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The Structure and Development of an Indonesian Youth Language

Thursday 6 December 2018
Cleveringaplaats 1
2311 BD Leiden


The speech of the people in Malang, East Java, Indonesia, is often misunderstood by other Javanese speakers, because of its distinctive accent and the presence of unfamiliar words in it. Some of them are neither Eastern Javanese nor Indonesian words; they are created through word reversal processes.

Bòsò Walikan Malangan (hereafter referred to as Walikan) is a term used by the people of Malang to refer to the practice of reversing words. The word bòsò means ‘language’, walikan means ‘reversed’, while malangan ‘Malang style’ denotes its origin. Walikan has been around for decades and is mostly used among the youth. It demonstrates the linguistic creativity of its speakers as they manipulate the structure and semantics of words originating from different codes including Javanese, Indonesian, and other non-related languages like English and Arabic.

This presentation aims at describing the typological and sociolinguistic aspects of Walikan. First, we will briefly look at the internal structure of Walikan words and compare it to that of Malangan Javanese and Malangan Indonesian words. It will be shown that the structure of Walikan can clarify certain aspects in the phonology of Malangan Javanese and Malangan Indonesian.

The presentation will focus on the history, the current use, and the direction in which Walikan may develop in the future. We will explore how Walikan metamorphosed from a male-dominated youth language into a language that is also accepted by females and older individuals. Walikan can now be found in spoken media (television, radio, songs, and YouTube) and written media (dictionaries, newspapers, and social media). In addition, Walikan also appears in public signage around the city’s linguistic landscape. We will examine how Walikan, a local linguistic practice that is not supervised by the nation’s Language Planning Bureau, is able to make it into the city’s linguistic landscape.

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