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  • A grammar of Lamaholot, Eastern Indonesia: The morphology and syntax of the Lewoingu dialect
  • John Bowden
Kunio Nishiyama and Herman Kelen. 2007. A grammar of Lamaholot, Eastern Indonesia: The morphology and syntax of the Lewoingu dialect. Languages of the World/Materials 467. Munich: Lincom Europa. xiv + 182 pp., photographs. ISBN: 978-3-89586-714-9. €61,00, paper.

Nishiyama and Kelen's grammar of the Lewoingu dialect of Lamaholot is a welcome addition to the stock of language descriptions from eastern Indonesia. Although some works have been published on other dialects of Lamaholot (e.g., Arndt 1937, Keraf 1978, and Pampus 1999), nothing substantial has ever been published in English, and nothing has ever been published that focuses on Lewoingu. Although Lamaholot is usually referred to as a single language, it is better thought of as a dialect chain with substantial enough differences between some of the dialects as to make them mutually incomprehensible. Lamaholot has somewhere between 150,000 and 200,000 speakers.

The book is divided into five parts. Part one provides an introduction and a very brief sketch of Lewoingu Lamaholot's sound system and the spelling conventions adopted for the book. Part two consists of four chapters that discuss words and phrases. Part three, on syntax, is the heart of the description and it has ten chapters. Part four is a short text collection, and part five contains a basic vocabulary. There is also a bibliography of three pages.

As the subtitle of this book suggests, Nishiyama and Kelen (henceforth N & K) concentrate on the morphology and syntax of the language. The work was produced with fairly limited exposure to the language, most of the data having been collected over a six-month period in Hawai'i and checked during a short fieldtrip to Flores. Their database consists mainly of elicited utterances although, as they point out, they have supplemented elicited examples with examples taken from natural texts and four glossed texts from a variety of genres have been included in the book.

Part one begins with a short introductory chapter describing previous work on the language, the linguistic affiliations of Lewoingu and its position within the Lamaholot dialect chain, as well as notes on the contemporary role of Indonesian in the Lewoingu area. The authors say that the book is intended primarily for Austronesianists but also note that it should be of interest to typologists and theoretical linguists. A short overview of the main features of Lewoingu phonology follows in chapter two. This is clearly (as the subtitle of the book implies) not the main aim of the book, but the basics of the segmental inventory and stress are covered. The language has an unexceptional inventory of six vowels and sixteen consonants. N & K point to some problems in establishing the phonemic status of word-final nasals in Lewoingu, drawing attention to Pampus's (1999) analysis of nasal vowels in final position in the Lewolema dialect, and Keraf's similar solution for Lewoingu/Lewolaga. The discussion of stress is tantalizing but not fully developed. N & K propose tentatively that Lewoingu appears to have penultimate stress, but they also suggest that what they hear as penultimate stress may in fact be some kind of prosodic emphasis that occurs in the penultimate syllable of an utterance rather than a lexical feature. Himmelmann (forthcoming) has suggested that Waima'a, an Austronesian [End Page 247] language from East Timor, may exhibit a similar system, and closer study of this aspect of Lewoingu phonology would certainly be interesting to pursue.

As mentioned above, part two of the book contains four chapters on words and phrases. Chapter three introduces the noun phrase and covers common nouns, personal pronouns, indefinite pronouns, demonstratives, possessive constructions, and classifiers. Like much else in this short description, the discussion of demonstratives is tantalizing rather than satisfying. N & K show that there is a basic two-way distinction between a 'this' and a 'that' category, but within each of these basic categories there is a further seven-way split in the terminology that can be used. We are taken through an account of how these forms are derived from each other formally, but unfortunately we...


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