Multilingual diversity in a changing Indonesia

Since 1998 Indonesia has undergone rapid political, social, and cultural change. Members of this research network are interested in understanding how language figures in these changes and how understandings of these changes can inform global discussions on language and social change more generally.

About our research

Indonesia is a relatively new nation, only obtaining independence from the Netherlands in 1949. It is an archipelago nation made up of over 17000 islands and is one of the most linguistically diverse regions on the planet.

Much of Indonesia's nation-building efforts have revolved around building unity and managing diversity among a rapidly growing and mobile population. While highly centralized schooling, media, and language planning helped achieve unity, especially from the late 1960s onwards, the commodification of language in the media, regime change in 1998, and the large scale decentralization which began in 2001 all contributed to unprecedented complexity.

For example, the political and fiscal decentralization of 2001 led to a democratization of the political process on a scale not seen before, rapid territorial fragmentation, ongoing inter-ethnic and inter-religious conflicts, increases in the value of ethnicity, and rapid urbanization that increased inter-ethnic contact.

The members of this research network investigate the role of language in these changes. In so doing, we contribute to global scholarship that seeks to understand language change and engage with scholars from other global research networks who are interested in similar questions in different settings.


Zane Goebel
Associate Professor - Indonesian Languages & Linguistics Melbourne