1. fetish, recognition, revolution. cap. 1
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Reproduccin de partes de la obra, para la crtica e investigacin cientfica, literaria o artstica.
Fetish, Recognition, Revolution
James T. Siegel
P R I N C E T O N U N I V E R S I T Y P R E S S
P R I N C E T O N , N E W J E R S E Y
BIBLIOTECA LUIS GONZALEZ tn r e v e n n n F M 1CH O A C N
C H A P T E R O N E
The I of a Lingua Franca
M e l a y u as a L i n g u a F r a n c a
How does it happen that a language comes into existence? Where does one look for its precedents? One cannot say that at 10:00 a.m . Language A did not exist and that at 6:00 p.m. it came into being. No doubt one thinks that speakers of a certain language became isolated from one another and began to speak dialects that became incomprehensible to one another. New languages seem to mark a limit of communication; common sense demands a sociological explanation for their formation.
Perhaps. But although all known languages must have had their origins in previous ones, there are examples of another sort of development. In what is now called Indonesia and what was called the Dutch East Indies and on the Malay Peninsula, there was a language, Melayu, that was the language of certain courts and of villages, though not the language of the largest groups of the archipelago.1 A language similar to this became a lingua franca, used first in trade. It developed apart from the traditions in which Malay was embedded and with different linguistic features. The lingua franca became the national language of Indonesia, called Indonesian, and is spoken now throughout the archipelago alongside the approximately eight hundred local languages. Here it was not mutual incomprehension but the extension of communication across the boundaries of languages that brought a new language into being.2
As Pramoedya Ananta Toer points out, the translators used by traders tended to be Arabs or other foreigners to the archipelago. Such people were unattached to the literature and customs of traditional Malay and so the spread of the lingua franca did not bring with it the culture of the courts or the villages where the language may have originated.3 Melayu, the lingua franca, was thus unsettled, lacking the contexts that stabilize usages. As the Dutch established their hegemony in Indonesia, they used Melayu as the language of administration. But as John Hoffman points out, they were continually worried that they could not make themselves understood in the language.4 The problem was not Dutch grasp of Melayu but their subjects use of what they termed a low form of the language, low Malay, and their subjects ignorance of what Dutch administrators considered the real language, court Malay. Dutch felt that the Melayu that came to be used in the major cities of the Indies was inadequate. They
searched for the source of Melayu and claimed to have found it in the Riau Archipelago. In these islands, remote from the big cities, they felt they had the developed form of the language which, if only it could be taught to those later called Indonesians, would make communication certain. They made increasing efforts to encourage standard or high Malay and to discourage low Malay.3
Dutch needed Melayu because very few non-Dutch spoke their language. Partly this was because the colonial government did not make a great effort to teach Dutch to any but a few. But partly it was because there seemed to be an inability to learn the language even when the opportunity was present. In her outstanding study of Batavia, the historian Jean Taylor points out that the children of Dutch fathers and Indies women often could not speak their fathers tongue unless they were sent to study in the Netherlands.6 Indos, as the children of Europeans and natives were called, could nevertheless be considered Dutch in the eyes of the law if their fathers either married their mothers or legally attested that they were the childrens fathers. If these conditions were not fulfilled, such Indos were subjected to the laws of their mothers and missed the privileges the law accorded Europeans.7 Separate legal codes were, indeed, a feature of what J. C. Furnivall calls the plural society, a society in which Europeans, natives, and foreign orientals lived separately, without a common culture.8
Melayu was the language of the plural society, used between natives speaking different local languages and between them and Indos and Dutch. It was the tongue that connected most of the native world with Europeans and European culture as well as the rest of the world outside their local communities. It was the language of authority meaning not only governmental but also sometimes parental authority. In the major cities, Melayu became a creole, the first language of many speakers. But even as a creole it kept much of its character as a lingua franca. In the first place because, from the Dutch point of view, that was its function. Dutch used it to speak to those whose first language was or should be Javanese, Sun- danese, or other local languages. Even as a creole, Melayu lacked some of the characteristics of first languages. In particular, it only wealdy defined its speakers identities. We have seen already that Indos who were creole speakers and nonspeakers of Dutch could be considered Dutch, for instance. But these were only a small minority. Consider this ironic characterization by H. M. J. Maier, the leading contemporary Dutch scholar of Melayu literature:
One thing was clear: the Malay that was used in Batavia and the other big cities . . . was gibberish, not at all in tune with the rules for use in administration and trade that scholars and administrators were tentatively formulating behind their
14 Chapter One
The I of a Lingua Franca 15
writing desks. Would it be possible for a foreign elite to actively engage in creating a standard Malay that was alien to almost everyone?9
The native speakers of Melayu were told by the colonial authorities and sometimes by their fathers, that their first language was not a language. It was, perhaps, almost one, or merely the degraded remnants of one spoken somewhere else, far away. In effect, they were told, they could not communicate with authority; neither in the language of authority, Dutch, nor in the one they had learned from their mothers if their mother spoke Melayu and not a local language. The Dutch message went further; the daily communications that speakers of the creole no doubt found satisfactory when speaking to each other were gibberish. What they surely must have assumed made sense did not do so. They learned from the Dutch that they could not fully inhabit their own language. This is of course usually the case also for speakers of a lingua franca that is not the first language of either speaker and that does not have to be fully mastered to be used in trade. Speaking Melayu as a lingua franca meant that one could not rely on the same assurance about the language that one had in ones own language and one often did not need it.
But at the same time, the weightlessness of a language that is severed from culture makes it less intimidating. One can chance speaking it without the fear that it is the tongue of Racine, Shakespeare, Dostoyevsky, or the Gouverneur Generaal of the Dutch East Indies. It offers one the opportunity for a certain excursion if not into a new identity, at least away from an old one. In the case of Melayu as a creole, speakers did not form a cultural group in the same sure sense that, say, Balinese, Chinese, Javanese, or others did whose languages were at the source of some of the vocabulary of Melayu. There was a fantastic side to the culture of Batavia, as we will see, that can be attributed to its retention of some characteristics of the lingua franca.
The spread of Melayu as a lingua franca was rapid and strange. Pra- moedya reports, for instance, that Dutch missionaries learned to preach in high Malay and did so to groups particularly in eastern Indonesian sometimes without realizing that their audiences did not understand them. Nonetheless, missionaries were important in introducing the lingua franca into certain parts of the archipelago. Or perhaps it is more accurate to say not introduce but produce. Maier, in a remarkable sentence, lets us see how this could be:
This language was the result of learning by reciprocal imitation of rudimentarylanguage forms.
That is, one learned the lingua franca by imitating what the other said while the other was doing the same. One pictures the natives who heard
but did not understand sermons in high Malay, simulating what they heard, repeating it to their preachers who, not understanding, imitated them in return. The lingua franca took shape in the middle, between the speakers. Eventually they could comprehend each other. In the process, the language was stripped to rudimentary language forms. It may be a historical fable, but one is necessary to imagine how communities separated from each other by different languages begin to communicate.
Maier describes a changing of places, each speaker talcing the part of the other, as the normal course of the development of Melayu. It was a language that one learned by taking on the speech of the interlocutor while he did the same with ones own utterances. In such a situation, the speaker could have no assurance of his language, the second person being the superior judge of his words. This w