Wiki Languages: Tetum language (Tetun)

Updated: 29-11-2022 by
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Display language: English (en)
Language: Tetum (Tetum language)Local name: Tetun
Language code: tet
Speak area: East TimorClassification: Austronesian
Country: East TimorSecond language: Indonesia
Usage: nationalWiki language for Tetum language

Dictionary for Tetum (Tetun) in English

Tetun Dili
Tetun Prasa
Portuguese: Tétum Praça
Tetun Dili, Tetun Prasa
Native toEast Timor
Native speakers
390,000 (2009)[1]
L2: 570,000 in East Timor[2]
Language family
  • Malayo-Polynesian
    • Central–Eastern
      • Timoric
        • Oceanic
          • Tetumic
            • Tetun Dili
  • Belunese (Tetun Belu)
  • Terik (Tetun Terik)
Writing system
Latin (Tetum alphabet)
Official status
Official language in
East Timor
Regulated byNational Institute of Linguistics
Language codes
ISO 639-3tdt
Tetum Prasa.png
Distribution of Tetum Prasa mother-tongue speakers in East Timor
This article contains IPA phonetic symbols. Without proper rendering support, you may see question marks, boxes, or other symbols instead of Unicode characters. For an introductory guide on IPA symbols, see Help:IPA.
Lian Tetun
Portuguese: Tétum
Native toWest Timor, East Timor
Native speakers
500,000, mostly in Indonesia (2010–2011)[1]
50,000 L2-speakers in Indonesia and East Timor
Language family
  • Malayo-Polynesian
    • Central–Eastern
      • Timor–Babar
        • Tetumic
          • Lian Tetun
  • Belunese (Tetun Belu)
  • Terik (Tetun Terik)
Official status
Official language in East Timor
Recognised minority
language in Indonesia (East Nusa Tenggara)
Language codes
ISO 639-2
ISO 639-3tet
Tetum Terik.png
Distribution in East Timor of Tetum Belu (west) and Tetum Terik (southeast). The majority of Tetun speakers, who live in West Timor, are not shown.

Tetum (Portuguese: Tétum[ˈt̪ɛt̪ũ],[3]Tetum: Tetun[ˈt̪et̪un̪]) is an Austronesian language spoken on the island of Timor. It is spoken in Belu Regency in IndonesianWest Timor, and across the border in East Timor, where it is one of the two official languages.

There are two main forms of Tetum as a language:

  • Tetum Terik, which is a more indigenous form of Tetum marked by different word choice, less foreign influence and other characteristics such as verb conjugation
  • Tetum/n Prasa (market Tetum from the word praça in Portuguese meaning town square) or Tetum/n Dili (given its widespread usage in the capital Dili). This is the form of Tetum (heavily influenced by Portuguese) that developed in Dili during colonial rule as local Tetum speakers came into contact with Portuguese missionaries, traders and colonial rulers. In East Timor Tetun Dili is widely spoken fluently as a second language.

Without previous contact, Tetum Terik and Tetun Dili are not immediately mutually intelligible, mainly because of the large number of Portuguese origin words used in Tetun Dili.[4] Besides some grammatical simplification, Tetun Dili has been greatly influenced by the vocabulary and to a small extent by the grammar of Portuguese, the other official language of East Timor.


The English form "Tetum" is derived from Portuguese, rather than from modern Tetum. Consequently, some people regard "Tetun" as more appropriate.[5] Although this coincides with the favoured Indonesian form, and the variant with "m" has a longer history in English, "Tetun" has also been used by some Portuguese-educated Timorese, such as José Ramos-Horta and Carlos Filipe Ximenes Belo.

Similar disagreements over nomenclature have emerged regarding the names of other languages, such as Swahili/Kiswahili and Punjabi/Panjabi.

History and dialects
Languages of Timor Island. Tetum is in yellow.

According to linguist Geoffrey Hull, Tetum has four dialects:[6]

  • Tetun-Dili, or Tetun-Prasa (literally "city Tetum"), is spoken in the capital, Dili, and its surroundings, in the north of the country. Because of its simpler grammar than other varieties of Tetun, extensive Portuguese loanwords, and supposed creole-like features, Ethnologue and some researchers classify it as a Tetun-based creole.[7][8] This position, however, is also disputed in that while Tetun-Dili may exhibit simpler grammar, this does not mean that Tetun-Dili is a creole.[10][11] According to Ethnologue, there were 50,000 Tetun-Dili speakers in East Timor in 2004.[6]
  • Tetun-Terik is spoken in the south and southwestern coastal regions. According to Ethnologue, there were 50,000 Tetun-Terik speakers in East Timor in 1995.[6]
  • Tetun-Belu, or the Belunese dialect, is spoken in a central strip of the island of Timor from the Ombai Strait to the Timor Sea, and is split between East Timor and West Timor, where it is considered a bahasa daerah or "regional language", with no official status in Indonesia, although it is used by the Diocese of Atambua in Roman Catholic rites.
  • The Nana'ek dialect is spoken in the village of Metinaro, on the coastal road between Dili and Manatuto.

Tetun-Belu and Tetun-Terik are not spoken outside their home territories. Tetun-Prasa is the form of Tetum that is spoken throughout East Timor. Although Portuguese was the official language of Portuguese Timor until 1975, Tetun-Prasa has always been the predominant lingua franca in the eastern part of the island.

In the fifteenth century, before the arrival of the Portuguese, Tetum had spread through central and eastern Timor as a contact language under the aegis of the Belunese-speaking Kingdom of Wehali, at that time the most powerful kingdom in the island. The Portuguese (present in Timor from c. 1556) made most of their settlements in the west, where Dawan was spoken, and it was not until 1769, when the capital was moved from Lifau (Oecussi) to Dili that they began to promote Tetum as an inter-regional language in their colony. Timor was one of the few Portuguese colonies where a local language, and not a form of Portuguese, became the lingua franca: this is because Portuguese rule was indirect rather than direct, the Europeans governing through local kings who embraced Catholicism and became vassals of the King of Portugal.[12]

When Indonesia occupied East Timor between 1975 and 1999, declaring it "the Republic's 27th Province", the use of Portuguese was banned, and Indonesian was declared the sole official language, but the Roman Catholic Church adopted Tetum as its liturgical language, making it a focus for cultural and national identity.[13] After the United Nations Transitional Administration in East Timor (UNTAET) took over governance in September 1999, Tetun (Dili) was proclaimed the country's official language, even though according to EncartaWinkler Prins it was only spoken by about 8% of the native population at the time, while the elite (consisting of 20 to 30 families) spoke Portuguese and most adolescents had been educated in Indonesian.[14] When East Timor gained its independence on 20 May 2002, Tetum and Portuguese were declared as official languages. The 2010 census found that Tetum Prasa had 385,269 native speakers on a total population of 1,053,971, meaning that the share of native Tetum Prasa/Dili speakers had increased to 36.6% during the 2000s.[15]

In addition to regional varieties of Tetum in East Timor, there are variations in vocabulary and pronunciation, partly due to Portuguese and Indonesian influence. The Tetum spoken by East Timorese migrants in Portugal and Australia is more Portuguese-influenced, as many of those speakers were not educated in Indonesian.



The Tetum name for East Timor is Timór Lorosa'e, which means "Timor of the rising sun", or, less poetically, "East Timor"; lorosa'e comes from loro "sun" and sa'e "to rise, to go up". The noun for "word" is liafuan, from lia "voice" and fuan "fruit". Some more words in Tetum:
Portuguese (left) and Tetum (right). From a Portuguese course for Tetum speakers. The text says: "Our generation sometimes has difficulty distinguishing between 'j' and 'z'"
  • aas – "high"
  • aat – "bad"
  • ai – "tree"
  • ai-fuan – "fruit"
  • ai-manas – "spice"
  • bee – "water"
  • belun – "friend"
  • boot – "big"
  • di'ak – "good"
  • domin – "love"
  • ema – "person, people"
  • fatin – "place"
  • feto – "woman"
  • foho – "mountain"
  • fulan – "moon/month"
  • funu – "war"
  • hamlaha – "hungry"
  • haan – "eat"
  • hahán – "food"
  • hemu – "drink"
  • hotu – "all"
  • ida – "one"
  • kalan – "night"
  • ki'ik – "little"
  • kraik – "low"
  • labarik – "child"
  • lafaek – "crocodile"
  • lais – "fast"
  • lalenok – "mirror"
  • laran – "inside"
  • lia – "language"
  • liafuan – "word" (from lian – voice and fuan – fruit)
  • lian – "voice", "language"
  • loos – "true"
  • loron – "day"
  • lokraik – "afternoon"
  • tauk – "sacred"
  • mane – "man"
  • maromak – "god"
  • moris – "life"
  • rain – "country"
  • tasi – "sea"
  • tinan – "year"
  • tebes – "very"
  • teen – "dirt"
  • toos – "hard"
  • uluk – "first"
  • ulun – "head"

From Portuguese

Words derived from Portuguese:

  • adeus – "goodbye"
  • ajuda – "help"
  • aprende – "learn", from aprender
  • demais – "too much"
  • desizaun – "decision", from decisão
  • edukasaun – "education", from educação
  • envezde "instead of", from em vez de"
  • entaun – "so", "well", from então
  • eskola – "school", from escola
  • governu – "government", from governo
  • igreja – "church"
  • istória – "history", from história
  • jerasaun – "generation", from geração
  • keiju – "cheese", from queijo
  • komprende – "understand", from compreender
  • menus – "less", from menos
  • obrigadu/a – "thanks", from obrigado/a
  • paun – "bread", from pão
  • povu – "people", from povo
  • profesór – "teacher", from professor
  • relijiaun – "religion", from religião
  • semana – "week"
  • serbisu – "work", from serviço
  • serveja – "beer", from cerveja
  • tenke – "must", from tem que
  • xefe – "chief", from chefe
  • ideia – "idea"
  • múzika – "music", from música
  • esperiénsia – "experience", from experiência
  • teknolojia – "technology", from tecnologia
  • forsa – "force", from força
  • eletrisidade – "electricity", from electricidade
  • terrorizmu – "terrorism", from terrorismo
  • embaixada – "embassy"
  • organizasaun – "organization", from organização
  • arkitetura – "architecture", from arquitetura
  • kafé – "coffee", from café
  • ekipamentu – "equipment", from equipamento
  • prezidente – "president", from presidente
  • froñas – "pillowcases", from fronhas
  • aviaun – "airplane", from avião
  • kompañia – "company", from companhia
  • televizaun – "television", from televisão
  • enjeñaria – "engineering", from engenharia
  • korrupsaun – "corruption", from corrupção
  • polísia – "police", from polícia
  • fízika – "physics", from física
  • profisaun – "profession", from profissão
  • imposivel – "impossible", from impossível
  • gitarrista – "guitarist", from guitarrista
  • pasaporte – "passport", from passaporte
  • mensajen – "message", from mensagem
  • Natál – "Christmas", from Natal

From Malay
Tetum (left) and Portuguese (right). From a Portuguese course for Tetum speakers. The text says: "Some people pronounce wrongly '*meja', '*uja' and '*abuja' instead of 'mesa', 'usa' and 'abusa'."

As a result of Bazaar Malay being a regional lingua franca and of Indonesian being a working language, many words are derived from Malay, including:

  • atus "hundred", from ratus
  • barak "much", from banyak
  • bele "can", from boleh
  • besi "iron", from besi
  • udan "rain", from hujan
  • dalan "way" or "road", from jalan
  • fatu(k) "stone", from batu
  • fulan "moon" or "month" from bulan
  • malae "foreigner", from melayu "Malay"
  • manas "hot", from panas
  • rihun "thousand", from ribu
  • sala "wrong", from salah
  • tulun "help", from tolong
  • dapur "kitchen", from dapur
  • uma "house", from rumah

In addition, as a legacy of Indonesian rule, other words of Malay origin have entered Tetum, through Indonesian.


  • ida "one"
  • rua "two"
  • tolu "three"
  • haat "four"
  • lima "five"
  • neen "six"
  • hitu "seven"
  • ualu "eight"
  • sia "nine"
  • sanulu "ten"
  • ruanulu "twenty"

However, Tetum speakers often use Malay/Indonesian or Portuguese numbers instead, such as delapan or oito "eight" instead of ualu, especially for numbers over one thousand.[citation needed]


Tetum has many hybrid words, which are combinations of indigenous and Portuguese words. These often include an indigenous Tetum verb, with a Portuguese suffix -dór (similar to '-er'). For example:

  • han ("to eat") handór – glutton.
  • hemu ("to drink") hemudór – heavy drinker.
  • hateten ("to say") hatetendór – chatterbox, talkative person.
  • sisi ("to nag, pester") sisidór – nag, pest.

Basic phrases

  • Bondia – "Good morning" (from Portuguese Bom dia).
  • Di'ak ka lae? – "How are you?" (literally "Are you well or not?")
  • Ha'u di'ak – "I'm fine."
  • Obrigadu/Obrigada – "Thank you", said by a male/female (from Portuguese Obrigado/Obrigada).
  • Ita bele ko'alia Tetun? – "Do you speak Tetum?"
  • Loos – "Right"
  • Lae – "No."
  • Ha'u' [la] komprende – "I [do not] understand" (from Portuguese compreender).



Personal pronouns

Singular Plural
1st person exclusive Ha'u(-nia) Ami(-nia)
inclusive Ita(-nia)
2nd person familiar O(-nia) Imi(-nia)
polite Ita(-nia) Ita boot sira(-nia)
3rd person Nia (ninia) Sira(-nia)











Hau rona asu hatenu

1S hear dog barking

"I hear the dog barking"








Nia sosa sigaru

3S buys cigarettes

"He/She buys cigarettes"








Ita rona rádiu?

1PL hearing radio

"Are we hearing a radio?"










Sira moris hotu ka?

3P alive all ?

"Are they all alive?"

A common occurrence is to use titles such as Senhora for a woman or names rather than pronouns when addressing people.










Senhora mai hori bain-hira?

Mrs come PAST when

"When did you arrive?"[16]

The second person singular pronoun Ó is used generally with children, friends or family, while with strangers or people of higher social status, Ita or Ita boot is used.[17]










Nina, Ó iha nebee?

Nina 2S.FAM LOC where

"Nina, where are you?"

Nouns and pronouns


The plural is not normally marked on nouns, but the word sira "they" can express it when necessary.

feto "woman/women" → feto sira "women"

However, the plural ending -s of nouns of Portuguese origin is sometimes retained.

Estadus Unidus – United States (from Estados Unidos)
Nasoens Unidas – United Nations (from Nações Unidas)

Tetum has an optional indefinite articleida ("one"), used after nouns:

labarik ida – a child

There is no definite article, but the demonstrativesida-ne'e ("this one") and ida-ne'ebá ("that one") may be used to express definiteness:

labarik ida-ne'e – this child, the child
labarik ida-ne'ebá – that child, the child

In the plural, sira-ne'e ("these") or sira-ne'ebá ("those") are used:

labarik sira-ne'e – these children, the children
labarik sira-ne'ebá – those children, the children

The particle nia forms the inalienable possessive, and can be used in a similar way to 's in English, e.g.:

João nia uma – João's house
Cristina nia livru – Cristina's book

When the possessor is postposed, representing alienable possession, nia becomes nian:

povu Timór Lorosa'e nian – the people of East Timor
Inclusive and exclusive "we"

Like other Austronesian languages, Tetum has two forms of "we", ami (equivalent to Malay kami) which is exclusive, e.g. "I and they", and ita (equivalent to Malay kita), which is inclusive, e.g. "you, I, and they".

ami-nia karreta – our [family's] car
ita-nia rain – our country

Nouns derived from verbs or adjectives are usually formed with affixes, for example the suffix-na'in, similar to "-er" in English.

hakerek "write" → hakerek-na'in "writer"

The suffix -na'in can also be used with nouns, in the sense of "owner".

uma "house" → uma-na'in "householder"

In more traditional forms of Tetum, the circumfixma(k)- -k is used instead of -na'in. For example, the nouns "sinner" or "wrongdoer" can be derived from the word sala as either maksalak, or sala-na'in. Only the prefixma(k)- is used when the root word ends with a consonant; for example, the noun "cook" or "chef" can be derived from the word te'in as makte'in as well as te'in-na'in.

The suffix -teen (from the word for "dirt" or "excrement") can be used with adjectives to form derogatory terms:

bosok "false" → bosok-teen "liar"


Derivation from nouns

To turn a noun into a nominalised adjective, the word oan (person, child, associated object) is added to it.

malae "foreigner" → malae-oan "foreign"

Thus, "Timorese person" is Timor-oan, as opposed to the country of Timor, rai-Timor.

To form adjectives and actor nouns from verbs, the suffix -dór (derived from Portuguese) can be added:

hateten "tell" → hatetendór "talkative"

Tetum does not have separate masculine and feminine gender, hence nia (similar to ia/dia/nya in Malay) can mean either "he", "she" or "it".

Different forms for the genders only occur in Portuguese-derived adjectives, hence obrigadu ("thank you") is used by men, and obrigada by women. The masculine and feminine forms of other adjectives derived from Portuguese are sometimes used with Portuguese loanwords, particularly by Portuguese-educated speakers of Tetum.

governu demokrátiku – democratic government (from governo democrático, masculine)
nasaun demokrátika – democratic nation (from nação democrática, feminine)

In some instances, the different gender forms have distinct translations into English:

bonitu – handsome
bonita – pretty

In indigenous Tetum words, the suffixes -mane ("male") and -feto ("female") are sometimes used to differentiate between the genders:

oan-mane "son" → oan-feto "daughter"
Comparatives and superlatives

Superlatives can be formed from adjectives by reduplication:

barak "much", "many" → babarak "very much", "many"
boot "big", "great" → boboot "huge", "enormous"
di'ak "good" → didi'ak "very good"
ikus "last" → ikuikus "the very last", "final"
moos "clean", "clear" → momoos "spotless", "immaculate"

When making comparisons, the word liu ("more") is used after the adjective, optionally followed by duké ("than" from Portuguese do que):

Maria tuan liu (duké) Ana — Maria is older than Ana.

To describe something as the most or least, the word hotu ("all") is added:

Maria tuan liu hotu — Maria is the oldest.


Adverbs can be formed from adjectives or nouns by reduplication:

di'ak "good" → didi'ak "well"
foun "new", "recent" → foufoun "newly", "recently"
kalan "night" → kalakalan "nightly"
lais "quick" → lailais "quickly"
loron "day" → loroloron "daily"

Prepositions and circumpositions

The most commonly used prepositions in Tetum are the verbs iha ("have", "possess", "specific locative") and baa/ba ("go", "to", "for"). Most prepostional concepts of English are expressed by nominal phrases formed by using iha, the object and the position (expressed by a noun),optionally with the possessive nia.

iha uma (nia) laraninside the house
iha foho (nia) tutunon top of the mountain
iha meza letenon the table
iha kadeira okosunder the chair
iha rai li'uroutside the country
iha ema (nia) leetbetween the people


Copula and negation

There is no verb "to be" as such, but the word la'ós, which translates as "not to be", is used for negation:

Timor-oan sira la'ós Indonézia-oan. — The Timorese are not Indonesians.

The word maka, which roughly translates as "who is" or "what is", can be used with an adjective for emphasis:

João maka gosta serveja. — It's John who likes beer.

The interrogative is formed by using the words ka ("or") or ka lae ("or not").

O bulak ka? — Are you crazy?
O gosta ha'u ka lae? — Do you like me?
Derivation from nouns and adjectives

Transitive verbs are formed by adding the prefix ha- or hak- to a noun or adjective:

been "liquid" → habeen "to liquify", "to melt"
bulak "mad" → habulak "to drive mad"
klibur "union" → haklibur "to unite"
mahon "shade" → hamahon "to shade", "to cover"
manas "hot" → hamanas "to heat up"

Intransitive verbs are formed by adding the prefix na- or nak- to a noun or adjective:

nabeen — (to be) liquified, melted
nabulak — (to be) driven mad
naklibur — (to be) united
namahon — (to be) shaded, covered
namanas — (to become) heated up
Conjugations and inflections (in Tetun-Terik)

In Tetun-Terik, verbs inflect when they begin with a vowel or consonant h. In this case mutation of the first consonant occurs. For example, the verb haree (to see) in Tetun-Terik would be conjugated as follows:

ha'u karee — I see
ó maree — you (sing.) see
nia naree — he/she/it sees
ami haree — we see
imi haree — you (pl.) see
sira raree — they see



Whenever possible, the past tense is simply inferred from the context, for example:

Horisehik ha'u han etu – Yesterday I ate rice.

However, it can be expressed by placing the adverb ona ("already") at the end of a sentence.

Ha'u han etu ona – I've (already) eaten rice.

When ona is used with la ("not") this means "no more" or "no longer", rather than "have not":

Ha'u la han etu ona – I don't eat rice anymore.

In order to convey that an action has not occurred, the word seidauk ("not yet") is used:

Ha'u seidauk han etu – I haven't eaten rice (yet).

When relating an action that occurred in the past, the word tiha ("finally" or "well and truly") is used with the verb.

Ha'u han tiha etu – I ate rice.


The future tense is formed by placing the word sei ("will") before a verb:

Ha'u sei fó hahán ba sira – I will give them food.

The negative is formed by adding la ("not") between sei and the verb:

Ha'u sei la fó hahán ba sira – I will not give them food.



The perfect aspect can be formed by using tiha ona.

Ha'u han etu tiha ona – I have eaten rice / I ate rice.

When negated, tiha ona indicates that an action ceased to occur:

Ha'u la han etu tiha ona – I didn't eat rice anymore.

In order to convey that a past action had not or never occurred, the word ladauk ("not yet" or "never") is used:

Ha'u ladauk han etu – I didn't eat rice / I hadn't eaten rice.


The progressive aspect can be obtained by placing the word hela ("stay") after a verb:

Sira serbisu hela. – They're (still) working.


The imperative mood is formed using the word ba ("go") at the end of a sentence, hence:

Lee surat ba! – Read the letter!

The word lai ("just" or "a bit") may also be used when making a request rather than a command:

Lee surat lai – Just read the letter.

When forbidding an action labele ("cannot") or keta ("do not") are used:

Labele fuma iha ne'e! – Don't smoke here!
Keta oho sira! – Don't kill them!

Orthography and phonology

The influence of Portuguese and to a lesser extent Malay/Indonesian on the phonology of Tetun has been extensive.

Tetum Vowels

In the Tetum language, /a/, /i/ and /u/ tend to have relatively fixed sounds. However /e/ and /o/ vary according to the environment they are placed in, for instance the sound is slightly higher if the proceeding syllable is /u/ or /i/.[18]

Tetum consonants
Nasalmn(ɲ ~ i̯n) (ŋ)
Stop(p)btdk(ɡ) ʔ
Fricativef(v) s(z) (ʃ)(ʒ) h
Laterall(ʎ ~ i̯l)

All consonants appearing in parenthesis are used only in loanwords.

Stops: All stops in Tetum are un-aspirated, meaning an expulsion of breath is absent. In contrast, English stops namely ‘p’ ‘t’ and ‘k’ are generally aspirated.

Fricatives: /v/ is an unstable voiced labio-dental fricative and tends to alternate with or is replaced by /b/; e.g. [aˈvoː][aˈboː] meaning grandparent.[16]

As Tetum did not have any official recognition or support under either Portuguese or Indonesian rule, it is only recently that a standardised orthography has been established by the National Institute of Linguistics (INL). The standard orthography devised by the institute was declared official by Government Decree 1/2004 of 14 April 2004.[19] However, there are still widespread variations in spelling, one example being the word bainhira or "when", which has also been written as bain-hira, wainhira, waihira, uaihira. The use of "w" or "u" is a reflection of the pronunciation in some rural dialects of Tetun-Terik.

The current orthography originates from the spelling reforms undertaken by Fretilin in 1974, when it launched literacy campaigns across East Timor, and also from the system used by the Catholic Church when it adopted Tetum as its liturgical language during the Indonesian occupation. These involved the transcription of many Portuguese words that were formerly written in their original spelling, for example, educaçãoedukasaun "education", and colonialismokolonializmu "colonialism".

Reforms suggested by the International Committee for the Development of East Timorese Languages (IACDETL) in 1996 included the replacement of the digraphs "nh" and "lh" (borrowed from Portuguese, where they stand for the phonemes /ɲ/ and /ʎ/) by "n̄" and "l̄" , respectively (as in certain Basque orthographies), to avoid confusion with the consonant clusters/nh/ and /lh/, which also occur in Tetum. Thus, senhor "sir" became sen̄ór, and trabalhador "worker" became trabal̄adór. Later, as adopted by IACDETL and approved by the INL in 2002, "n̄" and "l̄" were replaced by "ñ" and "ll" (as in Spanish). Thus, sen̄ór "sir" became señór, and trabal̄adór "worker" became traballadór. Some linguists favoured using "ny" (as in Catalan and Filipino) and "ly" for these sounds, but the latter spellings were rejected for being similar to the Indonesian system, and most speakers actually pronounce ñ and ll as [i̯n] and [i̯l], respectively, with a semivowel[i̯] which forms a diphthong with the preceding vowel (but reduced to [n], [l] after /i/), not as the palatal consonants of Portuguese and Spanish. Thus, señór, traballadór are pronounced [sei̯ˈnoɾ], [tɾabai̯laˈdoɾ], and liña, kartilla are pronounced [ˈlina], [kaɾˈtila]. As a result, some writers use "in" and "il" instead, for example Juinu and Juilu for June and July (Junho and Julho in Portuguese).

As well as variations in the transliteration of Portuguese loanwords, there are also variations in the spelling of indigenous words. These include the use of double vowels and the apostrophe for the glottal stop, for example bootbot "large" and ki'ikkiik "small".

The sound [z], which is not indigenous to Tetum but appears in many loanwords from Portuguese and Malay, often changed to [s] in old Tetum and to [ʒ] (written "j") in the speech of young speakers: for example, meja "table" from Portuguese mesa, and kamija "shirt" from Portuguese camisa. In the sociolect of Tetum that is still used by the generation educated during the Indonesian occupation, [z] and [ʒ] may occur in free variation. For instance, the Portuguese-derived word ezemplu "example" is pronounced [eˈʒemplu] by some speakers, and conversely Janeiru "January" is pronounced [zanˈeiru]. The sound [v], also not native to the language, often shifted to [b], as in serbisu "work" from Portuguese serviço (also note that a modern INL convention promotes the use of serbisu for "work" and servisu for "service").

See also

  • Languages of East Timor
  • The Lord's Prayer in Tetum at Wikisource


  1. ^ abLian Tetun at Ethnologue (18th ed., 2015) (subscription required)
  2. ^"Table 14: Second language/dialect by sex for the population over four years of age". Timor-Leste Population and Housing Census 2015. Timor-Leste Ministry of Finance.
  3. ^Bauer, Laurie (2007). The Linguistics Student's Handbook. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press.
  4. ^"Tetun". Retrieved 13 June 2018.
  5. ^"A Traveller's Dictionary in Tetun-English and English-Tetun". Retrieved 13 June 2018.
  6. ^ abcManhitu, Yohanes (2016). Tetum, A Language For Everyone: Tetun, Lian Ida Ba Ema Hotu-Hotu. New York: Mondial. p. vii-viii. ISBN 9781595693211. Retrieved 1 July 2019.
  7. ^Grimes, Charles E.; Tom Therik; Grimes, Barbara Dix; Max Jacob (1997). A Guide to the People and Languages of Nusa Tenggara(PDF). Kupang: Artha Wacana Press. p. 52.
  8. ^Hull 2004
  9. ^Catharina Williams-van Klinken, 2011 (2nd ed.), Tetun Language Course, Peace Corps East Timor, 2nd ed. 2011, footnote, p.58
  10. ^Catharina Williams-van Klinken states otherwise,[9]
  11. ^Chen, Yen-Ling (2015), "Tetun Dili And Creoles: Another Look"(PDF), Working Papers in Linguistics, University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa, vol. 46, no. 7
  12. ^Hull, Geoffrey (24 August 2004). "The Languages of East Timor: Some Basic Facts". Archived from the original on 2008-01-19.
  13. ^"Tetum and Other Languages of East Timor", from Dr. Geoffrey Hull's Preface to Mai Kolia Tetun: A Course in Tetum-Praca (The Lingua Franca of East Timor)
  14. ^Encarta-encyclopedie Winkler Prins (1993–2002) s.v. "Oost-Timor. §1.5 Onafhankelijkheid". Microsoft Corporation/Het Spectrum.
  15. ^"Table 13: Population distribution by mother tongue, Urban Rural and District". Volume 2: Population Distribution by Administrative Areas(PDF). Population and Housing Census of Timor-Leste, 2010. Timor-Leste Ministry of Finance. p. 205.
  16. ^ abcWilliams-van Klinken, Catharina; Hajek, John; Nordlinger, Rachel (2002). Tetun Dili: A grammar of an East Timorese language(PDF). Canberra: Pacific Linguistics, The Australian National University. doi:10.15144/pl-528. hdl:1885/146149. ISBN 0858835096.
  17. ^Williams-van Klinken, Catharina; Hajek, John (2006). "Patterns of address in Dili Tetum, East Timor". Australian Review of Applied Linguistics. 29 (2): 21.1–21.18. doi:10.2104/aral0621.
  18. ^Hull, Geoffrey. (1999). Tetum, Language Manual for East Timor. Academy of East Timor Studies, Faculty of Education & Languages, University of Western Sydney Macathur.
  19. ^"Governo Decreto no. 1/2004 de 14 de Abril "O Padrão Ortográfico da Língua Tétum""(PDF).
  • National Institute of Linguistics, National University of East Timor (Archived) includes several bilingual Tetum dictionaries, and articles about Tetum
  • Hull, Geoffrey, Standard Tetum-English Dictionary 2nd Ed, Allen & Unwin Publishers ISBN 978-1-86508-599-9
  • Official Web Gateway to the Government of Timor-Leste – Religion & Language
  • The standard orthography of the Tetum language (PDF)
  • Matadalan Ortografiku ba Lia-Tetun - Tetum Spelling Guide
  • Damien LEIRIS - Personal approach of the Tetum language (PDF)
  • Colonization, Decolonization and Integration: Language Policies in East Timor, Indonesia, by Nancy Melissa Lutz
  • Current Language Issues in East Timor (Dr. Geoffrey Hull)
  • Van Klinken, Catharina (1999). A grammar of the Fehan dialect of Tetun, an Austronesian language of West Timor(PDF). Canberra: Pacific Linguistics, The Australian National University. doi:10.15144/PL-C155. ISBN 0858835142.
  • Hull, Geoffrey (1998). "The Languages of Timor 1772-1997: A Literature Review". Estudos de Linguas e Culturas de Timor Leste (Studies in Languages and Cultures of East Timor). 1: 1–38.
  • Ross, Melody A. (2017). Attitudes toward Tetun Dili, A Language of East Timor(PDF) (phd thesis). University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa. hdl:10125/62504.

External links

  • Peace Corps East Timor Tetun Language Manual (2011, 2nd edition; 2015, 3rd edition)
  • Intensive Tetun language courses at Dili Institute of Technology
  • Pictures from a Portuguese language course, using Tetum, published in the East Timorese newspaper Lia Foun in Díli (from Wikimedia Commons)
  • Tetun website with sound files
  • Teach yourself Tetum... an interview with some information on the history of Tetum
  • Wordfinder (Tetun/English minidictionary) and other publications available from Dili
  • Damien LEIRIS - Personal approach of the Tetum language (PDF)
  • Tetun dictionary
  • Tetum illustrated dictionary
  • Dili Institute of Technology Institute of Technology website
  • A Traveller's Dictionary in Tetun-English and English-Tetun includes some information on grammar, based on the Tetun-Terik dialect
  • Sebastião Aparício da Silva Project for the Protection and Promotion of East Timorese Languages
  • Suara Timor Lorosae Daily newspaper in Tetum and Indonesian
  • Jornal Nacional Semanário Tetum page
  • Tetum dictionaries
  • Tetun 1, Tetun 2 Tetun writing courses for East Timorese university students, by Catharina Williams-van Klinken, Dili Institute of Technology
  • Talk Tetum in Timor Travel Guide help you to talk in East Timor
  • Robert Blust's field notes on Tetun are archived with Kaipuleohone
  • Kroon, Sjaak; Kurvers, Jeanne (2020). "Language use, language attitudes and identity in the East Timorese diaspora in the Netherlands". Journal of Multilingual and Multicultural Development. 41 (5). doi:10.1080/01434632.2019.1657872.

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