Lii Hawu (Sabu) Online Dictionary


The documentation of Lii Hawu is a work-in-progress being carried out under the Language and Culture Unit (UBB-GMIT), Kupang. The current preliminary version has around 1,650 headwords and includes homonyms, subentries, multiple senses, lexical relations, and example sentences. The lexicon was compiled in Toolbox following the MDF conventions (Coward and Grimes 1995, 2000), and ported over to Lexique Pro. As a work-in-progress, some of the entries are more reliable than others.

Copyright 2008 UBB-GMIT, Kupang. Email:

ISBN: 978-1-86892-595-7

Compiler: Charles E. Grimes, Ph.D. (Linguistics, Research School of Pacific and Asian Studies, Australian National University; and SIL International).

Contributors: My Hawu data are primarily from Bernadus Lado (Seba dialect, deceased May 2007), Rev. Simon Tari (Dimu dialect, deceased March 2007), and Rev. Thomas Ly (Dimu dialect). I have worked with approximately 15 other speakers, male and female, young and old, from the Seba, Dimu, and Raijua dialects. My exposure to the Liae and Mehara dialects has been limited to date. Menia is subsumed within the Seba dialect. My contact with Hawu has been limited to a few weeks.

The islands of Sabu and Raijua are located in the Sabu sea between the large islands of Timor and Sumba. The Hawu language (Ethnologue/ISO code hvn) is spoken by 60-80,000 speakers in five main dialects. An additional dialect has developed on the island of Sumba where speakers of Sabu have preserved a more archaic form of the language as well as adapted their speech in contact with Kambera and other languages of Sumba. Several thousand speakers of Hawu are found around the town of Ende on the island of Flores, and in the city of Kupang on the Timor mainland.

A note on language and island names

The Hawu language and its dialects have no /s/. Versions of the language name written with /s/ trace back to the Portuguese era, and commonly occur through the Dutch era. They continue to be preserved in the Indonesian era, apparently preserving names on maps from the Dutch without further investigation. There is an /s/ /h/ correspondence in loans. The sound written /w/ in Hawu ranges across dialects and various speakers from a light labiodental fricative (upper teeth to inner lower lip), to a light bilabial fricative, to a semivowel. The light labiodental fricative seems most prevalent, but the older generation insists it be written as a /w/, with Dutch as their reference point, whereas many of the younger generation prefer the symbol /v/ with reference to Indonesian and English writing conventions. The name of the island continues to be written as Sabu within the political system under which it currently functions. Outsiders in the region do not fricativize the intervocalic consonant and pronounce it as [sabu]. Hawu is most fully described in Walker (1982).

Last updated 9 April 2008.


Coward, David F. and Charles E. Grimes. 1995, 2000. Making dictionaries: a guide to lexicography and the Multi-Dictionary Formatter. Waxhaw: Summer Institute of Linguistics.

Donselaar, W.M. 1872. Aanteekeningen over het eiland Savoe. Mededeelingen van wege het Nederlandsch Zendeling Genootschap 16:281-332.

Fox, James J. 1972. The Savunese. In Frank Lebar, ed. Ethnic groups of insular Southeast Asia, New Haven: HRAF Press. Vol. 1:77-80.

. 1977. Harvest of the palm: ecological change in eastern Indonesia. Cambridge: Harvard University Press.

Grimes, Charles E. (forthcoming). Hawu and Dhao in eastern Indonesia: revisiting their relationship. In Michael Ewing and Marian Klamer, eds. Typological and Areal Analyses: Contributions from East Nusantara. Leiden: KITLV Press.

Grimes, Charles E., Bernadus Lado, Thomas Ly, and Simon Tari, compilers. 2003, and in process. Kamus Pengantar Lii Hawu (Bahasa Sabu). Kupang: Artha Wacana Press.

Grimes, Charles E., Bernadus Lado, Thomas Ly, and Simon Tari, translators. 2006. Lii Hag'a D'ara j'ara lua Yesus: pedutu nga do hure do b'uke ri Ma'u. Kupang: UBB-GMIT. [Gospel of Mark in Hawu]

Grimes, Charles E., Tom Therik, Barbara Dix Grimes, and Max Jacob. 1997. A guide to the people and languages of Nusa Tenggara. Paradigma B1. Kupang: Artha Wacana Press.

Jonker, J.C.G. 1919. Sawoeneesch. In D.G. Stibbe, ed. Encyclopaedie van Nederlandsch-Indi. s-Gravenhage: Martinus Nijhoff. Vol. 3:712-713.

Kern, H. 1892. Sawuneesche Bijdragen: Volzinnen, samensprakken en woordenlijst, met eene grammatische inleiding. Bijdragen tot de Taal-, Land- en Volkenkunde van Nederlandsch-Indi. s-Gravenhage: Martinus Nijhoff. 41:157-196, 513-553.

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Riedel, J.G.F. 1889. Bijdrage tot de Kennis van het Sawusch Dialect. Bijdragen tot de Taal-, Land- en Volkenkunde van Nederlandsch-Indi. s-Gravenhage: Martinus Nijhoff. 38:10-12

Walker, Alan T. 1982. A Grammar of Sawu. NUSA Linguistic Studies in Indonesian and Languages of Indonesia. Vol. 13.

Wijngaarden, J.K. 1896. Sawuneesche Woordenlijst. Uitgegeven door het Koninklijk Instituut voor de Taal-, Land- en Volkenkunde van Nederlandsch-Indi. s-Gravenhage: Martinus Nijhoff.

YPPII. 1985. Lai Lua Jagga Rasul-Rasul. Dept. Misi, Yayasan Persekutuan Pekabaran Injil: Batu, Malang. [Acts of the Apostles in Hawu].