|Geographic location:||Papua New Guinea, Indonesia|
|Number of Languages:||533|
|Number of Genetic Units:||100|
|Mean Level of Endangerment:||4.34 (low)|
|Mean Documentation Status:|
The island of New Guinea, which is split between the country of Papua New Guinea and Indonesia, is possibly the most linguistically diverse area in the world. There are a huge number of languages spoken on the island, many of them from small language families. The classification of many of these languages and their relations to other world languages are not yet well understood.
One endangered language of New Guinea is Wiarumus, which is only spoken by around 162 people in the village of Mandi in Papua New Guinea. Young adults now only understand the language but cannot speak it fluently, and the children of the village don't understand Wiarumus. In June 2002, the village met to design an alphabet and discuss revitalizing the language. Mandi is only 7 ½ miles from the province capital, though, so there is strong pressure for children to learn the national language, Tok Pisin. To revive the language, speakers of Wiarumus would need to dramatically shift social attitudes.
The Bird’s Head Peninsula juts out from the northwest end of the island of New Guinea, in Indonesia. This area is covered by the unique and ecologically diverse Vogelkop Montane Rain Forests Ecoregion. The rainforest holds a huge number of birds, mammals, and butterflies, many of them unique to the Bird’s Head Peninsula. The inhabitants of the area are mainly subsistence farmers who live in close connection with this unique ecosystem.
One language of this area is Abun, spoken by around 3,000 people along the north coast and interior of the Bird’s Head Peninsula. This language is also known as Karon, a name that Abun speakers consider offensive. ‘Karon’ means rotten or maggot-eaten in the Biak language, which is spoken on the nearby Biak Island. When Biak speakers first landed on the mainland, they found a number of Abun speakers lying on the ground, smeared with maggots and pretending to be dead in order to make the Biak speakers ignore them and leave. Instead, Biak speakers settled in the area and called Abun speakers maggot-eaten, which was the name most outsiders used for the Abun people until quite recently.
Genetic Units found in Hotspot: (100)
- Abinomn (Isolate)
- Bulaka River
- Burmeso (Isolate)
- Cenderwasih Bay
- Central Birdís Head
- Central Maluku
- Central South Birdís Head
- East Geelvink Bay
- East Pauwasi
- Eastern South Birdís Head
- Karkar-Yuri (Isolate)v
- Lakes Plain
- Left May
- Lower Mamberamo
- North Birdís Head
- North Bomberai
- North New Guinea
- Northern North Halmahera
- Odiai (Isolate)
- Sepik Hill
- South Bomberai
- South Halmahera
- Southeast Maluku
- Southern North Halmahera
- Upper Sepik
- West Birdís Head
- West Bomberai TNG
- West Damar
- West New Guinea
- West Pauwasi
- West Wapei
- Western South Birdís Head
- Wissel Lakes-Kemandoga
- Yale (Isolate)
- Yellow River
- Unclassified Central/South New Guinea-Kutubuan
- Unclassified Malayo-Polynesian (2)
- Unclassified WME (5)
List of Languages:
Endangered Languages include:
- Anus (< 70 speakers, Northern New Guinea Oceanic)
- Awbono (< 100 speakers, Bayono-Awbono)
- Burumakok (< 40 speakers, Kutubuan)
- Duriankere (< 30 speakers, South Bird's Head-Timor-Alor-Pantar)
- Ibu (< 40 speakers, West Papuan)
- Iresim (< 70 speakers, South Halmahera-West New Guinea)
- Itik (< 80 speakers, Northern Tor)
- Mer (85 speakers, Mairasi-Tanahmerah)
- Narau (< 80 speakers, Kaure)
- Piru (< 10 speakers, Central Maluku)
- Tofanma (< 90 speakers, Tofanma)
- Usku (< 25 speakers, Usku)
- Woria (< 10 speakers, East Geelvink Bay)
Some Features of Languages in Hotspot include:
- dual person marker
- mostly SOV word order
- few numerals but complex counting systems based on body parts
Speakers of Kewa (35,000 speakers) use body parts to count quite high. Their counting system starts with the little finger, goes across all ten fingers, then goes up the arm, across the body, and down the other arm. This makes 24 'between the eyes,' 36 'other elbow' and 47 'other little finger'.
Speakers of Kaluli (2,500 speakers) use no words for numbers, just body-part names. They begin at the left pinkie finger, count up the arm, shoulders, neck, and across the face before going down the right arm.
Berry, Keith and Christine Berry. 1999. A Description of Abun: A West Papuan Language of Irian Jaya. Canberra: Research School of Pacific and Asian Studies, Australian National University.
Lean, Glendon A. 1992. Counting systems of Papua New Guinea and Oceania. Ph.D dissertation. Papua New Guinea University of Technology.
Vogelkop Montain Rain Forests. 2001. WWF. http://www.worldwildlife.org/wildworld/profiles/terrestrial/aa/aa0127_full.html
Welsch, Robert L, John Terrell and John A. Nadolski. 1992. Language and Culture on the North Coast of New Guinea. American Anthropologist. 94:3, pp. 568-600.
Wurm, S.A., ed. 1977. New Guinea Area Languages and Language Study, Volume 1: Papuan Languages and the New Guinea Linguistic Scene, Pacific Linguistics, Research School of Pacific and Asian Studies, Australian National University, Canberra. Available online at http://www.papuaweb.org/dlib/bk/pl/C38/_toc.html