LWM 10: Koiari

Product no.: ISBN 9783929075106
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Tom Dutton
Australian National University

Koiari is a Papuan (or non­Austronesian) language spoken by about 1600 people living in the foothills of the Owen Stanley Range just inland of Port Moresby, the capital of Papua New Guinea. It is a member of the Koiarian family, one of about sixty families of Papuan languages found in Papua New Guinea and the surrounding area. In most respects Koiari is a typical Papuan language.

It is typologically SOV with core relations indicated by affixation on the verb and peripheral ones by postpositions. The verb is the centre of the clause and is morphologically complex. There are no articles and no formal noun classes except that body part, kinship and certain other nouns are inherently possessed. The language has only six pronouns and no inclusive­exclusive distinction is made. The Koiari counting system is based on two. In other respects, however, Koiari is unusual amongst Papuan languages. It is phonologically relatively simple ­­ all syllables are open and there are no unusual vowels or consonants and no complex consonant clusters. Its verb system is also unusual in making dual reference to subjects and objects, one set of suffixes reflecting the number of subjects and objects ergatively, the other agreeing with subjects nominatively.

Moreover, all non­verbal words in Koiari, except for a small subset of function words, are inherently marked for category by morphemes which appear in the surface realisation of sentences under certain conditions. Possessive case marking is also unusual in Koiari in the manner in which it is marked, notably by suffixation, and the range of suffixes and constructions used to indicate different possessive relations. Because of its geographical location Koiari has been in contact with AN languages spoken in the surrounding area for a long time. This contact increased following pax Britannica. At the same time other languages were introduced the language is in danger of becoming obsolescent as younger Koiari use the local lingua franca, Hiri (formerly Police) Motu, in domains formerly the sole preserve of Koiari.

ISBN 9783929075106. Languages of the World/Materials 10. 77 pp. 1996.

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