Darma Laksana - Lembongan dialect (1984)

Phonemic vocabulary of Lembongan dialect

I Ketut Darma Laksana was born in Nusa Penida, Klungkung, on 1 September 1952. After he finished high school, he continued at the Faculty of Letters at Udayana University in 1973 and he graduated in 1980. In 1978, after he obtained his Bachelor's degree, he dedicated himself to teaching Indonesian at the same faculty at Udayana University. March 1981, he was appointed to be a regular teacher there. Then, amongst other things, he assisted in the realm of Indonesian, Local languages and literature research, and became leading researcher of Indonesian at the Bali Post.


This writing puts forward the issue of the phonemic vocabulary of the dialect in Nusa Lembongan. The objective is to familiarise the reader with this dialect in a wider perspective through its phonemic vocabulary.

Lembongan is a village on the island of Lembongan. This island lies west of Nusa Penida and administratively falls under the subdistrict of Nusa Penida counting 6.198 inhabitants. The livelihood of the inhabitants is generally farming. Nusa Lembongan, including Nusa Ceningan, consists of two villages, Lembongan with 3.592 inhabitants and Jungutbatu with 2.606 inhabitants (the inhabitants of Nusa Ceningan are included). Geographically, Lembongan is situated at a higher altitude (hills), whereas the village of Jungutbatu is located at the beach, to the north. This geographical situation is one of the factors that underlie differences in pronunciation. This goes to show that the dialect spoken in Lembongan can be distinguished on grounds of its pronunciation variations. Hence, a number of boundaries can be established in pronunciation varieties, i.e. between the hilly and lower regions. In this article, only the 'hill' variation is discussed, henceforth called Nusa Lembongan dialect. As will become clear from below explanations, the characteristic sounds of Lembongan dialect underpin the uniqueness of this language. This unique character is not encountered in the Jungutbatu (sub-dialect?) variations.

On Phonetics

The phonological analysis of certain phonetic data is not always the same, as it depends on the theory that forms the basis of this analysis. Phonologists do not always agree on the assumptions underlying the theory of phonology. However, apart from the existing differences, all phonologists agree on the need to establish two entities of phonological analysis, i.e. the phonetical entity (fon) and the phonological entity or phoneme. A phoneme is generally regarded as the border of a minimal sound entity as a way of distinguishing words of different meaning. For example, /b/ and /k/ each make up a phoneme because they distinguish the two meanings of /bapak/ (father) and /kapak/ (ax).

The 'borders' of a phoneme are based on phonological factors only, and are an integral part of the 'aliran Praha'. The operating procedure, which makes use of "opposition" in phonology is important as this is indicative of function. Thus, a phoneme is the minimal entity able to cause differences in meaning. This theoretical framework is rather important in the context of the issue discussed here. Hence, the operating procedure in this theory is followed wherever possible to obtain expected results.

Phoneme vocabulary of Lembongan dialect: Number of segmental phonemes

Based on gathered data, Lembongan dialect knows 24 segmental phonemes: six vocal phonemes and 18 consonant phonemes, which can be shown in below table according to the place (in the mouth) of articulation:

Vocal phonemes

Front Central Back  
i   u closed
  ə   mid
ε a ɔ open

Consonant phonemes 

Labial Alveolar Palatal Velar Laryngeal  
b d j g   voiced stop
p t   k   voiceless stop
m n ñ ŋ   nasal
  l       lateral
  r       trill
  s     h aspirated fricative
w   j     semivowel

Phoneme vocals

Six vocals in Lembongan dialect consist of two front vocals /i/ and /ε/; two central vocals /ə/ and /a/, and two back vocals /u/ and /ɔ/.

Vocal pronunciation

All the vocals in closed syllables which are shorter than an open syllable, e.g. /a/ in a first syllable, is longer than /a/ in the second syllable in the word /abas/: [a.bas]. This is also valid for the vocal /i/ and /u/ in the words /bibit/ and /bubuk/, pronounced as [bi.bit] and [bu.buk].

The difference in pronunciation of these vocals is allophonic and not phonemic given the influence of intonation, and all the vocals in both open and closed syllables are pronounced longer. This elongation is not phonemic either. However, the elongation of vocals in the last syllable of verbs, both open and closed syllables, will cause the word to have a different meaning. Examine below examples:

Lembongan dialect Indonesian-English   Lembongan dialect Indonesian-English
/jəmak/ ambil / take and /jəma:k/ diambil / taken
/gətət/ potong / cut and /gətə:t/ dipotong / cut

pukul / hit, beat

and /anu:/ dipukul / hit, beaten


beli / buy and /bəli:/ dibeli / bought

Note: symbol [/\] is used to symbolise /ə/ which is pronounced at a lower level (refer to 3.2.5 below). [* This phonetic sign does not seem to exist in the international phonetic alphabet (see: Reference below). Therefore, [ã] is used for the nasalised form of phoneme '/\'. Likewise, [õ] is the nasalised form of phoneme /ɔ/. GD]

Elongation of vocals in above examples consists of morphemic suprasegmentals. Hence, morphemic suprasegmentals occur in Lembongan dialect. These morphemic suprasegmentals are equivalent to prefix di- in Indonesian, and suffix -ə in Balinese.

Furthermore, vocals given precedence by consonants /m/, /n/, /ŋ/ and /ñ/ are always nasalised, whereas in other positions they are not nasalised, as in: /nasi/ (boiled rice) is pronounced [nãsi]; /tanən/ (plant) is pronounced [tanãn]; /namə/ (brother, sister, form of address) is pronounced [nãmɑ] and /aŋɔn/ (to herd) is pronounced [aŋõn].

Vocal /i/

Upper front vocal /i/ contrasts with closely situated /ε/ only in last position. e.g.: /sari/ (concentrate, nucleus) contrasts with /sarε/ (sleep); /gədi/ (go) contrasts with /gədε/ (big). In other positions, /i/ in minimal pairs contrasts with the central vocal /ə/, e.g.: /asi/ (match) contrasts with /asə/ (feeling); /dini/ (here) contrasts with /dinə/ (day). Vocal /i/ is pronounced /I/ in a closed syllable, as in /pait/ (bitter), /sakit/ (sick), pronounced [paIt] and [sakIt]. However, in other positions it is pronounced [i], higher than [I], as in [iri] (iri / jealous), [tipat] (rice cake in coconut leaves), and [sipah] (armpit).

Vocal /ε/

Vocal /ε/ is found in contrasting minimal pairs with closely situated vocal /a/, e.g.: /bεdə/ (obstacle) contrasts with /badə/ (cage); /dεsə/ (village) contrasts with /dasə/ (sepuluh / ten). In other positions, the contrast in minimal pairs can be proven with the vocal /ə/. For example: /basε/ (betel vine) contrasts with /basə/ (prepared spices mix); /rasε/ (civet) contrasts with /rasə/ (feeling). The sound [ε] in Balinese is an allophone of the phoneme /e/. However, in Lembongan dialect [ε] is a phoneme.

Vocal /a/

Central-lower vocal /a/ is found in minimal pairs with closely located vocal /ə/, as in: /karə/ (type of bean) contrasts with /kərə/ (hesitate); /sakə/ (pole) contrasts with /səkə/ (club, meeting). Distribution of vocal /a/ does not exists in a rear position. Because of this,the contrast in minimal pairs in this position does not exist wither. However, in other positions in closed syllables it does exist, as in: /asah/ (same) contrasts with /asih/ (give); /alat/ (pick) contrasts with /ulat/ (plait).

Vocal /ə/

Central-lower vocal in minimal pairs contrasts with closest vocal /a/, as in: /kə.par/ (bloom, blossom) contrasts with /kapar/ (tray); /bəsəh/ (swollen) contrasts with /basəh/ (wash) (See 3.2.4 above). Vocal /ə/ bot on an open and closed last syllable, is pronounced a little lower, i.e. [/\]. Hence /matə/ (mata / eye) is pronounced [mat/\]; /bisə/ (can, be able to) is pronounced [bis/\]; /pakəh/ (salty) is pronounced [pak/\h]; /sələŋ/ (black) is pronounced [səl/\ŋ].

Vocal /u/

The upper back vocal /u/ contrasts in minimal pairs with vocal /a/, e.g.: /bulu/ (feather, hair) contrasts with /balu/ (widow, widower); /sugi/ (wash one's face) contrasts with /sagi/ (served food); Vocal /u/ knows to ways of pronunciation making up its complementary distribution. The open syllable /u/ is pronounced [u], whereas in an closed syllable it is pronounced as a lower vocal [U]. e.g.: /saru/ (vague, disappeared) is pronounced [saru]; /ulig/ (crush, run over); but /sikut/ (measure) is pronounced [sikUt]; /jaguŋ/ (corn) is pronounced [jagUŋ].

Vocal /ɔ/

Back vocal /ɔ/ can be contrasted with vocal /a/, as in: /pɔh/ (mango) contrasts with /pah/ (share); /kapɔk/ (be cured of a habit, wary) contrasts with /kapak/ (ax). The status of this phoneme vocal /ɔ/ is equal to vocal /ε/ (Refer to 3.2.3 above).

Vocal harmony

Based on the analysis carried out on the sounds of Lembongan dialect, two vocals /ε/ and /ɔ/ do not exists in Balinese, the source language. In Balinese, these two vocals in open syllables are generally pronounced as [e] and [o], and are considered phonemes, whereas [ε] and [ɔ] are allophones. As a preliminary conclusion, it seems that vocals [ε] and [ɔ] in Lembongan dialect are influenced by the sound of the adjacent vocal. Examine below examples:

Bahasa Bali Lembongan dialect Indonesian English
/rare/ /rarε/ bayi baby
/bade/ /badε/ tebak guess
/base/ /basε/ sirih betel vine
/mako/ /makɔ tembakau tobacco
/paro/ /parɔ bagi share; for (?)
/sabo/ /sabɔ/ sawo sapodilla

The sound of the adjacent vocal which it impacts is the lower vocal /a/. This also occurs when the sound of the adjacent vocal is the same, e.g.:

Lembongan dialect Indonesian English
/mεmε/ ibu mother
/sεε/ serai lemongrass
/kεnε/ begini  like this
/lεlε/ ikan lele freshwater catfish
/rɔkɔ/ rokok cigarette
/mɔm<ɔ/ manja spoil
/tɔkɔ/ toko shop
/krɔsɔ/ sejenis bakul basket

Examples of the distribution of /ε/ and /ɔ/ in closed syllables is not given as this is a fairly common phenomenon.

Consonant phonemes

Consonant phonemes in Lembongan dialect are: bilabial stop /b/ and /p/; alveolar stop /d/ and /t/; palatal /j/ and /c/; velar /g/ and /k/; homorganic nasals /m/, /n/, /ñ/ and /ŋ/; alveolar fricative /s/; alveolar lateral /l/; alveolar trill /r/; glottal/laryngeal fricative /h/ and bilabial and palatal semivocal or semivowel /w/ and /y/ (Refer to consonant table in 3.1 above).

Consonant pronunciation

Consonants /d/, /t/, /j/, /c/, /g/, /k/, nasal /n/, /ñ/ and /ŋ/, fricative /s/, trill /r/ and lateral /l/ are each pronounced somewhat to the front or the back according to the sound of the surrounding vocals. For instance /t/ in /tagəl/ (tekuk / crumpled, bent up) is pronounced [t'agəl], but /tugəl/ (potong / cut) is pronounced [t'ugəl]. The difference in pronunciation of these vocals in complementary distribution is not represented and [is] a phonetic representation. Palatal consonants /j/, /c/ and /ñ/ and semivowel /w/ and /y/, as is the case in Balinese, are never found at the back of a word. This is also valid for bilabial consonants /p/, /b/, and /m/. Apart from this, especially consonant /m/ and other nasal consonants such as /ŋ/ and /n/ are never encountered in the penultimate syllable. (/n/ in this position depends on the adjacent sound (Refer to consonant /n/ in 3.3.7 below)).

Consonant /b/

In 3.3.1 it has been noted that consonant /b/ is not found at the end of words. he contrast in minimal pairs is found in the following positions: /batə/ (brick) and /patə/ (swear); /səbit/ (tear) and /səpit/ (tweezers). This consonant is not voiced in this position and does not show variations. Examine below examples: /abə/ (bring along, take) is pronounced [ab/\]; /bubu/ (plaited rattan fishtrap) is pronounced [bubu].

Consonant /p/

The voiceless bilabial stop consonant /p/ is pronounced without variation in all positions, except in last position, and in penultimate syllable is pronounced towards the back (of the mouth), e.g.: /patuh/ (same) is pronounced [patuh]; /kapas/ (cotton) is pronounced [kapas], but /kappid/ (wing) is pronounced [kap.pid], /tapih/ (fold) is pronounced [tap.pih].

Consonant /m/

Nasal consonant /m/ is homorganic with /b/ and /p/ as becomes obvious in minimal pairs in these positions: /səməŋ/ (morning) and /səbəŋ/ (face); /aməs/ (ravenous, gluttonous) and /apəs/ (clamp); /məsu/ (leaking) and /pəsu/ (out, outwards). Nasal consonant /m/ is pronounced without variations in these two positions.

Consonant /d/

Voiced stop alveolar /d/ occurs in all positions. Contrast in minimal pairs of consonant /d/ with other consonants are found, for instance, in /dasə/ (ten) and /basə/ (spices); /adə/ (to be) and /abə/ (bring along, take); /adah/ (Oh, expression of surprise) and /akah/ (root); /dadah/ (to heat) and /kakah/ (coarse, ill-mannered). A small note needs to be made regarding its pronunciation. The voiced stop sound /d/ is not homorganic with adjacent consonant /t/. Consonant /d/ is pronounced rather at the back of the mouth compared to /t/. Articulation of /d/ is alveopalatal, whereas /t/ is alveolar. Hence: /andih/ (fish smell) is pronounced [andih], whereas /kantih/ (outrigger) is pronounced [kantih].

3.3.6 Konsonan /t/

Voiceless stop alveolar /t/ is found in contrasting minimal pairs with adjacent consonant /d/, e.g.: /tətəh/ (overlapping) and /dədəh/ (expell someone); /atət/ (coincide, be very close together) and /adət/ (sell). Consonant /t/ is pronounced without variation, except in last position in a penultimate syllable and is pronounced rather towards the back of the mouth, e.g.: /patcər/ (rudder, helm) is pronounced [pat.cər]; /batcut/ (yank out, withdraw) is pronounced [bat.cut]. (Refer to /p/ in 3.3.3 above).

3.3.7 Konsonan /n/

Nasal consonant /n/ in minimal pairs shows the following contrast: /anu/ (strike, hour?) and /adu/ (compete); /inə/ (mother, chief) and /ilə/ (dangerous). Nasal consonant /n/ has two allophones, namely in the vicinity of voiceless stop alveopalatal [n], whereas in other positions it is pronounced as nasal alveolar, as become clear from below examples: /tandaŋ/ (energy, force; manner, style) is pronounced [tandaŋ], sedangkan /nanah/ (suppuration, pus) is pronounced [nanah] (Refer to consonant /d/ in 3.3.5 above).

Consonants /j/ and /c/

It has been mentioned in 3.3.1 that palatal stop /j/ and /c/ are not encountered in final word position. These two consonants each consist of a single phoneme, and this can be illustrated in contrasting minimal pairs below: /kajaŋ/ (bring, take, collect) and /kacaŋ/ (bean); /jujuk/ (stand) and /cucuk/ (lung).

Consonant /ñ/

Nasal fricative consonant /ñ/ is not encountered in the last position of a word. Contrasting minimal pairs are for example to be found with consonant /b/, e.g.: /ñət/ (willingness) and /bət/ (bushes); /ñug/ (mix) and /bug/ (mud).

Consonant /g/

Voiced stop consonant /g/ is found in all positions. Consonant /g/ is encountered in contrasting minimal pairs for example with homorganic consonant /k/, e.g.: /gugu/ (believe) and /kuku/ (nail); /tugəl/ (cut) and /tukəl/ (a variable measurement of length for thread equivalent to 16 rian).

Consonant /k/

Voiceless velar stop consonant /k/ contrasts with a.o. homorganic consonant /g/ (refer to 3.3.10 above), but also with other consonants, such as /l/, e.g.: /kukuh/ (persist, insist) and /luluh/ (crushed, assimilated); /kalah/ (loose) and /lalah/ (hot, highly seasoned and spiced; severe, biting).

Consonant /ŋ/

Velar consonant /ŋ/ contrasts with homorganic consonant /k/, as in: /sədəŋ/ (average) and /sədək/ (moment); /ŋɔn/ (admire) and /kɔn/ (clarifying particle).

Consonant /s/

Voiceless fricative consonant /s/ contrasts with /l/, e.g.: /səməŋ/ (morning) and /ləməŋ/ (middle of the night); /məs/ (soft, flabby, loose, slack) and /məl/ (bushes).

Consonants /l/ and /r/

Consonants /l/ and /r/, alveolar lateral consonant and alveolar trill consonant respectively, are found in minimal pairs as follows: /səluh/ (crowbar, lever) and /səruh/ (pound); /kalə/ (moment) and /karə/ (type of bean).

Semivowel /w/ dan /y/

Semivowel /w/ (bilabial) and semivowel /y/ (palatal) is found in the following contrasting minimal pairs: /wə/ (father) and /yə/ (she, he); /wuh/ (used) and /yuh/ (hard to reply?).

Consonant /h/

Laryngeal fricative consonant /h/ is found in the following contrasting pair: /tɔguh/ (firm, tenacious) and /tɔgul/ (bind, weave). Consonant /h/ in first position does not occur frequently; it is only found in first position in names of gods, as is the case in Balinese.


Lembongan dialect, and particularly its phonology, are interesting research objects. If compared to Balinese as its source language, differences are found. Certain sounds are heavily influenced by the sounds of adjacent sounds or those in its surroundings. This explanation is far from perfect and further research is needed.

Bibliography (Darma Laksana)

  • Gleason, H.A. - An Introduction to Descriptive Linguistics, revixsed edition, New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 1961
  • Muhajir - "Morphology of Jakarta Dialect, Affixation and Reduplication" dalam seri Nusa volume 11. (translated by Kay ikranagara), 1981
  • Pike, Kenneth L. - Phonemics, A Technique for Reducing Languages to Wrtiting, An Arbor The University of Michigan Press, 1976
  • Samsuri - Analisa Bahasa, Jakarta: Erlangga, 1978
  • Trubetzkoy, N.S. - Introduction fo the Principles of Phonological Description, The Hague: Martinus Nijhoff, 1968
  • Verhaar, J.W.M. - Pengantar Linguistik, jilid I. Yogyakarta: Gajah Mada University Press. 1977




  • Darma Laksana, I Ketut - Perbendaharaan Fonem Dialek Lembongan, in: "Majalah Widya Pustaka", Fakultas Sastra Universitas Udayana Denpasar, August 1984, p.79-86 

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