Sulawesi Language Alliance

Championing Local Languages in the Heart of Indonesia

Topics in Lexicography

The series Sulang Language Data and Working Papers: Topics in Lexicography is published by Sulawesi Language Alliance. Papers in this series are aimed at providing helpful information for dictionary makers, particularly for those working in the Indonesian context.

In general, each paper covers a particular (sometimes very narrow) semantic domain, giving note to special issues or difficulties which may arise in the Indonesian/Malay context. These are working papers, and updated versions may be posted from time to time.

To submit a paper for inclusion in this series, see our guidelines on how to submit a resource.


Papers in this series are posted as PDF files. PDF files can be viewed or printed using the free Adobe Reader.

Please make sure you have read and agree to our terms and conditions of use before downloading any documents or other files from this page.


001 Etymologies and Where to Find Them
Abstract: This paper is an annotated bibliography of thirty-eight resources where etymologies of Indonesian words can be found, arranged according to source (e.g. Arabic loanwords, Chinese loanwords, Indic loanwords, words of Austronesian provenance, etc.). Compiled over several years and completed in 2005, this paper has largely, but not completely, been superseded by the 2007 publication of Russell Jones’s Loan-words in Indonesian and Malay.
Year Published: 2010
Publication Language: English
Contributors: David Mead
002 How to Format an Etymology: Some General Principles, and Some Specifics for Toolbox Users
Abstract: Based on practical experience working on two indigenous language dictionaries in Indonesia, these are my tips about what kind of information to include in the etymological portion of a dictionary entry, and how to format it in the Toolbox program.
Year Published: 2010
Publication Language: English
Contributors: David Mead
003 Palm Parts
Abstract: This paper introduces English and Indonesian terminology associated with palm trees, including the parts of a frond, palm flowers, and palm fruits, along with various fibers and other products (toddy, palm cabbage, sago, sago grubs, etc.) derived from palm trees. A few common species (coconut, areca, nipa, sago and sugar palms) are briefly described.
Year Published: 2012
Publication Language: English
Contributors: David Mead
004 Coins of the Realm: Some Coins of the Dutch Colonial Period
Abstract: Beginning with the Spanish dollar (the ‘pieces of eight’ of pirate lore fame), this paper takes the reader on a brief journey through history, touching on various coins used in the Dutch East Indies during the colonial period.
Year Published: 2011
Publication Language: English
Contributors: David Mead
005 Root Crops
Abstract: This guide describes the staple root crops of Indonesia, including native taro and yam species as well as more recently introduced plants such as tannia (cocoyam), sweet potato, cassava, and the Irish potato. A final section lists a further dozen minor species used for their edible, starchy roots.
Year Published: 2013
Publication Language: English
Contributors: David Mead
006 Identifying Ten Common Freshwater Fish of Indonesia: Translation and Lexicographical Information for English-Indonesian
Abstract: This paper comprises a checklist, along with brief descriptions, of ten commonly encountered freshwater fish of Indonesia.
Year Published: 2011
Publication Language: English
Contributors: Phil Quick
007 Annotated Bibliography of Field References Used to Identify Pendau Fish Names
Abstract: This paper is an annotated bibliography of thirteen references that the author used to identify over 260 fish in Pendau (Central Sulawesi).
Year Published: 2011
Publication Language: English
Contributors: Phil Quick
008 Grass, Rush or Sedge?
Abstract: Rushes and sedges are superficially similar to grasses. In this article I describe how to tell by brief inspection whether a plant is a true grass, a rush, or a sedge. I also discuss the meanings of the related terms reed, cane and bulrush, so that you can correctly use all these terms in your dictionary work. Pipeworts, yet another kind of plant associated with aquatic environments, also receive a brief mention.
Year Published: 2011
Publication Language: English
Contributors: David Mead
009 Grain Crops in Indonesia
Abstract: The purpose of this article is to aid researchers such as linguists and anthropologists who are doing research in rural areas of Indonesia to correctly identify grain crops grown in the local area.
Year Published: 2013
Publication Language: English
Contributors: Michael P. Martens
010 Vocabulary Associated with Maize and Rice
Abstract: Maize and rice are rich areas of vocabulary in many Indonesian languages. This paper outlines several areas to investigate, including varieties of maize and rice, parts of the plant, their cultivation including stages of growth, harvesting and harvest taboos, storage, and ways of preparing these grains for human consumption.
Year Published: 2013
Publication Language: English
Contributors: Michael P. Martens
011 A Guide to Some Bees and Wasps of Indonesia
Abstract: This paper describes a handful of bee and wasp species of Indonesia that are likely distinct enough to be identified by non-specialists. For kinds that are not identified, I suggest information you might include in a dictionary entry in order to move beyond simply glossing ‘a kind of bee’ or ‘a kind of wasp.’
Year Published: 2013
Publication Language: English
Contributors: David Mead
012 Unusual Stones
Abstract: This paper describes four kinds of stones: bezoars, mustika pearls, snakestones, and thunderstones. All are unusual in regard to their actual or supposed origin, and some have mystical powers ascribed to them.
Year Published: 2014
Publication Language: English
Contributors: David Mead
013 Popguns and Peashooters
Abstract: This article briefly describes and illustrates three types of native ballistic bamboo toys found in Indonesia: popguns, squirt guns. and peashooters.
Year Published: 2013
Publication Language: English
Contributors: David Mead
014 Kite Parts
Abstract: This guide names and describes the parts of a basic paper kite. Leaf kites are also mentioned.
Year Published: 2013
Publication Language: English
Contributors: David Mead
015 Smelting, Forging and Smithing: A Brief History of Metallurgy for the Lexicographer
Abstract: This paper covers metal and metal alloys along with the processes of smelting, forging and smithing. The discussion of English and Indonesian terms associated with metal and metalworking is set within a broad historical context, from the Bronze Age through the development of modern steel mills.
Year Published: 2013
Publication Language: English
Contributors: David Mead
016 ‘Mouth’ and Related Terms in Your Dictionary
Abstract: The mouth is an important and versatile organ of the body. The aim of this paper is to guide dictionary compilers working in the Indonesian context when investigating terms associated with the mouth, including its subparts and diseases, as well as actions typically performed with the mouth.
Year Published: 2013
Publication Language: English
Contributors: David Mead
017 Tooth Transfigurement in Indonesia
Abstract: Tooth transfigurement refers to various ritual practices, including tooth extraction, tooth cutting, tooth filing, tooth blackening and tooth ornamen­tation, that deliberately alter the natural state or appearance of the teeth In Indonesia such rituals are usually part of a rite of passage into adulthood. This article introduces the subject of tooth transfigurement and gives the researcher a list of pertinent subjects and vocabulary to ask about.
Year Published: 2013
Publication Language: English
Contributors: Michael Martens
018 Domesticated Geese and Ducks—and Allied Species
Abstract: This paper describes the two species of domesticated geese and the two species of domesticated ducks. I also provide a checklist and brief notes concerning related, duck-like waterfowl present in Indonesia, including grebes and boobies.
Year Published: 2013
Publication Language: English
Contributors: David Mead
019 Oaks in Indonesia?
Abstract: Members of the beech family (Fagaceae), including chinquapins and oaks, are broadly characterized by long, usually drooping flower clusters called catkins, and by nuts which are completely or partially surrounded by a husk called a cupule. This guide is an introduction to the four Fagaceae genera that are indigenous to Indonesia and how they may be distinguished by the non-specialist.
Year Published: 2013
Publication Language: English
Contributors: David Mead
020 Gourd, Squash, Pumpkin, Melon: What’s the Difference?
Abstract: This article is an introduction, with pictures, of plants of the gourd family (Cucurbitaceae) which you are likely to find cultivated in Indonesia. Along the way we also touch on a few other plants which are unmistakably not gourds, but which through ignorance have sometimes been confused with gourds.
Year Published: 2013
Publication Language: English
Contributors: by David Mead and Michael Martens
021 Types of Jambu
Abstract: Jambu is an Indonesian cover term for several tropical fruit trees. Most of these trees belonging to the genus Syzygium, although the term jambu is now also applied to two New World species introduced into Indonesia. This article provides brief descriptions along with pictures to help lexicographers correctly identify nine principal species grown for their fruits, flowers or leaves.
Year Published: 2013
Publication Language: English
Contributors: David Mead
022 Ladle, Spoon and Spatula
Abstract: This paper illustrates and names various spoon-like implements commonly encountered in Indonesian kitchens.
Year Published: 2013
Publication Language: English
Contributors: David Mead
023 Parts of a Knife
Abstract: This article names and illustrates the different parts of a blade and its handle, giving terms in both English and Indonesian.
Year Published: 2013
Contributors: David Mead
025 Fishing Gear
Abstract: This paper is an introduction to traditional and modern methods and gear used by Indonesian fishers, whether by angling, spearing, netting, trapping, stupefying or other means. My aim is to help lexicographers to move beyond simple descriptions such as ‘a kind of net’ or ‘a kind of fish trap’ and toward definitions which are clear, accurate and informative.
Year Published: 2013
Publication Language: English
Contributors: David Mead
026 Squirrels of Sulawesi: An Introduction
Abstract: This article has two parts. The first part comprises thumbnail sketches of the twelve squirrel species found on the island of Sulawesi. The second part is a description of some other small mammals which may potentially be confused with squirrels, at least during the initial phases of lexicography research.
Year Published: 2014
Publication Language: English
Contributors: David Mead
027 Types of ‘Dillenia’ on Sulawesi
Abstract: Dillenia (or simpoh) is a kind of edible, segmented tropical fruit. This paper briefly describes the five species of genus Dillenia that are found on Sulawesi and its environs in Indonesia. Four of these species are endemic to Sulawesi.
Year Published: 2014
Publication Language: English
Contributors: David Mead
028 Basils (Ocimum spp.) in Indonesia
Abstract: Only four or five species of basil (genus Ocimum) are found in Indonesia. This paper is a layman’s guide on how to recognize a basil plant in Indonesia and identify it at the species level.
Year Published: 2014
Publication Language: English
Contributors: David Mead
029 A Guide to Some Edible Legumes of Indonesia
Abstract: This paper is a pictorial guide along with brief prose descriptions of thirty-six varieties of edible legumes that you may encounter in the Indonesian context. Whilst in the field of agricultural economics it is common to distinguish between legumes used as vegetables (young pods, fresh seeds, and sprouts) versus grain legumes or ‘pulses’ (marketed as edible dried seeds), this guide covers both together. A final section highlights a few inedible yet well-known or easily recognizable legume species.
Year Published: 2017
Publication Language: English
Contributors: David Mead
030 Vortices and Related Phenomena
Abstract: The terms ‘whirlwind’ (Indonesian pusaran angin, angin puyuh) and ‘whirlpool’ (Indonesian pusaran air) usually show up as definitions in our indigenous language dictionaries. However both the English and Indonesian terms can be ambiguous. In this paper I mention more than a dozen different natural phenomena that involve wind or water rotating about an axis—from tornadoes to fire whirls, from tidal maelstroms to river eddies—with the aim of helping us to write clearer, more precise definitions.
Year Published: 2017
Publication Language: English
Contributors: David Mead
031 Hollows and Folds of the Body
Abstract: In this paper I discuss certain hollows, notches, and folds of the surface anatomy of the human body, features which might otherwise go overlooked in your lexicographical research. Along the way I also mention names for wrinkles of the face and fold lines of the hands.
Year Published: 2017
Publication Language: English
Contributors: David Mead

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