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 When two strange Balinese meet, as for instance on the they call each other as djero, a safe, polite way of addressing someone whose title is unknown. Since there are no outward signs of caste, the appropriate titles cannot be used and a words for " you " (cai, nyai, nani) are extremely familiar, derogatory. Strangers talk in the middle language, a compro between the daily speech and the polite tongue. Should, how ever, one be of low caste and the other a nobleman, it would be wrong for them to continue talking in this manner, and one of the two, probably the high-caste man, will ask the other: " Antuh
lingge? Where is your place (caste) ? " which is answered by the other man's stating his caste. Then the usual system is adopted; the low man speaks the high tongue and the aristocrat answers in the common language.

When I started to study Balinese I found it disturbing to hear the people around the house talking in the daily language and then suddenly shifting to high to address Gusti, our landlord prince, who answered them in the common language. The high and low tongues are not two dialects or even variations of the same languages, but two distinct, unrelated languages with separate roots, different words, and extremely dissimilar character. It was always incongruous to hear an educated nobleman talking the harsh, guttural low tongue, while an ordinary peasant had to address him in the refined high Balinese.

The low language is the everyday tongue spoken by equals at home, at work, and at the market. It is undoubtedly the native language of the island and belongs to the Malayo-Polynesian dialects, the aboriginal languages of the archipelago. The high language is similar to Javanese and is of Sanskrit-Javanese origin. It is flowery, and rich in shades of meaning; I have been told that to speak it well, one should know about ten different words to express the same idea. Few Balinese can speak the high language well, and the ordinary peasant generally ignores it, except perhaps for standard expression to address a superior. The peasant learned to listen only when he became a vassal of the Hindu Javanese feudal lords, who had to learn the language of the island, but they demanded to be addressed in their own, high tongue by the unworthy natives. The natural politeness of the Balinese perhaps gave birth to the middle language, used when in doubt of a man's caste.


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It is an important rule that one may not use high terms when speaking about oneself; it would be poor taste to call one's head by the elegant term prabu, instead of the common word sirah, or to refer to one's feet as Cokor instead of batis. It would be a dreadful insult to speak of someone's head as tandas, meaning the head of animals.
The type of language used in conversation is prescribed by one of the strict rules of caste etiquette, and the use of the wrong from is a serious offence. A prince has to be addressed as "highness" (Ratu'or Agun ) but he and the people of his caste talk to everybody in the low language, except perhaps to their parents, elder brothers, and members of the priestly caste, the Brahmana Polite people (not all high-born people are considered polite) are supposed to address old people in the high language.

There is still a fourth language, the Kawi, used on ritual occasions, in poetry and classic literature. It is archaic
javanese in which nine out of ten words are Sanskrit; but the knowledge of Kawi rests almost entirely with the priests and scholarly Balinese.

The language problem of Bali has been further complicated by the addition of Malay, now officially the language of the Dutch East Indies. It is taught in the schools and is spreading rapidly among the Balinese youth because it is considerably simpler than the difficult Balinese and is free of the caste regulations. Thus a modern Balinese scholar would require five languages for social and cultural intercourse: the high, middle; low Balinese, plus Kawi and Malay. Such a linguist is not rare, today in Bali.



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