Do Men and Women Really Speak Differently? A Study on Topicality Hierarchy of Javanese Speakers in Surabaya

  • Angkita Wasito Kirana, Ni Wayan Sartini, Mohammad Arif Rasyidi


In order to be able to engage with a particular society, it is often required to understand its members’ linguistic behaviour. Hence, Givón’s topicalityhierarchy theory was chosen to analyse the utterance pattern of the Javanese speakers in Surabaya as the Surabaya Dialect only used the low Ngoko register of Javanese language. The data was collected from the 2-minute monologues produced by 60 university senior students. The data demonstratedthat male and female participants shared a quite similar way in constructing their utterance. Instead of the subject, Adverb became the foreground of most sentences. Female participants included more agents in their utterances than their male counterparts but the male participants have themselves as active agent three times more frequently. The cultural factors were suspected to be the reason why, in spite of the exposure of equality of rights and education, the female participants unconsciously still placed themselves in a less powerful position than their male schoolmates, according to their linguistic behavior. The findings of this study can be aplied as a communication strategy to engage with young generation of Javanese society in Surabaya. Summary: This article aimed at understanding how the young members of Javanese society in Surabaya construct sentences in their utterances. Considering that male and female also have their own preferred way in speaking, this article also use gender-based perspective in discovering the communicating style of this society. Understanding the way they speak can be a mean to discover the culturally preferred linguistic form in communicating their ideas as well as to make them easier to grasp what we mean with our speeches in a conversation. In analysing this, Givon’s theory of Topicality Hierarchy (1976) was employed as, unlike Javanese society in other area in Java, Javanese society in Surabaya use only Ngoko register in their daily communication. The sample of this research was 60 university students who were originated from Surabaya whose parents were also born and living in Surabaya. In addition, the participants used Javanese language in their daily conversation. Givón’s theory of Topicality Hierarchy effectively detected the cultural representation of each gender in Javanese society in Surabaya. On the surface, it seems that women and men shared similar structure pattern in their utterances. They rarely used Subject in their utterance, compared to the other parts of the sentence. Both male and female participants placed the adverb as focus of the utterance. This indicated that in both groups, the foreground information stated in the sentences were not the doer or the human. Instead, it is emphasized on other chunks of information such as the time and place of the event (the adverbs) or the activity. However, deeper analysis revealed that the use of agent in their speeches showed that the male participants used the active agent three times more frequent than female. This indicated that male have more “power” to make themselves become the doer in an action. On the other hand, the female participants unconsciously still placed themselves in a less powerful position than their male schoolmateseven though they have been exposed to globalization and equality of rights. These findings can be applied to picture the typical communication style used by young generation in Surabaya. Hence, this can be a a communication strategy in engaging with this society.