Updated: Jul 22
In our last two articles, we covered Indonesian homophones & homonyms.
Today, we will discuss Indonesian homographs. A Homograph is a word that has more than one meaning, and is pronounced slightly differently in different situations.
An example of an English homograph would be this word : BASS. It can refer to a musical string instrument. In this case the word is pronounced /beis/.
OR It can also refer to a saltwater fish, in which case the word is pronounced /bas/.
NOW LET’S LOOK AT SOME INDONESIAN HOMOGRAPHS.
If you pronounce this word /ˈap(ə)l/ , you are referring to a kind of fruit. This pronunciation originates from the Dutch language.
On a busy workday, you might tell your colleagues . . .
“Saya tidak makan siang, saya akan makan apel saja.”
(I’m not having lunch today, I’m just having an apple.)
OR If you pronounce this word /ˈapɛl/ , you are talking about a romantic date.
For example . . .
“Saya ada apel sabtu malam ini dengan Rosa.”
(I have a date with Rosa on Saturday night.)
If you pronounce this word /ˈkɛtʃʌp/, you are referring to soya sauce. Indonesians enjoy “kecap manis” (sweet soya sauce) or “kecap asin” (salty soya sauce).
If your food lacks flavour, you might ask the waiter . . .
“Boleh saya minta kecap manis?”
(Can I have sweet soya sauce?)
OR if you pronounce this word /ˈkətʃʌp/, you are talking about someone eating with their mouth open, and producing a “smacking” sound.
If your not-too-polite friend is making this smacking sound in a restaurant,
you might want to say to him or her . . .
“Makan pelan-pelan saja, kecapmu terdengar sampai ke mana-mana!!!”
(Just eat slowly, your smacking can be heard everywhere!!!)
You may assume that this word has a connection to the colour red (merah) . . .
And you would be correct.
If you pronounce the word /məˈmɛ.rah/, we are speaking of something that reddens - something that turns red. For example :
If I embarrass my friend and he blushes, I might say . . .
“Oh maaf, pipimu memerah.”
(Oh sorry, you’re blushing / literally, your cheeks are red.)
If my friend gets a sunburn, I might say . . .
“Hei, kulitmu memerah!”
(Hey, you have a sunburn / literally, your skin is red.)
If our friend did not get enough sleep last night, and has bloodshot eyes,
you might say . . .
“Oh, matamu memerah!”
(Oh, you have bloodshot eyes / literally, your eyes are red.)
OR if you pronounce this word /məˈmə.rah/, you are talking about squeezing moisture or liquid from something. For example :
If I am wringing out my wet clothes, I might say . . .
“Saya sedang memerah baju saya.”
(I am wringing out my clothes.)
If I am milking a cow, I might say . . .
“Saya sedang memerah susu sapi.”
(I am milking a cow.)
If you pronounce this word /tʌˈhu/, you are referring to tofu.
You could say . . .
“Saya lebih suka tahu daripada tempe.”
(I like tofu better than tempe.)
OR if you pronounce this word /tʌu/, you are talking about knowing something.
For example . . .
“Saya tahu kantor pos di mana.”
(I know where the post office is.)
And if you would like to use “tahu” and “tahu” in the same sentence, you could say . . .
“Saya tahu di supermarket mana Anda bisa beli tahu.”
(I know a supermarket where you can buy tofu.)
To end this article on homographs,
let us leave with one of Indonesia’s most famous tongue twisters.
See if you can master this :
“Aku tahu aku suka tahu.”
(I know I like tofu.)