I Dewa Putu Wijana
Faculty of Cultural Sciences, Universitas Gadjah Mada
This paper deals with Javanese riddles which are very popular among the Javanese speakers who exploit them for achieving various communicative purposes. From the data collected from web sites and Javanese lesson books, it is found that there are three types of riddles, namely analogous riddles, pun riddle, and pragmatic riddle. The first type is created on the basis of cognitive cultural similarities existing between the riddle’s questions and the answers. The second type is constructed by various kinds of verbal plays, such as ambiguities, synonymy, acronyms, etc. The third type is created by violations of pragmatic presumptions which are unconsciously considered by the addressee. Finally, Rhyming and complicated syllabic patterning also play important parts that make the riddles interesting and easy to recollect.
Key Words: riddle, ambiguity, and verbal play
One among many things that differentiate between human beings and other creatures is their ability to play. Playing constitutes the most important element in human life. It is a part of human learning process before achieving maturity. Even after becoming matured people, they do not stop to play. For this ability human beings are called “homo luden”. For fulfilling this habit human beings create various kinds of games using varieties of device founds surround their life, including the language they use as means of communication. As far as the language is concerned, various genres of verbal formulas can be found in either traditional and modern societies. One of them is riddle which constitutes the study object of this paper with focuses of attention on traditional riddles found in Javanese society. There are two main reasons that underlie the choice of it. First, in this global era these traditional formulas are relatively easy to find in websites Second, there are still a lot of problems, such as category, play on words, rhyming, communicative functions that should be clarified because up till now, there is still no serious study carried out by experts concerning these matters. This paper will focus its attentionon on the first matters, i.e . riddle category, and try to relate it with play on words and rhyming exploited in creating the riddle amusements.
Eventhough a lot riddle materials have been compiled in relation of local languages, such as Bengkulu, Lampung, Basemah, Acehnese, Batak, Nias, Dayak Toraja, Madura, Sundanese , Tabaru, Alfuru, Javanese, etc. (Stokhof, 1981, Wijana, 2014, 6), only few serious studies are found discussing riddle matters seriously. Those studies are done by Stokhof (1981) about 100 Woisika riddles, one of 13 languages spoken in Alor Isles; Wijana (2014a) about Modern Indonesian riddles, and (2014b) about Timpedan and Jejangkitan, two types of riddle found in Bali. This rareness is caused by the vehement opinions of the modern societies which regard that everything related to humorous discourses, including riddle is trivial and not serious. These opinions are rotted from very long history in which aristotle saw the pun as a danger of philosophy. The literary critics consider pun as the fatal Cleopatra which spoilt Shakespeare’s plays, and William Empson described puns as not ‘manly’ (Cook, 2000, 81). All these opinions are obviously unfair for they do not objectively see that such kinds of word play are not essentially different from ones found in literary works although they intended to achieve different goal. Play on words in humorous discourses are mostly for creating jokes while ones in literary works for aeshtetic effects. And, both types of discourses play important roles for its own community.
Theoretical Frame Work
No one so far can deny that humorous discourses, including riddles, have a lot of communicative functions in maintaining the social cohesion among their speech community members. Riddle is one among many traditional formulas bearing local wisdom in a given community (Rahyono, 2015, 201-213). Their existence amid the society members is not merely intended to create jokes for amusing them but also for more significant purposes depending on the speech situations: who, where, when, and to what end the riddles are performed. The influence of riddle discourse in ritual, art, religion, and magic has been deeply discussed by many scholars (cook, 2000, 87). Mostly riddles in the past time are considerably different from children’s riddles which are infantile and feeble such as (1) and (2) below:
(1) + What goes up when the rain comes down?
– An umbrella
(2) + Why did the bull rush?
- Because it saw the cow slip
Example (3) below is a riddle found in Sophocles: Oedipus the King which is full of myth and magic.
(3) + There is a creature that moves upon the earth, on two feet, on four, and on three.
In more recent time, in the 1950s (3) is modified and used as joke among the Scottish school children, regardless of its origin (Opie & Opie 1959: 76; Cook, 2000, 79). Consider the following (4):
(4) - Walks on four feet
On two feet, on three.
The more feet it walks on
The weaker it be
+ person: crawling, walking, and walking with stick in old age
The centrality of riddle roles with regards to ritual and process of transformantion in several communities has been informed by Hasan-Rokem and Shulman (1996), and Handelman (1996), 49. Hasan-Rokem and Shulman (1996) reports that among the Gonds of central India, riddles are recited at the village border when one of their member is dying accompanied by the beating of drum. Meanwhile Handelman’s study (1996, 49) on Africa, Carribean, and South-East Asia reports that the riddle are played in various sacred ocassions, such as marriages, funerals, and the choice of a king. In Finland, the use of riddle is inseperable part of courtship, education, greeting, narratives, and songs. Eventhough the riddling activities are not found in ritualistic ocassions, the Javanese society has many types of riddles as a reflection of its obsessed people to enjoy play on words (See Wijana, 2003, 1). This brief paper will try to discuss Javanese ridlle with the focus of atention on the types, analogy and various play on words included within which have not been satisfactorily explained by the experts.
All data presented in this paper are collected from website and Javanese lesson books. They are further be classified according to the types and play on words exploited by the creators for concealing the solution of the riddles problem. To make ease of understanding the riddle, two stages of glossing, i.e “word to word” and “free translation” are carried out.
A close and careful examination toward the Javanese riddles in the data collection shows that based on their types, Javanese riddles can simply be at least distinghuised into 3 types. Those are analogical riddle, pun riddle, and pragmatic riddle. Each type will be described in detail in the following sections.
Analogous riddle is any riddle created by analogically resembles the question that constitutes the riddle problem with the answer or the riddle solution. With regards to the answer, this type of riddle covers various themes, such as fruit, plant and food, animal, house utensil, human beings and their activities, clothe, playing instrument, etc. For example, see (5) s.d. (10) below:
(5) + Bapak Demang klambi abang yen disuduk manthuk-manthuk.
Mr. Village headman shirt red if stabbed nooding
‘Mr. Village headman wearing red shirt, and nodding when it is stabbed’
- Jantung pisang
(6) + Bocah cilik nggendong omah.
Child little carrying house
‘A little child who always carrying his/her house’
(7) + Bocah cilik blusak blusuk nang kebon.
Child little goes in and out to garden
‘A little child goes in and out of garden’
(8) + Dijupuki malah dadi mundhak gedhe
To be taken instead becoming increase big
‘It is continually taken, yet getting bigger’
Wong nggawe jogangan
- A person digging a hole
(9) + Dikethok malah tambah dhuwur
To be cut instead becoming long
‘It is cut, yet getting longer’
(10) + Kayu mati ginubed ula mati.
Wood dead is twisted snake dead
‘Dead wood is twisted around by dead snake’
In riddle (5), a banana bud, part of plant, is resembled with a village headman wearing red shirt which is likely nodding when it is stabbed using bamboo pole. In (6), the snail and its shell are perceived similar as a little child carrying a house everywhere. In (7) the needle moves in sewing or stichting activities are conceived as a child coming in and out of a garden. In (8) the earth taking in hole digging activities apparently will make the hole bigger instead of turning it smaller as used to be in any other activities. In (9) the pants will actually become shorter if it is cut, but higher when it is worn. Finnaly a wooden top in traditional game is look like a piece of dead wood twisted around by a dead snake (10).
Eventhough, nearly all of Javanese literatures regard riddles found in various genres of Javanese song (asmaradhana, kinanthi, pangkur,and pucung) as separate category from analogical riddle, this type of riddle, based on its semantic characteristics, seems more appropriete to be included under the the same category with such type of ridlle, except its analogical similarities is much longer than ones found in common analogical ridlle. The songs themselves are charactirized by complicated rhyming pattern. Consider riddle (11) and (12) below:
(11) + Wonten ta dhapur sawiji; Tanpa sirah tanpa tenggak; Mung gatraning weteng bae; Miwah
There particle one; without head without neck; only shape belly just; and
‘There is something; without head and without neck; It shapes only a belly; and
Suku kalihira; Nging tanpa dlamakan; Kanthaning bokong kadulu; Rumaket ing para priya
Leg all two; but without sole of foot; shape buttock visible; close to men
Both are legs, but without sole of foot; it shapes a visible buttock; and it is attached to men.’
(12) + Wonten putri luwih ayu; Tan ana ingkang tumandhing; Sariranira sang retna Owah- owah
There girl more beautiful; no there which to compare; body her the girl; changed
‘there is a more beautiful girl; No one to be compared with; Her body always changes
saben ari; Yen rina kucem kang cahya; mung ratri mancur nelahi
every day; if day pale its shine; but night shine very bright
every day; in a day time its shine is pale; but it shines brightly in night’
Because of its relatively longer formula, the riddles found in Javanese song (tembang) use more analogies to compare the characteristics between something being asked and the answer. In riddle (11) the entity being asked is characterized by 6 atttributes, while in (12) by 4 atrributes.
As denoted by the name, pun riddles are ones that are created various kinds of play on words. Mostly this type of riddle is uttered to evoke humor or elicit jocular situation. Pun riddle simply can be distincted into types, namely “pun riddle based on acronym” and “pun based on ambiguity”. Acronyms used to create riddles in Javanese are ones formed by penultimate and or ultimate syllable bulging , as shown in (13) to (15) below:
(13) Burnas kopen > Bubur panas kokopen
Porridge hot eat with your mouth close to the bowl
‘Hot porridge, enjoy it with your mouth close to the bowl!
(14) Gowang pelot > Jagone ana lawang cempene mencolot
Rooster be door lamb leap
‘The rooster is close to the door, and the lamb leaps’
(15) Itik pertis ibu perbeng ijah perlong > Tai pitik memper petis, tai kebo
Shit chiken like soya bean sauce, shit buffalo
memper ambeng, tai gajah memper golong
like big tray, shit elephant like big lump
‘chiken shit is like permented soya bean sauce, buffalo shit is like a big tray, and elephant shit is like a big lump’
Sometimes the created acronyms entirely or partly, phonologically homonymous with other Javanese expressions, such as manuk biru (bird-blue) in (16) can also mean ‘blue bird’, buta buri (giant-back) in (17) ‘back giant’, and gerbong tulis (railway coach-writing) ‘writting coach’ in (18), but the intention meanings are totally different. Consider (16), (17), and (18) below:
(16) Manuk biru: Pamane punuk bibine kuru
Bird blue: uncle article hump, aunt article skinny
‘Blue bird: The uncle has hump, the aunt is skinny’
(17) Buta buri: Tebu ditata mlebu lori
Giant back: sugar cane to be arranged enter lory
Back Giant: the sugar cane is arranged and put in the lory
(18) Gerbong tulis: Pager kobong watune mendhelis
Railway coach writting: fence is burnt stone aricle coming out
‘Writting coach: the fence is burnt, and the stone is visible.’
Because of the final rhyming of the question and answer, acronym riddle can also found in Javanese traditional songs, such as seen in the following (19):
(19) Tulung-tulung ana gedhang awoh gori;
Help, help there banana bear fruit jack fruit
‘Please help, there is a banana bear jack fruit’
Ana pitik ndhase telu; Gandhenana endhase;
There chiken head three; Mallet (imperatif) head the
‘Theree is a chiken has three heads; Hit its head with mallet
Ki dhalang yen mati sapa sing mikul; Ana buta nunggang grobak;
Mr puppeteer if dead who that carry; there giant ride cart
‘Mr. Puppeteer, if you were dead no one would carry you; there is a giant riding a cart’
Selawe sunguting gangsir.
Twenty five antenna mole cricket
‘Mole cricket has twenty five antennas’
Riddle (19) apperently does not bear any sensation if the addressee can reveal its alternative meaning that is based on acronymic punning consisted in each line. The acronyms are as follow:
Gedhang awoh gori > Gedhang awoh ditegori
banana bears fruit is fell down
The bearing fruit banana is fell down
Pitik ndhase telu > pitik ndhase dibuntel wulu
chiken head its to be wrapped feather
‘the chiken heads is covered by feathers’
Dhalang > kadhal lan walang
Lizard and grass hopper
‘Lizard and grass hopper’
Buta > tebu ditata
Sugar cane to be arranged
The piled up sugar cane
Selawe > sa lawe
‘Piece of thread’
It is certainly very common or not surprising if the head of chiken is covered with feather; No one will bear the carcass of lizard and grass hopper to the cemetry; The piled up sugar cane is put in a cart ; and the mole cricket’s antenna is big as a piece of thread.
Different from acronym riddle, ambiguity based riddles rely their wit on various plays of ambiguous linguistic expressions, such as shown by (20) to (21) below:
(20) + Urang sapikul matane pira?
Prawn one carrying pole eyes their how many?
How many eyes does one carrying pole of prawn contain?
(21) + Domana silithe, bubutana wulune, katik isa mabur?
needle (imperative) anus, pull up (imperative) feather, why can fly
‘sew the anus with needle, pull up the feather, but why can it still fly?
One carrying pole of prawn (shrimp) in (20) will presupposedly have plenty more of eyes, but the answer nem ‘six’ is made possible because urang sapikul can be phonologically ambiguos with urang ‘prawn’, sapi ‘cow’, and (ka)kul ‘snail’. Meanwhile riddle (21) is also ambigous because domana ‘sew with a needle’ , bubutana ‘pull up the feather’, and katik ‘why’ can have another meaning. Domana phonologically ambigous with dom ana ‘needle has’, bubutana with bubut ana ‘coucal has’, and katik ‘pigeon’. In other ocassions, katik is replaced by kok ‘why’ which is also ambiguous because of its possibility to be related with ble(kok) ‘heron’ through firts syllablic deeletion. So, (20) can also be interpreted as (22) and (21) as (23) below:
(22) Urang, sapi, lan kakul matane pira?
Prawn, cow, and snail eyes their how many
How many eyes, do prawn, cow, and snail have all together?
(23) Dom ana silite, bubut ana wulune, katik isa mabur.
needle there anus, coucal there feather, pigeon can fly
Needle has hole, coucal has feathers, pigeon can fly
The ambiguity played by the creators is not only limited on linguistic expressions that have identical sound (homophone), it can also involve other semantic relations, such as polysemi, synonymy, and combination among them. For instance, see the following (24) and (25) below:
(24) + Lawa telu kalong loro ana pira?
Bat three reduce two there how many
‘Three bats minus one. How many bats left?
(25) + Ing sadhuwuring lawang ana cecak. Yen cecak iku lunga,
On the top door there small house lizard. If lizard that go
‘On the top of a door, there was a small lizard . If it went by
Cecak iku dadi kewan kang isa mabur
Lizard that become animal that can fly
The lizard would become a flying animal.
Riddle (24) relies its wit on the synonymous of Javanese word lawa ‘bat’ and its informal equivalent ‘kalong’. Kalong itself accidently has another meaning, namely ‘is reduced or minus’ from ka- (passive marker) plus long ‘reduce’. So, in spite of the presupposed/logical answer siji ‘one’, this riddle can also be answered papat ‘four’. Meanwhile, in (25), the creator exploits the complicated Javanese spelling system. The word cecak ‘small house lizard’ is ambigous with cecak that means Javanese spelling diacritic (‘) symbolizing dorsovelar nasal sound [η] in closed syllabic position. This diacritic is placed on the top of symbols to be marked/closed. By playing on the various meaning of lunga ‘go’ which can also be used to mean ‘to be deleted/taken off’, the word lawang ‘door’ will become lawa ‘bat’.
Ambiguities can also arise from the combination of linguitic elements. This phenomenon is commonly called grammatical ambiguity. For example, there is no ambiguity of lexical items consisted in the following (26) , (27), and (28). However, the way they are combined can be exploited to mislead the person to whom the riddle proposed to. Riddle (26) and (27) might bring sensational news if the tempe and the coconut seller are the goal of the hitting act, instead of the merchandises, i.e tempe ‘soya bean cake’ and klapa ‘coconut’. So do (28) if the dead person who are laughing, instead of the people watching over.
(26) Wong dodol tempe ditaleni
Person sells soya bean cake to be tied
‘A person selling soya bean cake is tied’
(27) Wong dodol klapa dikepruki
Person sells coconut to be smashed
‘A person selling coconut is smashed’
(28) Wong mati ditunggoni wong mesam-mesem
Person dead to be watched people smiling
‘A dead person being watched (by the people) is smiling’
These three riddles can also be interpreted respectively to mean ‘the people selling tied soya bean cekes’ (26), ‘A person selling smashed coconuts’ (27), and ‘A dead person is watched by smiling people’(28). All of these three interpretations are common phenomena, and not potential to evoke sensation because they presuppose the same propositions as those assumed by the hearer(s).
Pragmatic riddle is one created by implicative proposition raise by the answer which is usually not to be fully aware by the addressee because (s)he has never taste cat meat. His/her answer are merely based on society’s costumary habit that their community members are not used to slaught a cat. The answer that has been uttered will bring him/her into embarrassment after being expleined by the addresser. Consider riddle (29) below:
(29) Enak endi daging kucing karo daging pitik?
Delicious where meat cat with meat chiken?
‘Which is more delicious cat meat or chiken?’
The addressee’s answer tend to be chiken but (s)he does not realize that the given answer will necessarily bring a consequence that (s)he has ever tasted cat meat. In other words, being able to judge that chiken meat is more delicious than cat meat implies that the addressee has ever enjoyed the taste of the animal meat with which it compare.
In spite of unexpected answers which all riddles may have in order to violate the addressee’s pragmatic presumptions, the beatiful rhyming seems to be an important elements which can make some types of riddle interesting, and easy to remember by the language speakers to which they belong. As far as the rhyming pattern are concerned, it can be created through various complicated ways. The rhyming can be found either among the words forming the line, or among the lines forming the riddle couplets. The rhyming can constitute final sound harmony or the number of syllables or words composing the riddle lines. Examples (30), (31) (32), and (33) below consecutively show those phenomena:
(30) + Abang-abang dudu kidang, pesegi dudu pipisan.
Red (reduplication) not deer, square not herbal medecine grinder
‘It is redish in color but not a deer, it is square but not a herbal medecine grinder’
(31) + Anake diidak-idak, emboke dielus-elus
Child its stepped on, mother its is caressed
‘Its child is stepped on, but its mother is ceressed’
(32) + Ing ngisor kedhung, ing dhuwur payung
In below lake, in above umbrella
‘Below is a lake, above is an umbrella’
- Wong nanak nasi
Person cooking rice
‘A person is steaming rice’
(33) + Wit Adhikih woh adhakah; Wit adhakah woh adhikih.
plant small fruit big; plant big fruit little
‘The plant is small but the fruit is big; The plant is big, but the fruit is little
- Semangka karo ringin
‘Water melon and banyan tree’
Riddle (30) consist of two parts, each of which is composed by three words having 8 syllables. The first part has final syllabic rhyming, abang-abang ‘redish’ and kidang ‘deer’. Riddle (31) is formed by two clauses that have identical verbal pattern, i.e. antonymic reduplicative passive, dielus-elus ‘to be caressed’ and diidak-idak ‘to be stepped on’. Each verb predicates antonymic subject anake ‘the child’ and emboke ‘the mother’. Riddle (32) is composed by two parts that consisting of three words containing equal number of rhyming syllables, i.e kedhung ‘lake’ and payung ‘umbrella’. Each part begins with antonymic prepositional phrases, ing ngisor ‘below’ and ing dhuwur ‘above’. Finally, inspite of the identical number of syllble consisting of each riddle part, the nicety of riddle (33) are created by permutaion of words containing vocalic alternation, wit ‘plant’ and its part woh ‘fruit’ and adakah ‘big’ and its antonym adikih ‘small’.
Every society has riddles which are used by the community members to meet the need of various communicative purposes, starting from the most trivial funtions such as playing and joking up to the most serious ones, such as educating and conducting ritual activities. Although, no riddle functioned to carry out ritual activities found in Javanese society, the people of this society create various types of riddle for mostly fulfilling the need of verbal contests and amusements in order to release the heavy daily life burdens. Javanese riddles can simply be classified into three types, namely analogousl riddle, pun riddle, and pragmatic riddle. Analogous Riddle is created on the basis of cultural cognitive similarity between entities consisted in the question (problem)’s and answer (solution)’s formula. Some analogous riddles riddles are used to compose various genres traditional songs. Different from analogous riddle, pun riddle is created through many kinds of verbal play, such as lexical and grammatical ambiguities, antonymy, Synonymy, and acronyms. Pragmatic riddle is created by implicatures which is unconciously conveyed by the addresee’s answer to the riddle problem given by the addresser. Some riddles are difficult to classify because they combine several creating techniques (punning and analogy) that made them possible to include to either analogous riddle or pun riddle. In spite of the unique relation that holds between the questions and answers, many riddles are also composed by syllabic and phonological rhyming for sound nicety and recollection ease.
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