Colloquial Indonesian Spoken by Papuans

by Made Soma

The island of New Guinea, including both the country Papua New Guinea and the Indonesian provinces of Papua and West Papua, has 15% of all the world's known languages. Papua is home to 307 local languages, but almost everybody speaks Indonesian. For many people, Indonesian is a second language, but in some areas, like Raja Ampat, children learn Indonesian first.

Colloquial Indonesian in Papua is a little different from standard Indonesian. Many Papuans can and do speak standard Indonesian in some circumstances. The paragraphs below describe some of the colloquial differences.

Papuans tend to shorten the standard Indonesian words. For example, punya (have) becomes pu, saya (I/me) becomes sa, kamu (you) becomes ko, sudah (already) becomes su, and tidak (not) becomes tra.

Papuan pronunciation is distinctive. In standard Indonesian, the letter e has two pronunciations: most commonly, the letter e is very short sound as in terima, selamat, and sekolah; less commonly, the e has a stronger sound (written below with a upper case letter) as in sorE, Ejaan, dEsa, and bEcak. In Papua, the e always has the strong pronunciation, so they say tErima, sElamat, sEkolah. Also Papuan pronounces ng as n. So the word "bintang" sounds like "bintan".

Pronouns in the Papuan colloquial are non-standard, as shown in the table below.

Pronoun Papuan Colloquial Standard Indonesian English
1st person singular sa aku, saya I
2nd person singular ko kamu, anda you
3rd person singular de/dong dia, ia she, he
1st person plural kitong/kitorang kami, kita we
2nd person plural kamorang kalian you
3rd person plural dorang mereka they

Papuans not only shorten the pronouns, but they also have a different way to express possession. In standard Indonesian, we use suffixes like -nya, -ku, -mu. In Papua, they use the pronoun and pu (for punya). For example for Ibunya sudah pergi (Her mother has already gone), Papuans say De pu mama so pergi. Here are some more examples.

Standard Indonesian Papuan Colloquial English
bapakku, bapak saya sa pu bapak my father
bapakmu, bapak anda ko pu bapak your father
bapaknya de pu bapak her father, his father
bapak kami, bapak kita kitorang pu bapak our father
bapak kalian kamorang pu bapak your father
bapak mereka dorang pu bapak their father

Papuans barely use prefix "me-". Instead they replace it with kasi. For example:

Standard Indonesian Papuan Colloquial English
mengahabiskan kasi habis to finish
menutup kasi tutup to close
membiarkan kasi biar to let it be
memperpanjang kasi panjang to lengthen
mengurangi kasi kurang to reduce

There are some words that are only used in Papua. For example:

Standard Indonesian Papuan Colloquial English
bapak pace father/mr/sir
ibu mace mother/madam/ma'am
kakak kaka older brother
mau mo want
kakek tete grandfather
cabai rica chili
singkong kasbi cassava

Most Papuans understand standard Indonesian perfectly well, but in order to understand Papuan's speech, other Indonesians and foreigners need to know these differences.

Hear some Papuan Colloquial Indonesian:

About the author

Made Soma is founder of Jembatan Bahasa, a professional Indonesian language school based in Bali, Indonesia. He has worked as an Indonesian curriculum developer and teacher for many years.


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