THE LANGUAGE OF THE BETUNGKAL CEREMONY: AN ECOLOGICAL APPROACH
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The discourse of ritual may be one of the clearest and most fundamental manifestations of language in its ecological setting. It simultaneously manifests and recreates the three dynamic systems of sociality—communication, culture, and community. In this paper we examine the language in betungkal, a traditional anointing ceremony of West Kalimantan. The language is characterized by complex patterning, showing by both constant repetition and variation, and thus demonstrates the fundamental processes of predictability and creativity by which every form of linguistic communication operates. It is a paradigmatic example of how language is taught and reinforced, from discourse as embedded in the environment, to a community’s members of whatever age. At the same time it inevitably teaches and reinforces the community’s identity and its cultural values and practices.