“Lands below the Winds” as Part of the Persian Cosmopolis? Linguistic Borrowings from the Persianate World in Nusantara

Author: Tomáš Petrů (Oriental Institute, Czech Academy of Sciences, Czech Republic)
Speaker: Tomáš Petrů
Topic: Language Contact and Change
CALA 2020 General Session


This paper seeks to trace the areas of Persian linguistic and cultural impact in Insular Southeast Asia to provide a more complex picture of cosmopolitanism and acculturation, which have been taking place in this region since time immemorial. The central argument of this paper is that the societies of the Malay World were once part of a vast supra-national cultural sphere, spanning from the Bosphorus to Southeast Asia, sometimes labeled as the ‘Persian cosmopolis’. The connection of Nusantara to various Persianate societies across the Indian Ocean as the nexus of this contact brought about intense cultural exchange, resulting in numerous and highly formative linguistic, political and material borrowings, mainly on the Malay-Indonesian side. Therefore, the author first strives to expand the general historical knowledge regarding how and how intensely the Malay World was involved in this cultural zone, what particular important shifts and imports occurred during the historical era (11th till 18th centuries) and what the circumstances of this interaction were. This historical approach will be combined with an attempt at historical/contact linguistics via examining a range of Persian loan-words in Malay with the aim to define the main spheres of mutual interaction, which ranged from trade, maritime affairs to statehood.

Keywords: Persian, Persianate world, Malay, Malay world, loan-words, acculturation