Published in BAHASA DAN SENI Journal, Year 37, No 2, August 2009. ISSN 0854-8277, [an Accredited Scientific Journal, Published by Faculty of Letters State University of Malang]

Iqbal Nurul Azhar

Abstrak: Bahasa Madura sebagai salah satu bahasa etnik di Indonesia difungsikan dengan baik oleh penggunanya, yaitu masyarakat Madura. Ia difungsikan sebagai bahasa pergaulan yang dipakai secara menyeluruh dalam percakapan sehari-hari. Namun dibalik itu, ada sebuah fenomena yang mengganjal terhadap penggunaan bahasa Madura secara tulis. Bahasa Madura jarang dipakai dalam bentuk tulisan dengan berbagai alasan beragam dan banyak jumlahnya, yang salah satunya adalah sulitnya mentranfer bahasa Madura ke bentuk tulisan alphabet. Tulisan ini mengupas sekilas mengapa fenomena ini terjadi sebagai bagian kajian budaya dan bahasa  madura yang jarang sekali dilakukan oleh para ahli. Temuan yang disertakan di tulisan ini dapat kita jadikan renungan untuk memikirkan eksistensi bahasa Madura ke depan.

Kata kunci: bahasa madura, alih bahasa, tulisan

In this title of this paper, the term “code shifting” refers to the ability of a person to shift from one language to another. In Multilingual area like Madura, this ability is accepted as quite normal.

Madura is not only inhabited by Madurese, but also Javanese, Arabic, Chinese, and Sundanese. However, the majority of its population are native speakers of Madurese. National policy obligates Bahasa Indonesia as the National language used by the whole nations. Madura as a part of Indonesia, also apply the language to be used in the island. They become bilingual or even multilingual speakers. Madurese language then appears as the ethnic language that is only used in daily conversations, or in certain ethnic ceremonies. Bahasa Indonesia, on the other hand, is used in formal situation like in schools or many formal occasions. Although Madurese is widely spoken by Madurese people, still in the Nation’s viewpoint, or in Madurese themselves, the language is a minority language

Based on the verity they become bilingual or multilingual people, we may ask what happens when people from multilingual society let say, Madurese who are themselves multilingual, meet in a “multilingual setting”: what language or languages do they employ?

When we came further to the latest situation when communication between Madurese using mobile phone becomes a new trend, what linguistics phenomenon then transpire in the place? What language or languages do they apply in phoning? Or what language or languages do they prefer in writing SMS (Short Message Service)? This is a very interesting phenomenon to discuss.

Yule (1985:8) stated in his book  The Study of Language that a very large number of languages found in the world today are only used in the spoken form. It rises as the consequence of not having the written form thereof. It leads to a case that many people are able to perform “a very excellent language” in their society yet failed to carry out the language in written form. And I suppose this phenomenon also occurs in Madurese language. This statement was impressed by my own experiences encountering with a very attractive linguistics fact the-so-called code shifting.

As a Madurese, I have a large amount number of Madurese fellows. After getting a long with them for years, I noticed there was an interesting phenomenon in our daily interactions related to our language-written-form choice. This is true that as I interacted with my home town friends we used our ethnic language, yet when this interaction shifted to the written one, the usage of Madurese did not arise anymore. This is an interesting sign that there was somewhat different language use between spoken and written. That is why this topic is going to seek; a) the language Madurese use in society and b) the factors that contribute code shifting in written communication. The discussion of these two things can be seen in turn as follow; Madurese society, the use of Madurese language, the Characteristics of Madurese language, Factors that contribute code shifting in written form, overview and conclusion

Madurese  Society
Madurese people are the third largest people group in Indonesia. They make up 7% of the entire Indonesian population. Currently about three and a half million Madurese people still live on the island of Madura, while another nine and half million live primarily on Jawa (Java). Other major pockets of Madura people can be found in Jakarta, Kalimantan. and Sulawesi. The Madura people are renowned for their harsh character and lifestyles. This is probably caused by their natural surroundings and their history of oppression by others, both of which make life very difficult for them. Nevertheless, their harsh temperament can be seen positively if one examines their work ethic. Most of them work extremely hard and refuse to give up. Both men and women do not shrink from hard work in order to meet basic needs (PJRN: 2006).  Based on the data from East Java Central Bureau, Madura has 3.492.132 citizens, that population comes from four parts of Madura, those are Bangkalan, Sampang, Pamekasan and Sumenep. Bangkalan has 886.080 citizen, Sampang 833.640, Pamekasan 740.150, and Sumenep 1.032.260. From that number 80%  is native Madurese. The rest 20% are Javanese, Sundanese, Arabic and Chinese.

Madurese built a strong-well-established-culture in their society. They respect much on their culturally bound as Madurese. As the result, Madurese people seldom left their native language in daily conversation among them.

The use of Madurese Language
Madurese is the spoken language of people from Madura island in Indonesia; it is also spoken on Kangean Islands, Sapudi Islands, and in parts of province of East Java. It is classified in the Sundic subgroup of the West Malayo-Polynesian group of the Austronesian languages family. It was traditionally written in the Javanese script, but the Roman script is now more commonly used. Number of speakers though shrinking are estimated to be 8-10 million (Wikipedia, 2006).

Madurese language is widely spoken in Madura as the place of its birth. No one likely spoke other languages until formal education and information grew rapidly in that area. As the rate of education and information grows, now Madurese speak not only Madurese language, but also Bahasa Indonesia and Javanese. Yet, they still use Madurese as their prime language in their daily conversation.

Greenberg defined language as a set of culturally transmitted behaviour pattern shared by a group of individuals (Bell, 1981:23). That is why a certain language will be used by the member of society similarly as their elderly used in the past. This language will live a long with the existing processes of transmitting of the language in that society. What the ancestor said in that language in the past will be spoken just at the same by their descendants.

Holmes (1992:3) said “ Language provides a variety of ways of saying the same thing addressing and greeting others, describing things, and paying compliments” and of course it gives the impact of the existing dialect of Madura. Yet, it provides no barrier in Madurese communication.

When we talk about Madurese language, we also talk about their language transmission phenomenon. As this society grows still, the transmission brings impacts to the language. The transmission creates many changing especially in the usage of the language.

Factors that contribute code shifting in written form
Many previous studies propose that there are some factors that contribute code shifting. Gil provides three dominant factors that are more plausible to examine the process of language shift. Those are language status, demography and institution. (Gil in Setiawan 2001:175). Here in Madura, I found five factors that contribute most in Madurese language shifting. Those are, Demography, language status, characteristics of Madurese language, diglossia and trend

The demography factor should be taken into account for its contribution to code shift. As I stated above in my previous statement that Madura is not only inhabited by Madurese, but also Javanese, Arabic, Chinese, and Sundanese, those new inhabitants bring impacts to code shifting in society. Though the new inhabitants are considered as a minority and small community in Madura, they play crucial role in Madurese activities. Many of them occupy important social positions in Madura, for instance; civil servants, teachers, doctors, even vendors. They mingle with Madurese in daily activities. They use Bahasa Indonesia to interact with Madurese. Madurese respect much with this people and they use Bahasa Indonesia to respect them. Madurese speak Bahasa Indonesia to conduct understandable communication with the new inhabitants. They apply the language too in writing communication. In sending SMS, they use Bahasa Indonesia as the preferable language.

Language Status
Referring to Appel’ and Muysken’s that language shift occurs because of the status of its language, namely minority language (Gil in Setiawan 2001:175). Trudgill claims that minority language that is smaller and less influential is unlikely to be official language. When language does not become official language, then its survival is hardly achieved. That is to say, its domains narrower and finally language shift is unavoidable (Gil in Setiawan 2001:175). Madurese language although is widely spoken by Madurese people, still it cannot become Indonesian official language. That is why the language comes to be a minority language in its own place. As the result, the usage of Madurese language in formal situation always be the second choice.

Being the minority language gives little benefit to Madurese. As we come to the written one, the usage of Madurese is almost be left. It appears as the result of the improvement of literacy-rate. To achieve the knowledge how to write, people must under go the so called formal education in school. The process is managed in a formal way  and it gives the impact on the usage of the delivery language. National policy puts Bahasa Indonesia as the delivery language in every school, and of course the students speak and write using Bahasa Indonesia. In written, students write using alphabetic script in that language too. The students then get used to write in Bahasa Indonesia, and it appears as a new pattern in society. Unlikely no one writes Madurese language using alphabetic form. When someone does so, it may imply that the person wants to achieve a certain goal, for example to attract people’s attention in the form of banners, or to deliver a massage from a certain institution in the form of ads. However, in major Madurese interaction using alphabetic script, they do it via Bahasa Indonesia.

Characteristics of Madurese Language
Madurese has more consonants than its neighboring languages due to it having a voiceless unaspirated, voiceless aspirated, and voiced sounds. Similar to Javanese it has a contrast between dental and alveolar (even retroflex) stops. Nouns are not inflected in gender and are made plural via reduplication (for example nak kanak (children), nek binek (female), and en maenan (toys)). Its basic word order is Subject, Verb, Object. Negation is expressed by saying a negative word before the verb/adjective or before a noun phrase (for example ta’ banyak, lo’ manes, ta’ amaen, lo’ ngakan). As with other similar languages there are different negative words for different kinds of negation. The language is unusual that it does not have any phonemically high vowels.

In the form of written, Madurese traditionally applied the Javanese script. The writing system came under the name ha na ca ra ka (Javanese ho no co ro ko). Each symbol represents a single syllable. Yule (1985:8) mentioned this symbol as syllabic writing system which is clearly defined as a writing system that employs a set of symbols which represent the pronunciations of a syllables.

We can take for example a Madurese writing    This symbol represents syllable ha,   represents na,   represents ca,   represents ra and   represents ka. Madurese has twenty symbols represent varies syllables. The syllables are ha na ca ra ka dha ta sa wa la pa dha ja ya nya ma ga ba ta nga. Yet, since the alphabetic script was introduced to Madurese, and the system is used by the nation, Madurese left the old system and adapted the new one.

Unfortunately, the usage of the new system brings problem to Madurese, especially when they try to perform their oral language form into the written one. It always bothers them since no clear rules related the process of writing Madurese language in the form of alphabetic writing.

When a man tries to produce Madurese word in the form of writing, they always make blunders. For example the word raja (written one), can be read both /r ? d  j   ? h/ (big) or / r ? d  j  ? / (a king) by other people. It seems when he continues transferring all of his ideas in written form, other people will spends much times to interpret what this man is saying. And this is totally wasting time.

The problem then leads many Madurese to shift the language when they write something because they consider that Bahasa Indonesia is more comfortable to be used in writing.

Some communities normally have a diglossia situation. This means that one language is normally used for high matters such as social and education and another for everyday concern.

Diglossia phenomenon occurs in Madura. As a community who hold the norm tightly, madurese give their respect much to their elders. The respect is shown by shifting the code on the higher level one. Madurese have three levels of language. First is Enja’-Iya which is used to communicate with close friends, colleges at the same age, or younger aged relatives, Enggi-Enten is used to respect common-older-people, and the last Enggi- Bunten is used to communicate with an older person especially who occupies a very respectful position. This person might be a parent, a teacher, a religion leader and a ruler. Education is a common sphere for diglossia in Madura. Students speak to teachers using Enggi-Bunten. The use of that language indicates that those students know much how to respect elder.

Unfortunately, the usage of Enggi-Enten, and Enggi Bunten nowadays has been abandoned, especially by teenagers who live in downtown. Many teenagers do not know how to use those languages. It happens because they have never been taught intensively to use the language. They use Madurese but the language is only Enggi-Enten. When this happens, it appear to be a problem for them to communicate with elder. To solve that problem, they use Bahasa Indonesia instead Enja’-Iya. In this case, they are still able to communicate with elder without leaving their respect. In the writing from, they do it at the same way.

Tend here refers to the actual phenomenon exist in society. As the communication era grows fast in Madura, there is no limit between Madurese and people of different communities in Indonesia. Madurese will be able to communicate or even to see many people of Indonesia via telephone, mobile phone, internet, radio or television. Here, mass media especially television plays a significant role in language sifting. TV channels broadcast many programs related to trends, entertainment and information. And those programs are broadcasted in more or less in Bahasa Indonesia language (many sinetrons are broadcasted in Bahasa Indonesia-Betawis’ accent). TV channels also exhibits many artists’ lives and their way to communicate each other. TV channels also promotes the usage of modern words (Bahasa Indonesia calls it bahasa Gaul) that are derived from Bahasa Indonesia. Those publications then become the trend of Indonesian. Madurese especially teenagers, also watch this, and likely, they adopt the trend. They use Bahasa Indonesia not because of their needs, but it is merely because they want to be called trendy and modern. In writing, they prefer to choose Bahasa Indonesia to Madurese in order to prove themselves that they have enough education, or to be considered as unleft-behind people.

The role of those four factors to the Madurese code shifting can be seen clearly from the actual findings that will be shown in this section
Concerning the usage of Madurese language in SMS, it was found by the writer of this article, (2005) in his former school survey conducted on February 2006, that the use of Madurese language tends to be problematic for Madurese themselves. From his survey, it was found that 95% of respondents never used Madurese when they wrote SMS, and 5% of them used the language mixed with Bahasa Indonesia. He also found the reasons why they felt that, and most of them stated this followings:

  1. Using Madurese in SMS indicated impoliteness since most of them did not know how to use bahasa Alos (Enggi-Bunten)
  2. It was difficult for them to clip the words into shorter one
  3. It was also difficult for them to interpret a word written in Madurese since in can be read in many ways
  4. Using Madurese in SMS indicated oldies or not trendy

These findings may not represent the whole problems related to Madurese code shifting in writing, yet it gives us a clear description what is actually happening in a certain Madurese community.


When there are two languages upon a community, it will be a contraction that leads competition to conquer language domains. Madurese at one side appears to be the minority language in its place of existence. Though Madurese becomes minority, its speakers are very hard to leave the language and chose the major language. The contraction then comes to a situation where Madurese use both languages in different purposes. An action that makes sense to be taken to maintain the domains might be by shifting the language in a certain occasion when the domain language can not be counted on to be used. The shifting of language might appear as the result of the Madurese’s competence in bilingualism or multilingualism especially in writing one.

From the discussion above, it can be seen that there are somewhat different language use between spoken and written. The differences are created by factors that appear in Madura. The factors lie on five things. Those are, Demography, language status, the characteristics of Madurese language, diglossia and trend. These factors contribute much on Madurese language shifting that exists in written. And likely it will always occur in Madura if Madurese language cannot become Indonesian official language.


Bell, Roger.T. 1981. An Introduction to Applied Linguistics: Approaches and Methods in Language Teaching. London: B.T Batsford Ltd

Duran, Luisa. 1994.  Toward a Better Understanding of Code Switching and Inter-language in Bilinguality: Implications for Bilingual Instruction. The Journal of Educational Issues of Language Minority Students, v14 p69-88, Winter 1994.

Holmes, Janet. 1992. An introduction to Sociolinguistics. London: Longman

PJRN . 2006. Madura of Indonesia. http://www.joshuaproject.net. 3 May 2006

Setiawan, Slamet.  2001. First Language Maintenance: Evidence of Bahasa Indonesia in Auckland that is unlikely to succeed. Jurnal Bahasa Verba, Vol. 2  No. 37, 173-181

Wikipedia. 2006.   Madurese language.  http://www.answers.com. 3 May 2006

Yule, George. 1985. The Study of Language. New York: Cambridge University Press



  1. anton
    November 17, 2010 pukul 2:47 pm

    The structure of this article is quite confusing to me. I’m just wondering whether the journal in which it was published has a standardized article structure.

    There are also many grammatical errors in this article, which shouldn’t have happened in the so-called accredited journal. I don’t understand what the writer means by saying “Though Madurese becomes minority, its speakers are very hard to leave the language and chose the major language.” For me, this sentence is terribly ambiguous!

    In general, the content of this article has considerably weak theoretical foundations.

    • November 18, 2010 pukul 1:30 am

      Menurut penulisnya, artikel di atas adalah artikel dengan bentuk eksposisi analitik dengan alur pikir induktif, bukan sebuah laporan penelitian yang nantinya dapat dijadikan alat generalisasi. Data-data yang ada dalam artikel hanyalah argumen penguat ide penulis dan bukan simpulan dari sebuah penelitian yang telah melewati prosedur yang ketat. (mohon dibedakan antara artikel eksposisi dengan laporan penelitian)

      Mungkin penulisnya mau mengatakan “Meskipun bahasa Madura (Madurese) menjadi bahasa Minoritas, para penuturnya sangat sulit untuk meninggalkan bahasa tersebut dan beralih pada bahasa mayor yaitu bahasa Indonesia…” (mungkin begitu maksudnya pak..? kalau misalnya masih salah, kira-kira yang benar gimana ya pak Anton?) 🙂

      Kalau masalah standar penulisan, bapak bisa menanyakan langsung pada redaktur BdS. Sekalian juga bila bapak berminat, bapak bisa mengirimkan artikel bapak…BdS sangat butuh artikel dari orang-orang kritis seperti bapak.

      Mengutip kata-kata prof. Sudiro Satoto; “Artikel ini memang layak dikritik..Artikel kan memang dibuat untuk dikritik…Apa manfaatnya ada linguis jika tidak bisa mengkritik artikel ini..he..he…

      Trims atas masukan dan kritiknya pak Anton

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