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A Foreign Investment: Indies Malay to 1901

01 Apr 1979-Vol. 27, pp 65

AbstractThe promotion of Malay by the Netherlands Indies administration during the seventeenth to nineteenth centuries to a point where the language became a standardized instrument of quasi-hational identity was a notable divergence from the imperial norm. By contrast, the Portuguese, Spanish, English, and French colonialists elsewhere imposed their own languages, which in many cases have persisted after the formal end of colonialism as virtual national languages, or at least as vehicles for communication with the outside world.

Topics: Malay (56%), Portuguese (53%), Colonialism (52%)

Summary (3 min read)

Jump to: [A lth ough th e p h i l o l o g i c a l p o le m ic is t and c l e r i c F r a n c o is V a le n ty n , who a r r iv e d in Ambon in 1 680 , was to lam ent th e s o c i a l p reced en ce accorded to p r e d ik a n te n (c lergym en ) in th e I n d ie s who adhered e x c lu s i v e l y to th e Dutch la n g u a g e ,18 by th e e a r ly d eca d es o f th e e ig h te e n th c e n tu r y th e Companyf s p r e fe r e n c e fo r Malay in m e r c a n t ile and a d m in is t r a t i v e m a tte r s had made th a t lan gu age a cc e p ted as a r e s p o n s i b i l i t y and mark o f Dutch r u l e . 19 The a c t iv e e n e r g ie s o f I n d ie s C hristendom in th e e a r ly c r e a t iv e p er io d w ere , in f a c t , h e a v i ly engaged in e s t a b l i s h i n g a p r in te d stan d ard fo r Malay in W estern s c r i p t .][4. With r e s p e c t to th e Low v e r su s High Malay d e b a te , V a len ty n c r i t i c i z e d what he regard ed as a c o n fu s io n over th e ta sk s o f th e Comp a n y ^ c l e r i c s . I f th ey were to d ir e c t t h e ir e f f o r t s to te a c h in g th e in la n d e r s a p u rer v e r s io n o f th e lan gu age in u se r a th e r than a v a i l in g th e m se lv e s o f i t s u n iv e r s a l c o n v e n ie n c e ,29 th e Company’ s C h r is t ia n e n t e r p r is e co u ld l o s e i t s i d e n t i f i c a t i o n w ith Malay th rou gh ou t th e I n d i e s . 30 V a len ty n h im s e lf b e l ie v e d th a t th e M a la y -sp eak in g C h r is t ia n s o f th e a r c h ip e la g o i d e n t i f i e d th e m s e lv e s , t h e ir i n s t i t u t i o n and th e ir la r g e r s o c ie t y by t h e ir la n g u a g e .31] and [T h is argument was pursued in r e la t i o n to th e c o lo n ia l army, where Dutch o f f i c e r s le a d in g J a v a n e se , M adurese, B u g in e se , Sun danese, M alays, N ia s s e r s , D ayaks, A lf u r e s e , Ambonese, and M enadonese, as w e l l as Europ ea n s , d id n o t a lw ays f in d th e l in g u a l i n t r i c a c y o f th e s i t u a t io n eased by in d ig e n o u s to le r a n c e o f European ng ib b e r is h -M a la y ." An a r t i c l e publ i s h e d in 1 8 8 4 1 0if a l le g e d th a t n ot u n t i l 1870 had any e f f o r t s been made to en cou rage European m i l i t a r y men to d ev o te r e a l stu d y to I n d ie s la n g u a g e s , e s p e c i a l l y Malay and J a v a n ese : a t th e tim e o f th e a r t i c l e ?s p u b l ic a t io n , a cad re o f Europeans l i t e r a t e in Malay and J a v a n ese was s t i l l la c k in g even though betw een 1871 and 1873 in fa n tr y d r i l l - i n s t r u c t io n s had been t r a n s la t e d in to M alay. S ev e ra l y ea r s l a t e r , in 1891 ,]

A lth ough th e p h i l o l o g i c a l p o le m ic is t and c l e r i c F r a n c o is V a le n ty n , who a r r iv e d in Ambon in 1 680 , was to lam ent th e s o c i a l p reced en ce accorded to p r e d ik a n te n (c lergym en ) in th e I n d ie s who adhered e x c lu s i v e l y to th e Dutch la n g u a g e ,18 by th e e a r ly d eca d es o f th e e ig h te e n th c e n tu r y th e Companyf s p r e fe r e n c e fo r Malay in m e r c a n t ile and a d m in is t r a t i v e m a tte r s had made th a t lan gu age a cc e p ted as a r e s p o n s i b i l i t y and mark o f Dutch r u l e . 19 The a c t iv e e n e r g ie s o f I n d ie s C hristendom in th e e a r ly c r e a t iv e p er io d w ere , in f a c t , h e a v i ly engaged in e s t a b l i s h i n g a p r in te d stan d ard fo r Malay in W estern s c r i p t .

  • A translation of the catechism was received but not used by the Ambon Council of Churches--’’probably,11 wrote Valentyn, ’’because th is Malay of the Reverend [Dominee].
  • According to Valentyn, the ’’High Malay” group’s family links continued to be sign ifican t into the Viceroyalty of Abraham van Riebeeck (1709-13).

4. With r e s p e c t to th e Low v e r su s High Malay d e b a te , V a len ty n c r i t i c i z e d what he regard ed as a c o n fu s io n over th e ta sk s o f th e Comp a n y ^ c l e r i c s . I f th ey were to d ir e c t t h e ir e f f o r t s to te a c h in g th e in la n d e r s a p u rer v e r s io n o f th e lan gu age in u se r a th e r than a v a i l in g th e m se lv e s o f i t s u n iv e r s a l c o n v e n ie n c e ,29 th e Company’ s C h r is t ia n e n t e r p r is e co u ld l o s e i t s i d e n t i f i c a t i o n w ith Malay th rou gh ou t th e I n d i e s . 30 V a len ty n h im s e lf b e l ie v e d th a t th e M a la y -sp eak in g C h r is t ia n s o f th e a r c h ip e la g o i d e n t i f i e d th e m s e lv e s , t h e ir i n s t i t u t i o n and th e ir la r g e r s o c ie t y by t h e ir la n g u a g e .31

  • His awareness probably derived from his acquaintance with Adriaan Reland.
  • See also "VI D issertatio de Veteri Lingua Indica," in Hadriani Relandi, Dissevtationum Miscellaneavum (Utrecht: Willem Broedelet, 1706), 1, esp. pp. 218-27 where Reland, in Latin, compares usages in Malay, Greek, and Persian.
  • 32For the various stages of Melchior Leydekker*s approach to and involvement in the work, see Valentyn*s "Zaaken van den godsdienst," p. 69, and h is "Omstandig verhaal," pp. 107 and 108.

T h is argument was pursued in r e la t i o n to th e c o lo n ia l army, where Dutch o f f i c e r s le a d in g J a v a n e se , M adurese, B u g in e se , Sun danese, M alays, N ia s s e r s , D ayaks, A lf u r e s e , Ambonese, and M enadonese, as w e l l as Europ ea n s , d id n o t a lw ays f in d th e l in g u a l i n t r i c a c y o f th e s i t u a t io n eased by in d ig e n o u s to le r a n c e o f European ng ib b e r is h -M a la y ." An a r t i c l e publ i s h e d in 1 8 8 4 1 0if a l le g e d th a t n ot u n t i l 1870 had any e f f o r t s been made to en cou rage European m i l i t a r y men to d ev o te r e a l stu d y to I n d ie s la n g u a g e s , e s p e c i a l l y Malay and J a v a n ese : a t th e tim e o f th e a r t i c l e ?s p u b l ic a t io n , a cad re o f Europeans l i t e r a t e in Malay and J a v a n ese was s t i l l la c k in g even though betw een 1871 and 1873 in fa n tr y d r i l l - i n s t r u c t io n s had been t r a n s la t e d in to M alay. S ev e ra l y ea r s l a t e r , in 1891 ,

  • Gonggrijp had worked in Semarang, where the Klinkert Malay Gospels which he deplored were published.
  • Habbema, ”Naar aanleiding van den Heer W. Hoogkamer's !.

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A FOREIGN INVESTMENT: INDIES MALAY TO 1901
John Hoffman
The promotion of Malay by the Netherlands Indies administration
during the seventeenth to nineteenth centuries to a point where the
language became a standardized instrum ent of q uasi-n ational id en tity
was a notable divergence from the im perial norm. By con trast, the
Portuguese, Spanish, E nglish, and French c o lonialis ts elsewhere imposed
th eir own languages, which in many cases have p ersisted after the fo r
mal end of colonialism as v irtu al national languages, or at le a st as
veh icles for communication with the outside world.
The fact that Dutch did not play this role in Indonesia is some
tim es viewed as the r esu lt of a singular and inten tion al co lon ia l
p olicy to enhance Dutch fTp re stigeu by w ithholding use of the Dutch
language from the Indonesian peoples. Proponents of such a view can
point to the a ttitu d es of some nineteenth century Dutch officials on
Java who in sisted on addressing their indigenous bureaucratic a sso c i
ates in d ien stmaleisch (service [officialese]-M alay ) or brabbel-
M aleisoh (gibberish-Malay), and, if occasion ally they used Dutch, they
made clear th eir expectation that rep lies should be in High Javanese
or Malay.1
During the same period, however, certain eminent Dutch philo lo
gis ts , who were then concerned over the future of Dutch rule in the
archipelago, regarded the fear of a lo ss of p restig e through widespread
use of the Dutch language as mere p reju d ice-- in the words of one of
them "a vampire, a night spook.2 More im portantly, the cen tral admin
istra tio n it sel f at th is time strongly condemned (and sought to pre
vent) an exclusiv e w all being b u ilt around the Dutch language, lab elin g
such attem pts as another manifestation of those encumbering "respect-
customs (hormatgebruiken) by which Dutch o fficials tried to m aintain
for them selves a sp ecial place in the Javanese so cia l h ierarch y.3 Re
fu sal by the Dutch to use th eir n ative language as the d ie n s tta al
(service language) in conversations with indigenous officials was, in
Bladen Adjeng Kartini, January 12, 1900, to Mejuffrouw E. H. Zeehandelaar, in
Door* Duisternis tot L ic h t ed. J. H. Abendanon (The Hague: "Luctor et Emergo,” 1912),
pp. 33, 34, 36. See also C. Snouck Hurgronje to Governor-Genera1, Batavia, May 20,
1902, in Ambtelijke Adviezen van C. Snouck Hurgronje 1889-1936 9 ed. E. Gob6e en C.
Adriaanse (The Hague: Nijhoff, 1959), 2, pp. 1562-63.
2Jan ten Hove, "De taalquaestie in de Minahasse, De Indische Gids (hereafter
IG], 15, 2 (1893), p. 1629. See also the comments on H. Kernfs speech to the Nether
lands Literary Congress at Dordrecht in "Maandelijksche Revue van Brochures en van
Tijdschrift- en Dagbladartikelen, IG, 19, 2 (1897), pp. 1342-43.
3Bijblad op het Staatsblad van Nederlandsch-Indig [hereafter BSNI] (Batavia:
Landsdrukkerij, 1907), No. 6496, pp. 265-66. See also BSNI (1910), No. 7029, pp.
120- 21.
65

66
fa ct, assumed by the Javanese in the late nineteenth and early twen
tie th centuries to be an elaboration of their own system of so cial
str a tific ation through ta alsoo rten (language lev els) .11
By the beginning of the tw entieth century, where th is paper ends,
service-Malay was so recognized as the administrative language of the
Indies that seventy years la ter the Indonesian government could refer
to the form given to it in 1901 by Charles Adriaan van Ophuijsen* 5 as
Bahasa Indonesia.6 This arrestin g retrosp ective lab elin g in fact ob
scures the complex h istory of the language, to whose shape and status
the Dutch made a central contribution. Indies Malay was in r ea lity
the outcome of centuries of controversy about when and how Dutch,
Portuguese, High or Low Malay, Javanese, and many other Indies vernac
ular tongues were to be used in trading sta tio n s, churches, diplomatic
dealings and, later on, in both te r ritor ia l government and the produc
tion of a gricu ltu ral exports.
The character of th is controversy was de cisiv ely marked by the
spe cific language situ atio n s that existed and developed around the two
principal early concentrations of Dutch enterprise--Am bon and Batavia.
In Ambon, clergy of the Dutch United East India Company at firs t
tried to dissem inate the Dutch language through both general and reli
gious in stru ction , and by 1627 a considerable amount of Dutch was e v i
dently being spoken in as many as sixteen schools on Ambon.7 As early
as 1618, however, it was noticed that the Dutch learned in schools was
soon forgotten by the children because few opportu nities existed for
its further cultiv a tio n. Even in the apparently su ccessfu l year of
1627, there were com plaints that children aged ten and eleven were
being taken out of school and then forgettin g what Dutch they had ac
q uired .8 An apparent solu tion to these problems and the language com
p lex ity of the Ambon area was suggested by Malay, which traders from
the Malacca S tr aits had introduced into the Spice Islands from about
the m id -fifteen th century9 and which by the early seventeenth century
^Kartini to Zeehandelaar, in Door Duisternis, p. 34.
5Ch. A. van Ophuijsen, Kitab Logat Melajoe. Woordenlijst voor de Spelling der
Malaische Taal met Latijnsoh Karakter (Batavia: Landsdrukkerij, 1901). This was
given statutory force in the following year. See BSNI (1904), No. 5821, pp. 78-79.
6,,Sedjak peraturan edjaan Bahasa Indonesia dengan huruf Latin ditetapkan pada
tahun 1901 berdasarkan konsep Ch. A. van Ophuysen," Pedoman Edjaan Bahasa Indonesia
gang Disempurnakan (Jakarta: Departemen Pendidikan dan Kebudajaan Republik Indonesia
1972), p. i.
7Franeois Valentyn, "Omstandig verhaal van de geschiedenissen en zaaken het
kerkelyke ofte den godsdienst betreffende, zoo in Amboina, als in alle de eylanden,
daar onder behoorende," Oud en Nieuw Oost-Indien (Dordrecht, Amsterdam: n.p., 1726),
3, 1, pp. 35-36, 38, 40, 41, 44.
8Ibid., pp. 40, 44.
9The earlier prevailing view that Antonio Pigafetta had simply acquired his
list of 450 Malay words while his ship was anchored in the roads off Tidore between
November 8 and December 21, 1521, has been modified by at least three significant
recent findings: (1) in the Ternate-Tidore area of the Moluccas at the period of
Pigafetta*s visit Riau-Malay was generally used as an intermediary language for deal
ing with foreign traders, most notably Straits Malays and Portuguese, as the spice

67
was gen erally, i f imperfectly, understood by the Ambonese.10 Many
Dutchmen soon came to regret the lack of p ersisten ce of the effo rts to
make Dutch the loca l lingua fra nca ,11 and th eir numbers had multiplied
by the early eighteenth century, when a rending sixty-year controversy
was waged over whether High or Low Malay was to be the language of
preaching and of the standard Indies B ible.
Even before B atavias inception in 1619, then, the Dutch were re
sorting to the use of Malay in the eastern end of the archipelago as
w ell as in th eir d ealings with the M alay-speaking ports of the w estern
region. The growing use of Malay in Batavia, however, was the outcome
of rather d iffere n t fa cto rs. The settlement it self was iso lated from
the Sundanese- and Javanese-speaking in terior by formidable physical
ba r rie r s.12 This iso la tio n was reinforced ad ministratively by the Com
pany for stra teg ic reason s13 and became an irrem ovable trad itio n under
colon ial r u le.lz+ As a r esult, neither the Javanese nor Sundanese
trade was controlled by merchants from Malacca and Johor, many of whom had married
into local ruling families; (2) Malay was nonetheless so poorly known that even
scribes who had to write it for the infant Sultan of Tidore in 1521 and 1522 showed
that they were "certainly very imperfectly acquainted with it"; (3) although he may
have composed his Malay word-list off Tidore, Pigafetta was probably using Malay with
several people on board. See C. 0. Blagden, ed. and trans., "Two Malay Letters from
Ternate in the Moluccas, Written in 1521 and 1522," Bulletin of the School of Orien
tal Studies, London Institution [hereafter BSOS], 6 (1930-32), pp. 87-101; and
C. C. F. M. le Roux, "Nogmaals Pigafettafs Maleische woorden," Tijdschrift voor
Indische Taal-> Land- en Volkenkunde [hereafter TBG], 79, 3 (1939), pp. 447-51. See
also C. 0. Blagden, "Corrigenda to Malay and Other Words Collected by Pigafetta,"
The Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society of Great Britain and Ireland [hereafter
JRAS] (1931), pp. 857-61; W. Kern, "Waar verzamelde Pigafetta zijn Maleise woorden?"
TBG, 78, 2 (1938), pp. 271-73; J. Gonda, "Pigafettas Vocabularium van het 'Molukken-
Maleisch," Bijdragen tot de taal-j land- en volkenkunde [hereafter BKI], 97 (1938),
pp. 101-24; R. A. Skelton, trans. and ed., Magellan9s Voyage: A Narrative Account of
the First Circumnavigation by Antonio Pigafetta (New Haven, London: Yale University
Press, 1969), 1, pp. 113-30.
10Ibid. See also Valentyn, "Omstandig verhaal," p. 36.
^Ibid., pp. 35-36, 40. The relevant passage referred to on p. 40 purports to
be part of a quoted report written by the second predikant [clergyman] on Ambon (who
arrived in 1618), recounting his efforts to build on the Dutch-language instruction
given by his predecessor.
120n the swamps and jungles around Batavia then and the limited contact with
the ethnic groups of the interior, see the descriptions collected in Dr. F. de Haan,
PrianganDe Preanger-Regentschappen onder het Nederlandsch Bestuur tot 1811 (Bata
via: Genootschap van Kunsten en Wetenschappen, 1912), 3, pp. 5-8. These conditions
are further clarified in the narrative of Van Riebeecks expedition to the south
coast at Wijnkoopsbaai in 1711, for which see ibid. (1911), 2, pp. 330-66, esp. p.
359.
13The policy of preventing consolidated settlements of indigenous groups close
to Batavia began long before the aftermath of the siege of 1629. For its small be
ginning, see the "Accoord gemaakt tusschen den Koning van Jakatra, en Pieter van den
Broeke, Commandeur . . . onderteekend in ft Fort Jakatra den 19 January 1619," in
Valentyn, Oud en Nieuw Oost-Indien, 4, 1, pp. 436, 437. See also p. 434.
11+See Valentyn, "Zaaken van den godsdienst op het eyland Java," Oud en Nieuw
Oost-Indien, 4, 2, p. 69. See also G. H. Werndly, "Maleische Boekzaal," Maleische

68
language was rea lly viab le in the colon ia l ca p ita l. The e ffe ctiv e
com petitors were Malay, Dutch and Portuguese. From 1620 on, Malay and
Dutch were the languages of the Reformed Religion in Ba tav ia.* 15 But,
desp ite viceregal op position , Portuguese was also w idely used in Bata
vian church services from 1634.16 The Portuguese language had been
spread by a w ork-force recruited around the Arabian Sea, the Bay of
Bengal and in the Moluccas, and the number of Portuguese speakers was
sizea bly augmented by the fo rcib le transportation of people from
Malacca after it s fall to the Dutch in 1641. Widespread use of Portu
guese among household slaves had already led to the undermining of the
Dutch language w ithin Dutch homes, to the point that sp ecial induce
ments had to be offered to the slaves to learn the langu age.17 Indeed
among non-Dutch C hristian groups in Batavia, the main stru ggle was be
tween Malay- and Portuguese-speaking congregations.' From this c o nflic t
eventually emerged the id e n tific a tio n of Malay with the asp iration to
build "a common indigenous Church.
Although the p h ilo lo gica l polemicist and c le r ic Francois Valentyn,
who arrived in Ambon in 1680, was to lament the so cia l precedence
accorded to predikanten (clergymen) in the Indies who adhered exclu
siv e ly to the Dutch language,18 by the early decades of the eighteenth
century the Companyfs preference for Malay in mercantile and adm inis
tra tiv e m atters had made that language accepted as a respo n sibility
and mark of Dutch ru le .19 The activ e energies of Indies Christendom
in the early crea tive period were, in fac t, heavily engaged in estab
lish in g a printed standard for Malay in Western script.
The Company, however, also played a discriminating and unmercan-
t ile role in the debate over the m erits of High versus Low Malay taken
up in the Netherlands from arguments in itia lly raised in Ambon and
Batavia. According to Valentyn, from at least 1660 "those of Batavia"
had been promoting High Malay, and in 1677 and 1678 they sent out
orders for it to be used rather than the "low, common and in telligib le
Spraakkunst uit de eige schriften der Maleiers opgemaakt (Amsterdam: n.p., 1736),
p. 249.
Even in 1789, the renowned navigator William Bligh noted that: "It is perhaps
from hence that Java and Batavia are spoken of as Two seperate [sic] places, for a
Dutchman always make [sic] a distinction between them § it is a Common expression,
are you going to Java or Batavia? as if Batavia was not in Java." See 0. Rutter,
ed., Bligh*s Voyage in the Resource from Coupang to Batavia (London: Golden Cockerel
Press, 1937), p. 86. For the lingual effects of this apartness, see H. N. van der
Tuuk!s "Voorrede" and "Aan den lezer," in H. N. van der Tuuk, ed., Bijdrage tot de
kennis vanft Bataviasch [sic] Maleisch door Dr. J. D. Homan^ in leven Ambtenaar ter
Algemeene Secretarie te Batavia (Zalt-Bommel: Noman § Zoon, 1867).
15Valentyn, "Zaaken van den godsdienst," p. 6.
16S. Kalff, "Een doode indische taal," IG, 36, 2 (1914), p. 954.
17Ibid., pp. 955-56.
18See Valentyn, "Zaken van den godsdienst," p. 113.
19The scrupulosity of Dutch care for Malay was already so developed in Valen
tyn1 s time that he admitted to being criticized on the ground "... dat 11 Maleitsch
in myne afschriften niet eenparig, ook te veel na ft Nedertuitsch geschikt, en daarom
niet goed was." "Omstandig verhaal," p. 111.

69
(although degenerate) language.20 Further, in a le tte r sent in Octo
ber 1685 by the Companys D irectors in the N etherlands, nth eir No b ili
ties charged, concerning the Malay language, that now in Batavia and
elsewhere had been very much corrupted, that it should be restored to
its old pu r ity .21 This curious concern by a merchant aristocracy for
a learned reconstruction of the contact-language in so remote a trading
domain was buttressed by an order for the purchase and dispatch to the
Netherlands of books in the pure Malay language, p articu larly those
concerned with Indies histor y .22
The major, although not n ecessarily the most cogent, account of
the High- and Low-Malay dispute that was canvassed between the Moluc
cas, Batavia, and the Netherlands during the period from about 1677 to
173723 is from Valentyn,24 whose partisanship and in defatigab le se lf
justific ation cannot dim inish the consciousness which he reveals of
the consequences of the disp ute. He was e sse ntially opposed to the
standardization and u n ifica tio n of the Malay language, and h is work
survives as testimony to h is unsuccessful e ffo r ts. His major opponents
were a ctive ling uists among the Companys c le ric s , whose power was su s
tained by family tie s to the Indies establishment, and who were advan
taged by access to official printing f acilit ies in Batavia and the
Netherland s.25 They were convinced that unity and p urity in Malay
were d esirab le in the in ter ests of Christian-Dutch ascendancy in the
archipelago. The d eliberation with which they prosecuted th is p olicy
whi