What is maaf for in the Indonesian language? A study of its use in written sources

siti sumarti, Wening Sahayu, Sulis Triyono


Apologizing, commonly, contains the word ‘sorry’ for the English language and other languages, has the meaning of ‘feeling regret or penitence’. In the Indonesian language, ‘sorry’ is similar to the word ‘maaf’. The study focuses on the use of ‘maaf’ in the Indonesian language. Its primary aim is to find out the functions of ‘maaf’ in the Indonesian language. The subject of this study is written data which is from three Indonesian novels. Meanwhile, the object is the functions of the use of the word ‘maaf’. Reading attentively method was used in collecting data specifically in noting technique. The technique used for data analysis is pragmatic (identity) method. The researchers used the framework by Kimura (1994) combined with Pratiwi and Hilaliyah (2018) in analyzing the functions of ‘maaf’ in the Indonesian language. Based on the analysis, it was found that the function of ‘maaf’ in the Indonesian language are for regret (63 occurrences) as the most used in the novels, followed by attention-getter (five occurrences), closing (four occurrences), request (three occurrences), and mocking or teasing (two occurrences ) as the least used function. Generally, the characters in the novel were displayed to produce apologies in different ways, depending on power (i.e. employee to employer), relationships (i.e. a nephew to his aunt, between friends), age (i.e. same age, young to old, and vice-versa) and situation (i.e. approaching strangers). These different ways bear various functions of ‘maaf’ in their conversations. The article further elaborates on the results and provides recommendations for future research in related studies.


the word maaf; Indonesian language; novels; function

Full Text:



Asmali, M., & Yavuz, A. (2014). The apology strategies of Turkish, Polish and Latvian prospective English teachers. International Journal of Language Studies, 8(3), 55-84.

Austin, J. L. (1962). How to do things with words. Oxford University Press.

Black, E. (2006). Pragmatic stylistics. Edinburgh University Press.

Boangmanalu, I. A., & Lumbangaol, G. (2015, November 13-14). Penggunaan kata ‘maaf’ dan ‘terimakasih’: Kesantunan berbahasa bahasa Batak Toba [Using the words ‘sorry’ and ‘thank you’: Politeness in the Toba Batak language] [Paper presentation]. Prosiding Seminar Nasional Prasasti II, Surakarta, Indonesia.

Borkin, A., & Reinhart, S. M. (1978). Excuse me and I’m sorry. Tesol Quarterly, 12(1), 57-69.

Brown, G., & Yule, G. (1983). Discourse analysis. Cambridge University Press.

Cheng, S. W. (2006). An exploratory cross-sectional study of interlanguage pragmatic development of expressions of gratitude by Chinese learners of English. (Unpublished doctoral dissertation). University of Iowa.

Creswell, J. W. (2009). Research design: Qualitative, quantitative and mixed approaches (3rd edition). SAGE Publications. Inc.

Cruse, D. A. (2006). A glossary of semantics and pragmatics. Edinburgh University Press.

Crystal, D. (2008). A dictionary of linguistics and phonetics (6th edition). Blackwell Publishing.

Dawson, H. C. (2016). Language files: materials for an introduction to language and linguistics (12th edition). The Ohio State University Press.

Denzin, N. K., & Lincoln, Y. S. (2005). Introduction: The discipline and practice of qualitative research. In N. K. Denzin, & Y. S. Lincoln (Eds). The sage handbook of qualitative research (3rd edition) (pp. 1-32). Sage Publications.

Departement Pendidikan Nasional. (2008). Kamus Besar Bahasa Indonesia [Dictionary of Bahasa Indonesia]. Pusat Bahasa.

Fatigante, M., Biassoni, F., Marazzini, F., & Diadori, P. (2016). Responsibility and culpability in apologies: Distinctive uses of ‘sorry’ versus ‘I’m sorry’ in apologizing. Discourse Processes, 53(1-2), 26-46.

Fatma, Sumarlam, & Suwandi, S. (2018). Various language choice factors on local language directive speech acts at University in Central of Sulawesi. Advances in Social Science, Education and Humanities Research, 262, 57-66.

Gusthini, M., Sobarna, C., & Amalia, R. M. (2018). A pragmatic study of speech as an instrument of power: Analysis of the 2016 USA Presidential Debate. Studies in English Language and Education, 5(1), 97-113.

Ide, R. (1998). 'Sorry for your kindness': Japanese interactional ritual in public discourse. Journal of Pragmatics, 29, 509-529.

Kimura, K. (1994). The multiple functions of ‘sumimasen’. Issues in Applied Linguistics, 5(2), 279-302.

Kinasih, E. (2010). Jingga dan senja. Gramedia.

Kinasih, E. (2011). Jingga dalam elegi. Gramedia.

Lingley, D. (2006). Apologies across cultures: An analysis of intercultural communication problems raised in the Ehime Maru incident. Asian EFL Journal, 8, 97-122

Nomarlinda, P., & Manaf, N. A. (2019). The politeness of the acts of speech in the Indonesian language learning group discussion. Advances in Social Science, Education and Humanities Research, 301, 541-544.

Nufus, A. (2018). My lovely boss. Grasindo.

Nugroho, M. (2018, September 23-24). Penggunaan kata ‘maaf’ pada pesan WhatsApp: Studi kasus pesan mahasiswa kepada dosen (Sebuah kajian pragmatik) [The use of the word ‘sorry’ in WhatsApp message: A case study of the messages of university students to lecturer (A pragmatic approach)] [Paper presentation]. Prosiding Seminar Nasional Pertemuan Ilmiah Bahasa dan Sastra Indonesia (PIBSI) XL, Pekalongan, Indonesia.

Pratiwi, N. K., & Hilaliyah, H. (2018, September 14). Majas sindiran dalam akun Instagram @ayutingting92 [Satirical figure of speech in Instagram account of @ayutingting92] [Paper presentation]. Prosiding Bahasa, Sastra, dan Politik di Era Siber, Pekalongan, Indonesia.

Retnowati, N. (2015). Ragam tindak tutur permintaan maaf mahasiswa program studi Pendidikan Bahasa Inggris FKIP-UIKA bogor [Variety of speech acts of apology students of English Education study program of FKIP-UIKA Bogor]. Tarbawiyah, 12(01), 59-80.

Stake, R. E. (2005). Qualitative case studies. In N. K Denzin, & Y. S. Lincoln (Eds.), The sage handbook of qualitative research (3rd edition) (pp. 443-466). Sage Publications.

Sudaryanto. (2015). Metode dan aneka teknik analisis bahasa [Methods and various language analysis techniques]. Duta Wacana.

Tabatabaei, S., Gencer, G., Eldem, E. & Bakhtiarvand, M. (2018). A comparative analysis of apology strategy between Turkish EFL learners and native speakers of English. Applied Linguisics Research Journal, 2(3), 48-57.

van Dijk, T. A. (2008). Discourse and context: A sociocognitive approach. Cambridge University Press.

Weigand, E. (2018). Dialogue: The key to pragmatics. In E. Weigand, & I. Kecskes (Eds.), From pragmatics to dialogue (pp. 5-28). John Benjamins B.V.

Yule, G. (1996). Pragmatics. Oxford University Press.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.24815/siele.v7i2.16637


  • There are currently no refbacks.

Print ISSN: 2355-2794, Online ISSN: 2461-0275

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.