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Rum: C 307

The Sasak language (Western Malayo-Polynesian spoken on the island of Lombok, eastern Indonesia), has a system of speech levels that distinguishes high-mid-low along with honorific and humble forms. The system is primarily encoded by choice of pronouns, nouns and verbs and involves lexical suppletion. Nothofer 2003 suggests that this system has been borrowed from Balinese and Javanese as a result of extensive contact throughout the history of Lombok, though locally elaborated by the Sasaks. Only fragmentary information about Sasak is to be found in the existing published literature on speech levels and politeness.

This paper is a description of the Sasak speech levels system and its use, especially to and by the mènak 'nobility' minority on Lombok, based on participant observation, a corpus of texts, and elicitation cross-checking research carried out in 2002-2010. The following issues will be addressed:


  1. formal characteristics of mènak speech, including lexical variation and ‘levels’
  2. use of expressions from kawi, the literary language based on early modern Javanese, as a politeness marker
  3. 'deictic switching' where speakers use second person pronouns to refer to their own possessions and first person pronouns to refer to the possessions of the addressee (Mahyuni 2004), for politeness effects.

Although historical deictic shifts in pronouns for politeness are well known (eg. German 3pl sie > 2sg polite) Sasak synchronic deictic switching between 1st and 2nd person for pragmatic effect appears to be highly unusual. The conditions under which it occurs will be elaborated in detail.

Nothofer, Bernd 2003 ‘A preliminary analysis of the history of Sasak language levels’ in Peter K. Austin (ed.) Working Papers in Sasak, Vol 2, 57-84. University of Melbourne.
Mahyuni, Yon 2004 'Speech Styles and cultural consciousness in the Sasak community, Lombok'. PhD dissertation, University of Melbourne