The linguistic history of the Chinese of Java sketched here focuses on two periods of creative linguistic effort by the Chinese in the development of varieties of Malay/Indonesian. The first period is from 1880–1910, when the Peranakan Chinese—together with Dutch and Eurasians who were writing in Malay at the time—developed a literary language from Low Malay that was primarily an oral language with many regional and social variants. Soon after this period, the Dutch (and many Eurasians and some Chinese) abandoned Malay as a literary language in preference for Dutch. Only later, in the 1920s and 1930s, did Indonesian nationalists become interested in developing Malay as the national language. The second period of creative linguistic activity among the Peranakan Chinese is the period that followed Indonesian independence in 1945, which is characterized by the departure of the Dutch, the almost complete disappearance of the Dutch and Low Malay languages on Java, and the increased prominence of Javanese as the language of power and politics. During this period Peranakan of the Javanesespeaking areas of Java developed a Javanese-based mixed language (Indonesianized-Javanese) as their home language. The switch from a Malay-based to a Javanese-based language was not a radical change because the Peranakan community had been bilingual for many centuries, but it points out new social uses of languages already in their linguistic repertoire. This last period of linguistic creativity is significant because it is a break in the pattern of acceptance of another's language by the Chinese of Java, and it demonstrates their desire to create a distinctive dialect, a phenomenon reflecting the social reality of an unassimilated minority that has lived in the midst of the Javanese majority for centuries.

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