The origin of the Dutch word tijferen and the Portuguese tifar

In the edition of Tontémboan texts by Schwarz (1907:120-6) we come across two Minahasan narratives, the first of which deals with a palmwijntapper (toddy tapper) and the second with a h~feraar( tapper). The connected verbs used here are palmwijn tappen and hjferen respectively, which have the same meaning, 'to tap toddy'.

In his Tontémboan-Dutch dictionary (Schwarz 1908:135), Schwarz defines the Dutch meaning of the Tontémboan verba1 forms maké'ét, kuméët (under the entry ké'ét) as 'tijferen, palmwijn tappen uit den mannelijken bloemkolf van de Arenga saccharifera' (to tap, to tap toddy from the male spadix of the Arenga saccharifera).

From a superficial glance at this word alferen we get the impression that it is a pure Dutch word. However, we wil1 look for it in vain in the different editions of Koenen's dictionary. It is, on the other hand, still to be found in Van Dale's Dutch dictionary of 19481 (p. 880), where it is listed with the qualification '(Ind.)', signifying that it is an Indonesian loanword, and where its meaning is defined as 'palmwijn door insnijding uit een boom tappen' (to tap toddy from a tree by cutting notches in it). The word is als0 found listed in the Woordenboek der Nederlandsche Taal of 194 1, where it is classified as an active, weak verb.

According to the early Dutch natural historian Rumphius (1741, 1, 5:60), the word h~feren comes from the Portuguese verb tifar, which, however, one only finds in Rumphius (aside from the languages of the various Moluccan islands; see De Clercq 1876356b). If this assumption were correct, then it might ultimately derive from the word tiva (Malay tivan), 'palm tree cultivator', which the Portuguese were believed to have borrowed from Sanskrit dvipá, 'island'.

This is based on the belief that palm tree cultivators generally came from the island of Ceylon (see Dal-gado:371a, 374a). However that may be, the word must have entered the Dutch language at a very early stage. For, as we saw, it was already a Dutch word at the time of Rumphius, who took up his post with the Dutch East India Company in 1652 and died in 1702. As Veth wrote in a brief article (1870:309-10), citing Rumphius' Amboinsche Kruidboek, the people of Ambon referred to persons who tap toddy from trees as 'tiffadores', which was a Portuguese noun.

To denote the related activity they used the words tiffar and Dutch hijferen. Veth had his doubts about Rumphius' suggestion that this hijferen, or teifferen, was borrowed from the Portuguese, however, himself positing that the word tifar or tiffar was probably an original Indonesian word, coming from an Indonesian language in which the f sound occurs. Such Indonesian languages which have the f sound are found mostly in the Moluccas, inter alia in North and South Halmahera and adjacent areas. Hence the f automatically als0 occurs in North Moluccan Malay.

Veth's view is confirmed by a passage from António Galvao's treatise, written around 1544, which is reproduced in Jacobs 197 1 (pp. 134-5). This passage here runs: 'Ho vinho tirao das mesmas, sagueyros, nypas o palmeiras, podamdo ho ram0 que dá ho ffruito; chamao a isto tiffar. Ffiqua ho poleguar em que dao pamquadas pera acodir milhor ho licor: chamase tuaqua.'

The English translation is: 'They extract wine from the Same sagu, nipah, and palm trees by lopping off the fruit-bearing branch; they cal1 that [operation] tifar. They strike the remaining stub in order to help the sap run more freely. This sap is called tuak.'Jacobs notes in his glossary of Indonesian and other Asian words (Jacobs 1971:376), which he qualifies in his Introduction (p. 26) as possibly 'the most ancient catalogue of local Moluccan, and especially Ternatese words discovered so far', that this word tifar is a North Moluccan Malay word.

This record of the word tifar as a North Moluccan Malay word in around 1544, thirty years after the arrival of the Portuguese in the area, is followed in the nineteenth century by its mention by De Clercq als0 as a term found in North Moluccan Malay, which was used particularly in the Residency of Ternate. In De Clercq's Moluccan Malay wordlist (De Clercq 1876:56b) we find the entry 'Tifar, M.A., to tap, of toddy, h~feren (Tern. do.; T. iris toewak; see sagéroe). Orang batifar, tifadoor (A. orang irispohon; Saparoea: tifadór)' (where the abbreviation M. stands for Minahasa, A. = Ambon, Tern. = Residency of Ternate, and T. = Residency of Timor). The
translation of the words orang batifar (= toddy tapper) with tifadoor indicates that this latter word was in use in Dutch around 1876.

Later, in the twentieth century, the word tifar is listed as a Ternatean word for 'to tap toddy' in Hueting's wordlist of North Moluccan languages (Hueting 1908:401). Nine years after that again, the word tifo is listed with the same meaning in Fortgens' Ternatean wordlist (19 179 l), which does not feature an entry tifar, however. The absence of the word tifar here is certainly strange, but is an indication that the word tifar is not native to Ternatean but is rather a loanword from local Malay. Another indication for the fact that tifar is not an originally Ternatean word is that final r does not occur in Ternatean words. If tifar was, in fact, in use in Ternatean at the time Hueting recorded this in his wordlist, then the Ternateans had two words Korte Mededelingen 325 for 'to tap toddy' at the time, namely tifar as a loanword and t$o as an autochthonous word.2.

A similar pair of words, tipar and tifo, is also still found in West Makian today. The West Makian word tipar has the meaning 'to beat, to pound, to fight'; in our case it means 'to beat the spadix of the arenga', and hence 'to tap toddy'. So we find the expression déma to-tipar lahan = ' I am beating for palm-wine', i.e., 'I am tapping wine', as wel1 as déma to-pos lahan = ' I am tapping wine' (cf. North Moluccan Malay pukul sagu, literally 'to beat sago', also meaning 'to tap toddy').

The word tifo likewise is used with the meaning 'to beat, to tap toddy', as witness the following sentence: émé da-tifo lahan = ' I am beating for palm-wine, I am tapping palm-wine'. I believe that this latter word here is a loan from Ternatean. For whereas Ternatean does not have final r, West Makian does feature final r. Other words besides tipar which end in rhere are: far - 'to beat with something bigger', ékor - 'to make a noise', fakar - 'tooth', magér - 'twig', and so on. The change of the West Makian word tipar to tgar in North Moluccan Malay is explained by the strong influence of Ternatean on the latter. In Ternatean the consonant f occurs in some words, in initia1 position as wel1 as the middle of the word. The consonant f thus is likewise found in some North Moluccan Malay words.

That the word tipar is an original West Makian word is corroborated by the existence of cognate words in North Halmahera languages such as those of Ternate and Tidore, in both of which tifo occurs in the meaning 'to tap wine'. In Galela as wel1 as Tobélo we find the word tiha, which, however, has the slightly different meaning of 'to fall (of smal1 things)'; in some Tobélo dialects this word is tifa. In the Sahu language we find the word tia, meaning '(when tapping palm-wine) to renew the flow of palm juice by cutting a slice off the dried-up end of the stump of the efflorescence' (Visser and Voorhoeve 1987: 172).

Thus the North Moluccan Malay word tifar is a loanword originating from the West Makian tipar, 'to beat the spadix of the arenga', which later also came to mean 'to tap palm-wine'. This North Moluccan Malay word in turn was borrowed, with the Same meaning, by Minahasan Malay. The strange thing is that the word tifar no longer exists in the North Moluccas, while it is still found today in the Minahasa area (and thus in Minahasan Malay). In purely Minahasan languages the word is totally unknown, however. In these languages the words ké'ét (Tontémboan), kéhét (Tombulu') and kéét (Tondano and Tonséa'), with the corresponding verbal forms makéët, kumé'ét, mahakéhét, kuméhét, makéét, and kuméét, are used instead.

The Dutch word tijferen and the Portuguese tifar (which looks like an original Portuguese word, namely an infinitive verb, in view of its ending) thus do not come from the word tiva, a term from Ceylon for 'palm treecultivator', as was supposed by Dalgado, but from West Makian via Moluccan Malay.3 The word hijferen, as we saw, had certainly entered the Dutch language by the end of the seventeenth century. If we may believe De Clercq, the word tifadoor, derived from tifar plus a Portuguese ending, was also known in Dutch. But one wil1 look in vain for this derivative in modern Dutch dictionaries. Here the word h~feren, too, is rarely found, so
that this word also seems to have become obsolete in the Dutch vocabulary. (F. Watuseke, In: Bijdragen tot de Taal-, Land- en Volkenkunde 148 (1992), no: 2, Leiden, 323-327)

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