Friday, May 5, 2017  |  10a  |  Moore Hall 575 (LING Conference Room)

manoasealAttitudes Toward Tetun Dili, A Creole Language of East Timor

Melody Ann Ross, Linguistics

Chairs: Andrea Berez-Kroeker, Christina Higgins

This dissertation is the first documentation of the attitudes of East Timorese people toward Tetun Dili. Tetun Dili is a creolized variety of Tetun Terik. Tetun Dili, despite having a large speaker population and co-official status within East Timor, is not an extensively documented language. There are few dictionaries, even fewer grammatical descriptions, and almost no sociolinguistic literature on the language. The aim of this dissertation is to contribute to this literature by describing the attitudes held by Timorese toward this language, and to situate those language attitudes within the larger framework of language ideologies.

Language attitudes are the beliefs and stereotypes that individuals hold toward linguistic varieties which are informed by (or reactions against) dominant societal language ideologies. Language ideologies are the environment in which attitudes reside, and their relationship of influence is bidirectional. The data used for these two attitude studies come from language attitude surveys and sociolinguistic interviews. From this data emerged five general attitudinal themes.

The most important and robust is the theme of Tetun as a social necessity in East Timor. It is highly ranked in nearly every social setting, and is viewed as vital for daily life in Timor. The second is the theme of Tetun as a marker of East Timorese identity. It is viewed as an important part of Timorese-ness, and Timorese have an emotional attachment to it. The third theme is that of Tetun as the target of critique. It is viewed as inappropriate in certain situations or domains, and has some negative stereotypes associated with it. The fourth theme is that of Tetun as “developing” or needing “development”. This was seen in the descriptive section especially, but also in views of Tetun utility. The fifth theme is that of Tetun as the locus of insecurity, either in personal use or more directly concerning the language itself. These five trends will be explored in depth in both the interview and survey sections of this dissertation, with a special emphasis on their relationship to dominant language ideologies in East Timor.