Introduction to the Abui

1.1 The Abui people

The word Abui, in the Abui language, is a word meaning ‘mountain’ or ‘enclosed space’. In Bahasa Malay, Abui refers to the Abui speakers who define their language as Abui tangà, ‘mountain language’, and call themselves Abui lokù, ‘mountain people’ (Kratochvíl, 2007: 3).

According to Abui oral traditions, the Abui people settled in Alor in ancient times. Some later moved to the Kabola territory (in Alor Island), where they lived in caves in the mountains of Mainàng (Kratochvíl, 2007; Nicolspeyer, 1940).

1.2 The Abui language

The Abui language belongs to the Alor branch of the Alor-Pantar language family (Holton et al., 2012), a family of clearly related Papuan languages (Klamer, 2010). Holton et al. prove the genealogical relationship between the Papuan languages of Alor Island and Pantar Island by utilising form-meaning pairings in cognate sets to establish regular sound correspondences (Holton et al., 2012). The Alor-Pantar language family is divided into two branches, the Alor branch (which Abui falls under) and the Pantar branch, which spread several millennia ago on the islands of Alor and Pantar respectively (see Figure 2) (Klamer, 2017).

DOI: 10.13140/RG.2.2.21503.56482


Holton, G., Klamer, M., Kratochvíl, F., Robinson, L.C., Schapper, A., 2012. The historical relations of the Papuan Languages of Alor and Pantar. Oceanic Linguistics. 51 (1), 86–122.

Klamer, M., 2010. A Grammar of Teiwa. Hubert & Co. GmbH & Co. KG, Göttingen.

Klamer, M., 2017. The Alor-Pantar languages: Linguistic context, history and typology. In: Klamer, M., (Ed.), The Alor-Pantar Languages: History and Typology, 2nd ed. Language Science Press, Berlin, pp. 1–48.

Kratochvíl, F., 2007. A Grammar of Abui. LOT, Utrecht.

Nicolspeyer, M.M., 1940. De sociale structuur van een Aloreesche bevolkingsgroep. V. A. Kramers, Rijswijk.