Skip to content
Accessible Unlicensed Requires Authentication Published online by De Gruyter Mouton November 29, 2021

Framing variation and intersectional identities within Indonesia’s ethnic Chinese minority

Jessica Birnie-Smith
From the journal Multilingua


Variationist researchers are increasingly adopting intersectionality approaches to analyse identity-linked practice. However, the field of sociolinguistic variation is yet to embrace the full ramifications of intersectionality as an analytical framework. The current paper offers a new method for integrating intersectional approaches into variationist studies by operationalising Blommaert, Jan & Anna De Fina. 2017. Chronotopic identities: On the timespace organization of who we are. In Anna De Fina & Jeremy Wegner (eds.), Diversity and super-diversity, 1–14. Washington: Georgetown University Press chronotopic frame theory. This method is used to examine how the intersectionality of ethnic, national, and peer-group identities is structured and reproduced in different ways through Chinese Indonesian youths’ selection of multilingual variants of an agreement marker in their peer-to-peer interactions at educational institutions in Pontianak city, West Kalimantan, Indonesia. The results illustrate how chronotopic frame approaches to studying identity-linked variation heed calls for integrations of intersectionality to move beyond accounting for intracategorical complexity and instead examine the dynamic mutual constitution of social categories that better represents marginalised people’s lived experiences.

Corresponding author: Jessica Birnie-Smith, Monash University, Melbourne, Australia, E-mail:


Agha, Asif. 2007. Language and social relations. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Search in Google Scholar

Agha, Asif. 2015. Chronotopic formulations and kinship behaviors in social history. Anthropological Quarterly 88(2). 401–415. in Google Scholar

Aijmer, Karin. 2002. English discourse particles: Evidence from corpora. Amsterdam ; Philadelphia: John Benjamins Publishing.10.1075/scl.10Search in Google Scholar

Angouri, Jo & Meredith Marra. 2011. “OK one last thing for today then”: Constructing identities in corporate meeting talk. In Angouri Jo & Meredith Marra (eds.), Constructing identities at work, 85–100. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.10.1057/9780230360051_5Search in Google Scholar

Atmosumarto, Sutanto. 2015. Colloquial Indonesian: The complete course for beginners. London: Routledge.10.4324/9781315649870Search in Google Scholar

Bailey, Benjamin. 2013. Language and negotiation of ethnic/racial identity among Dominican Americans. Language in Society 29(4). 555–582.10.1017/S0047404500004036Search in Google Scholar

Bakhtin, Mikhail. 1981. The dialogic imagination: Four essays by M.M. Bakhtin. Austin: University of Texas Press.Search in Google Scholar

Becker, Kara. 2014. Linguistic repertoire and ethnic identity in New York City. [Special issue]. Language & Communication 35. 43–54. in Google Scholar

Birnie-Smith, Jess. 2018. Chronotopically conditioned identities: The Chinese Indonesian context. Melbourne: Monash University PhD thesis.Search in Google Scholar

Blommaert, Jan. 2007. Sociolinguistic scales. Intercultural Pragmatics 4(1). 1–19. in Google Scholar

Blommaert, Jan. 2015. Chronotopes, scales and complexity in the study of language in society. Annual Review of Anthropology 44(1). 105–116. in Google Scholar

Blommaert, Jan & Anna De Fina. 2017. Chronotopic identities: On the timespace organization of who we are. In Anna De Fina & Jeremy Wegner (eds.), Diversity and super-diversity, 1–14. Washington: Georgetown University Press.Search in Google Scholar

Bucholtz, Mary. 2009. From stance to style: Gender, interaction, and indexicality in Mexican immigrant youth slang. In Alexandra Jaffe (ed.), Stance, 146–190. Oxford: Oxford University Press.10.1093/acprof:oso/9780195331646.003.0007Search in Google Scholar

Bucholtz, Mary. 2010. White kids: Language, race and styles of youth identity. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.10.1017/CBO9780511975776Search in Google Scholar

Campbell-Kibler, Kathryn. 2010. The sociolinguistic variant as a carrier of social meaning. Language Variation and Change 22(3). 423–441. in Google Scholar

Center for Acceleration of Inter-Religious and Ethnic Understanding (CAIREU). 2008. Ethnic dimension in political life: Study in ethnic preference in Pontianak Mayor Election. Pontianak: STAIN.Search in Google Scholar

Childs, Becky & Christine Mallinson. 2006. The significance of lexical items in the construction of ethnolinguistic identity: A case study of adolescent spoken and online language. American Speech 81(1). 3–30. in Google Scholar

Choo, Hae Y. & Myra M. Feree. 2010. Practicing intersectionality in sociological research: A critical analysis of inclusions, interactions and institutions in the study of inequalities. Sociological Theory 28(2). 129–149. in Google Scholar

Chua, Christian. 2004. Defining Indonesian Chineseness under the new order. Journal of Contemporary Asia 34(4). 465–479. in Google Scholar

Coppel, Charles A. 1983. Indonesian Chinese in crisis. Kuala Lumpur: Oxford University Press.Search in Google Scholar

Coppel, Charles A. 2008. Anti-Chinese violence in Indonesia after Soeharto. In Leo Suryadinata (Hrsg.), Ethnic Chinese in contemporary Indonesia, 117–136. Singapore: Institute of Southeast Asian Studies.10.1355/9789812308368-011Search in Google Scholar

Coupland, Nikolas. 2001. Language, situation, and the relational self: Theorizing dialect-style in sociolinguistics. In Penelope Eckert & John R. Rickford (eds.), Style and sociolinguistic variation, 185–210. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.10.1017/CBO9780511613258.012Search in Google Scholar

Coupland, Nikolas. 2007. Style: Language variation and identity. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.10.1017/CBO9780511755064Search in Google Scholar

Crenshaw, Kimberlé. 1989. Demarginalizing the intersection of race and sex: A black feminist critique of antidiscrimination doctrine, feminist theory and antiracist politics. The University of Chicago Legal Forum 140. 139–167.10.4324/9780429499142-5Search in Google Scholar

Davis, Kathy. 2008. Intersectionality as buzzword: A sociology of science perspective on what makes a feminist theory successful. Feminist Theory 9(1). 67–85. in Google Scholar

Djenar, Dwi N., Michael Ewing & Howard Manns. 2018. Style and intersubjectivity in youth interaction. Berlin: De Gruyter Mouton.10.1515/9781614516439Search in Google Scholar

Drager, Katie. 2015. Linguistic variation, identity construction and cognition (Studies in Laboratory Phonology 2). Berlin: Language Science Press.10.26530/OAPEN_603352Search in Google Scholar

Du Bois, John. 2007. The stance triangle. In Robert Englebretson (ed.), Stancetaking in discourse subjectivity, evaluation and interaction, 139–182. Amsterdam: John Benjamins Publishing.10.1075/pbns.164.07duSearch in Google Scholar

Eckert, Penelope. 1989. Jocks and burnouts: Social categories and identity in the high school. New York: Teachers College Press.Search in Google Scholar

Eckert, Penelope. 2000. Linguistic variation as social practice: The linguistic construction of identity in Belten high. Oxford: Blackwell.Search in Google Scholar

Eckert, Penelope. 2002. Style and sociolinguistic variation. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.10.1017/CBO9780511613258Search in Google Scholar

Eckert, Penelope. 2008. Variation and the indexical field. Journal of SocioLinguistics 12(4). 453–476. in Google Scholar

Eckert, Penelope. 2014. The problem with binaries: Coding for gender and sexuality. Language and Linguistics Compass 8(11). 529–535. in Google Scholar

Elson, Robert E. 2008. The idea of Indonesia: A history. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Search in Google Scholar

Englebretson, Robert. 2007. Grammatical resources for social purposes: Some aspects of stancetaking in colloquial Indonesian conversation. In Stancetaking in discourse: Subjectivity, evaluation, interaction, 69–110. Amsterdam & Philadelphia: John Benjamins Publishing.10.1075/pbns.164.05engSearch in Google Scholar

Errington, Joseph. 1998. Shifting languages: Interaction and identity in Javanese Indonesia. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.10.1017/CBO9780511612480Search in Google Scholar

Fealy, Greg & Ronit Ricci. 2019. Contentious belonging: The place of minorities in Indonesia. Singapore: ISEAS–Yusof Ishak Institute Singapore.10.1355/9789814843478Search in Google Scholar

Goddard, Cliff. 1994. The meaning of Lah: Understanding “emphasis” in Malay (Bahasa Melayu). Oceanic Linguistics 33(1). 145–165. in Google Scholar

Goebel, Zane. 2010. Language, migration, and identity neighborhood talk in Indonesia. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.10.1017/CBO9780511778247Search in Google Scholar

Goebel, Zane. 2014. Doing leadership through signswitching in the Indonesian Bureaucracy. Journal of Linguistic Anthropology 24(2). 193–215. in Google Scholar

Goebel, Zane. 2017. From neighborhood talk to talking for the neighborhood. In Matt Tomlinson & Julian Millie (eds.), The monologic imagination, 121–141. New York, NY: Oxford University Press.10.1093/acprof:oso/9780190652807.003.0007Search in Google Scholar

Goebel, Zane & Howie Manns. 2019. Chronotopic relations: Chronotopes, scale, and scale-making. Language & Communication 70(1). 82–93. in Google Scholar

Hall, Kira. 2005. Intertextual sexuality: Parodies of class, identity and desire in liminal Delhi. Journal of Linguistic Anthropology 15(1). 125–144. in Google Scholar

Hall-Lew, Lauren & Malcah Yaeger-Dror. 2014. New perspectives on linguistic variation and ethnic identity in North America. Language & Communication 35. 1–96. in Google Scholar

Handoko, Francisca. 2009. Education , language use and shifting identities among ethnic Chinese Indonesians. Chinese Southern Diaspora Studies 3. 183–192.Search in Google Scholar

Heidhues, Mary F. S. 2003. Golddiggers, farmers, and traders in the “Chinese districts” of West Kalimantan, Indonesia. New York: Southeast Asia Program Publications, Southeast Asia Program, Cornell University.10.7591/9781501719240Search in Google Scholar

Hiramoto, Mie. 2019. “Her soul is Japanese”: Naomi Osaka, mediatization, and intersectionality. Discourse, Context & Media 32. (accessed 24 July 2020).Search in Google Scholar

Hoon, Chang-Yau. 2009. More than a cultural celebration: The politics of Chinese new year in post-Suharto Indonesia. Chinese Southern Diaspora Studies 3. 90–105.Search in Google Scholar

Hoon, Chang-Yau. 2011. Mapping Chinese christian schools in Indonesia: Ethnicity, class and religion. Asia Pacific Education Review 12(3). 403–411. in Google Scholar

Irvine, Judith T. & Susan Gal. 2000. Language ideology and linguistic differentiation. In Paul V. Kroskrity (ed.), Regimes of language: Ideologies, polities, and identities, 35–83. Santa Fe: School of American Research Press.Search in Google Scholar

Jaworski, Adam & J. Coupland. 2005. Othering in gossip: “You can go out you have a laugh and you can pull yeah but like…”. Language in Society 34. 667–694. in Google Scholar

Karimzad, Farzad & Lydia Catedral. 2018. “No, we don’t mix languages”: Ideological power and the chronotopic organization of ethnolinguistic identities. Language in Society 47(1). 89–113. in Google Scholar

Karkkainen, Elise. 2003. Epistemic stance in English conversation: A description of its interactional functions, with a focus on “I think”. Amsterdam: John Benjamins Publishing.10.1075/pbns.115Search in Google Scholar

Karkkainen, Elise. 2007. The role of I guess in conversational stancetaking. In Robert Englebretson (ed.), Stancetaking in discourse, 183–219. Amsterdam & Philadelphia: John Benjamins Publishing.10.1075/pbns.164.08karSearch in Google Scholar

Kiesling, Scott. 1998. Men’s identities and sociolinguistic variation: The case of fraternity men. Journal of SocioLinguistics 8(4). 510–541.10.1111/1467-9481.00031Search in Google Scholar

Kirkham, Sam. 2015. Intersectionality and the social meanings of variation: Class, ethnicity, and social practice. Language in Society 44(5). 629–652. in Google Scholar

Koven, Michele. 2013. Antiracist, modern selves and racist, unmodern others: Chronotopes of modernity in Luso‐descendants’ race talk. Language & Communication 33(4). 544–558. in Google Scholar

Kroon, Dr Sjaak & Jos Swanenberg. 2019. Chronotopic identity work: Sociolinguistic analyses of cultural and linguistic phenomena in time and space. Bristol: Multilingual Matters.10.21832/9781788926621Search in Google Scholar

Levon, Erez. 2011. Teasing apart to bring together: Gender and sexuality in variationist research. American Speech 86(1). 69–84. in Google Scholar

Levon, Erez. 2015. Integrating intersectionality in language, gender and sexuality research. Language and Linguistics Compass 9(7). 295–308. in Google Scholar

Levon, Erez & Roey Gafter. 2019. “This is not Europe”: Sexuality, ethnicity and the (re)enactment of Israeli authenticity. Discourse, Context & Media 30. (accessed 24 July 2020).Search in Google Scholar

Levon, Erez & Ronald B. Mendes. 2015. Introduction: Locating sexuality in language. Language, sexuality, and power. Oxford & New York: Oxford University Press.10.1093/acprof:oso/9780190210366.003.0001Search in Google Scholar

Maegaard, Marie, Tommaso M. Milani & Kristine K. Mortensen. 2019. Mediatizing intersectionality. Discourse, Context & Media 32. 1–4. in Google Scholar

Mallinson, Christine. 2006. The dynamic construction of race, class and gender through linguistic practice among women in a black Appalachian community. Raleigh: North Carolina State University dissertation.Search in Google Scholar

Manns, Howard. 2011. Stance, style and identity in Java. Melbourne: Monash University PhD thesis.Search in Google Scholar

McCall, Leslie. 2005. The complexity of intersectionality. Signs 30(3). 1771–1800. in Google Scholar

Mendoza-Denton, Norma. 2008. Homegirls : Language and cultural practice among Latina youth gangs. Hoboken: Wiley.10.1002/9780470693728Search in Google Scholar

Mori, Junko. 1999. Negotiating agreement and disagreement in Japanese connective expressions and turn construction. Amsterdam & Philadelphia: John Benjamins Publishing.10.1075/sidag.8Search in Google Scholar

Morita, Emi. 2015. Japanese interactional particles as a resource for stance building. [Special Issue]. Journal of Pragmatics 83. 91–103. in Google Scholar

Nash, Jennifer. 2008. Re-thinking intersectionality. Feminist Review 89. 1–15. in Google Scholar

Ochs, Elinor. 1992. Indexing gender. In Alessandro Duranti & Charles Goodwin (eds.), Rethinking context: Language as an interactive phenomenon, 335–358. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Search in Google Scholar

Rampton, Ben. 1995. Crossing: Language and ethnicity among adolescents. London: Routledge.Search in Google Scholar

Reid, Anthony. 1997. Entrepreneurial minorities, nationalism and the state. In Daniel Chirot & Anthony Reid (eds.), Essential outsiders: Chinese and Jews in the modern transformation of Southeast Asia and Central Europe, 33–71. Seattle: University of Washington Press.Search in Google Scholar

Sari, Faizah. 2011. A cross-linguistic dimension of the pragmatic particle ya. Linguistik Indonesia 29(1). 53–68.Search in Google Scholar

Saville-Troike, Muriel. 2003. The ethnography of communication: An introduction. Oxford: Blackwell.10.1002/9780470758373Search in Google Scholar

Schegloff, Emanuel A. 1996. Confirming allusions: Toward an empirical account of action. American Journal of Sociology 102(1). 161–216. in Google Scholar

Setijadi, Charlotte. 2017. Chinese Indonesians in the eyes of the pribumi public (Perspective 73). Singapore: ISEAS–Yusof Ishak Institute Singapore.Search in Google Scholar

Silverstein, Michael. 2003. Indexical order and the dialectics of sociolinguistic life. Language & Communication 23(3–4). 193–229. in Google Scholar

Sneddon, James. 2003. Diglossia in Indonesian. Bijdragen tot de Taal-, Land- en Volkenkunde [Contributions to Linguistics, Land and Ethnology] 159(4). 519–549. in Google Scholar

Steinhauer, H. 1994. The Indonesian language situation and linguistics; Prospects and possibilities. Bijdragen tot de Taal-, Land- en Volkenkunde [Contributions to Linguistics, Land and Ethnology] 150(4). 755–784. in Google Scholar

Suryadinata, Leo. 1976. Indonesian policies toward the Chinese minority under the new order. Asian Survey 16(8). 770–787. in Google Scholar

Tan, Mely G. 2004. Ethnic Chinese in Indonesia. In Melvin Ember, Carol R. Ember & Ian Skoggard (eds.), Encyclopedia of diasporas: Immigrant and refugee cultures around the World, 795–808. Berlin: Springer Science & Business Media.10.1007/978-0-387-29904-4_82Search in Google Scholar

Tuan, Mia. 1998. Forever foreigners or honorary whites?: The Asian ethnic experience today. New Brunswick: Rutgers University Press.Search in Google Scholar

Wouk, Fay. 1998. Solidarity in Indonesian conversation: The discourse marker kan. Multilingua Journal of Cross-Cultural and Interlanguage Communication 17(4). 379–406. in Google Scholar

Wouk, Fay. 2001. Solidarity in Indonesian conversation: The discourse marker ya. Journal of Pragmatics 33(2). 171–191. in Google Scholar

Yuval-Davis, Nira. 2006. Intersectionality and feminist politics. European Journal of Women’s Studies 13(3). 193–210. in Google Scholar

Zainur, Rofiq. 2018. The study of the Indonesian pragmatic particle sih. Jurnal Ilmu Bahasa dan Sastra [The Journal of Linguistics and Literature] 13(2). 151–156.10.18860/ling.v13i2.8817Search in Google Scholar

Received: 2021-03-22
Accepted: 2021-11-13
Published Online: 2021-11-29

© 2021 Walter de Gruyter GmbH, Berlin/Boston