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Reviewed by:
  • Tetun Dili: A Grammar of an East Timorese Language
  • Aone van Engelenhoven
Catharina Williams-van Klinken, John Hajek, and Rachel Nordlinger. 2002. Tetun Dili: A Grammar of an East Timorese Language. Canberra: Pacific Linguistics. Shorter Grammars, PL 528. ISBN 0-85883-509-6. xiv + 133 pp. Aus$22.50. Paper.

This book describes the basic structures in the Tetun language as it is spoken in Dili, the capital of East Timor. The description is based on a corpus of fifty texts, of which five were added at the end of the book.

Chapter I contains an introduction with an overview of the history of the Tetun language, its dialect differentiation, the influence of Portuguese and Malay, and the role of Tetun in the present sociolinguistic situation in East Timor. This is followed by a discussion of variation and register, which—as correctly noted by the authors—are major features of this Tetun variant and permeate all areas of its grammar, lexicon, and phonology; sections 1.3 and 1.4 concisely discuss previous research on Tetun and the approach used for the research and analyses in this book; 1.5 is an overview of the structure of Tetun—and, as such, a concise summary of the remainder of the book. 1.6 and 1.7 discuss Tetun standardization and orthography. Chapter 2 describes Tetun Dili phonology, the major remark here being that Tetun Dili's phonology is quite unstable. It has six stops, seven fricatives, three nasals (labial, coronal, and palatal), and two aproximants. The authors (hereafter WHN) distinguish a coronal and palatal liquid, and a trill from a tap. Stops and fricatives are discussed in separate subparagraphs, whereas the other consonants are all dealt with in one. Section 2.2 discusses the five vowels and their allophones, including also nasalization, coda-reduction in compounding, and reduplication; 2.3 and 2.4 analyze stress, vowel length, and phonotactics. Chapter 3 is the shortest of all, four pages, and enumerates the word classes: nouns, verbs, and adjectives in 3.2, and the remaining closed classes in 3.3, with references to the relevant sections in the chapters that follow. Chapter 4 provides an overview of morphological processes, of which there are actually few in Tetun Dili; 4.2 elaborates on the significant overlap between nouns and verbs (zero derivation) already mentioned in the preceding chapter. A prefix ha- mainly derives causative verbs from intransitive verbs and adjectives. A prefix naC- derives intransitive unintentional verbs from transitive intentional ones. There are three morphemes for agentive nominalization: the Portuguese -dór and -tén, which have a negative connotation, and nain meaning 'master/owner'. Time nouns, numerals, and some adjectives can be reduplicated to derive adverbs indicating iteration or collectivity (4.3). Some adjectives are reduplicated in order to indicate diversity of referents. Section 4.4 focuses on compounds—mainly nominal, of which WHN distinguish four sub-types. Chapter 5 concerns noun phrases and discusses the use of pronouns and determiners, possessive constructions, adjectival and numeral modification, and complementation of abstract nouns borrowed from Portuguese. Chapter 6 discusses prepositions and is closely linked to chapter [End Page 519] 9 on serial verbs and causative constructions. WHN mention eight prepositions related to location or direction. There are six temporal prepositions that are all borrrowed from Portuguese. Chapters 7 and 8 are the largest, and focus on clause structures. Chapters 9 and 10 discuss serial verbs, causative constructions, and complex sentences. I like these two chapters the best, because here WHN manage to escape somewhat from the format of this series that forces them to confine themselves to the listing of language phenomena rather than their explanation.

The Shorter Grammar series in Pacific Linguistics has been devised to create a stage for a linguistic audience to find and offer grammatical sketches. As such, this series is specifically not meant to provide elaborate and in-depth discussions, but rather is intended to provide basic data on relatively unknown or previously unstudied languages. Although there seems to be no explicit format to keep to as with the famous Lingua Descriptive Studies (Comrie and Smith 1977), WHN nevertheless felt hampered by the rationale of the series...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1527-9421
Print ISSN
0029-8115
Pages
pp. 519-522
Launched on MUSE
2005-01-20
Open Access
No
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