LINGUIST List 4.125

Tue 23 Feb 1993

Sum: Obscure Language Problem

Editor for this issue: <>


  1. , Obscure language mystery solved

Message 1: Obscure language mystery solved

Date: Mon, 22 Feb 93 17:51:21 ESObscure language mystery solved
From: <>
Subject: Obscure language mystery solved

Thanks to all the many people (I've received 36 messages as of last
count) who responded with ideas as to the nature of the mysterious set
of tables I inquired about in a previous message. (See Linguist List
4.117.) The language was universally recognized as an Austronesian
language of some sort, with various guesses as to more specific

The exact identification has almost certainly been given by Lawrence
Reid of the University of Hawaii. His reply was as follows:

 The language appears to be Lampung of Eastern Indonesia, obviously
 transcribed by an English speaker, probably during the last century.
 A number of distinctive forms, not commonly found in other Indonesian
 Austronesian languages such as culuq (chooloo) hand, nyia (ngiah) I,
 betiq (buttie) good, or forms with an unusal reflex of
 Proto-Austronesian such as zero for PAN *R, such as bias (beeas) <
 *beRas rice, wai (wye) < *waiR, occur in Lampung. Check Dale Walker's
 Grammar of the Lampung language, Badan Penyelenggara, Seri NUSA,
 Jakarta. The symbols are no doubt the Lampung forms of the old Indic
 script that was used throughout Indonesian and the Philippines in
 pre-European times. Sorry I have no idea what the book could be that
 these forms come from, though. Interesting little problem!

 Lawrence A Reid

Independent evidence corroborates this identification. The two tables
were entitled "LAMPOON 1" and "LAMPOON 2". (This accounted, in part,
for my apparently unsupported concern that the page was hoaxed.)

I am still trying to track down the source of the tables, presumably a
book by a 19th century traveler or missionary in Eastern Indonesia.
Any leads on this aspect of the puzzle would still be greatly

 -- Stuart Shieber
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