OLAC Record

Title:Double yield: reduplicated plant and bird names in Nen and Komnzo
Morehead: Languages of Southern New Guinea
Contributor (researcher):Christian Döhler
Dr. Julia Colleen Miller
Professor Nicholas Evans
Contributor (speaker):Kipirio Damas
Coverage:Papua New Guinea
Description:Paper presented at the 2012 DoBeS Workshop: The impact of DoBeS-related technology on empirical and theoretical linguistics. An important argument for language documentation stresses the way that traditional ethnobiological knowledge is woven into, and transmitted through, the languages of small groups in increasingly threatened physical environments. This gives a clear and widely accepted reason for approaching the study of ethnobiology with the techniques of documentary linguistics. For example, in Kámnzo the plant name kʷatsʏr kʷatsʏr (Helminthostachis zeylanica) is the reduplicated form of a kind of fish. Informants described that when the flower of this plant falls into the water, this would indicate that the fish would eat the those flowers, and that this is the time when the kʷatsʏr fish becomes 'nice and greasy'. This particular reduplication pattern thus captures an important part of ethnoecological knowledge in its semantics. But there is another lesser-known aspect to the symbiosis of language documentation and ethnobiological research. The biological domain of vocabulary may exhibit revealing and unusual characteristics absent or rare elsewhere in the language. In the present talk, we focus on three of these, as they have emerged from our developing study of two languages of Southern New Guinea, Nen and Kámnzo, as well as the neighbours with which they are in contact. The characteristics we will investigate lie at the intersection of encyclopaedic knowledge, intergroup transmission of terminology, social processes (at various levels of conscious articulation) for assimilating or camouflaging the origins of loan terms, the use of botanical and ornithological knowledge as symbols for group identity, and individual sociophonetic positioning. Specifically, we will examine: (a) levels of reduplication, which particularly for plant names but also for bird names reach levels several times higher than for any other semantic domain (b) patterns of unusual phonology suggestive of loan status for some biological terms, such as a number of Kámnzo plant names which begin with vowels, in defiance of the language’s general phonotactic norms. Examples are ætraɸ (gonocaryum littoralis), æw (ficus crysantha), æðəŋgam (parinari nonda) and akeake (alphitonia incana) (c) degrees of etymologisability for reduplicates, and the relevance of this for models of group adaptation to local ecology. In Nen for example only a small proportion of reduplicated plant terms have language-internal etymologies: cf téqli ‘tree frog (sticks to high surfaces), téqlitéqli ‘epiphyte sp.’ (anthorrhyza sp.) (which adheres to points high up on the host tree). But many more have etymologies which must be sought in neighbouring languages – cf Nen qaklqakl ‘scrophularia sp.’, for which there is no unreduplicated counterpart *qakl, while in neighbouring Idi the resemblant word kwakəλkwakəλ (also scrophularia tree) has the unreduplicated counterpart kwakəλ ‘small orange crab which comes out from the banks of streams in the savannah’, and which hides at the base of the kwakəλkwakəλ tree. Cases like these can be used (as per Nash 1997) to argue for particular directions of borrowing (here, from Idi to Nen, with phonological adaptation in Nen but also a lack of the etymological transparency still found in Idi). (d) the degree to which different speakers deal with the phonologies of plant terms (some clearly indigenous, some clearly from neighbouring languages, some partially assimilated). Here we will focus on a subcorpus of over 150 plant names recorded from 4 speakers (all knowing at least Nen and Idi) of different identity-orientations following from their clan affiliation, father and mother’s languages, and life history of residency. Gathering data like this involves the closely-linked investigation of ethnobiological and sociolinguistic issues. In our talk we will set off the analytic issues outlined above with a discussion of how fieldwork practice in an interdisciplinary team can be harnessed to tackle these tasks together. Keywords: Reduplication; Birds; Plants: Mammals
This project focuses on collecting multimedia documentation of multiple undescribed Papuan languages – Nen and Nambu (Morehead-Maro) and Kmntso (Tonda). Other nearby languages will have varrying degrees of description, including Idi, Nama, and Neme. All of these languages belong to an almost completely unknown family in Southern New Guinea. Based at the Australian National University in Canberra, plus collaborations with the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, the Friedrich-Schiller-Universität Jena, and the PNG National Herbarium, the project will embed a German PhD student (Christian Döhler) in a team including a seasoned field linguist (Nick Evans) and a post-doc (Julia Colleen Miller), two Germany-based typologists (Bernard Comrie and Volker Gast) from the FAUST (Future Archive User Simulation Team), plus participation on targeted fieldtrips by ethnobiologist Chris Healey (ANU) and botanist Kipiro Damas (PNG National Herbarium, Madang). Particular foci of the documentation will be the natural world (especially ethnobotany and ethnoornithology), swidden cultivation, fire management and ethnoecology, mythology, auto-ethnography, ethnomathematics, and microvariation in language use in a situation of daily multilingualism.nichola
Senior Botanist at the PNG Forest Research Institute in Lae. He has had 30 years of experience with the flora of PNG, and is co-author of the current Guide to Trees of PNGː http://www.pngplants.org/PNGtrees
Publisher:Professor Nicholas Evans
The Australian National University
Subject:Secondary document
Wára language
Nen language
English language
Subject (ISO639):tci


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OaiIdentifier:  oai:www.mpi.nl:1839_00-0000-0000-0022-3B5A-9
DateStamp:  2017-02-14
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Citation: Kipirio Damas (speaker); Christian Döhler (researcher); Dr. Julia Colleen Miller (researcher); Professor Nicholas Evans (researcher). 2012-07-06. Professor Nicholas Evans.
Terms: area_Europe area_Pacific country_GB country_PG iso639_eng iso639_nqn iso639_tci

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Country: United KingdomPapua New Guinea
Area: EuropePacific

Up-to-date as of: Wed Apr 12 11:01:30 EDT 2017