Kei
Native toIndonesia
RegionMaluku Islands
Native speakers
85,000 (2000)[1]
Language codes
ISO 639-3kei
Glottologkeii1239

Kei is an Austronesian language spoken in a small region of the Moluccas, a province of Indonesia.

Geography

Keiese is mainly spoken in the Kei archipelago in Maluku Tenggara (The Southeast Moluccas), belonging to the province of Maluku, Indonesia. It has a population of around 140.000 people (source unknown), half of which lives in the only two cities, Tual and Langgur: respectively the Islamic and Christian capitals of the archipelago. Both cities belong to the Kei Kecil district. The other half of the population lives in the coastal villages of the archipelago.

Classification

Keiese is an Austronesian language, traditionally grouped in the Central Malayo-Polynesian (CMP) language family that knows several subgroups, one of which is Kei-Tanimbar. This tiny family splits up one more time into Yamdena-Onin and Kei-Fordata, the latter of which contains Keiese. The main dialects are the Northern and Southern Mainland dialects, spoken on Kei Besar, and the Islands Dialect, spoken on the other islands. The Islands Dialect has some sub dialects, of which the Kei Kecil dialect has the most speakers and prestige. All grammatical descriptions in this article are derived from the Kei Kecil dialect.

Name

Keiese is referred to with different names derived from at least three backgrounds. “Kei” is assumed to be coined by Portuguese colonists. They called it stone (“kayos”) for its rocky bottom. However, whereas the most inhabited island (Kei Kecil) is indeed a rocky atoll, the biggest island of the archipelago (Kei Besar) is a fertile volcanic island. Dutch missionaries would call the language “Keiees” (lit. “Keiese”). Indonesians know the language today, as “Bahasa Kei/Kai”, always pronounced as [ke]. Ethnologue mentions a second way to refer to the language: “Saumlaki”. Saumlaki is a small island that belongs to the Tanimbar archipelago, of which its languages are not proven to be directly historically related to Kei. The third way to talk about the language is in the language itself. The pronunciation is best transcribed as [eʋa:v], which cannot be translated for simply being a proper name. Spellings that are used by scholars are Eiwav, Eivav, Ewaw, Ewab, Ewaf, Evav, Ewav and Evaf, for it is arguable whether the two consonants are phonemically distinct or not.

Status

It is difficult to estimate the number of speakers of Keiese. According to Ethnologue, the number lies around 85,000, out of a total of 140,000 inhabitants. In 1985, Tetelepta et al. wrote that the total number of Keiese speakers in the two capitals of Kei Kecil and the capital of Kei Besar was 12,353 people. It is likely that this number must be doubled when including the speakers in coastal villages. Ma Kang Yuen[2] however, who studied the language in 154 villages (out of a bit more than 200) on Kei Kecil for several years in the first decade of the 21st century, claims to have never met a fluent speaker. This was later confirmed by Yuri Villa Rikkers,[3] who visited the archipelago for a brief linguistic study in 2014.

Linguistic features

Phonology

Keiese knows approximately 16 consonants, 8 vowels and 4 diphthongs. The Keiese people have not yet concluded on an official spelling system.

Consonants Vowels and Diphthongs
Phoneme Allophones Phoneme Allophones
/b/ [b] /i/ [i], [ɪ], [ə]
/t/ [t] /u/ [u]
/d/ [d] /e/ [e], [ə]
/k/ [k] /ɛ/ [ɛ], [ɪ]
/ʔ/ [ʔ] /o/ [o]
/m/ [m] /ɔ/ [ɔ]
/n/ [n] /a/ [a], [a:], [ə]
/ŋ/ [ŋ] /ɑ/ [ɑ], [a]
/r/ [r] /ɛɪ/ [ɛɪ]
/f/ [f], [v] /ɛɑ/ [ɛɑ]
/h/ [h] /ɑɪ/ [ɑɪ]
/ʋ/ [ʋ], [v] /ɔi/ [ɔi], [ui]
/s/ [s]
/j/ [j]
/w/ [w]
/l/ [l]

As is common among Austronesian languages, consonant clusters are usually avoided. Word stress is usually found on the last syllable.

Verbal inflection

Verbal Inflection in Keiese is about agreement marking on the verb, based on the person and number of the subject of a sentence. These subjects may be formed by nouns or by free personal pronouns that know a clusivity distinction as is common in Austronesian languages.

singular plural
1st person exclusive jaʔau am
inclusive it
2nd person ɔ im
3rd person i hir

They each correspond to a verbal prefix.

singular plural
1st person exclusive u- m-
inclusive t-
2nd person m- m-
3rd person n- r-

The sentences below (Villa Rikkers, 2014)[4] show how these forms combine.

First person singular

jɑʔau

1SG

u-

1SG

baŋil

hit

umɑt

person

hoɑrrəbran

husband:3PL.POSS

vut-

ten

ru

two

ma

ADDR

umɛɑk

shy

jɑʔau u- baŋil umɑt hoɑrrəbran vut- ru ma umɛɑk

1SG 1SG hit person husband:3PL.POSS ten two ADDR shy

“So I hit twenty shy husbands.” Unknown glossing abbreviation(s) (help);

Second person singular

o

2SG

m-

2SG

fɪd

sell

i

3SG

ni

3SG.POSS

wɑrat

rope

waid

NEG

o m- fɪd i ni wɑrat waid

2SG 2SG sell 3SG 3SG.POSS rope NEG

“You don’t sell his rope.”

Third person singular

i

3SG

ʔn-

3SG-

ba

go

ʔn-

3SG

tun

shoot

manut

chicken

insjɛn

lazy

ʔntɪl

three

i ʔn- ba ʔn- tun manut insjɛn ʔntɪl

3SG 3SG- go 3SG shoot chicken lazy three

“He’s going to shoot three lazy chickens again.”

First person plural (addressee excluded)

ɑm

1PL.EX

bɪsbisa

all

m-

1PL.EX-

fɔklɔi

hang

lar

sail

jaʔanuŋ

1SG.POSS

ɑm bɪsbisa m- fɔklɔi lar jaʔanuŋ

1PL.EX all 1PL.EX- hang sail 1SG.POSS

“So we(excl.) hang my sail.”

First person plural (addressee included)

hɛrawɪn

Yesterday

it

1PL.IN

tə-

1PL.IN-

tavɑt

stab

ɑm

1PL.EX

warib

younger.sibling:1PL.POSS

hɛrawɪn it tə- tavɑt ɑm warib

Yesterday 1PL.IN 1PL.IN- stab 1PL.EX younger.sibling:1PL.POSS

“Yesterday, we(incl.) stabbed our(excl.) younger siblings.”

Second person plural

im

2PL

m-

2PL

ŋis

pinch

bəlabɑ

spider

bərbir

blue

ʔnru

two

im m- ŋis bəlabɑ bərbir ʔnru

2PL 2PL pinch spider blue two

“You pinch two blue spiders.”

Third person plural

hir

3PL

ʔr-

3PL

foi

plant

ŋunit

bamboo

kətkut

short

ʔntɪl

three

məhɛ

only

hir ʔr- foi ŋunit kətkut ʔntɪl məhɛ

3PL 3PL plant bamboo short three only

“They only plant three small bamboo plants.”

Possession

Keiese discriminates between alienable and unalienable nouns by using different strategies to express possession. Alienable nouns select possessive pronouns.

Person/number Prefix Person/number Prefix
1SG nɪŋ~(a)nuŋ 1PL (inclusive) did~din
2SG mu 2PL bir
3SG ni 3PL rir
1PL (exclusive) mam'

For example, "my boat" must be translated as "nɪŋ habo", for boats may have different owners at different times. Unalienable nouns select possessive suffixes.

Person/number Suffix Example Meaning
1SG limaŋ "my hand"
2SG -m limam "your hand"
3SG -n liman "the/its/him/her hand"
1PL (exclusive) -b limab "our hand" (ex.)
1PL (inclusive) -d limad "our hand" (in.)
2PL -b limab "your hand"
3PL -r limar "their hand"

Numerals

The numeral system uses numeral roots (NR) that combine with both numeral classifiers (CLF) and autonomous numerals (NUM). The numeral roots are given below.

Root Meaning Root Meaning
ain "one" nean~nɛan~nɛ:n "six"
ru "two" fit~fid "seven"
til~tɪl~tel "three" ʋau~wau "eight"
fak~fa:k "four" siw "nine"
lim~lɪm "five"

The formation of numbers is illustrated in the table below.

Range Structure Illustration Meaning
1 CLF-(NUM) ain(mehe) 1
2-9 CLF-NR ainru 2
10 (CLF)-NR (ain)vut 10
10+x NUM-CLF-NR vut ainmehe 11
10*x NUM-NR vutfak 40
10*x+x NUM-NR-CLF-NR vutnean ainnean 66
100+x NUM-CLF-NR ratut ainru 102
100+10*x NUM-NUM-NR ratut vutfak 140
100+10*x+x NUM-NUM-NR-CLF-NR ratut vuttil ainru 132
100*x NUM-NR ratlim 500
100*x+x NUM-NR-CLF-NR ratru ainru 202
100*x+10*x NUM-NR-NUM-NR ratnean vutfak 640
100*x+10*x+x NUM-NR-NUM-NR-CLF-NR ratru vuttil ainru 232

References

  1. ^ Kei at Ethnologue (18th ed., 2015) (subscription required)
  2. ^ Yuen, M.K. (Felix Ma). 2012. Kamus Bahasa Kei – Indonesia [Dictionary Kei – Indonesian].
  3. ^ Villa Rikkers, Y. 2014. Topics in Evaf Morphology: a Comparative Analysis of Inflectional Categories in an Austronesian Language of the Southeast Moluccas. Universiteit Leiden.
  4. ^ Villa Rikkers, Y. 2014. Topics in Evaf Morphology: a Comparative Analysis of Inflectional Categories in an Austronesian Language of the Southeast Moluccas. Universiteit Leiden.

Bibliography

Grammars and sketches

Dictionaries and word lists

Stories, songs and other vernacular material

Historical classification of Keiese