The Languages

of East Timor

 

Some Basic Facts

(Revised 24.8.2004)

 

Geoffrey Hull

 

Instituto Nacional de Linguística

Universidade Nacional  Timor Lorosa'e

 

 

 

A relatively small area of the globe stretching from the Indonesian islands of Flores and Celebes through New Guinea to the Solomon Islands, Vanuatu and New Caledonia is remarkable for the enormous number of languages existing there. New Guinea has over 750 distinct languages and Timor, many times smaller, has at least nineteen. This linguistic diversity, which amazed the first Europeans who sailed to the Spice Islands, has necessitated the use of simplified contact languages or lingua francas bridging the frequent intelligibility gaps. In Eastern Indonesia Creole Malay formerly fulfilled this role (today standard Indonesian having taken its place). The lingua franca of Papua-New Guinea, the Solomons and Vanuatu is Pidgin English, and in East Timor the common language is Creole Tetum or Tetum-Praça.

 

East Timor has sixteen indigenous languages, belonging to two different language families or phyla. Twelve of these languages are of Austronesian origin (and therefore 'cousins' to Malay-Indonesian, Javanese, Tagalog, Malagasy, Motu, Fijian, Samoan and Maori). Although the Austronesian languages of Timor belong, with Malay, to the Western Malayo-Polynesian (or Hesperonesian) division of Austronesian, they are too different in structure and vocabulary to be mutually intelligible with Malay-Indonesian.

 

The Timoric (Timorese-Austronesian) vernaculars belong to the Neo-Butonic or Santalic branch of the Celebic languages and fall into two main groups: Fabronic and Ramelaic. The Fabronic languages (Tetum, Kawaimina, Habun, Wetarese, Galoli, Bekais and Dawan) and the Ramelaic languages (Tokodede, Kemak, Mambai, Idalaka) descend from Old Butonese, introduced from the Muna-Buton-Tukang Besi region of South-East Celebes probably about one thousand years ago. It appears that at the time of the Butonese migrations to Timor only non-Austronesian languages, all or most of them New Guinean, were spoken on the island. Not long after the Butonese settlements, Timor was invaded by people from the Central Moluccas. As a result of contact with a kindred Moluccan language, probably Old Ambonese, the Butonic dialects underwent the drastic grammatical simplification known to linguists as creolization. The aboriginal languages were eventually creolized as well.

 

Another Fabronic language of the extreme east, Makuva, is geographically isolated from the others and appears to descend from the ancestor of all the Austronesian languages of Nautonia (the island chain to the east from Leti to Tior but excuding the Aru Islands). Makuva is closely connected to the Meher language of the nearby island of Kisar.

 

Of Timor's aboriginal languages only four (Bunak, Makasai, Makalero and Fatuluku) survive today. These four are distantly related to Papuan languages of the Trans-New Guinea phylum spoken in the Bomberai Peninsula of West Papua (Fakfak district). There are elements from the common ancestor of these languages in the vocabulary of the various Timoric languages that eventually replaced them, especially in Kawaimina, Mambai, Kemak, Tokodede and Dawan. There is so far no evidence that any pre-Austronesian language of Timor that has left traces was related to Aboriginal languages of nearby Bathurst and Melville Islands or of the Northern Territory or Kimberley coast. Given the time gap involved, it is highly unlikely that connections will be found.

 

East Timor's sixteen languages are classified and described as follows:

 

 

 

AUSTRONESIAN LANGUAGES

 

Timoric Stock

 

Fabronic Group

 

The Fabronic languages are so named because of their close genetic connection with the language of the Tukang Besi Islands (Fabronum Insulae in Latin), derived from Old Butonese, the ancestor of the Timoric languages. Unlike the Ramelaic languages, the Fabronic languages have not been greatly affected in their vocabulary by the aboriginal languages they replaced.

 

 

1. TETUM

 

Called by its speakers lia-tetun ('language of the plain'), Tetum is the most widely used vernacular in East Timor and the country's first official and national language. It is spoken in four separate regions of the island: 1) a central strip from the Ombai Strait to the Timor Sea split by the border of East Timor and West Timor (the Tetun-Belu or Belunese dialect) and including the towns of Atapupu and Atambua (West Timor), and Balibó, Fatomean, Fohorém and Suai (East Timor); 2) the south coastal region around Alas, Luca and Viqueque and including the old kingdoms of Samoro and Soibada (Tetun-Terik); 3) the city of Díli and its suburbs (Tetun-Dili or Tetun-Prasa/Tétum-Praça); 4) the village of Metinaro, on the coastal road between Dili and Manatuto (Nana'ek dialect). Everywhere else in East Timor, Tetum is a second language. Since the final settling of the Dutch-Portuguese colonial border in 1914, the Tetum-speakers of the north-west (Balibó) have been separated from those of the south-west.

 

Tetun-Belu and Tetun-Terik are not spoken or well understood outside their home territories. Tetum-Praça or Tetun-Prasa (Prasa 'big town' being a synonym for Dili) is the form of Tetum that is spoken throughout East Timor. Only in the extreme east (Lospalos region) and in the western Oecussi-Ambeno enclave is Tetum not fully current: here Indonesian was the usual second language during the Indonesian occupation (1975-1999), Portuguese having fulfilled this role before 1975. However, the use of Tetum is now rapidly increasing in these areas.

 

In the fifteenth century, before the arrival of the Portuguese, Tetum spread through central and eastern Timor as a contact language under the aegis of the Belunese-speaking Kingdom of Wehali, at that time the most powerful kingdom on the island. The Portuguese (present in Timor from c. 1556) made most of their settlements in the west, where Dawan was spoken, and it was not until 1769, when the capital was moved from Lifau (Oecussi) to Dili that the Portuguese began to promote Tetum as an inter-regional language in their colony. (Timor was one of the few colonies of Lisbon where a local language, and not a form of Portuguese, became the lingua franca: this is because Portuguese rule was indirect rather than direct, the Europeans governing through local kings who embraced Catholicism and became vassals of the King of Portugal).

 

In 1769 Dili was a Mambai-speaking district. The variety of Tetum that came to be spoken in the new town was strongly influenced by the local dialect of Mambai. The loss of the consonants w (becoming b: wee 'water' > bee, lawarik 'child' > labarik) and of the glottal stop (to'o 'arrive' > too, sa'e 'rise' > sae) and the simplification of the noun and verb systems (loss of suffixes) were the long-term result of Mambai influence. It was this simplified (isolating/creolized) form of Tetum that became the lingua franca of Portuguese Timor and also the language in which the Gospel was preached by Catholic missionaries. Nevertheless, Tetum (like all other vernaculars) was completely excluded from the education system in the days of Portuguese rule, and it was only the free East Timorese government of 1974-5 that took steps to give it public status and to use it as a medium of education. In 1980 the Church adopted Tetum as its liturgical language, but only after the Indonesian government forbade the use of Portuguese in Catholic public worship: Portuguese had been used alongside Latin in the Mass since the late 1960s. Since 1999 the liturgical languages are Latin, Tetum and Portuguese.

 

The varieties of Tetum spoken in East Timor are heavily influenced by Portuguese; the varieties of West Timor have a strong Malay-Indonesian influence. This difference of superstratum hinders mutual intelligibility between the two varieties. Malay, the lingua franca of the Malay Archipelago, was introduced from Ambon and became current along the Timorese coasts from the fifteenth century, contributing many new words to Tetum and all other languages of the island. A variety of Creole Malay actually became the vernacular of Kupang, the capital of Dutch Timor with a mixed population of Rotinese, Ndaonese, Atoni, Helong (the original inhabitants) and other groups.

 

Malay influence ceased in East Timor in the mid nineteenth century, when the colonial government made efforts to increase the use of Portuguese. Malay returned to East Timor in the form of Bahasa Indonesia in 1975, but in spite of 24 years of official imposition, its impact on local languages remains superficial and is likely to wane in the independent nation. Words of Malay origin in Tetum therefore belong to two different historical strata: those absorbed between the 15th and 19th centuries (from Ambonese Malay, e.g. besi 'steel', toko 'shop', ukun 'to rule' (< M. hukum), sarani 'Christian', barani 'brave'), and those borrowed after 1975 (from Indonesian).

 

Numerals 1-10:

 

Tetum:  ida, rua, tolu, haat, lima, neen, hitu, ualu, sia, sanulu

Tetun-Belu:  ida, rua, tolu, haat, lima, neen, hitu, ualu, siwi, sanulu

 

 

2. HABUN

 

Habun is a numerically small language spoken in the Cribas district south of Manatuto. It may be considered an archaic variety of Tetum and in the past was close to its eastern neighbour Kawaimina. Habun also shows some similarities to the Idaté dialect of Idalaka spoken to the west.

 

Numerals 1-10:

 

isa, rua, tolu, haa, lima, neen, hitu, ualu, sia, sanulu

 

 

3. KAWAIMINA

 

This acronym (used by linguists rather than by speakers of the language) refers jointly to the similar Kairui, Waimaha, Midiki and Naueti dialects, the easternmost Timoric vernaculars. Kairui is spoken in and around the village of that name; Waimaha (Waima'a to its speakers, Waimoa to other Timorese) is spoken along the north coast from Vemasse to Bucóli and the outskirts of Baucau; Midiki is heard in the districts of Lacluta, Liaruca and Venilale; and Naueti (separated geographically from the other three dialects) is used on the south coast around Uatolári and Uato Carabau, surrounded by Makasai-speaking territory. In some districts the names Midiki and Kairui are used interchangeably, and some Midiki speakers living near Ossu refer to their language as Osomoko.

 

The Kawaimina dialects have both remarkable archaisms and strange innovations (e.g. vowel harmony, aspirated and postglottalized consonants) in their sound-systems. Their grammar, on the other hand, is (with the partial exception of Naueti) very simple in structure. Naueti has undergone considerable lexical influence from the surrounding Papuan languages.

 

Numerals 1-10:

 

Kairui:  se, kirua, kitele, kihoo, kiliim, kinee, kihiti, kikoho, kisia, bosé

Waimaha:  se, kairuo, kaitelu, kaihaa, kailime, kainena, kaihitu, kaikaha, kaisiwe, basé

Midiki:  se, kairuo, kaitelu, kaihaa, kailime, kainee, kaihitu, kaikaha, kaisiwe, basé

Naueti: se, kairua, kaitelu, kaihaa, kailima, kailima-resin, kailima-resi-kairua, kailima-resi-kaitelu, kailima-resi-kaihaa, welisé

            (NB: quinary counting system for 6-9)

 

 

 

4. GALOLI

 

Galoli (Galolen, Glolen) is the vernacular of the Manatuto and Laleia districts of the north coast between Dili and Baucau. Because of the very arid terrain of their region, the Lo'ok or Galoli speakers have traditionally turned to the sea for their livelihood. There is an old Galoli colony on the south coast of nearby Wetar (speakers of the Talo dialect, still mutually intelligible with Timorese Galoli).

 

Manatuto has for centuries been a main landing-place in East Timor, which explains the large number of foreign (Ambonese and Malay) loanwords in its vocabulary. Manatuto was the spearhead of new Catholic missionary endeavour in the late nineteenth century, and among the earliest specimens of East Timorese literature is a catechism in the Galoli language, a Galoli grammar and a Portuguese-Galoli dictionary.

 

 

Numerals 1-10:

 

Manatuto dialect: nehe, irua, itelu, ihaat, ilima, ineen, ihitu, ihaa, isia, sanulu

Talo dialect of Wetar:  nehe, erua, etelu, ehaat, elima, eneem, ehitu, ehaa, esia,

sanulo

 

 

5. WETARESE (Atauran dialect)

 

The small East Timorese island of Ataúro, known as Pulau Kambing ('Goat Island') in Malay for the large numbers of goats traditionally raised there, lies between the larger Indonesian islands of Alor (Ombai) and Wetar and faces the city of Dili. Ataúro's three dialects are Rahesuk, spoken in the northern villages of Biquéli and Beloi, Resuk in the south-eastern villages of Maumeta and Makili, and Raklungu in the south-western villages of Makdadi and Manroni. Ataúro is culturally unique in East Timor in that many of its northern inhabitants (Rahesuk speakers) are not Catholics but Protestants, having been evangelized from a Dutch Calvinist mission on Alor earlier this century. There are also numbers of Protestants in the predominantly Catholic south. A fourth Atauran dialect, Dadu'a, is spoken by the descendants of Atauran settlers in the villages of Ilimano and Beheda, west of Manatuto.

 

The four Atauran dialects, mutually very similar, do not form an 'Atauran' language, but are variants (subdialects) of the Wetarese language proper to Wetar and the tiny island of Lirar situated between Ataúro and Wetar. Wetarese is closely related to Galoli, but it is more conservative in structure and its vocabulary has been more influenced by Malay and languages of the Moluccas.

 

Numerals 1-10:

 

Rahesuk:  iha, barua, batelu, waa, balima, baneen, baítu, pawau, pasia, sanulu

Resuk:  hia, harua, hatelu, haát, halima, haneen, haítu, ha'au, hasé, sangulu

Raklungu:  hea, herua, hetelu, heát, helima, heneen, heítu, he'au, hesé, sengulu

 

 

6. BEKAIS

 

Bekais (named Welaun by its speakers), is used in the small district of Leohitu, south of Balibó, on both sides of the East Timorese-Indonesian border. The most recent research has shown it to be a distinct Fabronic language, though largely assimilated to Tetum today. In the past Bekais was probably spoken along a considerable tract of coastal territory between the Tokodede and Dawan speech-zones. After the sixteenth century it was gradually replaced in most of this area by the Belunese Tetum dialect of the Kingdom of Wehali, advancing from the south.

 

Numerals 1-10:

 

Bekais:  isa, rua, tolu, hoat, lima, inan, hitu, ualu, siwi, sakulu

 

 

7. DAWAN (Baikenu dialect)

 

Dawan is the mother tongue of the Atoni Pah Meto people who inhabit most of the western half of Timor, and is the Timorese language with the largest number of native speakers (over 600,000: Tetum is used by a larger number of people, but only a third of these have it as their first language). This language is counted among those of East Timor because one of its dialects, Baikenu (Vaiqueno), is the vernacular of the Oecussi-Ambeno enclave on the north-west coast.

 

Lifau, the old capital of the region (the new capital is nearby Pante Macassar, known locally as Oekusi), was until 1769 the seat of Portuguese colonial rule in Timor. When, later, most of the adjacent parts of western Timor were occupied by the Dutch, Ambeno continued to fly the Portuguese flag, though its rulers, the Topasses or 'Black Portuguese' (a Catholic dynasty of mixed indigenous and European blood) paid only nominal allegiance to the 'White Portuguese' governor in Dili. Direct Portuguese rule over Oecussi-Ambeno did not come until the late nineteenth century.

 

Although it has the same immediate origin as Tetum, Dawan is very difficult for other East Timorese to understand because its sound-system has been drastically altered by aboriginal and, later, Central Moluccan influences. Dawan-even the Baikenu dialect-has borrowed more extensively from Malay than the languages of the east. Portuguese influence has at the same time been strong on Baikenu.

 

NOTE: Oecussi (< Oe-Kusi 'the water pot') is the name of one of the two kingdoms forming the enclave, and also the popular name of the capital, known officially by its Malay name of Pante Macassar ('the beach of the Macassarese'), a reference to the Celebean traders who used to land and congregate there.

 

 

Numerals 1-10:

 

mese, nua, teun, haa, niim, nee, hiut, faun, sio, boés

 

 

 

8. MAKUVA

 

Makuva, formerly spoken in the village of Lovaia, today joined to the larger settlement of Mehara, west of Tutuala in the Ponta Leste, is on the verge of extinction today, with only a handful of elderly speakers left: the younger generations have undergone a language shift to Fataluku. The Makuva speakers were resettled  in Lovaia in 1946 from their original home-villages on the north coast (Loikere and Polamanu). Makuva is similar to the Meher dialect of nearby Kisar Island. The origins of this language are not yet entirely clear. While it is possible that Makuva represents a colonial variety of Meher in Timor, its strongly Fabronic character and its archaic nature suggest that it was the ancestor of Meher and of the other Nautonic languages spoken in the island chain between Timor and New Guinea. According to this hypothesis, eastern Timor was the springboard for the austronesianization of Nautonia (corresponding to the South Moluccas minus Wetar and Aru).

 

Numerals 1-10:

 

itetlá, urua, okelo, o'aka, olima, oneme, oíko, oava, osia, ideli

 

 

 

A NOTE ON HELONG, ROTINESE AND NDAONESE

 

There exist two more Fabronic languages, both of which belong exclusively to West Timor.  Helong, the original vernacular of Kupang (which today speaks Malay), is now restricted to a few villages south of the city and along the east coast of the adjacent island of Semau. Rotinese, the vernacular of Roti, is broken up into many dialects. Rotinese speakers are found today in many districts of West Timor, the result of transmigration programmes initiated by the Dutch in the nineteenth century. Helong and Rotinese are both closely related to Dawan. Although their structure is less 'eroded', they show many aboriginal and Central Moluccan influences in their vocabularies.

 

The Ndaonese language of the small island of Ndao, the westernmost in the Timor archipelago, is Austronesian, but an offshoot of Savunese (from Savu Island) and a member of the Florinic stock rather than an Fabronic language. Colonies of Ndaonese speakers are also found in Kupang and other districts of West Timor.

 

Numerals 1-10:

 

Helong:  mesa, dua, tilu, aat, lima, eneng, itu, palu, sipa, sngulu

Rotinese: esa, dua, telu, haa, lima, ne, hitu, falu, sio, sanahulu

Savunese: ahi, du'e, telu, apa, lami, ana, pidu, aru, he'o, henguru

 

 

 

Ramelaic Languages

 

The Ramelaic languages are so named because they are spoken in a broad area centred around the Ramelau range. They represent an eastern offshoot of the Fabronic languages, but evolved along different lines, being affected by a stronger Papuan substratum and having been more greatly marked by the influence of Ambonese and Malay. It is likely that the area around present-day Dili was the point of entry for this northern influence. The impact of Ambonese Creole Malay in the 15th century led to the total creolization of Tokodede and the near-total creolization of Mambai. The outlying languages (Idalaka and Kemak) retain more conservative (less isolating) structures.

 

 

 

9. MAMBAI

 

In numerical terms, Mambai (named in the vernacular Manbae) is the third most important language in East Timor, with over 90,000 speakers. As the language of the most mountainous area of Timor, Ramelau and the surrounding ranges, Mambai is broken up into many local dialects. Its main centres are Ermera, Aileu, Remexio, Turiscai, Maubisse, Ainaro and Same. Mambai dialects are divided into a southern group which keep the Austronesian consonant /p/ intact (e.g. pat 'four') and a northern group which change it to [f] (cf. fat).

 

Mambai has a simplified morphology (the model for Tetum-Praça) and a partly Papuan vocabulary. The southern dialects have many words shortened by syncope and apocope, e.g. Ainaro mlua 'wide', lel 'sun', ton 'year' compared to Remexio mulua, lelon, tonan. This feature (also occurring in the north, but less marked there) is shared by the neighbouring Papuan Bunak language and by Dawan.

 

Numerals 1-10:

 

Ainaro dialect:  id, rua, tel, pat, lim, lim-nain-ide, lim-nai-rua, lim-nai-tel,   lim-nai-pata, sagúl  (N.B.: quinary numerals 6-9)

Aileu dialect:  id, ru, teul, fat, lim, nen, hitu, ualu, sia, sakúl

 

 

10. KEMAK

 

Kemak (Ema) is spoken in the north-west of East Timor, in and around Atabae, Cailaco, Atsabe and Maliana. This language is a close relative of Tokodede, but unlike Tokodede and Mambai it retains a certain morphological complexity inherited from Idalaka. As well as aboriginal words in its vocabulary, Kemak has an element which points to influence in the past from the South Moluccas. Malay has also left a stronger imprint on this language than on its neighbours to the east.

 

Numerals 1-10:

 

sia, rua, telu, pata, lima, neme, icu, balu, sibe, sapulu

 

 

11. TOKODEDE

 

Tokodede (Tukudede) is the vernacular of the north-western coastal strip of East Timor around Vatoboro, Maubara, Liquiçá and Bazartete. This district was the springboard for the papuanization of the adjacent island of Alor, visible from the Timorese coast. Like Kemak, Tokodede has Papuan and Moluccan elements in its vocabulary, some of the latter shared with Galoli and the dialects of Ataúro. Unlike Kemak, however, Tokodede has a simple isolating morphology similar to that of Mambai.

 

Numerals 1-10:

 

iso, ru, telu, paat, liim, hohoniso, hohorú, hohotelu, hohopaat, sagulu

(N.B: quinary numerals 6-9)

 

 

12. IDALAKA

 

The scientific acronym 'Idalaka' has been coined to refer jointly to three very similar dialects of central East Timor: Lakalei, spoken in the Fahinehan district, and Idaté, the vernacular of Laclúbar, and Isní, proper to the intervening district east of Turiscai. These dialects are closely related to Tetum and Habun and have numerous features in common with Galoli. Idalaka resembles Kemak in that it retains a number of archaic features (e.g. the alienable/inalienable distinctions and personal prefixes in verbs) generally lost in Mambai and Tokodede. The Lolein subdialect of the Becora Leten and Hera districts south-west of Dili is a variety of Isní introduced by nineteenth-century immigrants from the Turiscai region.

 

Lakalei:    isa, rua, telu, aat, lima, neen, hitu, ualu, sia, sakulu

Isní:          is, rua, tel, aat, lim, neen, hitu, ualu, sia, sakúl

Lolein:      isa, rua, telu, aat, lima, neen, hitu, ualu, sia, sakulu

Idaté:        isa, rua, telu, aat, lima, neen, hitu, ualu, sanulu

 

 

 

 

 

 

TRANS-NEW GUINEAN

LANGUAGES

 

Of East Timor's four identifiably Papuan languages Makasai, Makalero and Fataluku are all closely interrelated and akin to the languages of the Indonesian islands of Alor, Pura and Pantar off the north-west coast of Timor. Although their relationship with Bunak is more remote, all four languages seem to have evolved from a common ancestor language, introduced to Timor from the Berau Gulf zone of North-Western Papua. These 'Neo-Beravic' languages have lost most of their original morphosyntactic features, becoming largely assimilated in structure to the surrounding creolized Austronesian languages. The most resistant Papuan grammatical characteristic is the typical subject + object + verb word order, contrasting with the subject + verb + object word order of the Austronesian languages. The traditional vocabularies of Fataluku, Makalero, Makasai and (especially) Bunak have been replaced in part by new Austronesian words.

 

 

Neo-Beravic Stock

 

13. BUNAK

 

Bunak (Gai'), spoken in the districts of Bobonaro, Lalotoc, Tilômar, Zumalai, Cassa, Betano and Same in south-western East Timor, is unintelligible to speakers of the neighbouring Austronesian languages. Along the south coast many Bunak and Belunese (Tetun-Belu) speaking communities co-exist. Modern Bunak is now greatly differentiated from Makasai and Fataluku because of isolation and a stronger Austronesian influence.

 

Bunak words have a highly eroded structure, many of them reduced to a single syllable; for example the Bomberaian word for 'dog', rendered as iparu in Fataluku and defa in Makasai, is reduced to zap in Bunak. The vocabulary of Bunak and its western dialect Marae is very mixed and contains words which are apparently aboriginal (i.e. pre-Papuan) and Timoric words, as well as the usual borrowings from Malay and Portuguese.

 

Numerals 1-10:

 

Bobonaro dialect:  uen, hiro-on, goni-on, goni-il, goni-ciet, thomor, hicu, walu, siwe, sogo

Zumalai dialect: wen, hili-on, goni-on, goni-il, goinseet, temol, hitu, alu, sie, sego

Marae dialect of Indonesian Timor:  uwen, hile-on, koni-on, koni-il, koni-tiet,

tomol, hitu, walu, siwe, soko

 

 

14. MAKASAI

 

Makasai (Makasae) is numerically the second most important language of East Timor, with over 100,000 speakers today. It is the vernacular of the districts of Baucau (where Waimaha is also spoken), Quelicai, Ossu, Baguia, Laga, Laivai and Luro. The Ossu dialect stands apart in its preservation of the consonant p, which became f elsewhere (cf. Ossu pi, Baucau fi 'we'; Ossu apa, Baucau afa 'stone'). The nickname given to the inhabitants of the eastern half of East Timor, Firaku, is a Makasai word (fi raku 'we comrades').

 

Numerals 1-10:

 

u, lola'e, lolitu, loloha, lima, daho, fitu, afo, siwa, ruru-u

 

 

15. MAKALERO

 

Makalero (Maklere) is spoken on the south-east coast of Timor in the district of Iliomar. It is transitional between Fataluku and Makasai though generally more similar to the latter.

 

Numerals 1-10:  u, loloi, lolitu, lolo'e, lima, douhisi, fitu, afo, siwa, ruru-u

 

 

16. FATALUKU

 

Fataluku (Fatalukunu) is the vernacular of the culturally diverse people of the far eastern end (Ponta Leste) of the island who inhabit the districts of Lautém, Lospalos, Loré and Tutuala. There are five dialects. Although Fataluku is similar in structure and vocabulary to Makasai and Makalero, these languages are no longer intelligible to Fataluku speakers. The north-western dialect has been somewhat influenced by Makasai. Fataluku has some unique phonetic characteristics, for example an absence of the voiced consonants b, g, d (except in the north-western dialect), and most words ending in vowels.

 

A dialect of Fataluku, Oiratan, is spoken in two villages in the south of the small Indonesian island of Kisar, lying off the north coast.

 

Numerals 1-10:

 

Lospalos dialect: ukani, ece, utue, fate, neme, fetu, ikafa, siwa, ta'ane

Lautém dialect: ukani, ece, itue, fate, lime, neme, fitu, kafa, sife, taane

Oirata dialect of Kisar:  uani, ei, utu, pata, limi, neme, pitu, kapa, siwa,

taa-nauni

 

 

To these sixteen languages may be added four more which are not indigenous to East Timor: Portuguese, the official and historic second language and the principal influence on all the vernaculars; Indonesian, current in the territory only since 1975; and the Hakka dialect of the Sino-Timorese community, most of whom trace their origin to the city of Meixian in Guangdong Province. The small number of Macanese Chinese resident in East Timor have traditionally spoken Cantonese. East Timor's variety of Creole Portuguese (português de Bidau), spoken in Dili, became extinct in the 1960s. This dialect was never widespread in the colony, having been introduced and mainly used by Larantucan (Florinese Mestiço) residents of the eastern Bidau suburb of Dili.

 

Numerals 1-10:

 

Portuguese:  um, dois, três, quatro, cinco, seis, sete, oito, nove, dez

Indonesian:  satu, dua, tiga, empat, lima, enam, tujuh, delapan, sembilan, sepuluh

Hakka:  it, nyi, sam, syi, ng, liuk, chit, bat, giu, sip

Cantonese:  yat, i, saam, sei, ng, luk, chat, baat, gau, sap

Mandarin:  yi, er, san, si, wu, liu, qi, ba, jiu, shi

 

 

(c) Geoffrey Hull 1999, University of Western Sydney, and 2004, Instituto Nacional de Linguística, Universidade Nacional de Timor Lorosa'e

 

 

 

For a comprehensive bibliography on the languages of East Timor to 1999, see the following article:

 

Geoffrey Hull. "The Languages of East Timor: 1772-1997: A Literature Review", Studies in Languages and Cultures of East Timor. University of Western Sydney Macarthur, 1999, pp. 1-38.

 

See also various articles in the above journal (Volumes 1 - V) for more information on the vocabulary, sound system and grammar of the Austronesian languages of East Timor.

 

 

 

Prospective Language Researchers

 

In the new independent state of East Timor research on the languages of the country will be officially co-ordinated by the Instituto Nacional de Linguística at the National University of East Timor. A great deal of data has already been collected from the regional languages and their dialects but there is a need for more trained linguists to assist in the analysis of the data and the creation of language profiles, grammars and dictionaries. A prerequisite for participation in the work of the Institute is a sound knowledge of the Portuguese and Tetum languages and at least a passive reading knowledge of Malay (Indonesian). For more information concerning training and research opportunities in East Timor, please refer to the link "Information for Foreign Linguists Contemplating Field Work in East Timor."