Javanese - Orientation

Identification. The Javanese are Indonesia's largest ethnic group and the world's third-largest Muslim ethnic group, following Arabs and Bengalis. "Wong Djawa" or "Tijang Djawi" are the names that the Javanese use to refer to themselves. The Indonesian term for the Javanese is "Orang Djawa." The term djawa has been traced to the Sanskrit word yava, "barley, grain." The name is of great antiquity and appears in Ptolemy's Geography.

Location. The Javanese primarily occupy the provinces of East and Central Java, although there are also some Javanese on other Indonesian islands. Java, one of the largest islands of Indonesia, is located between 6° and 9° S and 105° and 115° E. The climate is tropical, with a dry season from March to September and a wet season from September to March. Mountains and plateaus are somewhat cooler than the lowlands.

Demography. The Javanese population was 2 million in 1775. In 1900 the population of the island was 29 million and in 1990 it was estimated to be over 109 million (including the small island of Madura). Jakarta, the capital city, then had a population of about 9.5 million people. Some areas of Java have close to the highest rural population density in the world: the average density is 1,500 persons per square mile and in some areas it is considerably higher. In 1969 Jay reported a population density of 6,000-8,000 persons per square kilometer in residential areas of rural Modjokuto. Population growth combined with small and fragmented landholdings has produced severe problems of overcrowding and poverty.

Linguistic Affiliation. The Javanese are bilingual. They speak Bahasa Indonesia, the Indonesian national language, in public and in dealings with other ethnic groups, but at home and among themselves they speak Javanese. The Javanese language belongs to the West Indonesian Branch of the Hesperonesian Subfamily of the Malayo-Polynesian Family. Javanese has a literary history dating back to the eighth century. The language has nine styles of speech, the uses of which are determined by principles of etiquette. There is a trend toward simplification of speech levels.

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