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Documenting Hahon, an endangered language of the autonomous Region of Bougainville, P.N.G.


Language Hahon
Depositor Stephen Logan
Affiliation University of Newcastle, Australia
Location Papua New Guinea
Collection ID 0305
Grant ID IGS0220
Funding Body ELDP
Collection Status Collection online
Landing Page Handle


Summary of the collection

This collection is the result of a language documentation project on the three dialects of Hahon (Oceanic, Bougainville). The project investigated the extent and nature of Hahon dialectal differences and patterns of bilingualism, for the first time casting light on these highly endangered virtually undocumented languages.


Group represented

The materials in this collection represent members of the Hahon-speaking community, who live at the northern end of the island of Bougainville in the Autonomous Bougainville Region of PNG.

Hahon speakers make up three dialect groups:

  1. Aravia, located inland in mountainous terrain close to the border of the Tinputz-speaking region, and Porpor and Matatsura, located on the coast at the northern extreme of the Hahon area
  2. Savon, Benmat and Puto, located further south along the west coast of Bougainville
  3. Doaso (coastal) and Petspets (inland), located further south again bordering the Non-Austronesian Kunua-speaking area

The Aravia dialect is viewed by many coastal Hahon speakers as the “original” Hahon language.

Members of the community are enthusiastic about a project to record their language and culture and support the project.


Language information

Hahon is an Oceanic language, spoken in the northwest of the main island of Bougainville. It has been classified as part of the Nehan/North Bougainville network within the Northwest Solomonic group by Ross (1988). Hahon speakers are in contact with other Oceanic languages of the North Bougainville linkage, and with non-Austronesian Kunua (a.k.a. Rapoisi), as well as in extensive contact with Tok Pisin. Of particular note is Petspets village within the Hahon speaking area, whose inhabitants also speak Kunua, and a variety known as Taunita, listed by Ethnologue as a dialect of Teop. Preliminary reports suggest that Savon/Benmat/Puto dialect has more influence from Tok Pisin that the Aravia dialect, while the Petspets/Doaso dialect shows influence from Kunua and Teop. Given its proximity to Tinputz, the Aravia dialect may be expected to show some influence from that language. The actual degree to which the three Hahon dialects diverge from each other is not yet known.

There are about 3,200 speakers of Hahon, and children are still acquiring the language despite increased influence from Tok Pisin. Tok Pisin is widespread in the area and outgroup communication is via Tok Pisin or larger neighbouring Oceanic or Papuan languages.

A 190 item SIL questionnaire was completed for Hahon in 1963. No other materials exist. It is clear from that questionnaire, and from the opinions of Hahon speakers and speakers of neighbouring languages, that Hahon is a distinct language from its neighbouring relatives Teop, Tinputz, Taiof, Saposa and Selau, and from Rotokas and Kunua – unrelated neighbouring languages of the North Bougainville Papuan family. Anecdotal evidence (Ruth Savoana-Spriggs, personal communiation) suggests Hahon is heavily mixed with elements of neighbouring Oceanic and Papuan languages.

The language has a typologically unusual noun class system and, in common with other Northwest Solomonic languages, it has subject-indexing verbal morphology which originated in a possessive construction (see Palmer 2011).


Special characteristics

During the dialect survey conducted as part of the research for this collection, Stephen Logan could establish Ratsua as a separate language, distinct from Hahon. You can browse the Ratsua materials in this collection at ELAR:


Collection contents

When completed, this collection will include

  • for the Savon/Benmat/Puto dialect and the Petspets/Doaso dialect: four to five hours of audio and, where possible, video recordings of language in use in a variety of contexts, from a variety of speakers (age, gender, social status), targeting a range of genres from traditional narrative to informal conversation
  • for the Aravia dialect: eight hours of texts and four hours of eliciations
  • a dialect survey
  • photographs
  • time-aligned transcriptions and translations in ELAN, with a preliminary analysis in Toolbox
  • for 25% of the recordings, detailed phonetic, phonological and morphological annotations
  • detailed grammatical and lexical notes (scans of five large and seven small notebooks)
  • full metadata
  • Hahon-English/English-Hahon dictionary
  • PhD thesis on grammar and dialectology in Hahon
  • conference presentations and journal articles
  • a booklet of ten traditional stories and translations into Tok Pisin and English as well as a short dictionary for community use

The speakers themselves requested that audio rather than video would be recorded, which is why this collection does not contain video material.


Collection history

Documentation in 2012 was confined largely to the Aravia dialect. The research for this collection provided material for the other two Hahon varieties, as well as materials on Ratsua, with the intention of determining the nature, relationship and vitality of the four communalects.

The materials in this collection were gathered between 2014 and 2016 during research as part of the ELDP Individual Graduate Scholarship held by Stephen Logan. Stephen Logan spend time in each of the three Hahon dialect areas and in the Ratsua-speaking community. This comprised four weeks in Aravia village, followed by six weeks each in the Savon/Benmat/Puto dialect area, the Petspets/Doaso dialect area, and with the Ratsua community.


Other information

The materials in this collection will also be archived with PARADISEC. In addition, the materials will be presented to the SIL Buka Library (Bougainville, PNG), Arawa Library (Bougainville, PNG) and the National Research Institute (Port Moresby, PNG).


Acknowledgement and citation

To refer to any data from the collection, please cite as follows:

Logan, Stephen. 2013. Documenting Hahon, an endangered language of the autonomous Region of Bougainville, PNG. Endangered Languages Archive. Handle: Accessed on [insert date here].

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