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NOTE ON TRANSCRIPTION

This book presents the first extended series of texts transcribed in the Kodi language of West Sumba. The transcription system used is an adaptation of one already in use on the island and taught by elementary school teachers to their students. When I first arrived on Sumba in 1979, I was told by literate Kodi speakers that, although no Westerner had ever managed to learn to speak their language, they knew quite well how to write it with "Indonesian" letters, but that Kodi, like English, is a language that is not always written the way it is pronounced.

The first transcription system devised for all the Sumbanese languages came from the Dutch linguist Louis Onvlee, who worked with local assistants to translate the New Testament into the Kambera and Weyewa languages and published general descriptions of the linguistic diversity of the island (Onvlee 1929, 1973). As his system was also used by my informants, I follow it for the transcription of most words, as well as for the convention that many sounds are written with combinations of Latin characters. Consistent with modern Indonesian spelling, the sounds that were written in an older Dutch Malay as /tj/ and /j/ are here /c/ and /y/.

Kodi has three nasal consonants: /m/ a bilabial nasal, /n/ an alveolar nasal, and /ng/ a velar nasal. There are nine stops: /mb/ a prenasalized bilabial voiced stop, /b/ a preglottalized, implosive bilabial voiced stop, /p/ a bilabial voiceless stop, /nd/ a prenasalized voiced alveolar stop, /d/ a preglottalized, implosive voiced alveopalatal stop, /t/ a voiceless alveolar stop, /ngg/ a prenasalized voiced velar stop, and /'/ a glottal stop. There is also /gh/ a voiced velar fricative, the semiconsonants /w/ labiodental voiced and /y/ palatal, and the laterals /l/ apico-alveolar and /r/ alveolar,


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with two affricates: /c/ a voiceless alveopalatal, and /nj/ a prenasalized voiced palatal affricate.

There are five vowels /i,e,u,o,a/ and four diphthongs /au,ai,ou,ei/ pronounced approximately the same as in other Sumbanese languages (Onvlee 1929, 1973, Kuipers 1990, Geirnaert Martin 1992).

Kodi is a highly inflected language, and sounds are often affected by the phonetic environment in which they are found; this is why informants claimed it could not be pronounced as written. But through a special use of certain letters it is possible to reflect the spoken language more closely. I use /y/ to indicate an extra syllable inserted after a consonant which follows the /ei/ sound in a preceding word. The /y/ sound is also inserted after the first consonant of a proper name to indicate that reference is in the third person (somewhat akin to the Indonesian practice of referring to an absent person as "Si Someone"). The insertion of this syllable changes the consonant /t/ to /c/ and the consonant /nd/ to /nj/ and may affect the way other parts of the word are pronounced. Thus, the prominent ancestor called Temba is referred to as Cyemba in Kodi, but if he is called with his title Rato the original form of the name returns, as in Rato Temba. A man who is called by his horse name is addressed as /ndara/ but referred to as /njara/. Kodi speakers do not modify the way they pronounce proper names when discussing absent persons in Indonesian, so I use the modified spelling of inflected names only in Kodi texts. These phonetic traits may explain some apparent inconsistencies in the transcription of proper names.

The book contains texts both in vernacular speech and in the special register of ritual speech which the Kodi call panggecango or "speech which is sewn up into couplets" (Hoskins 1988b). To reflect the marked social status of this indigenous verse form—the "words of the ancestors," which are believed to be relatively fixed and unchanging—I have arranged the paired lines to show their form as verse, and wherever possible I have included the precise Kodi text. These are considered words which have been passed down from past generations, and they represent a prized cultural heritage. I hope that these ways of representing the Kodi language on the page will be recognizable to my Kodi informants, who corrected many pages of transcribed texts so that their words could "travel over the oceans and reach people on the other side."


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