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International Journal of the Sociology of Language

Founded by Fishman, Joshua A.

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Volume 2008, Issue 189 (Jan 2008)


Which self? Pronominal choice, modernity, and self-categorizations

Dwi Noverini Djenar
  • La Trobe University, Melbourne.
Published Online: 2008-03-17 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/IJSL.2008.002


This article examines a recent shift in the choice between two singular forms of first person pronoun in Indonesian, namely, aku and saya. More specifically, it seeks to explain motivating factors behind the recent tendency to use aku in public where it was previously considered unacceptable. By contrasting two temporally disjunctive public renditions of this pronoun, the article demonstrates not only that these renditions invite two different interpretations, but also more importantly, that the social expectation associated with aku is shifting. It is argued that theoretical constructs such as intimacy and formality, when viewed as opposing concepts, are inadequate for explaining the choice between the pronouns. The recent use of aku by celebrities in television interviews suggests that a pronoun conventionally associated with intimacy and informality can also be used strategically to assert individuality; moreover, while celebrities are a modern social phenomenon, variation in their pronominal choice is not explicable solely by an appeal to modernity. The article proposes that the recent shift to aku and the variation between aku and saya can be sufficiently explicated by considering these pronouns as linguistic representations of personal and social self-categorizations, respectively.

About the article

Published Online: 2008-03-17

Published in Print: 2008-01-01

Citation Information: International Journal of the Sociology of Language, ISSN (Online) 1613-3668, ISSN (Print) 0165-2516, DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/IJSL.2008.002. Export Citation

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