Kambera language

East Sumbanese
Native to Indonesia
Region Lesser Sunda Islands
Native speakers
240,000 (2009)[1]
Language codes
ISO 639-3 xbr
Glottolog kamb1299[2]

Kambera, also known as (East) Sumbanese, is a Malayo-Polynesian language spoken in the Lesser Sunda Islands, Indonesia. Kambera is a member of Bima-Sumba subgrouping within Central Malayo-Polynesian inside Malayo-Polynesian.[3] The island of Sumba, located in the Eastern Indonesia, has an area of 12,297 km2.[4] The name Kambera comes from a traditional region which is close to a town in Waingapu. Because of export trades which concentrated in Waingapu in the 19th century, the language of the Kambera region has become the bridging language in eastern Sumba.



Front Back
High i iː u uː
Mid e ai o au
Low a,

The diphthongs /ai/ and /au/ function phonologically as the long counterparts to /e/ and /o/, respectively.


Bilabial Alveolar Palatal Velar Glottal
Stop p t k
Implosive ɓ ɗ
Voiced affricate
Nasal m n ŋ
Prenasalized stop ᵐb ⁿd ᵑɡ
Prenasalized affricate ᶮdʒ
Fricative h
Lateral l
Rhotic r
Semivowel w j
Prenasalized semivowel ᶮj

Kambera formerly had /s/, but a sound change occurring around the turn of the 20th century replaced all occurrences of former /s/ with /h/.


Pronouns and Person Markers

Personal pronouns are used in Kambera for emphasis/disambiguation and the syntactic relation between full pronouns and clitics is similar to that between NPs and clitics. NPs and pronouns have morphological case.

Personal Pronouns
Person Number
Singular Plural
1INC nyuta
1EXCL nyungga nyuma
2 nyumu nyimi
3 nyuna nyuda

Kambera, as a head-marking language, has rich morpho-syntactic marking on its predicators. The pronominal, aspectual and/or mood clitics together with the predicate constitute the nuclear clause. Definite verbal arguments are crossreferenced on the predicate for person, number and case (Nominative (N), Gentive (G), Dative (D), Accusative (A)). The four main pronominal clitic paradigms are given below.

Nominative Genitive Accusative Dative
1SG ku- -nggu -ka -ngga
2SG (m)u- -mu -kau -nggao
3SG na- -na -ya -nya
1PL.INC ta- -nda ta- -nda
1PL.EXC ma- -ma -kama -nggama
2PL (m)i- -mi -ka(m)i -ngga(m)i
3PL da- -da -ha -nja


(1) apu-nggu'
"My granny."

(2) ana-na'
"His child."

(3) Kaupa.ta.lunggur-yanawihi-na                                      
scratchCAU.be soreARTleg-3SG.GEN                                     
"He scratched his leg sore." (lit. "He scratched and caused his leg to be sore")

(4) Na-tari-bianahuangu-na
"He just watches his companion."

(5) Ninguuma-nggua                     
"I have a house." (lit. "Here is a house of mine.")

(6) Nyuda-ha-kanahudaana-nda
"They are our children now."

The items in the table below mark person and number of the subject when the clause has continuative aspect.

Person Number
Singular Plural
1INC -ndanya
1EXCL -nggunya -manya
2 -munya -minya
3 -nanya -danya


(1)Lunggur-nanya na Ihi-na
"He is scratching his body."
(2)"Laku-nnguya ina", wa-na
"'I am going, mother," he said.'"


Kambera has a possessive or reflexive noun wiki ‘self/own’, which can be used to mark possession (1).

(1) Uma wiki -nggu
house self/own -1sG
'My own house'

Wiki has the structural properties of a noun and can be used as a nominal modifier (compare 2 & 3), unlike pronouns which must be cross-referenced on the noun with a genitive clitic (3).[5]

(2) Uma witu -nggu
house grass -1sG
'My hut'
(3) Uma -nggu nyungga
house -1sG I
'My house'

As (3) is a possessed noun phrase, the enclitic attaches to the noun. In possessed and modified noun phrases, the genitive enclitic attaches to the noun modifier (4).[6]

(4) Na uma 'bakul -nggu
ART house be big -1sG
'My big house'

In Kambera, where cross-referencing is used, the noun phrase is optional. A verb along with its pronominal markers constitutes a complete sentence. Pronominal clitics are a morphological way of expressing relationships between syntactic constituents such as a noun and its possessor.[7]

Possessor Relativisation[8]

Possessors can be relativised with a ma- relative clause. There are three types of clauses used in the relativisation of possessors.

The first is when the embedded verb is derived from a relational noun such as mother or child. These derived transitive verbs express relations between the subject and the object (5).

(5) Na anakeda [na ma- ina -nya]
ART child [ART RmS- mother -3sD]
'the child whose mother she is'/'the child she is the mother of'

The second clause type is where the possessor is the head of the ma- relative clause and the possessee is the subject of the embedded verb (6).

(6) Ita -nggu -nya [na tau na ma-meti kuru uma -na]
See -1sG -3sD [ART person ART RmS-die wife -3sG]
'I saw [the man whose wife died]

The final type is where the relative clause contains the verb ningu ‘be’ and the incorporated argument of this verb. The head of the relative construction is the possessor (7).

(7) Na tau na ma- ningu ihi woka .ng
ART person ART RmS- be content garden .ng
'the person that has crops' (lit.: 'the person whose garden content is')

*N.B: the morpheme .ng marks the edge of incorporation

Normally, the possessor pronoun nyuna ‘he/she’ follows the possessed noun (8), though it can also be the head of a relativised clause (9).

(8) Na marihak [na kalembi -na nyuna]
ART be dirty [ART shirt -3sG he]
'His shirt is dirty'
(9) Nyuna na [ma- marihak na kalembi -na
He ART RmS- be dirty ART shirt -3sG
'He whose shirt is dirty'

Possessors can also be relativised in the same way as subjects. For example, in the following headless relative clause (no possessor NP is present), a definite article is present (10).

(10) Na ma- rabih karaha kalai -na
ART RmS- trickle side left -3sG
'The (one) whose left side trickles (i.e. lets water through)'

(mythological character that is the source of rain)


  1. Kambera at Ethnologue (18th ed., 2015)
  2. Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin; Bank, Sebastian, eds. (2016). "Kambera". Glottolog 2.7. Jena: Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History.
  3. Klamer, 1998
  4. Klamer 1998
  5. Klamer, Marian (1998). A Grammar of Kambera. Berlin; New York: Mouton de Gruyter. pp. 130–131. ISBN 3-11-016187-7.
  6. Klamer, Marian (1998). A Grammar of Kambera. Berlin; New York: Mouton de Gruyter. p. 48. ISBN 3-11-016187-7.
  7. Klamer, Marian (1998). A Grammar of Kambera. Berlin; New York: Mouton de Gruyter. pp. 60–61. ISBN 3-11-016187-7.
  8. Klamer, Marian (1998). A Grammar of Kambera. Berlin; New York: Mouton de Gruyter. pp. 320–321. ISBN 3-11-016187-7.


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