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Videography-Based Documentation of Kere (Papua New Guinea) in Sociocultural Perspective


Language Kere
Depositor Andrea Berez, Samantha Rarrick
Affiliation University of Hawaii at Manoa
Location Papua New Guinea
Collection ID 0383
Grant ID MDP0305
Funding Body ELDP
Collection Status Collection online
Landing Page Handle


Summary of the collection

This is a proposal to document Kere, a Chimbu-Wahgi language of Simbu Province, Papua New Guinea. The primary products will be a linguistic corpus of 30 hours of transcribed, annotated video and a series of eight professional-quality short documentary films about different genres of Kere language, designed for a local and popular audience. The corpus and the film series will capture Kere language in situ with special attention to (i) the visual and locational context, (ii) the culturally salient settings, and (iii) the socially-informed and interactive nature of Kere language use.


Group represented



Language information

Although Kere is not listed in Ethnologue, it is most likely a major dialect of the language linguists refer to as Sinasina (sst), which is spoken in the Sinesine-Yongomugl district of Simbu Province of Papua New Guinea. The Ethnologue lists only two dialects of Sinasina: Tabare and Guna. Speakers who identify their language as Kere know that it is distinct from both Tabare and Guna, and furthermore, they do not call their language Sinasina; in fact, the word ‘Sinasina’ is not locally known as a language name at all, and is only recognized as the name of the geographic region in which their villages are located. Kere speakers consider Tabare to be more closely related than Guna;; they do not consider Guna to be more closely related than any other language or dialect of the Chimbu-Wahgi family. Kere and Tabare exhibit lexical and tonal differences;; speakers say that the tonal differences are a true alternation (high in Kere where Tabare is low), but this claim needs to be confirmed. One of the goals of this project is to determine the status of Kere as a dialect or a language, and to situate it in the Chimbu branch of the Chimbu-Wahgi family.

TYPOLOGICAL INTEREST Foley (1986) notes that Chimbu languages are typologically quite diverse from neighboring highland languages of the Gorokan and Engan families, although they do show some typical features of TNG. These include serial or compound verb constructions, adjunct nominal + generic verb constructions (with a very restricted inventory of generic verbs), and clause chaining in discourse. Initial fieldwork shows that Kere may lack switch reference, a typical feature of clause-chaining languages, but does have possibly as many as four markers of temporal relations in medial dependent verbs.Of phonetic interest is the Kere reflex of the typologically unusual velar lateral phoneme found in Chimbu and other highlands languages, which in Kuman has allophonic variations of homorganic plosives [͡ xk] and [͡ gl] as well as [x], [L] and [l]. Kere also seems to lack the prenasalization in voiced plosives found in its neighbors and across TNG. Also of interest is the tonal status of Kere. Tone and pitch are salient to speakers, and most are aware that one of the main differences between Kere and Tabare is “tune.” However, the tonal typology of Chimbu languages is not at all clear-cut. Kuman, for example, bears features of both true tone languages (e.g. contrastive lexical pitch) and pitch accent languages (e.g. tone spread across word boundaries), as well as pitch features typical of neither typology (e.g. the morpheme is the domain of tone) (Hardie 2003).


Other information

Theorization of Documentary Methods: Kere in a Sociocultural Perspective

This project focuses on documenting the use of Kere in socially and culturally salient settings, especially speech events deemed important by members of the Kere community; in other words, speech events to which Kere identity is attached. These include traditional events like ancestor storytelling, singsing, and ceremonies;; contemporary cultural events like religious sermons;; and the documentation of Kere-specific knowledge of agriculture, territory, biota, and crafts (see Q11 for more information). We will also document commonplace language use, including casual conversation, monologue, and humor.

The theorization of our corpus includes documenting three key aspects of the linguistic practices of the Kere community. First, we aim to capture the visual and physical context of each linguistic event. That is, we aim to document the linguistic event as both embodied and locational. By recording the movements, gestures, and expressions of interlocutors, as well as the location of speakers in relation to one another and to aspects of their surroundings, we will be able to better understand how in-the-moment interaction between individuals affects language choice.

Second, we aim to capture the culturally-informed setting in which each speech act is embedded. We take the view that nearly every speech event is a product of broadly-defined culture, and we plan to document cultural events that are salient to both in- group members and out-group members. For example, “singsing” is an event that Kere people consider a salient example of language-in-culture, and events like these will be documented. On the other hand, Kere people may not point as readily to casual conversation, since the choices speakers make in discourse are usually below the level of awareness of speakers. Outsiders and linguists, however, are able to observe these events in typological comparison to other languages, resulting in better descriptions of Kere discourse.

Third, we aim to capture the socially interactive nature of language as it is mapped to the social network existing between speakers. Members of a speech community exist in a complicated and fluid network of relationships based on age, family, tribe, education, class, religion, and gender that are visible in the linguistic choices they make.


Acknowledgement and citation

Users of any part of the collection should acknowledge the Endangered Languages Documentation Programme (ELDP) as the funder of the project. Individual speakers whose words and/or images are used should be acknowledged by respective name(s). Any other contributor who has collected, transcribed or translated the data or was involved in any other way 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:

Berez, Andrea & Samantha Rarrick. 2014. Videography-Based Documentation of Kere (Papua New Guinea) in Sociocultural Perspective. Endangered Languages Archive. Handle: Accessed on [insert date here].

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