Bahsa/Basa Acèh
بهسا اچيه
Pronunciation[bahsa at͡ʃeh]
Native toIndonesia
RegionAceh, Sumatra
Native speakers
4.7 million (2020 census)[1]
Latin script
Jawoë script
Official status
Official language in
Language codes
ISO 639-2ace
ISO 639-3ace
Aceh Province, Sumatra
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Speakers of Acehnese

Acehnese or Achinese (Jawi: بهسا اچيه) is an Austronesian language natively spoken by the Acehnese people in Aceh, Sumatra, Indonesia. This language is also spoken by Acehnese descendants in some parts of Malaysia like Yan, in Kedah.


As of 1988, Acehnese is the modern English name spelling and the bibliographical standard, and Acehnese people use the spelling Acehnese when writing in English. Achinese is an antiquated spelling of the English language tradition. Atjehnese is the Dutch spelling and an outdated Indonesian one. The spelling Achehnese originates from a 1906 English translation of the Dutch-language Studien over atjesche klank- en schriftleer. Tijdschrift voor Indische Taal-, Land- en Volkenkunde 35.346-442 by Christiaan Snouck Hurgronje, 1892. In Acehnese the language is called Basa/Bahsa Acèh. In Indonesian it is called Bahasa Aceh.[2]

Classification and related languages

Acehnese belongs to the Malayo-Polynesian branch of Austronesian. Acehnese's closest relatives are the other Chamic languages, which are principally spoken in Vietnam and Cambodia. The distant relative of the Chamic family is the Malayic language family, which includes languages also spoken in Sumatra such as Minangkabau as well as the national language, Indonesian.

Paul Sidwell notes that Acehnese likely has an Austroasiatic substratum.[3]


Regencies in Aceh with Acehnese language majority

Acehnese language is spoken primarily in coastal region of Aceh. This language is spoken in thirteen regencies and four cities in Aceh, which are:


  1. Sabang
  2. Banda Aceh
  3. Lhokseumawe
  4. Langsa

North-East Coast

  1. Aceh Besar
  2. Pidie
  3. Pidie Jaya
  4. Bireuen
  5. North Aceh
  6. East Aceh (except in three districts, Serba Jadi, Peunaron and Simpang Jernih, where the Gayo language is spoken)
  7. Aceh Tamiang (Mostly Manyak Payet and Kuala Simpang District; the rest of the Regency speaks a variety of the Malay language)

West-South Coast

  1. Aceh Jaya
  2. West Aceh
  3. Nagan Raya
  4. Southwest Aceh (except in Susoh District where the Aneuk Jamee language is spoken)
  5. South Aceh (mixed with Kluet language and Aneuk Jamee)


Main article: Acehnese phonology

Bilingual tsunami warning sign in Indonesian and Acehnese

Oral monophthong vowels in Acehnese are shown in the table below.[4]

Acehnese vowels
Front Central Back
Close i ɨ ~ ɯ u
Close-mid e ə o
Open-mid ɛ ʌ ɔ
Open a

In addition to the modern 26 letter basic Latin alphabet, Acehnese uses the supplementary letters è, é, ë, ô, and ö, making a total of 31 letters in its orthography.

Hikayat Prang Sabi

The table below shows the Acehnese consonant phonemes and the range of their realizations.[5]

Labial Alveolar Palatal Velar Glottal
Nasal plain m n ɲ ŋ
post-stopped (mᵇ) (nᵈ) (ɲᶡ) (ŋᶢ)
Plosive voiceless p t c k ʔ
voiced b d ɟ ɡ
Fricative voiceless f s ʃ h
voiced z
Approximant l j w
Trill r



Acehnese features a split ergative system. Intransitives that align with the agent of a transitive verb (Sa) always show agreement by a proclitic (1). Meanwhile, intransitives that align with the patient of a transitive verb (Sp) may optionally show agreement by an enclitic (2). Volitionality is the determining factor for whether an intransitive verb is Sa or Sp.[9]






Jih ka=ji=jak.

he INCHO=3=go

"He has gone."






Gopnyan ka=saket=geuh.

he INCHO=sick=3

"He is sick."

Writing system

Formerly, the Acehnese language was written in an Arabic script called Jawoë or Jawi in the Malay language. The script is less common nowadays.[citation needed] Since colonization by the Dutch, the Acehnese language has been written in the Latin script, with the addition of supplementary letters. The diacritical letters are é, è, ë, ö and ô.[10] The sound /ɨ/ is represented by ⟨eu⟩ and the sound /ʌ/ is represented by ⟨ö⟩, respectively. The letter 'ë' is used exclusively to represent the schwa sound which forms the second part of diphthongs. The letters f, q, v, x, and z are only used in loanwords.

Grapheme Phoneme
Open syllable Closed syllable
a /a/ ba /ba/ 'carry' bak /baʔ/ 'at, tree'
e /ə/ le /lə/ 'many' let /lət/ 'pull out'
é /e/ baté /bate/ 'cup, betel tray' baték /bateʔ/ 'batik'
è /ɛ/ /bɛ/ 'smell' bèk /bɛʔ/ prohibitive 'don't' (e.g. bèk neupajoh boh gantang lôn 'don't you eat my fries')
ë /ə/ huë /huə/ 'pull' huëk /huəʔ/ 'choke'
eu /ɯ/ keu /kɯ/ 'front' keuh /kɯh/ 'so (e.g. nyan keuh), pronominal affix for second person (e.g. droe-keuh)'
i /i/ di /di/ 'in, from' dit /dit/ 'few, small amount'
o /ɔ/ yo /jɔ/ 'afraid' yok /jɔʔ/ 'shake'
ô /o/ /ro/ 'spill' rôh /roh/ 'enter'
ö /ʌ/ /pʌ/ 'fly' pöt /pʌt/ 'pluck, pick'
u /u/ su /su/ 'sound, voice' sut /sut/ 'remove, detach'
Grapheme Phoneme
Extra notes
b /b/
c /c/
d /d/
f /f/ Used in foreign words. Usually replaced with p (/p/).
g /ɡ/
h /h/
j /ɟ/
k /k/, /ʔ/ at the end of a syllable.
l /l/
m /m/
mb /mb/
n /n/
nd /nd/
ng /ŋ/
ngg /ŋɡ/
nj /ɲɟ/
ny /ɲ/
p /p/
q /q, k/ Used in foreign words. Usually replaced with k (/k/).
r /r/
s /s/
sy /ʃ/
t /t/
v /v/ Used in foreign words. Usually replaced with b (/b/).
w /w/
x /ks/ Used in foreign words. Usually replaced with ks (/ks/).
y /j/
z /z/ Used in foreign words.


Acehnese language is rich with literature. The oldest manuscript written in Acehnese is Hikayat Seumau'un from 1658 CE. Most Acehnese literatures consist of poetic works, very little written in prose form.[12]


At least ten Achehnese dialects exist: Pasè, Peusangan, Matang, Pidië, Buëng, Banda, Daya, Meulabôh, Seunagan, and Tunong.[13]



Acehnese[14] Indonesian English translation
kèe aku I
ulôn, lôn, lông saya I (polite)
ulôn tuan, lôn tuan saya I (most polite)
kamoe kami we (exclude)
geutanyoe, tanyoe kita we (include)
jih dia he/she/it
gop nyan beliau he/she/it (polite)
droeneuh nyan beliau he/she/it (most polite)
awak nyoe/nyan mereka they
ureueng nyoe/nyan mereka they (polite)
kah kau you
gata kamu you (for younger)
droeneuh Anda you (polite)
awak kah kalian you (plural)
ureueng droeneuh kalian you (plural) (polite)


Acehnese[15] Indonesian English translation
sa satu one
dua dua two
lhèe tiga three
peuet empat four
limong lima five
nam enam six
tujôh tujuh seven
lapan delapan eight
sikureueng sembilan nine
siplôh sepuluh ten

Interrogative words

Acehnese[16] Indonesian English translation
peue, pue apa what
soe siapa who
pajan kapan when
töh, siré yang mana which
pat di mana where
panè dari mana from where
ho ke mana to where
padum, padit berapa how many
pakri, paban bagaimana how
pakön kenapa why



  1. ^ Acehnese at Ethnologue (18th ed., 2015) (subscription required)
  2. ^ Durie (1988a:104)
  3. ^ Sidwell, Paul (2006). "Dating the separation of Acehnese and Chamic by etymological analysis of the Aceh-Chamic lexicon" (PDF). Mon-Khmer Studies. 36: 187–206. Archived (PDF) from the original on 2014-11-08. Retrieved 2012-10-22.(, Alternate Archived 2014-11-08 at the Wayback Machine, )
  4. ^ Pillai & Yusuf (2012:1031), citing Asyik (1987:17)
  5. ^ Asyik (1982:3)
  6. ^ Durie (1985:24)
  7. ^ Asyik (1982:2), citing Lawler (1977)
  8. ^ Long & Maddieson (1993) "Consonantal evidence against Quantal Theory", UCLA Working Papers in Phonetics 83, p. 144.
  9. ^ Durie, Mark (1988). "Preferred argument structure in an active language", Lingua 74: 1–25. Cited in Donohue, Mark (2008). "Semantic alignment systems: what's what, and what's not". In Donohue, Mark & Søren Wichmann, eds. (2008). The Typology of Semantic Alignment. Oxford: Oxford University Press. p. 36
  10. ^ "Ejaan Bahasa Aceh". November 12, 2008.
  11. ^ a b "Acehnese language and alphabet".
  12. ^ Durie, Mark (1996). "Framing the Acehnese Text: Language Choice and Discourse Structures in Aceh". Oceanic Linguistics. 35 (1): 113–137. doi:10.2307/3623033. ISSN 0029-8115.
  13. ^ Sulaiman, B. (1981). Kedudukan dan Fungsi Bahasa Aceh di Aceh. Jakarta: Pusat Pembinaan dan Pengembangan Bahasa.
  14. ^ "Kata Ganti Orang dalam Bahasa Aceh". Portal Belajar Bahasa Aceh (in Indonesian). 2009-10-25. Retrieved 2021-08-24.
  15. ^ "Angka/Bilangan". Portal Belajar Bahasa Aceh (in Indonesian). 2008-11-28. Retrieved 2021-08-23.
  16. ^ "Kata Tanya". Portal Belajar Bahasa Aceh (in Indonesian). 2008-11-25. Retrieved 2021-08-23.


Further reading