Indonesian and Malaysian are relatively easy, as far as languages go, because the rules are very regular.  You can take a root word like an adjective or a verb, slap on some affixes, and turn it into all different sorts of nouns.  Unlike English where there are tons of different affixes for making abstract nouns, many of which have nearly identical meanings, here there are five.  It’s sometimes hard to express exactly what the endings correspond to in English, but you can approximate things.

-an    Takes a verb X and turns it into a noun that means "the thing that is X-ed".  For example, makan (to eat) turns into makanan (food).

    Takes a verb X and turns it into a noun that means "something or someone that X-es".  For example, tani (to plant) turns into petani (farmer) or awet (durable) turns into pengawet (preservative).

ke- -an
  Takes a verb or adjective or noun X and turns it into a noun that means "the condition of being X".  Sort of like "ness" or "ity".  For example, berada (to exist) turns into keberadaan (existence), sehat (healthy) turns into kesehatan (health), and menteri (minister) turns to kementrian (ministry).

peN- -an    Takes a verb X and turns it into a noun that means "the act of doing X".  For example, bangun (to awaken) turns into pembangunan (development).  It also can make gerunds, such as terms like pengasinan ikan (the salting of fish). 

per- -an    Takes a verb X formed by affixing ber- (to be engaged in) and turns it into a noun that means "the process or result of X-ing" such as in lepas (free) turning into berlepas (to depart) and then perlepasan (departure) or temu (meet) turning into bertemu (to meet) and then pertemuan (meeting).

Of course, these can get confusing and the meanings are subtle.  Take the word satu, or one.  Kesatuan means "unity", persatuan means "union" (from bersatu, to unite), and penyatuan means "the uniting of".

OK, of course you aren’t reading this to get a grammar lesson.  There is a point.  Sometimes ke- -an can be used idiomatically to refer to something that happened to something else accidentally, or more specifically, without intent or volition.  The way I remember it is with a sentence a friend used in an Indonesian class: Guru kejatuhan sebuah kelapa, which literally translates as "the teacher experienced-the-falling-of a coconut", or "a coconut fell on the teacher".  "To suffer from X" is how teachers often teach this construction to Indonesian students. 

Well, many of the recipes that we find in our Indonesian and Malaysian cook books use this construction to refer to food colors when cooking.  Like, when deep frying a curry puff, you are supposed to menggoreng hingga keemasan, which according to our mnemonic translates as "fry until it suffers from gold", or until golden.  Our very favorite, though, describes how you are supposed to fry your chicken: hingga kecoklatan, or "until it suffers from chocolate", meaning until brown.  It never fails to make us laugh.

As an explanation for this very silly post, well, it hasn’t rained in a couple weeks and the heat must be getting to us.

Comments 3

  1. Bob K June 25, 2005

    Pretty much close to the mark. The confusing part is truly confusing :
    “Of course, these can get confusing and the meanings are subtle. Take the word satu, or one. Kesatuan means “unity”, persatuan means “union” (from bersatu, to unite), and penyatuan means “the uniting of”.”
    Kesatuan, at least hereabouts, is usually translated as Union (in the trade union sense)
    Persatuan on the other hand usually means an association or society (the registered type).
    Unity is usually translated as perpaduan (padu being synonymous with the English word, unite).
    Yep, it does get very confusing.

  2. Tom June 26, 2005

    That must be a Malay/Indonesian difference. I just double-checked my authoritative Echols and Shadily Indonesian to English dictionary, and it has kesatuan as “unity or oneness”.
    You could say something like kesatuan negara Indonesia to mean “the unity of the Indonesian state”.
    Perpaduan has a slightly different connotation in Indonesia. Like, when I read the term Angkatan Perpaduan Ummah, which I would translate as the “Movement of Ummah Unity”, I think an Indonesian would translate it as more of “unity” in the sense of “coming together”, implying something more like the “action or process of becoming one” rather than “the state of being one”.
    But then again, you are the Malaysian, not me.
    Do people say things like menyatupadukan here too?

  3. Bob K June 26, 2005

    Hmm .. the concept of “kesatuan” within the context of the “negara kesatuan” commonly used in Indonesia is a catch all label to define their unitary republican state as opposed to the “negara serikat (syarikat in MY)” which was the pre-1950 federal structure that they had when they declared independence. Sigh .. blame Hatta for the confusion.
    And yep, we do use “satu-padu” in it’s varous noun forms, ie. bersatupadu, menyatupadu, etc.

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