Sep 26, 2017 Last Updated 1:38 AM, Sep 26, 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

Footy, culture and finding community

Sep 26, 2017 - ANDY FULLER

A group of young Australians and Indonesians in sporting gear smile around the camera.

Indonesians are bonding more deeply with Melbourne, through football and the Krakatoas

The Floating School

Sep 12, 2017 - RAHMAT HIDAYAT

Despite its recent start, the Floating School already has 83 students. (Rahmat Hidayat)

A mobile school in South Sulawesi offers new horizons to young islanders

Gambling with truth

Sep 07, 2017 - LIA KENT AND RIZKI AMALIA AFFIAT

Two Acehnese young women hold up colourful protest signs demanding justice for past human rights violations.

Aceh’s Commission for Truth and Reconciliation has an important, though delicate, mission ahead

Encountering Indonesia at AsiaTOPA (Part 2)

Aug 28, 2017 - BARBARA HATLEY

Jaman Belulang by Teater Satu (Sandra Thibodeaux)

Reflections on contemporary Indonesia and Australia-Indonesia relations at the AsiaTOPA festival

Encountering Indonesia at AsiaTOPA 2017 (Part 1)

Aug 03, 2017 - BARBARA HATLEY

Garin Nugroho's 'Satan Jawa' drew a standing ovation at AsiaTOPA 2017. (Garin Nugroho)

Indonesian performances at the AsiaTOPA festival opened up ‘creative conversations’ between Australians and Indonesians

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:

  • Freedom of information
    carlos - 21 Aug
    Has anything changed since 2014? There has been a lot of change in government organizations regarding corruption. Are governments in East Java more ...
     
  • ‘I am an Indonesian citizen!’
    otto gusti madung - 14 Aug
    I find the article very good and horizon expanding
     
  • Encountering Indonesia at AsiaTOPA 2017 (Part 1)
    Ralf Dudat - 08 Aug
    Excellent article. In light of the fact that most Australian film critics, journalists and arts writers were either unaware or apathetic to Setan Jawa ...
     
  • Marriage denied
    ghulam maruf - 23 Jul
    I'm a asylum seeker in Indonesia and I want married with a Indonesian woman I'm also rejected from unhcr second time naw my case is closed from unhcr I ...

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).