First steps in classical Malay syntax
Notes prepared for a class at the Australian National University
by Ian Proudfoot

First steps in classical Malay syntax

§1.  Prose texts generally go to some trouble to indicate the currently foregrounded actor (A) or target (T) using pun, sometimes reinforced with -lah on the verb.

§2.   The element which has most emphasis will be placed at the beginning of a phrase. This will usually be the foregrounded actor or target marked by -pun.   However in narrative the emphasis is often on the action, in which case the verb (V) will come first in the sentence.

§3.   With di- forms, prepositions are available to mark the actor (oleh) and the target (akan), but are not often used. More often the elements are indicated by position.

The standard pattern is for the actor to follow immediately after the verb, with the target either preceding or following the verb-actor complex.

[T] diV A [T]

Maka gendang dipukul bentara.   T diV A

The page struck the gong.

If the actor has been previously introduced it may be indicated simply by -nya following the verb.

Maka gendang dipukulnya.   T diV A

He struck the gong.

§4.   As in the modern language, any diV A complex can be replaced by A V

Maka gendang hamba pukul.

Maka gendang kupukul.

I struck the gong.

The ordering of the elements depends upon the desired emphasis and the context:

No specific emphasis, or weak emphasis on the actor:

A meV T

Maka bentara itu memukul gendang.

The page struck the gong.

Emphasis on the action:

diV A T

Maka dipukul bentara itu gendang.

Maka dipukul oleh bentara itu gendang.

Maka dipukul oleh bentara itu akan gendang.

Then the page struck the gong.

… with secondary emphasis on the target:

Maka dipukul akan gendang oleh bentara itu.

Then the page struck the gong.

Emphasis on the target:

T diV A

Maka gendang dipukulnya.

Maka gendang dipukul bentara itu.

Maka gendang dipukul oleh bentara itu.

The page struck the gong.

The gong was struck by the page.

Strong emphasis on the actor:

oleh A diV [] T

Oleh bentara itu dipukul gendang.

Oleh bentara itu dipukulnya gendang.

Oleh bentara itu dipukulnya akan gendang.

The page struck the gong.

It was the page that stuck the gong.

Cases in which elements are indeterminate or understood:

[T] diV A

Maka dipukul bentara.

The page struck it. [target implied; note that in another context this could mean The page was struck. To avoid ambiguity oleh might be introduced to indicate the actor. Where there is no ambiguity this is not necessary: Maka ditegur baginda = His Majesty hailed him. The reverse is not conceivable.]

T diV [A]

Maka gendang dipukul.

The gong was struck [actor indeterminate]

Maka dipukul gendang.

The gong was struck. [actor indeterminate or implied]

Maka dipukulnya gendang.

Then he struck the gong. [previous actor carried over]

When there are two targets:

T diV A T

Hang Tuah pun diberi oleh bapanya sebilah keris.

Hang Tuah was given a kris by his father. [emphasis on the first target]

Explication: excerpts from Hikayat Hang Tuah

Maka Bendahara pun pulang ke rumahnya mengarang surat dan bingkis itu.

The Prime Minister went home to compose the letter and prepare the present.

¤  pun:  signals that the Bendahara is now the focus;

¤  mengarang:   me- form no emphasis.

Setelah sudah lengkap dengan perahunya dua buah dendang, maka Bendahara pun masuk berdatang sembah, "Ya Tuanku Syah Alam, patik dititahkan mengarang surat dan bingkis itu sudahlah patik hadirkan."

When two dugout canoes had been readied, the Prime Minister came into audience, saying as he made obeisance, “My Lord, Ruler of the World, I now present the letter and the present that I was charged with composing and arranging.

¤  pun:   returns the focus to the Bendahara after the ships (this is strictly unnecessary as there has not been an intervening actor)

¤  patik dititahkan:  emphasis on Bendahara as target (the Bendahara would not presume to speak for the king)

¤  mengarang:  me- form, just naming the action, no emphasis.

¤  patik hadirkan:  continuing the emphasis Bendahara, here as actor: A V as in §4.

Maka surat itu pun disuruh baca kepada Bentara Tun Jebat.

The ruler odered the letter to be read aloud by the page Tun Jebat.

¤  pun signals shift of focus from Bendahara to letter

¤  disuruh baca:   surat is treated as the target of suruh, though really it is the target of baca; cf. English ‘the letter was ordered to be read’.

Maka dibaca oleh Bentara Tun Jebat, terlalu sekali baik bunyi rencananya.

Its formulation was excellent,

¤  still talking about the letter, as there is no pun to shift focus

¤  front position of verb emphasises the action of reading

Maka raja pun terlalu sukacita mendengar karangan surat itu.

and the ruler was very pleased with its composition.

¤  pun signals shift of focus to the ruler

¤  mendengar:   me- form, allows the ruler to be named first, no emphasis.

Setelah sudah maka Tun Utama dan Tun Bija Sura pun dianugerah persalin.

Tun Utama and Tun Bija Sura were then granted sets of clothing

¤  pun marks shift of focus from ruler to the two courtiers

¤  double target: T diV T structure; the actor, the ruler, is implied by use of the term anugerah ‘bestow’.

Maka Tun Bija Sura dan Tun Utama pun menjunjung duli lalu bermohon turun ke perahunya, lalu belayar ke Inderapura.

whereupon they paid homage to His Majesty and sought leave to board the boats. Then they set sail for Inderapura,

¤  pun restates the focus on the two courtiers

¤  bermohon, turun, belayar: just naming actions, no emphasis.

Berapa lamanya belayar itu maka sampailah ke Inderapura.

When they arrived,

¤  actor is unstated, but as there has been no shift of focus, it carries over from the previous sentence.

Maka dipersembahkan oranglah kepada raja Inderapura,

this fact was laid before the prince of Inderaputra, thus:

¤  dipersembahkan orang:   diV A with indefinite actor;

¤  no pun because there is no shift of focus to new target or actor

¤  emphasis on the action not the actor.

"Ya tuanku, utusan raja Melaka dua buah dendang datang. Nama rajadutanya Tun Utama dan upadutanya Tun Bija Sura."

“My Lord, an embassy has come from Malacca in two boats. The ambassador is named Tun Utama and his deputy is Tun Bija Sura.”

¤  the speech relates information without emphasis

Setelah raja mendengar sembah orang itu maka raja pun memberi titah akan Bendahara Seri Buana, "Hai Bendahara, segeralah berlengkap sambut surat saudara kita Yang Dipertuan Melaka itu.

On hearing this submission, the prince issued a command to his Prime Minister, Seri Buana, “Prime Minister, make immediate preparations to receive a letter from our brother the Lord of Malacca.”

¤  raja mendengar:  just an attendant circumstance, no shift of focus yet

¤  raja pun memberi:  focus is now on ruler; me- form is used so that ruler can be mentioned first in the phrase

* * *

Maka Hang Tuah pun mengaji pula pada lebai Jawa hendak diketahuinya akan bahasa Jawa itu.

And Hang Tuah studied under a Javanese scholar in order to learn Javanese.

¤  pun foregrounds Hang Tuah

¤  diketahuinya akandiV A akan T

Kalakian, setelah habislah rata diketahuinya dua belas bahasa itu, maka Hang Tuah pun pulanglah ke rumahnya.

Finally, when he had fully learnt all twelve languages, Hang Tuah returned home.

¤  diketahuinya:   diV A T

¤  focus on Hang Tuah is reasserted