World Languages: Javanese

World Language Series

Over the next 10 weeks we’ll be teaching you about the top ten languages spoken in the world. Of course, the top ten languages are difficult to identify specifically due to a number of factors. Despite these difficulties Ethnologue (who we will be referencing) has come up with a list of the top ten spoken languages in the world. These numbers are based on first-language speakers among the language.

Number 10: Javanese

Javanese is an Indonesian based language. The ethnic group who speaks this language is largely found on the island of Java, Indonesia. As part of the Austronesian language family (a language family widely dispersed through Southeast Asia, Madagascar and parts of the Pacific) there are approximately 84 million speakers, with its closest language counterparts being Malay, Sunda, Madura and Bali. There are three dialects of Javanese: western, central and eastern Javanese. The main differences between the three are centered on word pronunciation as opposed to grammar or vocabulary.

Javanese has been written in a variety of alphabets throughout the centuries, and was originally written in the ancient Indian scripts Kawi and Brahmi. This changed, however when Dutch settlers introduced the Latin alphabet in the 19th century. The Latin alphabet then became the predominate alphabet in which to write Javanese. The ancient scripts are still used less frequently by language scholars.

A Javanese sentence is often ordered Subject-Verb-Object however older forms of the language may follow a Verb-Subject-Object sequence in certain circumstances. It is also written and read form left to right, similar to English. Despite this fact it may be considered one of the more difficult languages to English speakers to learn because of the complex oral sounds that make up the language.