Pointing Gestures and Verbal Acts:Linguistic Boundaries by Puor and Lamalera People in a Barter Market, East Nusa Tenggara, Indonesia

Ezra Mahresi Choesin and Dea Riffa Bella


This article highlights language practices by Puor and Lamalera people, in South Lembata, East Nusa Tenggara, Indonesia, in a ‘barter market.’ While interacting in the market, Puor and Lamalera people prefer their own local languages, rather than Bahasa Indonesia, the lingua franca in a linguistically diverse Indonesia. Unavoidably, the use of these local languages in Indonesia is invoked through specific cultural assessments. In this barter market, speakers combine verbal acts and pointing gestures to supplement their linguistic repertoires and to convey message amplifiers that embody cultural meanings in their respective frames of reference and communicative events. The use of pointing gestures and verbal acts that build the linguistic repertoires becomes the main rule of interacting in the barter market, asocial phenomenon which renders this market different from other ‘money’ markets. The paper employs an ethnography of communication approach, through which to elicit and frame significant patterns and functions in these language practices.

This article attempts to offer a unique perspective in the use of local languages in Indonesia, by presenting language as practice rather than as a linguistic system of sounds. As such, the categorization of language becomes blurred in that Puor and Lamalera linguistic repertoires shift as they are predicated on practice.