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Kaupelanese (kpp), or basa kaupèlan, is the mother tongue for the majority of Kaupelanese people and, beside English, the official language of the Kingdom of Kaupelan. It is an Austonesian language descendant of makuwa (or old Kaupelanese), the lingua franca of the archipelago in the fifteenth century. Kaupelanese has five dialects, Kauta (the standard form), Haimarata (spoken in northern Kiwangar), Wisanyo (spoken in western Wisanu), Palayanga (spoken in Nilau) and Terong (spoken in Terong islands).

Kaupelanese is written in Kiwangar, a writing system derived from an ancient Indian script introduced in Kaupelan in the tenth century. By influence of European colonizers, the Roman alphabet is also largely employed. Since 1960, an official transliteration of Kiwangar was adopted, replacing the existing variants.

See also: Languages of Kaupelan.

History and Classification

Kaupelanese belongs to the Austronesian language family and is classified in the following subgroups: Malayo-Polynesian; Central Eastern Malayo-Polynesian and Bandanic. Seven living languages and 17 dialects belong to the Bandanic group. Inside this group, Kaupelanese is included in the Eastern Bandanic subgroup.

According to lexicostatistical studies, the first Austronesian populations arrived to the archipelago three thousand years ago. Scholars reconstructed the first Austronesian language spoken in the archipelago, the Proto-Bandanic (PBN), based on the Bandanic languages and dialects. Though PBN did not have script, its words could be inferred by comparing its descendant languages and Old Kaupelanese, the only ancient languages of the group with written records. Thus, for example, the Kaupelanese words tau (‘person’), watu (‘stone’) and roa (‘two’) are derived from the Old Kaupelanese words tawot, watu and roa, and are akin respectively to the words tamot, hato and from Waimahui, another language of the group. The corresponding PBN words can be inferred as *tamwot, *batu, and *rua.

With the dispersion of Austronesian population throughout the archipelago, many dialects derived from this protolanguage. These dialects, which already had influences of non-Austronesian languages, were adopted by local communities and absorbed lexical and grammatical characteristics of different aboriginal speeches. The Bandanic dialect spoken in the south of Kiwangar – which would originate Kaupelanese – showed a significant linguistic substratum attributed to a non-Austronesian language, the so-called Old Hubian (OH). From words like kiyawa (‘magic power’), sawa (‘potion’), silempi ('bee') and kuwimpi (‘ant’), for example, it is extracted the OH roots *auha (‘magic’) and *impe (‘insect, bug’). So, kiyawa is supposed to be derived from OH *k-ihi-auha (‘his magic power’), as well as sawa from *sə-auha (‘magic liquid’), silempi from *sila-impe (‘honey bug’) and kuwimpi from *k-uuru-impe ('earth bug').

Old Kaupelanese (until 1400) – The language in its earliest phase is called Old Kaupelanese (OK), or basa makuwa. The language of this period had a special feature: two distinct forms used according to the social class of the persons involved in the conversation. So, there was the Noble Speech, or basa raja, a refined language used exclusively by the royal family and the nobles; and the Common Speech, or basa daɁè, used by the people in general. The Noble Speech was considered the classical and literary form and it has, from the introduction of writing in the tenth century to the beginning of the fifteenth century, a remarkable literary production. The texts, mostly about the local nobility and religious matters, used euphemistic phrases and a large amount of Sanskrit and Old Javanese loanwords. But it was the basa daɁè that spread outside the kingdom of Kaotamakuwa, specially due to traders and soldiers, to become the vehicular language of the sultanate of Rajakaopalan and that decisively contributed to the Modern Kaupelanese.

Middle Kaupelanese (from 1401 to 1800) – The dialect of basa daɁè spoken in Kiwangar from the fifteenth century on is considered the Middle Kaupelanese, or basa kiwangar. The language received more influences of aboriginal speech and the lexicon was enriched with words from Malay and Arabic. Basa raja was no longer used as written standard, except by some priests or sages, as a kind of ritual or formal language. Both Kiwangar and an Arabic-based alphabet are employed in this period. The language began to diverge of the variants spoken in the islands of Wisanu, Nilau and Terong.

New Kaupelanese (since 1801) – The latest version of Kaupelanese – that is considered the standard form of the language spoken today – is the dialect of southern Kiwangar. In fact, basa kiwangar originated two different dialects, one Islamic in the north, called Haimarata, with greater Arabic and Malay influence, and the other Christian in the south, Kauta, with more accentuated Portuguese and English influence. The Kauta dialect was adopted as the national language since 1960.

Writing System

Kiwangar is a script in which every symbol represents a syllable more than simply a letter like the Latin alphabet. The basic symbols represent consonants followed by the vowel a. To form syllables with other vowels and/or with a consonantal sound at the end, diacritics are added to these basic symbols. The Latin alphabet can also be used, following the official transliteration.







Stops: p, b, t, d, k, g, Ɂ

Affricates: dʒ

Fricatives: f, s, h, β

Nasals: m, n, ŋ

Lateral and trill: l, r

Semi-vowels: j


i, e, a, ǝ, o, u


Referencearrow.png Main Article: Grammar of Kaupelanese


Ethno-linguistic map of Kaupelan

Below, a brief description of the major variants of the Standard Kaupelanese, or the dialect Kauta, that is spoken mostly in the south of Kiwangar, southeast of Wisanu and northwest of Nilau.


The dialect spoken in the north of Kiwangar is the closest to the standard form of the language. Main phonetic differences are the change of trilled r into a brief r (almost d); of j into s. The cluster wi of Old and Middle Kaupelanese becomes u in Haimarata. Lexically, it kept some archaisms from Old Kaupelanese and received more influence from Malay, Arabic and Belahu, an ancient language spoken in the north until 1400, as well as it was less influenced by Portuguese and English. The verbs in Haimarata are conjugated as in Kauta.


Spoken in the west of Wisanu, the dialect is phonetically very different of Kaupelanese. It has the gutural r, like French, the glotal stop ʔ, the diphthong èu, the long vowels èè and aa. Its vocabulary was influenced mostly by western dialect of Old Waimahui and by Waimahui itself..Grammatically it is similar to the official language, keeping some characteristics from Old Kaupelanese.


The vocabulary of Palayanga, spoken in Nilau, had strong influence of the aboriginal languages Suduk and Moinate and from the extinct language Camwadulan, spoken in the north of the island. Phonetically it has the c (like English ch) and the long open vowels éé and óó. Grammatically it is similar to the official language.


The dialect Terong is spoken mostly in the islands Narik, Sutumai and Dodo in the archipelago of Terong. It was influenced by Portuguese and by the aboriginal languages of the region. Phonetically it has the closed diphthong ei, the long closed vowel oo, and the initial nasal phonemes mp and nt, and glotal stop ʔ.