Feb 07, 2016 Last Updated 5:59 AM, Feb 7, 2016

Standard Tetum-English dictionary

Hits: 3642 times

Review: How standard?

Catharina van Klinken

Geoffrey Hull's dictionary of the East Timorese lingua franca Tetun (pronounced 'Tetun', but Hull follows the Portuguese spelling with final 'm') has a clear and simple layout, with most entries having a single part of speech and a short English meaning.

The word 'standard' in the title is unfortunate, since there is as yet no agreement on what constitutes standard Tetun. The compiler seems to acknowledge this himself when he includes words from rural dialects as well as from the urban and lingua franca variety called Tetun-Prasa, without always specifying which variety they are from. In a conscious attempt to enlarge and modernise the vocabulary, Hull has included many Portuguese words which are not, so far at least, actually used in Tetun. Unfortunately these additions are not marked as innovations. Meanwhile the compiler consciously rejects those words which have been borrowed from Indonesian over the last quarter century. He does make a concession to the fact that such borrowing is widespread by including an appendix of 'Indonesianisms in current colloquial use'.

This dictionary uses what Hull calls 'the standard orthography of Eastern Tetun'. This description, too, is misleading, as there are several spelling systems currently in use for Tetun in East Timor, and the one used in this book is Hull's own innovation. Hull spells Portuguese loans as if they were Tetun (eg Portuguese ciclone 'cyclone' is written siklone), making this system easier for non-Portuguese-speaking people to use.

The main unnecessary complication in Hull's spelling system is that he sometimes writes long vowels using a double vowel, and sometimes with a single vowel (with or without an acute accent). So if you can't find moos, try looking up mos and m?s as well. For Tetun-Prasa, ignore any glottal stops (marked by apostrophes) as they are only pronounced in some rural dialects.

In short, use this dictionary cautiously to give you an approximate idea of the meaning of a word, but do not use it to try to write in Tetun, as a lot of it won't be understood.

Geoffrey Hull, Standard Tetum-English dictionary, Sydney: Allen & Unwin in assoc with Univ of Western Sydney Macarthur, 1999, 340+xxvi pp, ISBN 1-86508-206-6, Rrp AU$24.95

Dr Catharina van Klinken (cvk@webfront.net.au) is the author of A grammar of the Fehan dialect of Tetun, an Austronesian language of West Timor, which is soon to appear with Pacific Linguistics (Australian National University).

Inside Indonesia 61: Jan - Mar 2000

Latest Articles

A post-colonial subversive

Feb 01, 2016 - Ariel Heryanto

Semua Untuk Hindia cover image

Like Toer’s tetralogy before it, Semua Untuk Hindia turns Indonesia’s national history narrative on its head

After ’98: Censorship, compromises and resistance

Feb 01, 2016 - Eliza Vitri Handayani

Official

Cancellations at UWRF 2015 were just the latest example of censorship in democratic Indonesia

Introduction to Man Tiger: A Novel by Eka Kurniawan

Jan 17, 2016 - Ben Anderson

Man Tiger Cover Image

Introduction to Man Tiger: A Novel by Eka Kurniawan

An Obituary: Benedict Anderson (1936-2015)

Jan 17, 2016 - Eka Kurniawan

Ben Anderson - Verso

Remembering the late Benedict Anderson, world renowned scholar of Indonesia, who passed away last month.

In sickness and in wealth

Jan 09, 2016 - Carol Chan

Double-storey modern house funded by a migrant in Hong Kong - Carol Chan

Village morality complicates our assumptions about what it means to ‘succeed’ as a migrant worker

Subscribe to Inside Indonesia

Receive Inside Indonesia's latest articles and quarterly editions in your inbox.

 


Lontar Modern Indonesia

Lontar-Logo-Ok

 

A selection of stories from the Indonesian classics and modern writers, periodically published free for Inside Indonesia readers, courtesy of Lontar

Readers said:

  • A post-colonial subversive
    Ralf Dudat, IFF Melb - 02 Feb
    It all sounds so obviously true in hindsight, but at the coal face, in the midst of the hurricane, or with the covering fog of an invented national ...
     
  • In sickness and in wealth
    Jessica - 15 Jan
    This article helps to explain something I heard from a safe migration service worker, who said that virtually 100% of young women migrating from a ...
     
  • In sickness and in wealth
    Ari - 12 Jan
    Great piece of research and a really interesting read. I wonder to what extent the education programs that migrant workers undertake before they ...
     
  • In sickness and in wealth
    Ilse Corydon - 11 Jan
    A most insightful report on the status of Indonesian migrant workers, I feel more can and should be done to empower these workers with systematic ...

30th Anniversary Book

Inside Indonesia - 30th Anniversary Photo Book

 

Have you bought your copy of Inside Indonesia's 30th Anniversary book yet?

The book features 30 of the judges' favourite images from the 2013 Inside Indonesia Photography Competition.

Preview the book  and order your copy online (Soft cover approx AUD$23.00 / Hard cover approx AUD$35.00).