This is a preprint

This paper analyzes aspects of the phonology of Malangan Javanese, spoken in the city of Malang in East Java, Indonesia, through the lens of a reversed language called Basa Walikan Malangan (“Walikan”). Walikan historically functioned as a secret language, but is currently regarded as a marker of a shared local identity. It involves the total reversal of segments of Malangan Javanese and occasionally Indonesian words. Manipulation takes place on a word level and is predominantly phonemic, affecting underlying forms rather than their surface realizations. In a small number of cases, orthography appears to influence word reversal as well. We demonstrate how Walikan reversals chiefly comply with the phonology of Malangan Javanese. Their analysis puts us in the position to cast new light on some under-described issues of Javanese phonology, such as the realization of word-final stops, the syllabification of consonant clusters, and processes of vowel lowering. We also call attention to instances where Javanese phonotactics are violated, arguing that the phonemic status of a number of vowels and consonants is changing. This is especially the case with the phoneme /ɔ/, which was historically an allophone of /a/ but has now gained phonemic status, as demonstrated by Walikan data.


phonology, phonotactics, Javanese, reversed language, phonemic manipulation