Sunday, January 27, 2008

Indonesian Word Families

Indonesian has a very productive process of adding suffixes and prefixes to words in order to change their meaning. Below is one example.

The verb bicara means "to talk, to converse." (Note that the "c" in Indonesia corresponds to the "ch" sound in English.)

Verbs have derivational forms based on transitivity, intensity and strength of voice. So, for example
  • berbicara is intransitive and means "to talk" in sentences like "She talks a lot."
  • On the other hand, the prefix me- (often accompanied with the suffix -kan) makes membicarakan transitive, changing its meaning to "to talk" in sentences like "She is talking to Joe."
  • dibicarakan is passive: "Joe got talked to."
  • Pembicara means "a speaker."
  • and pembicaraan means "a discussion" or "a speech."
There are a number of derivational prefixes in Indonesian. I hope to look at more of them in the future. But as you can see, being able to identify and remove prefixes and suffixes is essential to identifying root words in Indonesia. And words are listed in the dictionary by their roots...

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