Monday, February 01, 2010

SMS Indonesian

People often say Indonesian is an easy language. It's true that the barriers to entry are very low if you want to be understood, but I maintain that to master Indonesian takes as much effort as mastering any other language. Sure, the grammar seems easy at first, but the ambiguity that makes it so easy to speak demands great creativity on the part of the listener to interpret.

Plus, as anyone learning Indonesian will tell you, what you learn from a book and what people speak on a day-to-day basis usually bear little-to-no resemblance to one another. This is especially true with SMS Indonesian.

A friend of mine received an SMS from a wrong number recently (or at least that's what he told me) and asked for some help in decoding it.

Cyank wis pulang lum

Any thoughts?

Well, this is a little unfair as one of those words isn't actually Indonesian... wis is low Javanese for already - more commonly written as sudah, udah, dah, uda or da.

Most students of Indonesian should know pulang: go/come home.

Let's try it again.

Cyank    sudah     pulang         lum

?????    already   go/come home   ???

The next easiest word to decode is lum which is short for belum (also often seen as blm or lm) meaning not yet, making our sentence:

Cyank    sudah     pulang         belum

?????    already   go/come home   not yet

So, what's Cyank? When people are being cutesy they sometimes replace 's's with 'c's, giving us Syank. Also, in this same cutesy register, they often replace 'ng's with 'nk's, giving us Syang. The last transformation we have to apply to this word doesn't really follow a common formula, it's just sms laziness... The author skipped over what he/she saw as a superfluous vowel: Sayang.

Sayang    sudah     pulang         belum

Honey     already   go/come home   not yet

The most likely interpretation of this is Have you arrived home yet, honey? but it could also be Has my honey arrived home yet? talking about a third person.