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Volume 37, Issue 6


Language contact and functional expansion in Tetun Dili: The evolution of a new press register

Catharina Williams-van Klinken / John Hajek
Published Online: 2018-02-14 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/multi-2017-0109


Tetun Dili, an Austronesian language spoken in East Timor, was until 1999 primarily an oral language of intercultural communication. Since the 1999 vote on independence from Indonesia, Tetun Dili has become the dominant language of public life, including the government, education and the media, as well as becoming an official language alongside Portuguese, a former colonial language. The rapidly evolving press register of Tetun shows significant impact from language contact. Portuguese influence is seen primarily in extensive lexical borrowing, brought in by the Portuguese-educated elite as well as by translators and writers. Indonesian influence is seen in several calques for expressing anaphora, brought in by Indonesian-educated writers, and an adversative passive. Other new constructions, including a more general passive and final quote margins, have come about through the combined influence of Portuguese, Indonesian and English, the last as a source language for much literal translation into Tetun. Some discourse features of press Tetun, such as high information density and events being told out of chronological order, are the results of international journalistic style. While a rapid evolution of new written registers is not uncommon, the East Timor situation is unique in its combination of contact languages, and the significant number of grammatical innovations.

Keywords: Tetun Dili; media; language contact; language change; Timor-Leste


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About the article

Published Online: 2018-02-14

Published in Print: 2018-10-25

Citation Information: Multilingua, Volume 37, Issue 6, Pages 613–647, ISSN (Online) 1613-3684, ISSN (Print) 0167-8507, DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/multi-2017-0109.

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