The Influence of Javanese Culture Concerning Age and Social Status on English Criticism Made by Javanese English-Learners

The Influence of Javanese Culture Concerning Age and Social Status on English Criticism Made by Javanese English-Learners:
A Sociolinguistics Approach

N.A. Angayomi
English Dept. UGM
Research Paper for Linguistic Seminar Class
January 2009

 

Introduction

Learning foreign language is not only understanding the language itself but also the social and cultural value of the community in which the language is spoken, since there are relationships between language and society. Wardhaugh asserts that there are four types of the relationship. First, social structure affects or determines language structure. Second, language structure influences or determines social structure. Third, language and social structure influence each other. Fourth, there is no relationship at all-meaning that both language and social are independent of the other (1988: 10-11).

Sociolinguists such as Janet Holmes believe that there are several factors influencing the way a speaker makes an utterance. These factors are divided into two main groups. The first group is social factors such as participants, setting, topic, and function of the interaction. The second group is social dimensions such as social distance scale, status scale, formality scale, and functional scale (Holmes, 1992: 12).

However, the assessment on these factors is sometimes different from a community to the others since each community has different cultural value. In Javanese culture, for example, people will use krama inggil (the highest level of Javanese language) to a higher-status hearer or stranger; the utterance will also become more indirect than to a lower status hearer (Magnis-Suseno, 2001: 62). Contrarily, English native speakers prefer to be direct. Nevertheless, it is crucial to judge the politeness of a person without considering that she/he knows the social and cultural value of the target language. Holmes claims:

Clearly rules for polite behavior differ from one speech community to another. Linguistic politeness is culturally determined. Different speech communities emphasize different functions, and express particular functions differently.” (Holmes, 1992: 285)

 F.X. Nadar also brought a similar topic of cultural influences in his research on the influence of Javanese culture in making criticism in English which mainly focuses on the socio pragmatic aspect. In the research, it is proven that socio pragmatic plays important role in the production of one’s utterance. Furthermore, Eko Satyono also had done a parallel research on how Javanese culture influence Javanese English-Learners in producing criticism. His paper focuses on the influence of gender seen through pragmatic approach.

In addition to that, Bou Franch says that sociolinguistic norms of the learners’ mother tongue affect their utterance (1998: 5). The result of her research is in line with Ellis and Keeper’s research that indicates the existence of influences of sociolinguistic factors (Bou Franch, 1998: 5). Ellis’s research “has shown that learners regularly perform speech acts such as request, apologies, and refusals in accordance with the sociolinguistic norms of their native language” (Bou Franch, 1998: 5).

In accordance with those previous researches, this sociolinguistics research studies the influence of Javanese culture on Javanese English-Learners’ criticism in English. This research tries to illustrate the most frequent semantic features used in their criticism. Furthermore, this research attempts to investigate if status and age of the participants, as social factors and social dimensions, affect their criticism in English.

To increase the validity of this research, data of criticism in English by Javanese English-Learners (JEL), Javanese criticism made by Javanese Native Speakers (JNS), and data of criticism by English Native Speakers (ENS) are employed in this research. However, this research emphasizes on the characteristic of criticism by JEL that is influenced by Javanese culture. Therefore, the data of criticism in English by ENS taken from F. X. Nadar’s research only become the reference to prove the hypothesis that JEL’s utterance has less characteristic of ENS’s utterance.

 

Data and Methods

1.  Data

The data used in the research are written-criticisms as the responses of four different situations. There are two corpora, referred as JEL (Javanese English-Learners) for data collected from English Department students who are Javanese; and JNS (Javanese Native Speakers) for data collected from Javanese speaking respondents.

The data collection was conducted using DCT (Discourse Completion Task) method distributed to forty respondents. This technique is chosen due to the limited time of conducting the research. Although there is a possibility that the responses may be unnatural, it is likely that this method is the most effective one since DCT can provide a large amount of data. Furthermore, the written data are easier to be analyzed and encoded. As a consideration also, it is difficult to lead people to converse under a controlled situation in order to obtain their responses of the situations provided.

Four different situations requiring respondents to deliver their criticism are set in the questionnaire. The first situation sets the speaker as the younger party having lower social status than the hearer. The second situation is a condition where the speaker is older but has lower position than the hearer. The third situation places the speaker as the younger party having higher social status than the hearer. The last situation puts the speaker as the older party with higher social status than the hearer. All of them are included in two categories of DCT.

 The first category is Javanese who learn English (JEL-Javanese English-Learners); it was distributed to twenty English Department students year 2005 and 2006. This DCT uses English and the responses are also in English. The second one is Javanese Native Speakers (JNS); it was distributed to twenty Javanese living in Jogjakarta and Solo. This DCT uses Javanese language and the responses are also in Javanese.

As the reference for the analysis, another category of data is used, namely ENS (English Native Speakers). Instead of using DCT, this data was acquired from previous research on criticism that was conducted by F. X. Nadar (Nov. 2006) because of the limited respondents that can be found and the limited time.

 

2.  Methods

The data analysis was conducted based on Beebe and Takahashi’s model of semantic formula. This model was used since the focus of the research is to show the influence of Javanese culture for JEL when they produced English criticism by identifying and comparing the features in criticism utterance. Here are the semantic formulas used in Beebe and Takahashi’s research in making refusal:

Criticism Features

Explanation

ADJ1 (Expression of positive opinion or feeling) Expresses the speakers’s positive feeling, opinion, empathy, or agreement towards the hearer. E.g.: I’d love to…; I am very interested in the project.
ADJ2 (Pause fillers) Adjuncts functions as fillers. E.g.: hum, oh, well, er….
ADJ3 (Statement of gratitude) Expresses the speakers’s feeling of gratitude. E.g.: Thanks for offering the opportunity though.
ADJ4 (Statement of compliment and expression of appreciation) Expresses the speakers’s appreciation of the hearer. E.g.: You have done really good job.
NP1 (Non-performative statement) Statement that singly or independently as a part of speech act set of refusing expresses a refusal. E.g.: No.
NP2 (Statement of unwillingness) Indicates the speakers’s unwillingness to comply the hearer’s request. E.g.: I don’t really want to bring that up.
NP3 (Statement of inability) Expresses the speakers’s inability, difficulty, and impossibility to comply the hearer’s request. E.g.: I am not able to prescribe that pain-killer; It is difficult for me to give extension at present; I am unable to give the message.
SA1 (Statement of preference) Expresses the speakers’s preferences or choice. E.g.: I would prefer that your interview time remains as originally scheduled; If you don’t mind, I prefer that the window stay closed.
SA2 (Suggestion) Expresses suggestion of what the hearer or both the hearer and the speakers should do. it may be conventionally formed as an indirect request. E.g.: You could try the local bookstore; Perhaps we can share; Why don’t you ask someone else?
SA3 (Offer of alternative) Expresses the speakers’s offer to do something for the benefit of the hearer. E.g.: I could contact someone else who could do it for you; Maybe I could do small amounts in my spare time?
SA4 (Directive statement) Expresses the speakers’s direction to the hearer to do a particular action. It differs from suggestion that it is by nature stronger and the speakers is never involved in the action to be performed. E.g.: See the boss and ask him if he can find someone; Go and buy yourself a dictionary; Ask the other student.
SA5 (Statement of obligation) It is the speakers’s statement of what the hearer is obligated to do to achieve the requested act. E.g.: You’ll have to buy the book elsewhere; You’ll just have to ask someone else.
SAC1 (Statement of acceptance) Shows apparent compliance with the hearer. E.g.: Please, sir, if you require the pen; OK, I’ll help you.
SAC2 (Limited acceptance) Shows apparent compliance with some limitation expressed. E.g.: I’ll raise the matter, but actually it’s not right to talk about it at the meeting; I’ll finish it tomorrow but a bit late in the afternoon.
SAD1 (Statement of negative warning) Expresses refusal in which the speakers warns the hearer of some negative consequences. E.g.: You get out now and you could get killed and I go to the jail.
SAD2 (Statement of negative feeling) Expresses the speakers’s feeling of either mild or strong dislike, disagreement, criticism, annoyance, or anger to the hearer. E.g.: You should have been sensible in the first place; Your driving was quite reckless; Who do you think you are?
SAD3 (Request for help, empathy, and assistance) Expresses the speakers’s request for help, empathy, or assistance to the hearer. E.g.: Do you mind if I keep it closed as I have cold?
SAD4 (Statement of self-defense) Expresses the speakers justification or defense of what the speakers has done. E.g.: I do nothing wrong; I’m trying my best; I’m doing all I can do.
SAV1 (Decision postponement) Expresses the speakers’s postponement to perform the action requested or to question the desirability of doing the requested action at this time. E.g.: I’ll think about it; I’ll consider it.
SAV2 (Hedging statement) Expresses a commitment that is not made by the speakers. E.g.: I’m not sure if I’ll have time today; What makes you think that you deserve a promotion?
SC (Conditional offer) Expresses the speakers’s willingness to do actions for the benefit of the hearer under certain condition. E.g.: If you have a good reason for needing an extension, I will see what I can do; Once I can finish it, I’ll help you.
SE (Statement of specific reason for non-compliance) Expresses a specific reason, either implicitly or explicitly stated. E.g.: I have a headache; I’m going overseas and I won’t have time to mark your paper.
SP (Statement of principle) Expresses the speakers’s principle related to belief and attitude towards law, rules, regulation, convention, and morality. E.g.: I need special authorization to prescribe it; Dangerous driving must be punished; It is the law and it must be respected.
SPh (Statement of philosophy) Expresses the speakers’s philosophical belief. E.g.: Better to lose your job than your and other’s lives; One can’t be too careful
SR (Statement of regret) Expresses apology which forms a set of speech act with other acts. E.g.: I feel terrible that…; I’m afraid that…; I’m sorry….
SW (Statement of wish) Expresses the speakers’s wish to comply with the request. E.g.: I wish I could help you; I wish I could stay.
TAdd (Term of Address) Pronouns and term of address used to show familiarity and respect. E.g.: Sir, mate, Mr.

 After being identified, the data analysis was continued to the analysis based on the situation. To obtain the usage percentage of a feature used, the number of the feature analyzed was divided by the number of all features found in a certain situation in the same category of DCT (JEL or JNS), and then it was multiplied by 100%. The result is the usage percentage of the feature.

Since the research is going to prove whether the choice of certain criticism features is also linked to some social factors and social dimensions, the percentages of three most frequently-used features were compared to find the similarities or the differences.

After identifying and comparing data upon criticism features between JEL and JNS, the data was compared to the ENS findings. The comparison was not in detail based on situation, but merely on the features since the aim is to analyze the reason behind the occurrence of the most frequent features in JEL compared to JNS and ENS.

 

Results

The first situation describes a condition in which the speaker is younger and his social status is lower than the hearer. From the data of JEL, the most frequent appearing categories are Suggestion (SA2), Term of Address (TAdd), and Statement of Specific Reason (SE). Suggestion is used by 22.73% of the respondents; Term of Address is used by 20.46% of the respondents, while 18.18% of them also use Statement of Specific Reason. Similar to JEL, the most frequent appearing features in JNS are Statement of Regret (SR), Term of Address (TAdd), and Suggestion (SA2). It is 26.47% of JNS use Statement of Regret in their criticism, while Term of Address is used by 20.59% of them. Suggestion is used by 17.65% of the respondents.

From the results, it is safe to assume that Javanese native speakers in delivering their criticism for the older and higher-position hearer use Statement of Regret in the first place because they realize that they are on the weaker position. They are younger and their social status is lower. In addition, it is clear that JEL respondents put SA2 or Suggestion on the first place in their criticism.

However, both groups of respondents put TAdd on the next priority, on the second place. While JEL respondents put SE is on the third place, the JNS put Suggestion on the third place. It is likely that TAdd has an important role for both groups of respondents but in contrast to that, they have different perspective on using suggestion.

The second situation describes a condition in which the speaker is older but he has lower social status than the hearer. From this situation, the most frequently used features by JEL are TAdd (19.44%), SA2 (16.67%), and SE (11.11%); while by JNS are SE (27.27%), SR (24.24%), and TAdd (21.21%). Actually, the features are the same as situation 1 but the frequency percentage is different. In Situation 1, SA2 is the most frequent in JEL while in Situation 2 the most frequent in it is TAdd. The same condition of changing percentage of the same feature also happens in JNS.

The change occurring in both JEL and JNS is possibly caused by the age of the speakers in which it is older although the status is lower. In JNS, the speakers tend to emphasize their reason while making criticism since the speaker realizes that although he is older but his social status is lower.

The third situation sets the speaker as the younger party having higher social status. Here, the most frequently used features by JEL are TAdd (24.32%), SE (18.92%), and SA2 (16.22%). JNS frequently uses TAdd (28.57%), SA2 (25%), SE and SR (each 14.29%). In this situation, the features often used are similar to the previous two situations with a change on the percentage that affects the level of its usage.

Term of address is still important in the situation, along with statement of specific reason and suggestion. Thus, it is apparent that both groups try to deliver the criticism indirectly regarding the position of himself/herself as the speakers towards the hearer.

The last situation puts the speaker as the older party having higher social status. The most frequent features in JEL are TAdd (19.23), SE (15.39%), SA2, SA4, ADJ1, ADJ4, SAD1, SAD3, and SW (each 7.69%). NJS frequently uses SA2 (34.78%), TAdd (30.43%), and SR (13.04%). In this situation, the usage of TAdd and SE in JEL decreases, but as the substitution, there are more features having same frequent, such as SA4 (directive statement), ADJ1 (expression of positive opinion or feeling), ADJ4 (statement of compliment and expression of appreciation), SAD1 (statement of negative warning), SAD3 (request for help, empathy, and assistance), and SW (statement of wish).

From the findings above, it is clear that both JEL and JNS use TAdd (Term of Address), SA2 (Suggestion), SE (Statement of Specific Reason), and SR (Statement of Regret). It is safe to assume that both respondents use indirect criticism in the form suggestion since this feature appears almost in the whole responses of all situation responded by JEL and JNS. It is in line with the assumption that due to their cultural background, Javanese tend to use indirect speech unlike ENS and hide their real feeling very often, that “truth and straightforwardness may sometimes not be desirable in interaction among people” (Nadar, 2007: 169). In addition, Subroto claims that because of the ‘harmony principles’ in Javanese culture, anything that has likelihood to raise conflict-including criticism and refusal-should be avoided or should be minimized (2001, 48).

Those are the comparisons between JEL and JNS. Below is the comparison between JEL, JNS, and ENS:

Criticism features

ENS

JEL

JNS

S1

S2

S3

S4

Σ

S1

S2

S3

S4

Σ

SAD2 (Statement of negative feeling)

266

0

4

2

2

8

8

2

4

0

14

SR (Statement of Regret)

53

10

6

6

2

24

18

16

8

6

48

SE (Statement of specific reason)

44

16

8

14

8

46

10

18

8

6

40

ADJ1 (Shows positive opinion/feeling)

41

8

4

0

4

16

0

0

2

2

4

SA2 (Suggestion)

33

20

12

12

4

48

12

6

14

16

42

SA3 (Offer of alternative)

30

4

0

0

0

4

2

2

0

4

8

ADJ2 (Pause fillers)

30

0

2

2

0

4

0

0

0

0

0

SA4 (Directive statement)

22

0

0

0

4

4

0

2

0

0

2

NP3 (Statement of inability)

18

0

4

0

0

4

0

0

0

0

0

TAdd (Term of Address)

18

18

14

18

10

60

14

14

16

14

58

SA5 (Statement of obligation)

8

0

2

0

2

4

0

0

0

0

0

SAD3 (Request of help, empathy, etc)

8

4

0

2

4

10

0

0

0

0

0

SC (Conditional offer)

7

0

2

6

0

8

0

0

0

0

0

SAD4 (Statement of self-defense)

7

0

2

0

0

2

0

2

0

0

2

SAC1 (Statement of acceptance)

6

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

SW (Statement of wish)

5

2

0

0

4

6

0

2

0

0

2

SAV2 (Hedging statement)

5

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

ADJ4 (Stmt of complimnt/appreciation)

4

2

0

0

4

6

0

0

0

0

0

SAV1 (Decision postponement)

2

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

SAC2 (Limited acceptance)

1

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

ADJ3 (Statement of gratitude)

1

0

2

2

0

4

4

2

2

2

10

SAD1 (Statement of negative warning)

0

2

4

0

4

10

0

0

0

0

0

SP (Statement of principle)

0

2

2

2

0

6

0

0

2

0

2

NP2 (Statement of unwillingness)

0

0

2

2

0

4

0

0

0

0

0

SPh (Statement of philosophy)

0

0

2

2

0

4

0

0

0

0

0

 Note:  
S1         : Situation 1
ENS     : 20 respondents (taken from Nadar’s research report)
JEL      : 20 respondents
JNS      : 20 respondents

The table shows that the most frequent features of criticism in ENS are SAD2, SR and SE; in JEL are TAdd, SA2, and SE; while in JNS are TAdd, SA2, and SR. Term of Address in JEL and JNS is relatively flat-means it does not fluctuate much, while Suggestion is a different story. In JEL, it decreases, while in JNS it increases. Statement of Regret in both JEL and JNS experiences a decrease; Statement of Specific Reason in JEL fluctuates while in JNS constantly decreases.

It is likely that the fluctuative percentage of the features used is due to the influence of Javanese culture. Javanese people tend to use polite language while conversing in a formal event or conversing to respectable hearer, such as people who is older, has higher social status, or even a stranger. Nevertheless, although the percentages are different, it can be seen that Javanese English-Learners’ most frequently used features of utterances in English tend to be more similar to utterances in Javanese native speakers rather than utterances English native speakers.

However, the decrease of Suggestion in JEL gives an indication that JEL has been touched by English culture-or English mindset-in which they are able to deliver their opinion more openly. It seems that JEL has found a way to deliver criticism more directly especially for the hearer who is younger and has lower social status than the speakers, that resulted in the decrease usage of Suggestion as a medium to deliver criticism among the Javanese.

Compared to ENS, it is quite different. English native speakers mostly use Statement of Negative Feeling in their criticism to show that they disagree towards something and they criticize it in a direct way instead of criticizing through Suggestion. It seems that it cannot be used in Javanese since in Javanese culture it is a kind of consensus that people should not express their disagreement directly (Subroto, 2001: 48). JEL uses Term of Address as frequent as JNS while ENS does not use it as much as Javanese do.

Conclusion

From the findings above, it is evident that Javanese English-Learners are influenced by Javanese culture when they produce criticism. They tend to be indirect. However, a touch of English culture has colored Javanese English-Learners’ choice of their expression. Since culture is not something inborn but learnt, this change is possible to happen, for example is the decrease of Suggestion while criticizing hearer who is on the lower position than the speaker.

Their choice of semantic features shows that there is influence from social factor, in this case is participants, and social dimensions-in this case are age and social status. It is clearly found in the number of the features in each situation that fluctuates and does not show constant quantity. It changes depending on the hearer; the higher the hearer is, the more polite the utterance. In Javanese, it means the more indirect the utterance will be. Thus, it is worth pointing out that social factors and social dimensions do influence and affect somebody’s utterance.

 

References

Beebe, L. M., T. Takahashi and J. Uliss-Weltz. “PragmaticTransfer in ESL Refusals.” Developing Communicative Copetence in a Second Language. New York: Newbury House. 1990.

Bou Franch, Patricia. “On Pragmatic Transfer.” Studies in English Language and Linguistics. University of Valencia. 1998.

Holmes, Janet. An Introduction to Sociolinguistics. England: Longman Group Ltd. 1992.

Magnis-Suseno, Franz. Etika Jawa: Sebuah Analisa Falsafi tentang Kebijaksanaan Hidup Jawa. Jakarta: Gramedia Pustaka Utama. 2001.

Nadar, F. X. Pengaruh Budaya Jawa pada Penyampaian Kritik dalam Bahasa Inggris. Research report, unpublished. November 2006. 

Nadar, F. X. “The Prominent Characteristics of Javanese Culture and Their Reflections in Language Use.” Humaniora. Vol.19 (2 June 2007). (p.168-174)

Satyono, Eko. The Influence of Gender in the Javanese Culture in Expressing Criticism. Graduating paper, unpublished. 2008.

 Subroto, Ph. and Suhardi. “Norma-norma dan Kebiasaan dalam Kehidupan Masyarakat Jawa”. Masyarakat Jawa dalam Keseharian. Research report, unpublished. May 2001. (p. 37-80).

 Sunarso. Variabel Kelas Sosial, Umur, dan Jenis Kelamin Penutur dalam Penelitian Sosiolinguistik. No IV. Yogyakarta: Badan Penelitian dan Publikasi Fakultas. 1997.

Wardhaugh, Ronald. An Introduction to Sociolinguistics. Oxford: Basil Blackwell Ltd. 1988.

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