and the New Indonesian Middle Class
This article examines the linguistic form and social functions of
, the informal
Indonesian “language of sociability,” as it is used among Indonesian university students
and in various publications aimed at middle-class Indonesian youth.
isters youth modernity in both its positive and more contested aspects. It expresses not
only young people’s aspirations for social and economic mobility, but also an increas-
ingly cosmopolitan, national youth culture. Perhaps most significantly,
articulates the desire of Indonesian youth for new types of social belonging through the
formulation of relationships that are more egalitarian and interactionally fluid as well as
more personally expressive and psychologically individualized.
youth culture, the new middle class,
ince the fall of the New Order regime in the spring of 1998, a new Indonesian
youth language has captured public attention and has become a lightning rod
for the latest social trends.
, literally ‘social language’ or the ‘lan-
guage of sociability’, is a speech variety associated with Indonesian youth and based
on Indonesia’s national language,
. Among Indonesian university
functions as a type of slang, “the ever-changing and fashionable
vocabulary of sociability that students use casually with one another” (Eble 1996:1).
The casual language of Indonesian student sociability borrows from other informal
Indonesian speech varieties, including Jakartan Indonesian/Jakartan Malay and the
cant of gangsters and criminals (
), but expresses the particular experi-
ences, preoccupations, and aspirations of the current generation of Indonesian youth.
Like the slang used by American college students,
emphasizes a shared
social identity and sense of belonging among its speakers. It speaks to solidarity
rather than status differentials and to a shared positive value placed on cool and
occasionally ironic distancing from the formality and hierarchy of an earlier genera-
differs from American college slang, however, in the degree to which it is
oriented both “upward,” expressing aspirations for social and economic mobility,
and “outward,” expressing an increasingly cosmopolitan, Indonesian youth culture.
Perhaps most significantly
articulates the desire of Indonesian youth for new
types of social identifications through the formulation of relationships that are more
egalitarian and interactionally fluid, as well as more personally expressive and psy-
This article examines the linguistic forms and social meanings of the informal lan-