Changing Speech Levels among a Traditional Javanese Elite Group

Author: 
Errington, James Joseph
Year: 
1981

     The dissertation is organized in two parts: the first provides sociocultural background necessary for the study and understanding of linguistic facts presented in the second. The ultimate focus is the overall dynamic of sociolinguistic change reflected in speech patterns among the traditional elite in Surakarta, and the way specific kinds of changes can be interpreted as indexical of changing conceptions of interpersonal relations and definitions of social status among members of that group. Thus, the study moves from the sphere of sociocultural analysis to linguistic analysis and back again across a permeable, if palpable, boundary." Thus in the first section are "presented some of the particulars of the structure of the traditional elite society in Surakarta, the relevant parameters for determining individual and relational status of members of the elite, and the patterns of etiquette (particularly linguistic etiquette) through which such interpersonal relations were mediated. Most generally, the social system can be thought of as one in which any person is in principle locatable on one or both of two linear hierarchies. . . . When we turn in the next six chapters to the speech levels -- their changing structure and changing patterns of use -- this conception of a linearized hierarchy . . . [is] of direct relevance. As the traditional system has lost its primacy, so the speech levels -- thought of as linguistic artifacts of personal relations -- have been deprived of their relevance for mediating social interaction. As the simplification and respecification of parameters on a society-wide basis has gone on, the various formal distinctions in the levels have themselves collapsed. This process of simplification . . . [is] traced, and it . . . [is] shown how despecification of relevant contextual features for their use correlates with the despecification of features of social status.

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