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Open Access Arabic loanwords in Indonesian revisited

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Arabic loanwords in Indonesian revisited

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image of Bijdragen tot de taal-, land- en volkenkunde / Journal of the Humanities and Social Sciences of Southeast Asia

How did Arabic loanwords end up in Indonesian? Various academic answers to this intriguing question have been put forward, but only rarely has any solid linguistic 'proof' been provided. General conclusions have been drawn on the basis of a few, rather unrepresentative or obsolete, examples. Academics have copied arguments and hypotheses from one another, without any independent research into their reliability. Some of the arguments, or pure hypotheses, have obtained the status of pseudo 'established fact', irrespective of the fact that they lack academic justification. This article makes an effort to put the record straight by showing that a Persian or Persianized connection cannot be proven statistically, as claimed by Stuart Campbell. It also shows that some loanwords have a colloquial, occasionaly even regionally identifiable Arabic origin, but that the claim by Versteegh and others of a South Arabian or Hadrami connection cannot be convincingly established. It finally demonstrates that more attention should be given to the linguistic particularities of the recipient (Indonesian/Nusantara) language, than to concentrate mainly on the characteristics of the Arabic language which provided these loanwords. Unknown Arabic phonemes deserve special attention because they were in some cases interpreted and adopted by Indonesian/Nusantara listeners as phonemes that were phonetically nearest to these, and which were part of their own phoneme system.

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