Language Conveys Culture, Society, and Times

Language Conveys Culture, Society, and Times

3 Types of Speakers in Bali

HIRANO In this Tomorrow’s Pioneers, I’d like to talk with young researchers at the Graduate School of Language and Culture about how they are engaged in research, with what intention, and what they found from language culture research. First, Professor Hara, please tell me about your research.

HARA My main research theme is the building of code-mixing corpus and the description of sociolinguistic dynamics of Balinese and Indonesian languages spoken in Bali. In Indonesia, many ethnic groups speak many languages. In Bali, there are two languages: Balinese as a mother tongue, and Indonesian as a national language. I'm working on clarifying how both languages are used and mixed.

HIRANO Can’t people speaking these languages communicate with each other? Are they different, for example, like Japanese and Korean?

HARA Yes, they can't communicate that much. In Bali, people habitually speak both languages. TV programs have increased the opportunity for the Balinese people to have contact with the Indonesian language from their childhood. In recent years, some young people living in urban areas can speak Indonesian better than Balinese. Both languages are mixed in their conversation. This is called code-mixing of Balinese and Indonesian. In sociolinguistics, the word "code" refers to a language or dialect, and code-mixing refers to the mixing of multiple languages and dialects.

HIRANO Does code-mixing happen on a daily basis?

HARA Balinese is mainly used in some regions and Indonesian in other regions. However, beyond that, mixing takes place frequently even in a single conversation. Furthermore, Balinese is divided into two dialiects: a lowland dialect and a mountain dialect. Most of Balinese speak the lowland dialect. Speakers of the mountain dialect are small in number and the mountain dialect is thought to be the dialect of people who were originally in Bali.

Viewing this from the perspective of code-mixing which I mentioned earlier, there are 3 types of speakers: first, a large majority of people who speak mainly Balinese with some Indonesian words; second, young people in urban areas who frequently speak Indonesian; and third, those who speak the mountain dialect. The last group is influenced by both the lowland dialect and Indonesian. I collect conversations by these three types of speakers and describe them in detail. Based on these, I compare differences in distribution and function of code-mixing.

The Role Played by a Language with No Honorific Expressions

HIRANO What did you find from your research?

HARA First of all, I have made some hypotheses about the function of code-mixing. I’d like to talk about one of them, the function of honorifics. Bali is a Hindu society and there is an honorific system in the Balinese language. Based on caste, a speaker determines his honorific level by comparing his status with the other's.

On the other hand, the Indonesian language has no honorific system. Now, Bali is adjusting to a new social situation that is the Republic of Indonesia. Furthermore, other factors to determine one's status other than caste, such as job title in a company, have come about, and opportunities to do business between people in different statuses have increased. In such a setting, changes come out in the use of honorific expressions to show mutual respect or create a casual atmosphere.

HIRANO I see. The situation in which honorific expressions are used has become complicated.

HARA That’s right. When an aristocrat and a commoner respect each other, commoners who originally used honorific expressions don't change; however, aristocrats have come to use honorific expressions toward commoners. I infer that the situation may have changed too much. I wonder if that’s why they use Indonesian. Using an honorific-free language on purpose prevents a speaker's excessive usage of honorifics. Looking at it this way, Indonesian’s code-mixing seems to play a role in honorifics as well.

HIRANO Certainly, Japanese people use not honorifics but English, instead, intentionally in some cases. When speaking English, we can call a person to whom we should use honorifics in Japanese by name in a familiar tone. Professor MURAKAMI, I'm sure you have this impression as well.

What Balinese and Japanese Have in Common

MURAKAMI Yeah. The reaction to Indonesian must differ by generation. Using Indonesian instead of Balinese honorifics is a plausible explanation. Is this movement common in young people?

HARA Young people cannot use honorifics properly. People learn honorifics in adulthood. In the future, young people may not speak Balinese even in adulthood.

HIRANO So what you're saying is, 'they speak Balinese and use Indonesian instead of honorifics,' right?

HARA They have that option. For example, one must use honorifics when speaking with a top priest of Hindu. Young people cannot use honorifics very well, but s peaking with such a person carelessly will make them feel uncomfortable. So I infer that they think, 'I'll speak in Indonesian, which will not sound rude.'

MURAKAMI It is something akin to Japanese honorifics. Languages in the Tohoku region were simple and had no systems of honorific speech. I hear that, in modern days, they introduced systems of honorific speech of standard language out of necessity.

HARA I see. Changes in Japanese dialect are similar to the relationship between Indonesian and Balinese.

HIRANO In order to convey something, open-mindedness to recognize others’ diversity and flexible thoughts is important. Universities should play a role in promoting respect for each other through scholarship as well as the creation and fusion of wisdom. Then, next, Professor MURAKAMI, please tell me about your research.

Approach to languages and cultures

MURAKAMI There are three directions in my research: (1) modern Japanese literature research,  (2) research on language and culture of Osaka and Kansai, and (3) translation. I am involved in my research while switching between these three fields, but I can say these three are connected. On education, I mainly teach students English in general education, as well as “English and translation” and “English and Osaka culture.”

Traditional factors have died out significantly from Osaka dialect, although it is spoken by persons from Osaka. However, even though Osaka dialect has many elements of standard language, many uniquely Osakan aspects, such as intonation, still remain. Furthermore, there are some characteristics in the way of using words, that is to say, Osakans want their listeners to enjoy a conversation, so they'll say something extra or tell a joke before going into the main issue. I think this is similar to American English. When comparing Tokyo with Osaka, there is a difference similar to that between the UK and the U.S.

HIRANO Americans surely enjoy jokes, don't they?

MURAKAMI In my class, students from Osaka are good at asserting their opinions even if they cannot speak English well through keeping the other person's feelings in mind and making the scene fun. When I see something like this, I feel that the ability to have international communication is not an issue of grammar and pronunciation alone.

HARA Trying to clear the air even if you're not good at the language. Sounds very much like an Osakan to me.

MURAKAMI It’s really fun to see. By the way, regarding translation, in the class “Theory and Practice of Translation” in the graduate school, I introduce students to articles outside of literature and let them translate into English or Japanese. Outside my regular classroom, I am involved in translation of a variety of works. I translate Osaka-related short stories, essays, manga, and so on. I've even translated works by authors from Osaka, including KAMITSUKASA Shoken, UNO Koji, KAJII Motojiro, and ODA Sakunosuke. In the class where I teach Japanese literature for international students in English, I talk about TANIZAKI Jun-ichiro’s works. Together with students, I read books set in Kansai such as Yoshinokuzu , Sasameyuki , and Manji . Sometimes I discuss MURAKAMI Haruki. I discuss whether or not being from the Kansai region is related to his works, and if there is meaning in his decision to not mention that he is from Kansai.

Osaka-ness and Kansai-ness

HIRANO Can we find any Kansai-ness in MURAKAMI Haruki’s works?

MURAKAMI Unlike so-called Kansai-style humor, MURAKAMI Haruki’s humor is delicate and black. In MURAKAMI’s works, without relation to the plot, foods appear. He elaborates on meals like “someone boiled pasta” or “someone ate salad.” There is room for discussion whether these descriptions are Kansai-style or not. Recently, I let students read a part of NAKABA Riichi’s Kishiwada no Kaoru-chan that I had translated. His well-known work is Kishiwada Shonen Gurentai , which was made into a film. I think these literary works are entertainment novels. A popular touch is a Osaka-ness.

HIRANO What is Osaka-ness? I wonder what it's rooted in.

MURAKAMI Because of the influence from literary works, TV dramas, and manzai (comic dialogue), Japanese seem to have an image of stereotypical Osakan. I let students discuss this in the classroom. I let international students who have stayed in Osaka for a while think about "What are the stereotypes of Osaka?" and "Are there any differences between real Osakans you met and this stereotype?"

HIRANO I see. A stereotype of Osakans?

MURAKAMI Some works try to break Osaka’s stereotype on purpose. ODA Sakunosuke, in his work Ki no Miyako , took up the green Teramachi on the Uemachi Plateau and wrote " It is said that Osaka has very little greenery, but I remember it being very green as a child." He entitled his work Ki no Miyako [The City of Greenery] to change the image of Osaka. On the other hand, a manga, GODA Mamora’s Ippon no Kan-kohi [A Canned Coffee], highlighted Osaka’s stereotypes intentionally to express humor.
A young salesperson who speaks standard Japanese was transferred from Tokyo HQ to the Osaka branch of his company and tried to adapt to Osaka in order to get contracts. He learned Osaka dialect and tried his best, but it turned out fruitless and his sales performance still remained poor in 6 months. However, his co-worker who came from Tokyo achieved solid results. This guy was popular with customers only because he had a fat, funny face. He was accepted by customers and got better business results, which is a stereotypical story.

HARA Since I’m not from Osaka either, I may have a stereotypical image of Osakans in my mind as well.

Identity of Osakans

HIRANO People from Kansai speak Kansai dialect wherever they go. But those from the Tohoku region do not. Does this make sense? I speak Kansai dialect wherever I go. Are there any historical factors?

MURAKAMI There is no definite answer, but I think it’s related to Osakans' identity. Japanese people seem to change their speech according to the scene in many occasions. In think Osakans consider Osaka dialect their own language and it is quite natural for them to speak their own language wherever they go. Additionally, unlike Tohoku dialect, Osaka dialect has systems of honorific speech, so Osakans think that they don't need to borrow standard language. Actually, Osaka dialect is widely understood. Especially after WWII, thanks to TV programs and manzai, Osaka dialect is well-known throughout Japan.

Pleasure of Field Work

HIRANO When is research fun for you?

HARA I visit Bali for my field work, but before going on fieldwork, I consider many things and that makes me nervous and depressed. However, as things become apparent from accumulated data through recording conversations in the field, I find my work really fun. I‘m happy if my discussion about languages of the Balinese will lead to social linguistic studies about multiple-linguistic societies.

HIRANO How long do you stay in Bali for your fieldwork?

HARA A couple of weeks. I make it a rule to visit there a couple of times a year.

HIRANO How about you, Professor Murakami?

MURAKAMI My field is Osaka itself, but I’m happy when I visit places that appeared in works that I translated, which makes me feel that there is the real town of Osaka. For example, when I go to Dotonbori canal, I see the neon billboard of Glico reflected on the surface of the water. In Kamitsukasa Shoken’s Hamo no Kawa [Skin of the Pike Conger Eel] that I translated, there was the scene of illumination reflected on the water surface of Dotonbori canal in the Taisho Era in 1914. Although buildings and people changed, I feel that something that has not changed still remains.

HIRANO I assume some things in Osaka must be timeless.

MURAKAMI That’s right. When I went to Kishiwada, a backdrop of NAKABA Riichi’s Kishiwada Shonen Gurentai , I was moved to see some 'traditional delinquents' who looked like those who appeared in the novel. It was on graduation day, so everyone was in special clothes. NAKABA Riichi wrote a novel about it in the 1960s, but we can see the tradition of that time handed down to today.

Sharing Information through International Students

HIRANO Well, both of you have discovered the fun in field work, haven't you? By the way, how do international researchers look at your research? I'm sure that Professor Hara’s research will lead to basic principles of areas with multiple languages.

HARA Admittedly, Indonesia is a multilingual society so my research may lead to bilingual research of other areas. I’ll make efforts to share my research results overseas. (laughs)

MURAKAMI I think language education has an aspect of indirectly sharing information with the world through international students. People in the world tend to think that Tokyo represents Japan, but I hope international students will return home and expand and change Japan’s image. Also, I think that I can convey the charm of Osaka through my translation of Japanese publications. I hope that will spread Osaka’s image and make people understand that Osaka has open-mindedness to accept diversity and other cultures.

HIRANO I really enjoyed talking with you today. It was also an opportunity to think of international strategies from the academic field of language culture research. I can’t wait to see the future development of your research. Thank you very much. I wish you all the best of luck in your future endeavors.

People with Different Backgrounds Can Mingle -- Comments from the President after Talk

I, once a science student, had an interesting talk about languages and cultures. Professor Hara is working on approaches leading to discussion and analysis of a multiple language society and share her research results with the world through presentations in English and Indonesian. Professor Murakami is appealing the diversity in Japanese culture, Osaka’s open-mindedness to accept not only stereotypes, but also other cultures through language education and translation. By the way, thinking of universities, they are places to develop scholarship, or a language common to humans. I believe people with different backgrounds, diverse people, can talk and mingle each other through scholarship. By making use of advantages of comprehensive university, Osaka University will work on integrating a variety of fields of study.

HARA Mayuko
Dr. Hara, who completed the Graduate School of Area and Culture Studies of Tokyo University of Foreign Studies in 2004, became a lecturer at Osaka University of Foreign Studies in 2005. In 2007, she became a lecturer at Osaka University Research Institute for World Languages. In 2008, she received her doctorate in Philosophy from Tokyo University of Foreign Studies. Since 2010, she has served as an associate professor at the Osaka University Research Institute for World Languages. In 2013, she received the Osaka University Presidential Award for Achievement. She has been involved in the construction of corpus of code-mixing of Balinese and Indonesian as well as research regarding the description of sociolinguistics dynamism.


In 1989, he graduated from Claremont Mckenna College. In 1997, he completed his studies at the East Asian Studies Department at Princeton University. He obtained a doctorate degree in East Asian Studies from Princeton University. After serving as a translator at law firms and patent firms in Japan, in 2000 he became a lecturer at the Graduate School of Language and Culture of Osaka University. He became an assistant professor in 2004 and an assistant professor at the same school i n 2005 . Since 2007, he has worked as an associate professor at the school. In 2013, he received William F. Sibley Memorial Translation Prize from University of Chicago for his English translation of KAMITSUKASA Shoken’s Hamono Kawa. Through Japanese literature research on modern times, research on words in Osaka, and translation, he also provides international students with classes focusing on Osaka.

A graduate of Osaka University's Faculty of Medicine in 1972, President HIRANO studied at NIH (U.S.) from 1973 through 1976. He became an assistant professor at Kumamoto University in 1980. He then became an assistant professor in 1984 and a professor in 1989 at Osaka University. Following that, he became the director of the Graduate School of Frontier Biosciences in 2004, and a director of the Graduate School of Medicine and the dean of the Faculty of Medicine in 2008. He assumed the the 17th presidency of Osaka University in August 2011. He served as Chairman for the Japan Society for Immunology from 2005 to 2006. He is also a member of the Council for Science, Technology and Innovation and The Science Council of Japan. He has a doctoral degree of medicine. His awards include the Sandoz Prize for Immunology, Osaka Science Prize, Academic Award of the Mochida Memorial Foundation, Medical Award, Fujiwara Prize, Crafoord Prize, Japan Prize, and Medal with Purple Ribbon by the Emperor of Japan.

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