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Indonesia, third gender, etc.

From:Johnson, Anna <ajohnson@...>
Date:Tuesday, December 11, 2001, 22:24
Teoh wrote: "Same in Indonesian, at least according to the book.  I had
little opportunity to get that familiar with anyone."

I found that having spoken North Sumatran Bhasa Indonesia, I spoke
unintelligible Bahasa Melayu; for example, in North Sumatra, people
typically use the second-person referent 'nggak' (where the final k is
reduced to a strong glottal stop and the initial is a nasal-voiced consonant
cluster of the g variety) - hence when I spoke to my Singaporean college
roommate's Kuala Lumpuran cousins, who spoke only Malay-Chinese and Bahasa
Melayu, they were utterly confounded by my attempts to talk to them in
'standard' Indonesian. I asked casually, "Nggak membicara Bhasa Mlayu?' and
they just stared at me and asked me, through Roland, what language I was
speaking. Even my attempts to ask for water - "Apaka disini ada akua?" was
simply useless.

It seems Sumatran Indonesian pronounces voiced aspirates (as in bhasa, which
is standard Malay bahasa), clips words hardcore, and is spoken fast and with
all dentals retroflexed - that includes s, t, d, etc. Not to mention the
stark contrast in cultures - I was living amongst matrilineal and
female-dominated animist cattle herders, Acehnese fundamentalist Muslims who
used Arabicisms with sharp Arabic accents (like glottals etc.), and
Christian recent ex-cannibal fishermen, none of which spoke 'Malay' as a
first language. Which is, of course, true of the entire nation! No wonder my
'Malay' sounded like a completely unrelated language to the [actual] Malay
what is spoken by urban Chinese elites...

Can anyone familiar with Malaysia tell me if there is a three-gender system
in the rest of Indonesia and Malaysia as there is in North Sumatra where I
was, i.e. wanita / pria / waria 'female / male / [no English equivalent]'?

Anna J. Johnson
Mystif & Scrat Inscrutable
Somtyme one of mankynde is both man & woman & suche ... in englyssh is
called a scrette.
- Caxton, Trevisa's Higden (1482)


Nik Taylor <fortytwo@...>