Cornell University

This is a past event. Its details are archived for historical purposes.

The contact information may no longer be valid.

Please visit our current events listings to look for similar events by title, location, or venue.

SEAP Gatty Lecture Series

Thursday, August 31, 2017 at 12:00pm to 1:30pm

Kahin Center
640 Stewart Ave, Ithaca, NY 14850, USA

"The Shifting Lingustic Landscape in Indonesia: Impact of Indonesian on Maintenance of Major Regional Languages"


Abby Cohn, Professor of Linguistics and Director of the Cornell University Southeast Asia Program


The instatement of Bahasa Indonesia as Indonesia’s national language during the Independence movement is widely described as a successful example of language planning, although it has also been implicated in the ongoing endangerment of local languages. With over 700 local languages, Indonesia is one of most linguistically diverse countries in the world.  It is widely acknowledged that “small” languages are at risk of endangerment, but what is the fate of the “big” languages?  In a multifaceted project, we address this issue investigating language maintenance or shift among the languages of Indonesia with over 1 million speakers.


Previous work has taken either a “macro” approach, using a single global measure of vitality for a whole language or a “micro” approach using in-depth ethnolinguistic interviews. Here we report on two projects attempting to find middle ground.  In joint work with Tom Pepinsky, we use 2010 census data, to assess the likelihood that speakers of the largest languages speak Indonesian at home.  We find that size alone doesn’t account for these results. For instance, “inner” island speakers from Java and Bali are less likely to report speaking Indonesian than “outer” island speakers from Sumatra and Sulawesi. We also report on results from a questionnaire (Kuesioner Penggunaan Bahasa Sehari-hari, Cohn et al. 2014), developed to collect detailed data from subjects from different backgrounds. We provide cross-group comparison of a complex set of variables, building on Himmelmann’s (2010) observation that language shift is rarely the result of just one or two factors but rather the result of a “complex constellation of a variety of such factors.” We focus on differences between types of communities in Indonesia, including non-Malayic vs. Malayic language groups, inner vs. outer islands, and social and demographic differences. (Work done collaboratively with Dr. Maya Ravindranath Abtahian, University of Rochester.)

Google Calendar iCal Outlook
Event Type



Mario Einaudi Center for International Studies, Linguistics, Southeast Asia Program


Contact E-Mail

Contact Name

SEAP Graduate Student Committee


Abby Cohn

Speaker Affiliation

Professor of Linguistics and Director of the Cornell University Southeast Asia Program

Open To


Recent Activity