Feb 20, 2017 Last Updated 7:31 AM, Feb 20, 2017

Standard Tetum-English dictionary

Published: Jul 30, 2007

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 drink for humanity

Feb 20, 2017 - Pat Walsh

Human rights activist Putu Oka Sukanta. (Credit: Herb Feith Foundation)

Honouring Indonesian activist Putu Oka Sukanta for humanity

Falling through the cracks

Feb 13, 2017 - Sandeep Nanwani and Clara Siagian

The strict requirements of the Family Card registration system make it hard for many Indonesians to access JKN. (Credit: Clara Siagian)

The JKN or the National Health Insurance is failing Indonesia’s most vulnerable

Review: The future of dance is underwater

Feb 06, 2017 - Natali Pearson

Balabala's five dancers thank the 2017 Sydney Festival audience. (Credit: Natali Pearson)

Natali Pearson reviews two powerful dance works by Eko Supriyanto currently touring internationally

Safe water at a premium

Jan 16, 2017 - RA Koesoemo Roekmi

Home-delivered gallons of drinking water. (Credit: Ikhlasul Amal)

The UN’s claim that 87 per cent of Indonesians have access to safe drinking water seems exaggerated

In the name of food security

Jan 09, 2017 - Emirza Adi Syailendra

A banner in front of a military outpost in Langkahan village, North Aceh. The banner reads ‘Together with the people the TNI will be stronger’. Emirza Adi Syailendra

The army’s over-immersion in civilian affairs is being encouraged by its role in food security projects

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:

  • Falling through the cracks
    Ari - 17 Feb
    Thanks for bringing to light the stories of Noni, Anom and those people like them. It shows why we need systemic policies, rather than ad hoc aid ...
     
  • Falling through the cracks
    sharyn davies - 15 Feb
    Great article!
     
  • An urgent need for Environmental Education
    Lizza Zaen - 14 Feb
    Good article, if everyone from various circle would have to read this article, I'm sure they will be more understand about how to keep their environment.
     
  • Politics of the Indonesian city
    Stefan Eix - 14 Feb
    Managerial approaches tackle the issues - does Mr. Kusno prefer the waffling marathons of old times leading to no changes and behind=the-doors agreements ...

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).