Sundanese language

Last updated
basa Sunda
ᮘᮞ ᮞᮥᮔ᮪ᮓ
Pronunciation [basa sʊnda]
Native to Java, Indonesia
Region West Java, Banten, Jakarta, parts of western Central Java, southern Lampung, also spoken by the Sundanese diaspora all over Indonesia and throughout the world.
Native speakers
42 million (2016) [1]
Early form
Standard forms
Latin script (present)
Sundanese script (present; optional)
Old Sundanese script (14-18th centuries AD, present; optional)
Sundanese Cacarakan script (17-19th centuries AD, present; certain areas)
Sundanese Pégon script (17-20th centuries AD, present; religious use only)
Buda Script (13-15th centuries AD, present; optional)
Kawi script (historical)
Pallava (historical)
Pranagari (historical)
Vatteluttu (historical)
Official status
Regulated by Lembaga Basa Jeung Sastra Sunda
Language codes
ISO 639-1 su
ISO 639-2 sun
ISO 639-3 Variously:
sun   Sundanese
bac    Baduy Sundanese
osn    Old Sundanese
Glottolog sund1251
Linguasphere 31-MFN-a
Sundanese language distribution map.svg
  Areas where Sundanese is a majority native language
  Areas where Sundanese is a minority language with >100,000 speakers
  Areas where Sundanese is a minority language with <100,000 speakers
This article contains IPA phonetic symbols. Without proper rendering support, you may see question marks, boxes, or other symbols instead of Unicode characters. For an introductory guide on IPA symbols, see Help:IPA.
Location where Sundanese language spoken. Sundanese language distribution.svg
Location where Sundanese language spoken.
A Sundanese speaker, recorded in Indonesia.

Sundanese ( /sʌndəˈnz/ : [2] basa Sunda, Sundanese pronunciation:  [basa sʊnda] ; Sundanese script: ᮘᮞ ᮞᮥᮔ᮪ᮓ) is a Malayo-Polynesian language spoken by the Sundanese. It has approximately 40 million native speakers in the western third of Java; they represent about 15% of Indonesia's total population.



According to American linguist Robert Blust, Sundanese is closely related to the Malayic languages, as well as to language groups spoken in Borneo such as the Land Dayak languages or the Kayan–Murik languages, based on high lexical similarities between these languages. [3] [4]

History and distribution

Sundanese is mainly spoken on the west side of the island of Java, in an area known as Tatar Sunda (Pasundan). However, Sundanese is also spoken in the western part of Central Java, especially in Brebes and Cilacap Regency, because these areas were previously under the control of the Galuh Kingdom. Many place names in Cilacap are still Sundanese names such as Dayeuhluhur, Cimanggu, Cipari and so on.

Until 1600 AD, Sundanese was the state language in the kingdoms of Salakanagara, Tarumanagara, Sunda, Galuh, and Pajajaran. During this period, Sundanese was heavily influenced by the Sanskrit language as seen in the Batu Tapak Kaki Kiri Nyoreang inscription at the time of King Purnawarman, using the Pallava script. Sundanese at that time was used in the fields of state, art, and daily life, many religious books were written in Sundanese and used Old Sundanese script such as the Sanghyang Siksa Kandang Karesian Manuscript, Carita Parahyangan, Amanat Galunggung, and Guru Talapakan.

In addition, according to some Sundanese language experts until around the 6th century, the area of speech reached around the Dieng Plateau in Central Java, based on the name "Dieng" which is considered the name Sundanese (from the origin of the word dihyang which is an Old Sundanese word). Along with transmigration and immigration carried out by the Sundanese ethnics, speakers of this language have spread beyond the island of Java. For example, in Lampung, South Sumatra, Jambi, Riau, West Kalimantan, Southeast Sulawesi and even outside the country of Indonesia, such as Taiwan, Japan, Australia and other countries, a significant number of ethnic Sundanese live in areas outside the Pasundan.


Sundanese has several dialects, conventionally described according to the locations of the people:

Linguistic map of West Java, Banten, Western part of Central Java and Jakarta. Linguistic map West Java.png
Linguistic map of West Java, Banten, Western part of Central Java and Jakarta.

The Priangan dialect, which covers the largest area where Sundanese people lives (Parahyangan in Sundanese), is the most widely spoken type of Sundanese language, taught in elementary till senior-high schools (equivalent to twelfth-year school grade) in West Java and Banten Province.


The language has been written in different writing systems throughout history. The earliest attested documents of the Sundanese language were written in the Old Sundanese script (Aksara Sunda Kuno). After the arrival of Islam, the Pegon script is also used, usually for religious purposes. The Latin script then began to be used after the arrival of Europeans. In modern times, most of Sundanese literature is written in Latin. The regional government of West Java and Banten are currently promoting the use of Standard Sundanese script (Aksara Sunda Baku) in public places and road signs. The Pegon script is still used mostly by pesantrens (Islamic boarding school) in West Java and Banten or in Sundanese Islamic literature. [5]


Sundanese orthography is highly phonemic (see also Sundanese script).


There are seven vowels: a /a/, é /ɛ/, i /i/, o /ɔ/, u /u/, e /ə/, and eu /ɨ/. [6]

Front Central Back
Close i ɨ u
Mid ɛ ə ɔ
Open a


According to Müller-Gotama (2001) there are 18 consonants in the Sundanese phonology: /b/, /tʃ/, /d/, /ɡ/, /h/, /dʒ/, /k/, /l/, /m/, /n/, /p/, /r/, /s/, /ŋ/, /t/, /ɲ/, /w/, /j/; however, influences from foreign languages have introduced several additional consonants such as /f/, /v/, /z/ (as in fonem, qur'an, xerox, zakat). The consonantal phonemes are transcribed with the letters p, b, t, d, k, g, c (pronounced /tʃ/), j /d͡ʒ/, h, ng (/ŋ/), ny /ɲ/, m, n, s /s/, w, l, r /r~ɾ/, and y /j/. Other consonants that originally appear in Indonesian loanwords are mostly transferred into native consonants: f/v /f/ → p, sy /ʃ/ → s, z /z/ → j, and kh /x/ → h.

Bilabial Alveolar Palatal Velar Glottal
Nasal m n ɲ ŋ
voiceless p t k
voiced b d ɡ
Fricative s h
Lateral l
Trill r
Approximant w j

Epenthetic semivowels /w/ and /j/ are inserted after a high vowel immediately followed by another vowel, as in the words:


Sundanese has an elaborate system of register distinguishing levels of formality. [7] At the beginning of speech level development, it was known 6 levels of Sundanese language: basa kasar (rough), sedeng (medium), lemes (polite), lemes pisan (very polite), kasar pisan (very rough), and basa panengah (intermediate). But since the 1988 Congress of Sundanese Language in Bogor, the speech level has been narrowed to only two parts: basa hormat (respectful) and basa loma (fair). Besides that, the term was changed to "tatakrama basa" (lit.'language manners'), although the substance remained the same. The hormat variant is a subtle language to respect, while the loma variant is fair, neutral and familiar use. This variety of loma language is then used as a kind of "standard" variety of written languages in Sundanese society. Sundanese magazines, newspapers, literary books and theses, mostly using the loma variant.

Apart from the two previous levels, there is actually one more lowest level, namely cohag (rough). This level is only used when angry or just to show intimacy between speakers. This register can only be found in the Sundanese Priangan dialect, while other dialects such as Bantenese Language, generally do not recognize this register.

For many words, there are distinct loma and lemes forms, e.g. arék (loma) vs. badé (lemes) "want", maca (loma) vs. maos (lemes) "read". In the lemes level, some words further distinguish humble and respectful forms, the former being used to refer to oneself, and the latter for the addressee and third persons, e.g. rorompok "(my own) house" vs. bumi "(your or someone else's) house" (the loma form is imah).

Similar systems of speech levels are found in Japanese, Korean and Thai.

Basic vocabulary


abdi (informal)

simkuring (formal)

urang (informal)

kuring (formal)

kami (non-formal,

expressing speaker's superiority)

2SG, 2PL

hidep (for younger)



3SG, 3PL
'he, she'
mantenna (to be respected)


manéhnasi éta
abdi sadayana (informal)

sim kuring sadayana (formal)

kuring saréréaaing kabéhan
urang samudayanaarurang-
'you all'

haridep (for younger)

maranéhsaria, sararia


Number Sundanese script Sundanese
12|᮱᮲|dua belas
20|᮲᮰|dua puluh
21|᮲᮱|dua puluh hiji
30|᮳᮰|tilu puluh
31|᮳᮱|tilu puluh hiji
40|᮴᮰|opat puluh
50|᮵᮰|lima puluh
60|᮶᮰|genep puluh
70|᮷᮰|tujuh puluh
80|᮸᮰|dalapan puluh
90|᮹᮰|salapan puluh


Root word

Root verb

eatdahartuang (for other)
neda (for myself)
forgetpoholali (for other)

hilap (for myself)

sitdiuklinggih (for other)

calik (for myself)


Plural form

Other Austronesian languages commonly use reduplication to create plural forms. However, Sundanese inserts the ar infix into the stem word. If the stem word starts with l, or contains r following the infix, the infix ar becomes al. Also, as with other Sundanese infixes (such as um), if the word starts with vowel, the infix becomes a prefix. Examples:

  1. Mangga A, tarahuna haneut kénéh. "Please sir, the bean curds are still warm/hot." The plural form of tahu 'bean curd, tofu' is formed by infixing ar after the initial consonant.
  2. Barudak leutik lalumpatan. "Small children running around." Barudak "children" is formed from budak (child) with the ar infix; in lumpat (run) the ar infix becomes al because lumpat starts with l.
  3. Ieu kaén batik aralus sadayana. "All of these batik clothes are beautiful." Formed from alus (nice, beautiful, good) with the infix ar that becomes a prefix because alus starts with a vowel. It denotes the adjective "beautiful" for the plural subject/noun (batik clothes).
  4. Siswa sakola éta mah balageur. "The students of that school are well-behaved." Formed from bageur ("good-behaving, nice, polite, helpful") with the infix ar, which becomes al because of r in the root, to denote the adjective "well-behaved" for plural students.

However, it is reported that this use of al instead of ar (as illustrated in (4) above) does not to occur if the 'r' is in onset of a neighbouring syllable. For example, the plural form of the adjective curiga (suspicious) is caruriga and not *caluriga, because the 'r' in the root occurs at the start of the following syllable. [8]

The prefix can be reduplicated to denote very-, or the plural of groups. For example, "bararudak" denotes many, many children or many groups of children (budak is child in Sundanese). Another example, "balalageur" denotes plural adjective of "very well-behaved".

Active form

Most active forms of Sundanese verbs are identical to the root, as with diuk "sit" or dahar "eat". Some others depend on the initial phoneme in the root:

  1. Initial /d/, /b/, /f/, /ɡ/, /h/, /j/, /l/, /r/, /w/, /z/ can be put after prefix nga like in ngadahar.
  2. Initial /i/, /e/, /u/, /a/, /o/ can be put after prefix ng like in nginum "drink".





Dupi (for polite situation)/Ari (for formal situation)-(question)





whose/whomnu sahakagungan sahapunya siapa
where(di) mana(di) manten(di) mana
whynaha, kunaonkenapa
how manysabarahaberapa

Passive form





teuas (hard), tiis (cool for water and solid objects), tiris (cool for air), hipu (soft), lada (hot/spicy, usually for foods), haneut (warm), etc.



Sundanese has three generic prepositions for spatial expressions: [9]

  • di: 'in', 'at' etc., indicating position
  • dina/na: 'on', 'at' etc., indicating specific position
  • ka: 'to', indicating direction
  • kana: 'to', indicating specific direction
  • ti: 'from', indicating origin
  • tina: 'from', indicating specific origin

To express more specific spatial relations (like 'inside', 'under' etc.), these prepositions have been combined with locative nouns: [10]

di jerodi lebetinside
di luardi luaroutside
di gigirdi gédéngbeside
di luhurdi luhurabove
di handapdi handapbelow
di tukangdi pengkerbehind
di hareupdi payunin front

Di gigir/luhur/handap/tukang/hareup (also ka gigir, ti gigir etc.) are absolute adverial expressions without a following noun. To express relative position, they have to add the suffix -eun, e.g.:


  • di luhur bumi – 'on top of the house'
  • dina luhur lomari – 'on top of the cupboard'
  • ti pengker bumi – 'from behind the house'
  • tina pengker lomari – 'from behind the cupboard'


  • di luhureun imah – 'on top of the house'
  • dina luhureun lomari – 'on top of the cupboard'
  • ti tukangeun imah – 'from behind the house'
  • tina tukangeun lomari – 'from behind the cupboard'

Di jero,di luar and the polite forms luhur & pengker can be used both with and without a following noun.




forjang, paragikanggo/kanggé
Languages spoken in Java. Java languages.JPG
Languages spoken in Java.

See also

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  2. Bauer, Laurie (2007). The Linguistics Student's Handbook. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press.
  3. Blust 2010.
  4. Blust 2013.
  5. Rosidi, Ajip (2010). Mengenang hidup orang lain: sejumlah obituari (in Indonesian). Kepustakaan Populer Gramedia. ISBN   9789799102225.
  6. Müller-Gotama, Franz (2001). Sundanese. Languages of the World. Materials. Vol. 369. Munich: LINCOM Europa.
  7. Anderson, E. A. (1997). "The use of speech levels in Sundanese". In Clark, M. (ed.). Papers in Southeast Asian Linguistics No. 16. Canberra: Pacific Linguistics. pp. 1–45. doi: 10.15144/PL-A90.1 .
  8. Bennett, Wm G. (2015). The Phonology of Consonants: Harmony, Dissimilation, and Correspondence. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. p. 132.
  9. Hardjadibrata (1985), p. 30.
  10. Hardjadibrata (1985), p. 72–74.


Further reading