Lia-Bekais nia fatin iha dalen-lubun Timór

Translated title of the contribution: The place of Bekais in Timorese language groups

Geoffrey Hull

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This article examines the Timoric (Timorese Austronesian) language called Welaun by its own speakers and Bekais by its neighbours. It is spoken in five hamlets of the suco of Leohitu south of Balibó, on both sides of the East Timorese-Indonesian border. Some Bekais speakers also live in Cová and Balibó. In the past misclassified as a dialect of Tetum (the vernacular of Balibo), Bekais is actually a distinct Timoric language, structurally intermediate between Belunese Tetum and Dawan and is all that remains today of a language that appears to have spoken in a much wider tract of north-central Timor. Bakais was not only displace by Tetum, advancing from the high kingdom of Wehali in the south, but has been strongly influenced by it. Bekais is of particular interest because of the numerous archaisms in its vocabulary: Celebic lexemes of demonstrable Butonic origin which, given their fundamental nature, contribute to ruling out any possibility that the remarkable similarities between the Timoric languages and those of South-Eastern Celebes are due to contact phenomena. As a descendant of the original Celebic language introduced to Timor at least a millennium ago (‘Old Timorese’), Bekais shows in its vocabulary few of the later Ambonese and Malay elements that transformed Tetum, Dawan and Kemak. Like Tetum and unlike Kemar, it appears to have been little influenced by its pre-Austronesian substratum.
Translated title of the contributionThe place of Bekais in Timorese language groups
Original languagePortuguese
Pages (from-to)55-78
Number of pages24
JournalStudies in languages and cultures of East Timor
Publication statusPublished - 2003
Externally publishedYes

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