Phonological awareness and linguistic creativity: the case of (nk) and (x) in online Balinese orthography

Author: Edmundo Cruz Luna (Kyushu University)
Speaker: Edmundo Cruz Luna
Topic: Language in real and virtual spaces
The (SCOPUS / ISI) SOAS GLOCAL CALA 2019 General Session


Developing orthography for a language is often interleaved with goals other than pedagogical or communicative ones (Cahill 2011; Romaine 2002). This complexity is compounded in online interactions, especially if the standard keyboard has redundant characters. This occurs in Balinese, an Austronesian language of Indonesia.

I claim that the use of two graphemes in Balinese online forums, (nk) and (x) – which are not “standard” but are informal representations of the velar nasal [ŋ] (typically (ng)) and the word-final glottal stop [ʔ] (typically (k)), respectively – suggests two things: 1) speakers are keenly aware of the phonological contexts where these sounds occur; and 2) these illustrate their creativity – not through completely new symbols, but through resources already available on any standard keyboard.

Examples (1a) and (1b) illustrate variants of [ŋ], whereas examples (2a) and (2b) illustrate those of [ʔ]:

(1a) (nk)
Tiang nak sink[sɪŋ] sengaja nike..
1:H person NEG that:H
“I’m not one to do that deliberately…” (dika.a****)

(1b) (ng)
Pom sing ade ngalih bli
“Pom isn’t here to search, brother.” (dika.a****)

(2a) (x)
fast6 ane baru brow….. luung filmne pux….[pʊʔ] REL new BRO good film-DEF see
“The new ‘Fast and the Furious 6’, bro… Good film, you know…” (Da***_c**l)

(2b) (k)
tyang sing bise ngirim cendol puk..
1.MID NEG able N-send t.o.drink see
“I can’t send a cendol drink, you know.” (othe****)

I show that (nk) and (x) are limited to a restricted range of contexts, many being truncations of longer words and personal names. Thus, only by examining (online) language-in-use can one confidently render these spelling variations as non-random, which reflect speakers’ ability to recognize Balinese phonological quirks and represent them creatively.


Cahill, Michael. 2011. Non-linguistic factors in orthographies.

Romaine, Suzanne. 2002. Signs of identity, signs of discord: glottal goofs and the green grocer’s glottal in debates on Hawaiian orthography. Journal of linguistic anthropology 12: 189-224.
Keywords: Pedagogies, Online interaction