Western Pantar language

Western Pantar language

Infobox Language
name=Western Pantar
region=Nusa Tenggara Timur, Indonesia
speakers=~10804 (2005)

Western Pantar (also known as Lamma) is a Papuan language spoken in the western part of Pantar island in the Alor archipelago of Indonesia. Western Pantar is spoken widely in the region by at least 10000 speakers.


There are three primary dialects.
* Tubbe (spoken in Puntaru and Air Panas)
* Mauta (spoken in Kakamauta, Alimakke, Lauki, Kapas, Kolihabbang, and Alikallang)
* Lamma (spoken in Kalondama and Latuna)

Dialect differences are primarily lexical:

Consonants IPA|/p t k b d g s m n l/ contrast in length with longer (geminate) counterparts (written double).



* "anuku" 'one'
* "alaku" 'two'
* "atiga" 'three'
* "atu" 'four'
* "yasing" 'five'
* "hisnakkung" 'six'
* "betalaku" 'seven'
* "betiga" 'eight'
* "anuktannang" 'nine'
* "keanuku" 'ten'
* "keanuku wali ye" 'eleven'
* "keanuku wali alaku" 'twelve'
* "kealaku" 'twenty'


Western Pantar and the other non-Austronesian languages of Alor and Pantar comprise the Alor-Pantar language family. This family is often itself included within the Timor-Alor-Pantar family, a larger grouping which includes some (though perhaps not all) of the non-Austronesian languages of Timor Island.

The TAP group is clearly Papuan (i.e., non-Austronesian] , but just how it is related to the 20 or so families which fall under the rubric “Papuan” is unclear. Located some 1000 km from their nearest Papuan neighbor on the New Guinea mainland, the TAP family is the most distant Papuan outlier. In contrast, the other well-known outlier, the North Halmaheran subgroup of the West Papuan family, lies a mere 300 km from it’s nearest Papuan neighbor, and its genetic affiliation is well-established.

Based on an examination of possessive prefixes, Capell (1944) originally postulated that the TAP 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). Indeed, substratum may play an important role in understanding the history of TAP languages. Ross (2005) assigns TAP to his West Trans New Guinea linkage, a subgroup of Trans New Guinea. The evidence for this relies entirely on pronominal shapes, and yet there is significant variation in pronoun shapes in this linkage. TAP languages share some innovations/retentions with some members of the linkage, and other innovations/retentions with yet other different members of the linkage. For example, TAP languages retain *na as a reflex of pTNG first person singular *na, whereas several other members of the linkage show metathesis here. This kind of variation is to be expected, since by a “linkage” Ross means a dialect chain which has diversified in situ via overlapping innovations. More problematic is the correspondence of second and third person pronouns, an issue which is not addressed by Ross. TAP languages show a reversal of pTNG second and third pronouns, as can be seen comparing Ross’ pTNG reconstructions with Nedebang pronouns.

Western Pantar pronouns can only be derived from pTNG by a flip-flop in which second person pronouns trade places with third person, a typologically unusual situation. Recent work by Donohue & Schapper (2007) suggests that both Capell and Wurm may be right and that TAP may involve an overlay of both Trans New Guinea and West Papuan elements. Clearly, much more work is needed in order to unravel the complex linguistic pre-history of the TAP languages. One of the main stumbling blocks to further progress is the lack of adequate primary data from the individual languages.


*Capell, A. 1944. Peoples and languages of Timor. Oceania 14(3).191-219.
*Donohue, Mark & Antoinette Schapper. 2007. Towards a morphological history of the languages of Timor, Alor and Pantar. Paper presented at the Fifth East Nusantara Conference, Kupang, Indonesia.
*Grimes, Charles E., Tom Therik, Barbara Dix Grimes & Max Jacob. 1997. A guide to the people and languages of Nusa Tenggara. (Paradigma series B 1). Kupang, Indonesia: Universitas Kristen Artha Wacana and Alfa Omega Foundation.
*Holton, Gary & Mahalalel Lamma Koly. 2007. Kamus Pengantar Bahasa Pantar Barat. Manuscript. Online: [http://www.faculty.uaf.edu/ffgmh1/pantar/lexicon http://www.faculty.uaf.edu/ffgmh1/pantar/lexicon]
*Ross, Malcom. 2005. Pronouns as a preliminary diagnostic for grouping Papuan languages. Papuan Pasts: Cultural, linguistic and biological histories of Papuan-speaking peoples ed. by Andrew Pawley, Robert Attenborough, Jack Golson & Robin Hide, 15-66. (Pacific Linguistics PL 572). Canberra: Pacific Linguistics.
*Stokhof, W. A. L. 1975. Preliminary notes on the Alor and Pantar languages (East Indonesia). (Pacific Linguistics B-43). Canberra: Australian National University.
*Wurm, S.A., C.L. Voorhoeve & K.A. McElhanon. 1975. The Trans-New Guinea Phylum in general. New Guinea Area Languages and Language Study, vol. I, Papuan Languages and the New Guinea Linguistic Scene, ed. by S.A. Wurm, 299-322. (Pacific Linguistics C-38). Canberra: Australian National University.

External links

* [http://www.faculty.uaf.edu/ffgmh1/pantar/index.html Western Pantar language] at University of Alaska Fairbanks
* [http://www.let.leidenuniv.nl/aapp/languages.html Languages of Alor and Pantar] at Leiden University

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