Alorese - Orientation

Identification. The Alorese live on the Island of Alor, in East Nusa Tenggara Province, Indonesia. Alor Regency includes the islands of Alor, Pantar, and Pura. Alor is noted as an area of tremendous cultural and linguistic diversity, possibly owing to its rugged terrain. Estimates of number of ethnolinguistic groups on the island vary greatly. Brouwer (1935) delineated seven primary physical-linguistic divisions on the island. Local officials distinguish thirteen "tribes" (Enga 1988), and Alorese informants speak of between forty-eight and sixty different languages on the island (Adams 1989). Today the Alorese are predominantly Christian, save for those along the coast who tend to be Muslim. Most of this Muslim coastal population originally immigrated from Timor, Flores, South Sulawesi, Java, Ambon, and other nearby islands. Indigenous Alorese residing in the mountainous interior practice either Christian or traditional religions. These autochthonous Alorese are of Papuan stock.

Location. The Island of Alor lies approximately 30 kilometers off the coast of Timor, between 8° 8′ and 8°36′ S and 124°49′ and 125°8′ E. The island is 2,884.54 square kilometers in size and the terrain is extremely mountainous, with limited coastal lowlands. The climate is tropical with a rainy season lasting from October to April.

Demography. In the mid-1980s the population of Alor Regency was estimated as 136,559. Figures are not available for the number of Alorese who have left the homeland to reside or study in the large cities of Indonesia.

Linguistic Affiliation. The languages spoken on Alor are classified as Austronesian and appear to resemble those spoken on nearby Timor. Some of these languages are also thought to be related to Papuan and East Solorese languages. Cora DuBois, who conducted the most extensive anthropological research on the island, suggests at least eight major language groups. Others have delineated seven primary language groupings on the island: Abui, Adang, Kamang, Kawel, Kelong, Kolana, and Kui-Kramang. As mentioned above, Alorese estimates of the number of mutually unintelligible languages on their island range from forty-eight to sixty. Today, as citizens of Indonesia, most Alorese speak Bahasa Indonesia in addition to their native dialect. Approximately 40 percent of the population uses the national language (Bahasa Indonesia) as their daily language. Roughly 40 percent can speak Bahasa Indonesia but uses another local language on a daily basis. Twenty percent of the population cannot speak Bahasa Indonesia.

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