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Nancy Hefner article - I Nancy J Smith-Hefner BOSTON...

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184 Youth Language, Gaul Sociability, and the New Indonesian Middle Class This article examines the linguistic form and social functions of bahasa gaul , the informal Indonesian “language of sociability,” as it is used among Indonesian university students and in various publications aimed at middle-class Indonesian youth. Bahasa gaul reg- 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, bahasa gaul 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. [Indonesia, slang, youth culture, the new middle class, bahasa gaul ] S 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. Bahasa gaul , literally ‘social language’ or the ‘lan- guage of sociability’, is a speech variety associated with Indonesian youth and based on Indonesia’s national language, bahasa Indonesia . Among Indonesian university students bahasa gaul 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 ( bahasa prokem ), but expresses the particular experi- ences, preoccupations, and aspirations of the current generation of Indonesian youth. Like the slang used by American college students, bahasa gaul 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- tion. Gaul 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 gaul 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- chologically individualized. This article examines the linguistic forms and social meanings of the informal lan- guage of sociability used among Indonesian university students and in various pub- lications aimed at educated, middle-class youth. The research presented here is part Journal of Linguistic Anthropology, Vol. 17, Issue 2, pp. 184–203, ISSN 1055-1360, EISSN 1548-1395. © 2007 by the American Anthropological Association. All rights reserved. Direct requests for permission to pho-
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