Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


School of International, Cultural and Community Studies


Faculty of Community Services, Education and Social Sciences

First Advisor

Associate Professor Graham McKay

Second Advisor

Professor Ian Malcolm


This study investigates the occurrence of subject omission in spoken Indonesian spoken as a first language by primary school children in grades one to six and aged between six and twelve years in Jakarta. It also investigates the developmental stages of subject omission, and the effects of age, gender and degree of formality on the occurrence of empty or null subjects. Since the acquisition of language is ongoing during the students' primary schooling, this study also considers how null subjects in Indonesian may have an impact on learning and teaching at school. The omission of subjects occurs independent or matrix and in main clauses, and in coordinating and subordinating clauses in four types of sentences of basic, compound, complex, and compound-complex sentences. Developmental stages in subject omission, the setting or with whom the students are speaking, age and gender have a statistically significant impact on omission of subjects especially in independent, matrix and in the main clauses. Age and gender have no impact on the omission of subjects in the coordinating clauses of the compound sentences, in the subordinating clauses of complex sentences, and in the coordinating and subordinating clauses of the compound-complex sentences. Clauses where subject omission occurs here include indeendent basic sentences, the first or matrix clause in a compound sentence, the main clause in a complex sentence, and in the first clause of coordinate or subordinate clause in a compound-complex sentence. The similarities in the omission of subjects are that students omit subjects more when they speak with the researcher than with their peers, except for coordinating clause subjects in the compound-complex sentences. Overall subject omission decreased in independent basic clauses, in the first or matrix clauses of compound sentences, and in the main clauses of complex sentences as the students become older. However, subject omission in the coordinating and subordinating clauses in the compound-complex sentences increases. The main focus of the present study is the omission of subjects in main clauses since in the formal adult written Indonesian there is no omission of the subject in this position. This fact may have an impact on learning and teaching in that there is a decrease in their omission of independent, matrix or main clause subjects as they become older and use more formal language in writing.