Li'o language

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Native toIndonesia
RegionCentral Flores
Native speakers
(310,000 cited 1993 – 2009 census)[1]
Lota script
Language codes
ISO 639-3Variously:
end – Ende
ljl – Li’o
xxk – Ke’o
nxe – Nage

Li'o, Kéo, or Ende-Li'o, is a Malayo-Polynesian dialect cluster spoken on Flores in Indonesia.



Kéo has 23 consonant phonemes.[3]



Labial Alveolar Apical Palatal Laminal Velar Dorsal Glottal
Voiceless Stop p t t͡ʃ k ʔ
Voiced Stop b d ɡ
Preglottalised Stop ˀb ˀd
Prenasalised Stop mb nd ŋɡ
Nasal m n ŋ
Fricative f s x
Rhotic r
Lateral l
Approximant w
  • Kéo has a four-way distinction between stops; voiceless, voiced, preglottalised and prenasalised.
  • For some, /n/ and /ŋ/ alternate freely. However, majority of Kéo speakers use /ŋ/.
  • /h/ is sometimes heard at the beginning of vowel-initial words.


Kéo has 6 vowel phonemes.[3]

Front Central Back
High i u
Mid e ə o
Low a


Simple Words[edit]

  • There is no distinction between a grammatical and phonological word (Eg. e - think).[3]

Compound Words[edit]

  • Compounds consist of two simple words (Eg. gidi-geo- to spin)[3]

Stress & Intonation[edit]

  • Stress in Kéo is often predictable - it usually falls on the ultimate syllable.[3]
  • Intonation could depends on the force of speech and a speaker's emotional state.[3]


Pronouns & Person Marking[edit]

Personal pronouns replace proper nouns or other nouns, and form a closed word class. They are highly dependent on context, and are used to indicate if one is referring to the speaker, listener, etc. (Baird, 2002, pp. 108).[3]

There are five subclasses of nouns; 1) common nouns, 2) kin terms, 3) place names, 4) personal names and 5) personal pronouns (Baird, 2002, pp. 101–102).[3] Thus, unlike English, where pronouns are an independent part of the language, personal pronouns are included under the noun class in Kéo (Baird, 2002, pp. 97).[3] Furthermore, all five of these subclasses, including personal pronouns, may be used as nominal predicates (Baird, 2002, pp. 101).[3]

Personal Pronouns[edit]

Standard Forms[edit]

In Kéo, there is no change in the personal pronoun, even if they are independent pronouns, subjects, objects, possessors, etc. (Baird, 2002, pp. 108).[3] However, first, second, third, (and singular and plural forms) have differences, and the first person plural pronoun has an inclusive and exclusive form. Apart from the first and second person singular pronoun, pronouns may be followed by numbers to quantify the pronoun. Gender is also not differentiated in Kéo pronouns (Baird, 2002, pp. 109).[3]

Overview of Standard Personal Pronouns (Baird, 2002, pp. 110):[3]

Standard Form Person Abbreviation
1st nga'o singular 1sg
kita plural (inclusive) 1pl.incl.
kami plural (exclusive) 1pl.excl.
2nd kau singular 2sg
miu plural 2pl
3rd ’imu singular 3sg
’imu ko'o plural 3pl

The standard forms of 1st person singular pronouns are nga'o; which is 1st singular, kita; 1st person plural inclusive, and kami; 1st person plural exclusive. This can be used to express I, me, my, etc. (Baird, 2002, pp. 110).[3] For example:


(1) Nga’o mbana.
1sg walk
I'm walking.

(Baird, 2002, pp. 110)[3]


Kepa kiki nga’o.
Mosquito bite 1sg
A mosquito bit me.

(Baird, 2002, pp. 110)[3]


The standard forms of 2nd person singular pronouns are kau; which is 2nd perseon singular and miu; 2nd person plural. This can be used to express you, your, etc. (Baird, 2002, pp. 110).[3] For example:


Tuka kau bhu.
stomach 2sg bloated
Your stomach is bloated.

(Baird, 2002, pp. 119).[3]


The standard forms of 3rd person singular pronouns are ’imu; which is 3rd person singular and ’imu ko'o; 3rd person plural. This can be used as he, her, etc. (Baird, 2002, pp. 110).[3] For example:


’Imu mbhana.
3sg go
He went.

(Baird, 2002, pp. 116).[3]


’Ana ’imu bhugé ré’é-ré’é
children 3sg fat very
Her children are very fat.

(Baird, 2002, pp. 119).[3]


A sentence can also be made to be less ambiguous by using ’imu possessively. (Baird, 2002, pp. 328).[3] In other words, using a pronoun in this way can make the meaning of a sentence clearer to the listener:


1) Nambu wado Australia Peter ongga dhoa kumi,

When go home Australia Peter shave lose beard

When Peter went home to Australia he shaved off a beard.[3]


2) Nambu wado Australia Peter ongga dhoa kumi ’imu.

When go home Australia Peter shave lose beard 3sg

When Peter returned home to Australia he shaved off his beard.[3]


As seen in the examples (Baird, 2002, pp. 328)[3] above, 2) clarifies the meaning of 1) with the addition of ’imu, as it shows the beard is Peter’s beard.

Below is an example of both a 1st singular pronoun and a 3rd singular pronoun being used in the same sentence:


Nga’o mbhana.
1sg hit 3sg
I hit him.

(Baird, 2002, pp. 110).[3]


Alternate Forms[edit]

There are also alternate forms of personal pronouns, which are used for different reasons. There are three main reasons as to why alternate pronouns are used. Firstly, alternate pronouns may be used to indicate politeness, or to avoid social taboo. Secondly, they may be used based on dialect variations. Lastly, certain pronouns are used to identify the exact number of people there are in the situation being described or talked about (Baird, 2002, pp. 111).[3] Baird (2002)[3] highlighted four alternate forms of personal pronouns used in Kéo; ja'o, miu, kita, and sira (Baird, 2002, pp. 111–114).[3]

The first alternate form, ja'o, is an alternate form of the first person singular pronoun, nga'o (standard form). Initially, each dialect group used either one exclusively, and was a way to identify which Kéo -speaking area one was from. However, the use of the standard and alternate form of the pronoun no longer has this ability to establish one’s dialect group (Baird, 2002, pp. 111).[3] This will be further discussed below in Regional Varieties.

The second alternate form is miu. It is often used in reference to more than one person, but can also be used to address one person as an honorific. (Baird, 2002, pp. 112).[3] For example:


’Iné miu ta ndia.
ma’am relativiser here
Ma’am, you stay here (while I go).

(Baird, 2002, pp. 112).[3]


The third alternate form is kita (Baird, 2002, pp. 113).[3] As mentioned above, first person plural pronouns have an exclusive and inclusive form in Kéo (Baird, 2002, pp. 110).[3] However, the alternate and inclusive form, kita, frequently replaces kami (the exclusive form). Using the inclusive form (kita) instead of the exclusive form (kami) helps the speaker to seem more generous and selfless, as they are including the listener in their speech. Especially when discussing property and personal possessions, the speaker can sound less arrogant by using the inclusive term instead of the exclusive term. (Baird, 2002, pp. 113).[3] For example:


Kamba ko’o sai? Kaba kita.
Bufffalo POSS who buffalo
Whose water buffalo are these? Our water buffalo.

(Baird, 2002, pp. 113).[3]


Another example which shows the importance of inclusivity in Kéo is where Kéo is often referred to as “our language” (sara kita) instead of just “Kéo”. (Baird, 2002, pp. 9).[3]

The last alternate form of personal pronouns highlighted by Baird (2002) is sira. This pronoun may be used instead of 2nd and 3rd person pronouns. The main reason sira is used would be as an honorific. It is often used to greet people, and to refer to in-laws or others as a sign of respect. Thus, one would use sira instead of ’imu-ko’o (Baird, 2002, pp. 114).[3] Kin terms, which is what identifies the relationship between speakers (Baird, 2002, pp. 105),[3] are also preferred when addressing in-laws, to establish a close relationship. Thus, sira would be used more often than more polite pronouns such as miu (Baird, 2002, pp. 113–114).[3]

  • Regional Varieties

Pronouns help to differentiate dialects. In the past, the difference in the first person singular pronoun ja’o and nga’o helped to establish this difference. However, in present times intermarriages between different dialect groups have dissolved these boundaries. Instead, which first person singular pronoun is used is up to personal preference (Baird, 2002, pp. 28).[3] Apart from personal preference, many Kéo speakers have the tendency to follow the form that their mother uses, (Baird, 2002, pp. 111)[3] while some adopt the form that their in-laws use after marriage (Baird, 2002, pp. 112).[3]


Adnominal Possession[3][edit]

  • There are two types
    • 1) possessive particle is used to link noun phrases. (Eg. 'Aé ko'o kami (water-POSS-1st plural exclusive) (our water))
    • 2) possessor can either be oun phrase or pronoun. (Eg. Bapa kami (father-1st plural exclusive) (our father))


  • Two negators in Kéo.
    • 1) mona
    • 2) nggedhé
  • These negators are synonmous.
  • . Negators can:
    • 1) Precede the predicate.
    • 2) Be predicates themselves.
    • 3) Be interjections.


  1. ^ Ende at Ethnologue (18th ed., 2015)
    Li’o at Ethnologue (18th ed., 2015)
    Ke’o at Ethnologue (18th ed., 2015)
    Nage at Ethnologue (18th ed., 2015)
  2. ^ Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin, eds. (2017). "Eastern Central Flores". Glottolog 3.0. Jena, Germany: Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History.
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w x y z aa ab ac ad ae af ag ah ai aj ak al am an ao ap aq ar as Baird, Louise (2002). "A grammar of Kéo : an Austronesian language of East Nusantara" – via Open Research.