02 September 2009

Indonesian multilingual novel

A student thesis at the Petra Christian University investigates code-mixing in an Indonesian novel (that later became a film). Writes the student: "The writer has chosen one of the best-selling novels in Indonesia in 2004, 30 Hari Mencari Cinta (30 Days in Search for Love) which was written by Nova Riyanti Yusuf and Upi Avanto. ... The novel itself is so closely related to young people’s love and lives; therefore, the writer thinks it can represent them in a simpler way. The research is based on the language of narration and the characters’ conversation in the novel which often include code-mixing. ... In the novel 30 Hari Mencari Cinta, the writer Nova Riyanti Yusuf often includes code-mixing in the language of narration and the characters’ conversation. However, since it is a novel, she only gives the context without showing any further direction on how the code-mixing is composed there."

The thesis points to two distinct concerns of Wikcrit - code-mixing in dialogue (which is easily explained and often even dismissed as simply reflecting the way people actually speak in multilingual societies) and code-mixing in the narration (which is not as easily explained and which, therefore, needs the sophisticated tools of literary criticism). Unfortunately, I cannot read Bahasa Indonesia (or Bahasa Melayu or Malay) and cannot judge whether the student's work is accurate and useful for us. Needless to say, it is the novel that should be of interest, not the film (where the multilingual narration is, of course, irrelevant).

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