Workshop on Documenting Minority Languages in Nusa Tenggara Timur Indonesia


Date:  7 - 12 May, 2018

Venue: Universitas Kristen Artha Wacana,

Kupang, Timor Island, Indonesia

Click here to download booklet

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Basic Information


The goal of the workshop was to provide practical training in language documentation

for people from Nusa Tenggara Timur (NTT) with an interest in their local and regional

languages, and have the potential to play a major role in documenting these languages. The workshop consisted of two parts. First, intensive classroom tutorials provided basic training in community ethics, video/audio recordings,  transcription and annotation, orthography development, dictionary compilation, orthography development, and data management/archiving. In addition, the workshop included three days of field study by eight different teams.  One of the greatest challenges for documentary linguistics is the lack of capacity, especially in regions were language endangerment is most severe. It is our hope that the workshop participants will continue in their efforts to document local languages and preserve the rich linguistic heritage of NTT.



Monday 7th May

Training for linguistic fieldwork 1

Tuesday 8th May

Training for linguistic fieldwork 2

Wednesday 8th May


Thursday 9th May


Friday 10th May


Saturday 11th May

Report writing workshop

Sunday 12th May

Orthography workshop

Outcomes (continued)


The contents of the book, plus other outcomes, include the following:


  • A set of language/dialect reports.


  • Local folktales (dongeng) printed for the local market, and also to be put online (coming soon).


  • A wordlist for each of the language/dialects.


  • A set of language materials (recordings with    metadata) to be deposited in a language archive (PARADISEC).


  • Online blog posts. See here.





Participants were split up into 8 groups and each visited 1 village, documenting 1 variety.


The varieties (and their respective locations) documented include:  Helong Darat (Bolok), Uab Meto Amarasi (Nekmese), Uab Meto (Buraen),  Termanu (Pukdale), Thie (Rote) and Lole (Rote). In addition, Bahasa Abui (Alor) was studied with Abui speakers living in the Kupang area, and the highly moribund Bahasa Sar (Alor) was studied in Kupang as well with one of the last remaining speakers of the language, who was visiting from Pantar.


The final outcome includes a book, to be found here. The book contains the initial field reports compiled by each of the eight teams during the three-day field practica. The reports were compiled in a single day  and as such should not be considered to be final products. Still, these reports demonstrate the enormous potential of well-trained local documentation teams to complete professional quality documentation in a relatively short amount of time.

Organization & Sponsors


This workshop is organized by a team of researchers from Leiden University, University of Hawai'i, Universitas Kristen Artha Wacana and Palacký University Olomouc.


The workshop is sponsored by the Netherlands Organization for Scientific Research (NWO) grant for the VICI research project ‘Reconstructing the past through languages of the present: the Lesser Sunda Islands’. Project number: 277-70-012, Universitas Kristen Artha Wacana, the Language Documentation Training Center, and the US National Science Foundation (pending)



Marian Klamer, Leiden University


June Jacob, UKAW


Gary Holton, University of Hawai‘i



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Group photo of all the workshop participants including students from all over NTT and researchers from Hawai'i and Leiden

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Frengki Delpada (an Abui speaker) leading a transcription session on the Amarasi variety of Meto in Nekmese, Timor.

Participants going collecting a word list with a Helong Darat speaker in the area of Bolok

Participants at the Kristal cave in Bolok, home to underdocumented Helong Darat language

An Amarasi speaker combing a delightful toothless smile with her weekly weaving practice.

This group travelled all the way to Rote island to work on the Thie variety of Rotinese

They showed true fieldworker grit by staying up until 5 am to finish their transcriptions (this photo was taken  at the beginning of the evening)

This group went to Burain to work on a local variety of Uab Meto

Arjuna (from Sumba) transcribing a story with a Meto speaker

Bapak Amos Sir transcribing a story with Bapak Henrik Lembolang, the last remaining speaker of the moribund language of Sar, spoken on the island of Pantar

Professor Marian Klamer and Bapak Amos Sir feeling satisfied after collecting language data from the last speaker of the Sar language

This group went to Rote to work on the Lole variety of Rotinese


Recording a story about a speaker's childhood, including the advent of schools and churches in the once powerful Dutch post of Rote.

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This group stayed in Kupang and worked with Abui speakers. Abui is non-Austronesian, Timor-Alor-Pantar language spoken on the island of Alor. There are many Abui diasporas around Indonesia, with Kupang being one of them.

Simon Daniel Lanma interviewing an Abui speaker with camera support from Naomi, Leah, and Vivi.