Toponyms as a Gateway to Society: An Abui Case Study

Shaun Tyan Gin LIM, Francesco PERONO CACCIAFOCO*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Abui is a Papuan language spoken in Alor Island, South-East Indonesia. Although there are rich studies on the Abui language and its structure, research on Abui toponymy, which aids the understanding of language, culture, and society, deserves greater attention. This paper analyzes features of Abui society through Abui toponyms collected using Field Linguistics and Language Documentation methods. It finds that, because place names communicate valuable information on peoples and territories, Abui toponyms reflect the agrarian lifestyle of Abui speakers and, more broadly, the close relationship that the people have with their landscape. Furthermore, Abui toponyms express positive traits in the Abui culture like kinship ties and bravery. Notwithstanding, like other pre-literate and indigenous societies, oral stories are commonly used to explain how places are named. This paper augments the existing Abui toponymic studies on the connection between names and the places they name and provides a deeper understanding of the Abui language, culture, and society.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-18
Number of pages18
JournalOld World: Journal of Ancient Africa and Eurasia
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 7 Oct 2021


  • Toponymy
  • Language Documentation
  • Place Names
  • Abui
  • Toponomastics


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