The Dynamic Linguistic Cartography of Dili, Timor-Leste: Negotiating Languages in an Urban Context

Reference work entry


Dili, the small capital and the main urban center of Timor-Leste, has become, since the Independence of the country in 2002, the main stage for the rapid political, economic, and social changes that took place in the small Southeast Asian country. All these changes affected the dynamics of language practices in the city of 252.844 inhabitants (Timor-Leste, National Statistics Directorate (NSD) and United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA). Population and Housing Census, 2015. Preliminary results. NSD and UNFPA, Dili, 2015). Despite the main local language of the area being Tetun, which is also one of the official languages of the country, in the city one can find speakers of all the other indigenous languages, of the other official language (Portuguese), and of the two working languages (Indonesian and English). The main objective of this paper is to investigate the process of configuration of this multilingual gateway city, analyzing its history and the way local citizens portray their language practices in life narratives, building a multidimensional approach to understand the sociolinguistic profile of this context. The research described here was based on qualitative research developed through analysis of documents and interviews with Timorese Portuguese language teachers of Dili. The results reflect the multi-scalar nature of the configuration of the dynamic linguistic cartography of this urban context and the ways the local citizens are dealing with the regulations of access to different linguistic resources in their daily lives in this setting.


Scales Multilingualism Life narratives Social trajectories Dili Timor-Leste 


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© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2020

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Universidade Federal de São PauloSão PauloBrazil

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