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A linguistic description of Arammba, an endangered language of Southern New Guinea.


Language Arammba
Depositor Emil Mittag
Affiliation University of New England
Location Papua New Guinea
Collection ID 0366
Grant ID IGS0253
Funding Body ELDP
Collection Status Collection online
Landing Page Handle


Summary of the collection

Arammba is an endangered language spoken by less than 1,000 people in Papua New Guinea. It is part of the Tonda branch of the Morehead-Maro family of languages of Southern New Guinea, which does not appear to be related to any other family. As the number of Arammba speakers is rapidly declining, Arammba will be documented to help preserve it for future generations. Data acquired will be useful to linguists working in comparative linguistics, language description, and typology. Materials will also be created for Arammba speakers to preserve their language and teach it to others.


Special characteristics

Arammba is a member of the Tonda branch of the Morehead-Maro family of languages, which are spoken in Southern New Guinea. There are approximately a dozen members of this family (Evans, 2012a:1). Currently, it is believed that the Morehead-Maro family of languages is unrelated to any other family of languages (Evans, 2012b:1). It is different and distinct (Evans, 2009) from the Trans-New Guinea family, which comprises over 400 languages (Evans, 2012b:2).There are four branches to this family, with two branches located in West Papua, Indonesia, and two in Papua New Guinea. In Papua New Guinea, the Tonda branch encompasses Arammba, Mblafe/Renmo, Guntai, Kancha, and Were/Kómnjo, while the Nambu branch is composed of Nen, Nambu/Namna, Nama, Namo, Neme, and Len. On the Indonesian side of the Fly River, there is the Kanum branch, which has an unknown number of varieties, some of which may be distinct languages, and the Yei branch, which has at least two dialects (ibid.:1).

Geographically, the Tonda branch of the Morehead-Maro family is situated in Papua New Guinea to the east and south of the Fly River, to the west of the Maro River and north of the Torres Strait Islands of Australia. Arammba is the northernmost language of this group, situated to the west of the area where Neme is spoken, north of the area where Wara is spoken, and bordering Yei speaking areas to the northwest and Suki (a non-Morehead-Maro language that is in the Trans-New Guinea family (Ethnologue, 2012)) to the northeast (Evans, 2012b:1).

The Morehead-Maro languages are only now being studied in detail for the first time in the Languages of Southern New Guinea (LSNG) project, led by Professor Nicholas Evans of the Australian National University, Professor Jeff Siegel of the University of New England, and Dr Wayan Arka of the Australian National University (Languages of SNG, 2012). It is possible that there are some languages in this family, such as Len, which may already be extinct (Evans, 2012b:1).

The LSNG project has begun describing this endangered language family. To date only a sketch grammar of Arammba exists (Boevé & Boevé, 2003). For some time, Arammba speakers have been repeatedly asking for a linguist to describe and document their language in order for it to be preserved.

In 2000, there were estimated to be 967 Arammba speakers (Boevé & Boevé, 2005). No data exist as to the distribution of first and second language speakers. While the number of speakers by itself is not an indication the language is endangered, whether or not the language is being passed on to the next generation is. While research has yet to be conducted to measure the language ability of Arammba speakers of various ages, data exist for twenty villages where other languages of the Tonda branch are spoken (Grummitt & Masters, 2012:33). The data indicate that only two of the twenty villages had linguistic situations where the vernacular is strong and not potentially threatened by another language (ibid.).

As English and Tok Pisin are widely spoken in the Morehead-Maro region of Southern New Guinea (Professor Nicholas Evans, personal communication 2012), it is likely these languages are a threat to the use and generational transfer of the Tonda languages, including Arammba.


Acknowledgement and citation

Users of any part of the collection should acknowledge Emil Mittag as the data collector and researcher. Users should also acknowledge the Endangered Languages Documentation Programme(ELDP)as the funder. Further, individual speakers whose words and/or images are used should be acknowledged by name and any other contributors who collected, transcribed or translated the data should be acknowledged by name. All information on contributors is available in the metadata.

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

Mittag, Emil. 2015. A linguistic description of Arammba, an endangered language of Southern New Guinea. Endangered Languages Archive. Handle: Accessed on [insert date here].

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