Polar questions in Colloquial Indonesian: a pilot study

Fakry Hamdani*, Scott Barnes

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    2 Citations (Scopus)


    Polar questions are formed in a variety of ways across the world's languages. In Indonesian, polar questions in spoken language are realised in two primary ways: unmarked polar questions and marked polar questions. Unmarked polar questions do not involve any morphosyntactic or lexical resources to indicate questionhood. In contrast, marked polar questions are formed using final particles. This study explores polar questions in everyday conversation in Colloquial Indonesian, focusing on unmarked questions, and questions marked with ya and kan. It uses principles and practices derived from conversation analysis to explore interactions in Colloquial Indonesian. 12 Indonesian speakers were recruited to participate, yielding a corpus of 2 h and 7 min of video recordings for analysis. Analysis focuses on the epistemic characteristics of unmarked and marked polar questions. Unmarked polar questions realise the strongest epistemic asymmetry, casting the question recipient as the knowledgeable party. Polar questions marked with the particle ya also realise an epistemic asymmetry, but they index a more knowing epistemic stance on the part of the speaker. Polar questions marked with kan index a more symmetrical distribution of knowledge between the speaker and the recipient. The findings of this study contribute to knowledge on the functions of final particles in Colloquial Indonesian, and Standard Indonesian more generally. Future studies should explore other question particles in Colloquial Indonesian, and compare other functions of ya and kan.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)1-20
    Number of pages20
    JournalJournal of Pragmatics
    Publication statusPublished - Jul 2018


    • polar questions
    • Colloquial Indonesian
    • question particles
    • epistemics
    • conversation analysis


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