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Te'un language

Native toIndonesia
RegionSeram Island
Ethnicity1,200 (1990)[1]
Extinct(date missing)[2]
Language codes
ISO 639-3tve

Te’un (Teun) is an Austronesian language originally spoken on Teun Island in Maluku, Indonesia. Speakers were relocated to Seram due to volcanic activity on Teun. Te’un (Teun) is an Austronesian language originally spoken on Teun Island in the villages of Mesa, Yafila and Wotludan and on Nila Island in the village of Bumei. Teon was originally spoken in Mesa, Yafila, Wotludan and Bemei. Sarua was originally spoken on Wotai, Sifluru, Waru, Jerili, Lesluru and Terana. Nila was originally spoken on Amet, Kokroman and Kuralele. When the entire population was moved to Waipia on Seram between 1979-1983 the TNS people arrived in an area where two indigenous languages are spoken: Amahai and Yalahatan. Both languages are highly endangered and respectively had 50 and 1000 speakers around 1996. Initially there was little direct influence on the Teun community. The original villages were rebuilt as separate quarters in the Waipia area. The quarters are clustered into island groups as an asset to safeguard the traditional alliances between the villages. For the Wetan-speaking Teon enclaves of Isu and Layeni, however, the new location appeared to be a set-back. In the original setting on Teon Island both villages were isolated together from the Teon-speaking villages, whereas a strait between Teon Island and Nila Island barred any possible direct influence from the latter. In the new setting the Wetan enclaves are completely surrounded by Sarua-speaking quarters. In the case of Layeni, the speakers of the Sarua dialect (Jerili and Wotai) and the Teon dialect (Yefila) live across the street. In the original situation the indigenous languages could be maintained thanks to the straits being natural barriers between the islands, which enabled the southernmost island of Teon to become a „linguistic haven” for the Teon language and the Wetan dialect spoken in the villages of Isu and Layeni. In the TNS district on Seram island, however, the Teon-speaking villages became quarters that were completely surrounded by Sarua-speaking quarters, whereas the Wetan-speaking quarters besides being surrounded by Sarua-speaking quarters were separated from each other by the Teon-speaking Yefila quarters. Consequently, both the Teon and Wetan languages were the first to disappear. Due to their strong similarity, Nila and Sarua managed to maintain longer, albeit with strong mutual lexical and grammatical influence. The complex ethno-linguistic scenario as a result of the transmigration towards Masohi makes that Ambonese Malay, the traditional contact language in the region, naturally functions as the vernacular for interethnic communication, pushing the use of the indigenous languages back into the household. In 1996 the elderly in Waipia are looking for academic help to save their language. Compilation of Sarua Lexicon starts in the 21° century. In 1998-1999 ethnic and religious riots throughout Indonesia drastically change the demographic composition of the TNS district. A massive influx of fugitives occurs into the Waipia area from February 1999 to July 2000. These ‘Internally Displaced Persons’ come from the adjacent districts Tehoru, Amahai (specifically the city of Masohi) and Taniwel on the South and Northwest Seram, and from the Banda Islands District about 150 kilometres south of Seram. All fugitives are Christians on the run for the Christian-Islamic violence. The fear of Muslim violence, perhaps in combination with a feeling of obligation towards fellow-Christians, made the TNS people provide shelter for these refugees. Before their arrival the TNS language already was becoming obsolete in the home, being used only between spouses who were adults at the time of emigration from Teon, Nila and Sarua. In this context in which households are expanded with speakers from other ethnolinguistic regions, the use of the TNS language comes to a complete standstill. Each household is said to accommodate one to five refugees. The massive influx of newcomers increases the population with 50%, this stabilizes society and causes starvation. Some decide to return to TNS.Nowadays people on the island of Teon speak Bahasa Indonesia.


  1. ^ Te'un at Ethnologue (16th ed., 2009)
  2. ^ Te’un at Ethnologue (17th ed., 2013)
  3. ^ Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin, eds. (2017). "Te'un". Glottolog 3.0. Jena, Germany: Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History.