Language use, language attitudes and identity in the East Timorese diaspora in the Netherlands

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This paper investigates language practices, language attitudes and identity belongings of East Timorese in the Netherlands. Data were gathered through a limited orally conducted sociolinguistic questionnaire and two in-depth interviews on the sociolinguistic trajectories of our participants. The questionnaire shows that second-generation East Timorese all shifted to Dutch. Also the first generation shifted to Dutch and many in addition acquired mainly English and some Portuguese, Spanish or Polish. They did, however , not lose their home languages (mainly Tetum and Indonesian) with the exception of some regional languages (that are, however , still used on social media). Irrespective of the importance of Dutch in their day-to-day language practices, participants reported Tetum to be their most preferred and used language and the language of their East Timorese identity. The in-depth interviews show that the ensemble of linguistic resources of the East Timorese in the Netherlands constitutes the community of practice and knowledge they are part of. Their individual choices from these repertoires, irrespective of how they were acquired and irrespective of their proficiency, constitute their sociolinguistic profile. In this profile Tetum no doubt played and still plays a major role as the main language of East Timorese identity.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of Multilingual and Multicultural Development
Early online date13 Aug 2019
Publication statusPublished - 28 Aug 2019


  • East Timorese diaspora
  • Sociolinguistic trajectories
  • identity
  • language use and attitudes
  • survey and interviews


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