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Reviewed by:
  • Javaans–Nederlands Woordenboek by Rob van Albada and Th. Pigeaud
  • Stuart Robson
Rob van Albada and Th. Pigeaud. 2014. Javaans–Nederlands Woordenboek (2 vols). Leiden/Boston: Brill. Vol. 1: xxxiv + 768 pp.; vol. 2: vi + 742 pp. ISBN 978-90-04-27695-6. €149.00 / US$194.00, hardcover.

The lexicography of the Javanese language has had a checkered career, and is an ongoing process. It started in the nineteenth century, when Dutch scholars began the process of compiling lists of Javanese words, in the context of their contact with the population for the purposes of the colonial project. These efforts culminated in the dictionary known as “Gericke & Roorda,” which appeared in its final edition in 1901. This is the two-volume Javaansch–Nederlandsch Handwoordenboek of J. F. C. Gericke and T. Roorda, improved and expanded by A. C. Vreede with the collaboration of J. G. H. Gunning (Leiden: E. J. Brill, 1901). Here all the entries and examples are printed in Javanese script. Other manuscript materials are to be found in the collection of the Leiden University Library.

For many years, the above dictionary was regarded as authoritative for Javanese, both colloquial and literary. However, in the 1930s, the government language officer (taalambtenaar) Th. Pigeaud, based in Yogyakarta, was given the task of revising and expanding it; his work was interrupted by the Japanese occupation in 1942, but before that happened he published his Javaans–Nederlands Handwoordenboek in 1938. This was a concise version of what he hoped to produce but never finished. It was used by generations of students, in spite of its obscure Dutch translations and idiosyncratic arrangement. The first attempt to translate it into English was made by E. C. Horne in 1974, with her Javanese–English Dictionary (Yale University Press), which is linguistically reliable and provides good examples, but is marred by many mistakes in translation. This was followed in 2002 by the Javanese English Dictionary of Stuart Robson and Singgih Wibisono (Singapore: Tuttle), which is an advance on earlier works, but still far from complete or perfect.

Such is a short history of dictionary-making in Javanese, up to the first edition of Rob van Albada’s Javaans–Nederlands Woordenboek of 2007. This was based on the dictionary of Th. Pigeaud (1938) with additional materials, but is now obsolete with the appearance of the second edition in 2014, which is the object of the present review. Rob van Albada is an independent scholar, with a special interest in Javanese music and arts.

The dictionary has been expanded once more, using, for example, modern novels, samples of Javanese dialects, the collection of Javanese–Chinese tales edited by Dwi Woro Retno Mastuti, and even the classic poem Centhini. An important difference from the earlier version is the rearrangement of entries according to base-word, so that all the derivations can be seen at once. This is a huge improvement on the method inherited from Pigeaud. The alphabetical order is the normal one, with the note that t (dental) and [End Page 686] th (retroflex) are listed as if equivalent—a little confusing until one gets used to it. The spelling system is the one accepted as standard in Java at the present time, but luckily a distinction is still made between é and è. Readers need to be aware of the differing pronunciation of the vowel a depending on its position in a word: many Indonesians confuse a with o. There is a very clear introduction, as well as notes on Javanese verse-forms and calendar.

Several excellent innovations should be mentioned:

  1. 1. The inclusion of examples is useful, as it helps clarify how a word is actually used. Unfortunately, there seem to be more typos in these examples than elsewhere.1

  2. 2. Etymologies of loanwords are provided. Searching for etymologies is always exciting. The majority of such words are derived from Sanskrit, followed by Dutch and Arabic. A number seem to have been omitted; for example, makluk (from Arabic makhluk ‘creature’); panci (from Dutch pannetje ‘little pan’); rondha II (from Portuguese ronda ‘patrol’).

  3. 3. The Latin names of plants and animals are given; often there is no Dutch translation in these cases.

  4. 4. For a...