Changing language loyalty and identity: an ethnographic inquiry of societal transformation among the Javanese people in Yogyakarta, Indonesia
This study examines changing language loyalties of the sociopolitically most dominant ethnic group in Indonesia, the Javanese. Although Javanese language has the largest number of speakers, within the last five decades the language is gradually losing its speakers who prioritize the national language, Indonesian. This phenomenon led me to inquire into the extent to which their native language matters for their Javanese identity and how the language planning and policy (LPP) mechanism works to foster Javanese language. To collect data, I conducted a six-month ethnographic research project in Yogyakarta, Indonesia. The findings show that Javanese language shift occurs because of strong supports from the government toward Indonesian by emphasizing its role as a symbol to unify all ethnic groups in Indonesia into one nation. Consequently, interference in intergenerational language transmission, a limited scope of Javanese use, decrease language competence, and negative attitude toward Javanese are evident. Although Javanese language is still perceived as the most profound marker of Javanese identity, it is now challenging to maintain it because of its limited role in most domains. The study also indicates that the Javanese people are now strongly inclined to Islam reflected by their piety to Islamic rules such as positive attitude to learn liturgic Arabic, to leave behind Javanese tradition not in line with Islam, and to view religion as a panacea to heal social problems. This high regard for Islam is also evident in schools. Furthermore, the Javanese people value highly English although nobody uses it as a medium of daily communication. However, the fact that English is tested in the secondary education national exams and the university entrance exam makes it necessary
for people to learn it. In addition, English is regarded as a modern, intellectual, and elite language. In short, the Javanese people perceive English as an avenue to achieve academic and professional success as well as higher social status. Altogether, this study shows that shifting language loyalty among the Javanese people is an indication of societal transformation.