comprehensive Balinese language. To give the  idea about the pattern or grammatical aspect of Balinese, we need to discuss about the word formation ( conjugation )  with simple composition of sentence and it's structure.


Until now the complete dictionary of Balinese is not yet available. The first Balinese dictionary was composed by Dutch scholar  Dr. H.N. Van der Tuuk between 1872 - 1894. This dictionary listed various Balinese words with the explanation from Old Javanese to Balinese and to  Dutch. It is called Kawi - Balineesch - Nederlandch Woordenboek in 4 volumes. The problem is that the list was not composed alphabetically, so it would be very difficult to search for a word.

Currently available small dictionary composed by  Kersten, and I.G.B Sugriwa which are available in bigger bookstores here in Denpasar, Bali. One department in Udayana University of Denpasar which is aimed to study and develop the heritage of Balinese language is probably not very active in collecting, and publishing the new effort toward the publication of Balinese language dictionary. It is well realized that the practical use of Balinese is not as important as Indonesian and far from Japanese or English or other international language, due to the contribution of Balinese to the world heritages is not yet significant. That is probably why there is not any one to be interested in studying more about the language. As the other languages, Balinese language introduces also the form of infinitive and derivative. Derivative is formed from infinitive with nasalization and affixation. Nasalization if the most important formation from infinitive into transitive verb which will be directly conjugated with the affixation. Below will be discussed these two important ethymology.


Infinitive get nasal sound such as /m/, /n/, /ng/, /nge/, and /ny/ to form transitive or intransitive verb.

Words beginning with /t/, /d/ got nasal /n/ and /t/, /d/ assimilated:
Tembok = wall        Nembok = constructing wall
Damprat= shout       Namprat = shouting at
I Made nembok = I Made is constructing wall

Words beginning with /p/, /b/ got nasal /m/ and /p/, /b/ assimilated:
Pancing = fishing kit        Mancing = doing fishing
Bading = back                Mading = flipping over 
I Made mancing di tukadé = I Made is fishing in the river.

Words beginning with /s/, /c/,/j/ got nasal /ny/ and /s/, /c/,/j/ assimilated:

Jarah = confiscate

Nyarah = confiscating

Sambung = tie 

Nyambung = tying

Catet = record

Nyatet = recording

I Made nyambung tali = I Made is tying the rope 

Words beginning with vowels got /ng/

Abas = cut (grass)

Ngabas = cutting grass

Intuk = pounder

Ngintuk = poundering

Upah = fee

Ngupah = hiring

Ewer = joke

Ngewer = kidding

Empuk = big mouth

Ngempuk = lying

Oleg = swing

Ngoleg = swinging

Words beginning with weak vowel of /e/ also got /ng/, where /e/ is normally not written, when it got nasalization /e/ become strong.

(e)juk = catch

Ngejuk = catching

(e)bor = drill

Ngebor = drilling

(e)koh = reluctant

Ngekoh = being reluctant

Words beginning with /l/, /r/, got nasal /nge/;

Lampah = walk

Ngelampah = walking

Rembug = discuss

Ngerembug = having natter

Lantur = continue

Ngelantur = continuing

Words beginning with /k/ got nasal /ng/, and /k/ assimilated;

Kamar = room

Ngamar = hospitalized

Kecor = flow

Ngecor = flowing

Kacir = run

Ngacir = running


Balinese language introduces affixation. This affixation consist of independence morphemes which has no meaning by themselves unless they are conjugated with infinitive, or nasalized infinitive. This affixation consist of pre-fix such as [ma---], [pi---], [ka---], and others, in-fix such as [-in-], [-im-], [-um-], and [-y-], and sub-fix such as [--an], [--in], [--né], [--é], [--a], and others.

Any word including affixation ending with /a/, the /a/ is to be read as /e/ as in arena  or  a book in English. Although pre-fix is already conjugated for example [ma] + [tapa]  = [matapa], is to be read  [ metape ].

Pre-fix [ ma -- ] to be conjugated with infinitive or nasalazed. When it is conjugated with infinitive it forms the verb, while it is not always need [ma--] for nasalized word if not to give an emphasize to the action. Some words do not need [ma--] in the spoken version, since it sounds funny. But we could not list the words here, it must be learnt by word, since it is no rule.
[ma --] forms transitive verb meaning emphasizing the action:

Tembok = wall

Manembok = contructing wall

Damprat = shout

Manamprat = shouting at

Abas = cut (grass)

Mangabas = cutting grass

Juk = catch

Mangejuk = catching

I Nyoman manembok umah = I Nyman construct the wall  of the house
[ma --] meaning to have

Tikeh = mat

Matikeh = having mat

Tembok = wall

Matembok = having wall

Bok = hairs

Mabok = having hairs

Baju = shirt

Mabaju = have shirt

Dipane matikeh plasa = the bed has plasa mat
Umahe matembok batu = the house has stone wall

Pre-fix [pi--] form the noun. In spoken language it is often replaced with [pa --]

Tutur = advise

Pitutur = the advise

Keneh = thinking

Pikeneh = the thinking

Dadab = process

Pidabdab = the process

Uning = know

Piuning = announcement

When [pi]+[infinitive] got pre-fix [ma--], than it changes into transitive verb again.

Tutur = advise

Bapa mapitutur teken cai = Dad advises you

Keneh = thinking

Ia mapikeneh tuling melah = He think unfair

Dadab = process

Karyane mapidabdab sapuniki = The ceremony does the process like this

Uning = know

Pemangku mapiuning ring panjake = The Pamangku announces to the people.

Please note that only some words that can be conjugated with [pi--].

Pre-fix [ka--] form passive structure, and some means "unintentional action both done or intimidation"

Tembok = wall

Katembok = to be walled, or unintentionally walled or will wall if you ..................

Juk = catch

Kajuk = to be caught, or unintentionally caught  or will catch if you .......................

Tombplog = collide

Katomplog = to be collided or unintentionally collided or will collide if you .......................

Jemak = take

Kajemak = to be taken  or unintentionally taken, or will be taken if you ..........

Durin umahé katembok = Back of the house has been walled
Durin umahé katémbok sawiréh ada céléng lepas = Back of the house unintentionally walled since there is wild pig
Dirin umahé katémbok yén céléngé ngeléb dogén = Back of the house will be walled if your pig is always roaming.

Sub-fix [--a] forms passive structure

Juk = catch

Juka = to be caught

Kopiné alapa

The coffee is harvested

Ambil = take

Ambila = to be taken

Siapé juka

The chicken is caught

Alap = harvest 

Alapa = to be harvested

Tasé ambila

The bag is taken

Simpan = save

Simpena = to be saved

Pipisé simpena

The money is saved

Manya words before getting [--a] must be affixed with [--an], and [--an] changes into [--ang]

Asah = plain

Asahanga = to be made plain

Entung = throw

Entunganga = to be thrown

Antep = collide

Antepanga = to be collided

Madahar = eat

Pedaharina = to be nurtured

Melaib = run

Pelaibanga = to be abducted

Natahé asahanga tekén I Ketut  = The floor is made plain by Ketut
Bukuné entunganga tekén Nyoman = The book is thrown by Nyoman

Sub-fix [--né] indicates possession or definite article
[--né] as possessive without directly mentioning the owner

Bapa = Dad

Bapanné  = his/her dad

Bapanné teka mai = his/her dad is coming here

Biyu = Banana

Biyunné  = her/his banana

Biyunné  ento nasak = That banana is ripe

Nasi = rice

Nasinné  = his/her rice

Nasinné pasil = his/her rice is stale.

If the possessive is followed by their owner, personal or impersonal ending with vowel got [--né], [--né] changes into [--n], while the owner or personal or impersonal ending with vowels got [--né], and ending with consonant got [--é]

Bapan Ketuté teka ibi = Ketu's dad came yesterday


Biyun Nyomané ilang = Nyoman's banana was lost


Nasin Wayané pasil = Wayan's rice is stale


If the possessive is followed by their owner, personal or impersonal ending with consonant got nothing, while the owner or personal or impersonal ending with vowels got [--né], and ending with consonant got [--é]

Umah Ketuté gedé = Ketut's house is big


Natah Nyomané kedas = Nyoman house floor is clean


Sub-fix [--né] as definite article. Words ending with vowel got [--né], and words ending with consonant got [--é]

Bapa = Dad

Bapané = the dad

Bapané ané teka = The dad who is coming

Biyu = Banana

Biyune = the banana

Biyuné ané ilang = the banana that lost

Arit = Sickle

Arité = the sickle

Arité dija = where is the sickle?

Sub-fix [--an] form various meaning. [--an] after conjugation changes into [--ang]
[--an] means doing something for others.

Juk = catch 

Jukang = catch for .......

Wayan ngejukang Made siap = Wayan caught chicken for Made

Jemak = take

Jemakang = take for ...

Made nyemakang tiang nasi = Made took rice for me

Gambar = draw

Ngambarang = drawing for ..

Nyoman gambarang Ketut bunga = Nyoman drew flower for Ketut

[--an] forms transitive verb

Sampat = Sweep

Sampatang = sweeping

Ketut nyampatang luhu = Ketut sweeps the wastes away

Entung = Throw

Entungang = throwing

Made ngentungang batu = Made throws stone

Galang = clear

Ngalangang = make clear

Wayan ngalangang kamar = Wayang made the room clear

There is no rule to indicate which of the words be classified as each of above [--an]. It can only be learnt by word.

Sub-fix [--in] forms verb with various meaning

Amplas = glass paper

Ngamplasin = rub with glass paper

Nyoman ngamplas patung = Nyoman rubs the sculpture with glass paper

Jagur = puch

Nyagurin = giving punch

Ketut nyagurin timple = Ketut punch his friend

Siram = pour

Nyiramin = pouring

Wayan nyiramin tanaman = Wayan pouring plants

Idup = live, on

Ngidupin = switch on

Bapa ngidupin TV = Dad switched on TV

Sampat = Sweeper

Nyampatin = sweeping

Made nyampatin natah = Made swept the floor

In-fix [-in-] form various meaning

Tandur = plant

Tinandur = various plants

Sarwa tinandur mokoh = All plants grows well

Tuut = follow

Tinut = obedience

Ketut anak tinut = Ketut is obedient man

Tunggal = one

Sinunggal = oneness

A lan B singunggal umah = A and B have one house

Pandita = priest

Pinandita = priesthood

Nyatwaang pinandita = discuss about priest

In-fix [-um-] form abstract noun

Dadi = to become

Dumadi = reincarnation

Sang dumadi tan kauningin = Who is reincarnating is not known

Ton = see

Tumon = visible

Bintangé tumon asiki = The star only visible one

Ganti = fate

Gumanti = truth

Niki gumanti sweca = This is really blessing

Tuuh = age

Tumuwuh = long live

Abian tumuwuh makelo ngasilang = Long live plant give late result

There are not many word that can be conjugated with [-in-] and [-um-]. In daily conversation these affixations are not productive except for poetic phrases. It is mostly used in writing version of the language.

Adjectve Structure
Adjective is to be placed after the noun

Buku putih

= White book


Buku putih tipis

= White thin book


Buku putih tipis mael

= White thin and expensive book


The most important character or adjective of the noun be placed directly after the noun, while the other characters needed to limit the choices can be put afterward. For example: " Buku putih tipis mael. " This phrase indicate that the most important character of the book that is " white " one has to focus his attention to the " white book " Since there could be many white books, you can take the thin one. May be there are many thin books, but you can take the expensive one.

Adverbial Structure
Adverb can be formed by repeating the word or just used as it is, depend on the emphasizing of the action.

Keras = loud

Ngomong keras-keras = speak loudly

Adeng = slow

Jalan adeng-adeng = walk slowly

Tegeh = high

Makecos tegeh-tegeh = jump highly

If the adverb is not repeated it gives more emphasize on the natural character of the noun or subject such as:
Ketut ngomong keras, means that Ketut has the character to speak loudly.
Made majalan adéng, means it is the behavior of Made that he walks slow, not because he is tired or careful.

Degrees of Camparison

Tegeh = high

Genjang = quick

Gancang = movable

Tegehan = higher

Genjangan = quicker

Gancangan = more movable

Paling tegeh = highest

Paling genjang = quickest

Paling gancang = most movable

Wayan awakné tegeh = Wayan's  body is high
Ketut awakné tegehan tekén Wayan = Ketut is higher than Wayan
Made awakné paling tegeh di kampung = Madé's body is the highest in the village.

Ka = to ( toward ), Uli = from,  Antuk = by, about, on,  Di = at, in, on, among, Betén = under,  Duur = above, on, Tengah = among, between.

Sawireh, kerana  = bacause,  Nanging, sakéwala = yet, but,  Yadiastun = although, 

Niki = this, these,    Nika = that, those,   Asampuniki = such as this,   Asampunika = such as that.

Napi,  apa  = what,  Pidan = when,  dija = where,   Nyen, sira  = who,   Kénkén = how

Sentence Structure
Subject + Predicate + Object

Wayan ngaba buku putih tipis

Wayan is bringing white thin book.

Made nulis surat énggal-énggal.

Made is writing a letter quickly.

Nyoman negakin kursi coklat

Nyoman is sitting on brown chair.

Nyoman negak di atas kursi coklat

Nyoman is sitting on brown chair.

Ketut ngalap pohé ané kondén nasak

Ketut picked up the un-mature mangos


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