Languages

Alor-Pantar language map, after Grimes et al (1997)
After Grimes et al (1997)

Estimates of the number of languages in the Alor-Pantar group vary widely, and the names and classifications in the two primary reference works, Stokhof (1975) and Grimes et al (1997) do not agree. The classification given below aims toward more "lumping" than "splitting". Many residents of Alor and Pantar would claim that each village has its own separate language. Indeed, the traditional criterion of mutual intelligibility is exteremely difficult to apply, as the languages have undergone an extended period of contact and multi-lingualism.

Alor

  • Adang (adn) - Kabola (klz) - Hamap (hmu)
  • Kafoa (kpu)
  • Klon (kyo)
  • Kui (kvd)
  • Abui (abz)
  • Kamang (Woisika) (woi)
  • Kula (Tanglapui) (tpg)
  • Sawila (Tanglapui) (swt)
  • Wersing (Kolana) (kvw)

Pantar

  • Blagar (beu)
  • Teiwa (twe)
  • Nedebang (nec)
  • Western Pantar (Lamma) (lev)
  • Retta (ret)
  • Tereweng (twg)


Like all classifications of A-P languages, this classification must remain tentative, as very few of the languages have been extensively documented. Indeed, no decent dictionary exists for any of the A-P languages. In fact, the status of many of the languages listed above awaits further investigation. This is particularly true of Retta and Tereweng. Those languages which have been the subject of recent investigation include: Adang (Haan 2001), Abui (Krachov\xedl 2006), Kelon (Baird 2007), Teiwa (Klamer 2010), Western Pantar (Holton in progress). Extensive field work has been conducted with Blagar (Steinhauer) and Kamang (Stokhof) but no extensive documentary materials have been published.

 

Historical relationships

One Austronesian language, Alorese, is spoken indigenously in the Alor-Pantar archipelago. The remaining non-Austronesian languages of Alor-Pantar, as well as perhaps some of those non-Austronesian languages spoken on the island of Timor, to the south, form a well-defined subgroup. Though the internal subgrouping of these languages has yet to be fully explored, internal genetic relationships are clear enough, and cognates are abundant, as demonstrated for example in Stokhof's (1975) survey of basic vocabulary.

External genetic relationships remain more speculative. Based on an examination of possessive prefixes, Capell (1944) originally postulated that the languages were related to the West Papuan Phylum languages of North Maluku and the Bird's Head of New Guinea. This hypothesis was later countered by Wurm et al (1975), who classified these languages as members of the putative Trans-New Guinea Phylum. However, the authors offered little evidence for this classification and remained somewhat doubtful, noting, "whichever way they [the Timor-Alor-Pantar languages] are classified, they contain strong substratum elements of the other phyla involved" (Wurm et al. 1975:318).

More recently, a methodology based on pronouns has been revived by Ross (2005), who classifies Timor-Alor-Pantar within the West Trans New Guinea linkage of the Trans New Guinea (TNG) family. The term linkage is used to a dialect chain which has diversified in situ into distinct languages rather than descending hierarchically from a common proto language. A linkage would result in an overlapping pattern of innovations, each defining a different internal subgrouping. Ross distinguishes the West TAP group from the rest of the West TNG linkage by the retention of first singular pronoun *na, where the Dani, Wissel Lakes, West Bomberai, and East Timor groups all reflect innovation of *ani.

 

 
Back to Top