Posted by: irmayasari | August 1, 2009

Style’s shifting – my reflection of my father’s style

The last lecture about register and style, to some extent, reminds me about my father. He is a police officer in Indonesia in a work unit called ‘Samapta’, it is the unit like public service. To illustrate the unit is like ‘the front office’ in a hotel. When I was a kid, sometimes I visited him in his office and just tried to figure out what was like to be a police officer. I noticed at once the way he spoke to the guys allegedly committed such crime (suspected) were quite different when he spoke to me, neither he spoke to his colleagues or people who asked for some help. It was really clear when he had the telephone conversations. When he had a telephone conversation or conversation with his colleagues, they tended to speak in such descriptive way, I would say, since it seemed that they arranged the conversation into chronological order and full of description of everything. At the time, I felt that the conversation was so awkward since there were so many abbreviations, acronyms, numerical codes, and sometimes, body language like hand-signal. In the same time, when he called my mother to pick me up from his office, the way he spoke to my mother is different, a little bit casual.

When he was at home, the way he spoke to me is different comparing to when he spoke to my brothers or to my mother. When he spoke to me, the diction (word choice) or the pitch he used, sometimes, more polite comparing to words he used to speak to my brothers.

After the lecture, I have just realized that my father uses different styles when he spoke. Instead of the profession and context which influence the way he spoke, I reckon that, to some extent, it is his cultural background as Javanese that distinguish his style when he spoke to me (as his daughter) or to my brothers since in his culture, woman is categorized of being deserved to have such polite manner in society; to be treated politely and respectfully.

I also reckon that in order to understand about my father’s style-shifting, I need to read a lot about the relation of language and gender, culture, and many more to have a better understanding about it, for example in chapter 5 and 7 in Meshtrie, R. et. Al (2009).



  1. […] Maya came across a column entry by Mark Parton in City News that compares interestingly to her recent post. […]

  2. Talking about style shifting, I have an interesting example of style shifting in Javanese (one area in Indonesia with the largest population) culture. In Javanese language, when a younger person is talking to an older person or someone who is lower in position is talking to someone higher in position, he or she would use the polite or formal style of Javanese which is called ‘Krama’ to show respect to the person whim he or she talk to, while she/he can use informal style called Ngoko to friends or siblings and the older person can use ‘Ngoko’ to the younger person whom he/she talk to in a similar way a master or a person of high status use ngoko to speak to their maids or people of lower social status. While ‘Madya’ is used by a person to talk to a stranger to avoid being to formal or to informal. Another point that can be taken from this example is that there is a division or stratification system in this language. Another similar example is in my parents native language Manggarai, there are two words that represent the second person pronoun “you”. The first form is “Hau”, the casual form used as a form of intimacy between friends or siblings and the latter form is “Ite” which literally means “we” which is used to address older people or to show politeness and respect. This shows how we change our language or style according to whom we talk to.

  3. Sorry for so many misspelling in my coments above (‘whim’, should be ‘whom’, ‘to formal’ and ‘to informal’ should be ‘too formal’ and ‘too informal’ 🙂

  4. Make me to understand style shifting better

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