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Documenting Nalögo, an Oceanic language of Santa Cruz Island

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Language Nalögo
Depositor Valentina Alfarano
Affiliation CNRS
Location Solomon Islands
Collection ID 0472
Grant ID SG0453
Funding Body ELDP
Collection Status Collection online
Landing Page Handle


Summary of the collection

This collection includes audio/video recordings of Nalögo, an Oceanic language spoken on Santa Cruz Island in Temotu Province, the easternmost province of the Solomon Islands. More precisely, this deposit encompasses the Nalögo varieties spoken in the villages of Nea and Nemboi, in the south-west part of the island.


Group represented

This collection documents the varieties of Nalögo spoken in Nea and Nemboi communities in the south-west part of Santa Cruz Island in the Solomon Islands. The last census in 2007 reports approximately 1620 speakers of the language, including five villages (Nea, Nemboi, Noole, Nonia and Bibö) (Lewis et al. 2009).

Throughout its history, Nalögo has been mainly referred to as Nea (the name of the most prestigious village of the area) and Southern Santa Cruz. The language name Nalögo was coined in parallel by Dr Brenda Boerger, who has lived in the island for many years, and by members of the Bibö and Nonia communities (Boerger & Zimmerman 2012). The language name Nalögo means “our language”.

However, Nalögo is a cover term encompassing all the dialectal variants spoken in the aforementioned five villages. The Nalögo speakers in Nea and Nemboi refer to themselves as speakers of Natügo, whereas the name Nalögo is used to refer to the varieties spoken in Noole, Nonia and Bibö. The word natügo is a directly possessed inalienable noun made up of the word natü “word, language, voice” and the 1+2 augmented possessor-indexing enclitic =go.


Language information

This deposit represents the varieties of Nalögo spoken in the Nea and Nemboi communities in the south-west of Santa Cruz Island in Temotu Province, the easternmost province of Solomon Islands. Nalögo belongs to the Reefs-Santa Cruz group along with Äiwoo, Natügu and Engdewu. The Reefs-Santa Cruz (RSC) group, together with the languages of Utupua and Vanikoro (UV group), forms the Temotu group, classified as a primary subgroup within the Oceanic family (Ross & Næss 2007).

RSC languages are intriguing since their origin and genetic affiliation has been a matter of debate over the years. Despite having been originally classified as Papuan (Wurm 1969, 1978), recent studies propose to assign them to a previously unidentified first order subgroup of Oceanic, the Temotu group (Ross & Næss 2007).

According to some archaeological findings, Temotu Province is thought to be the first settlement in Remote Oceania of peoples belonging to the Lapita culture. The latter originated in the Bismarck Archipelago, and, at around 1600 BC, spread throughout the south Pacific region (Spriggs 1995). As speakers of Proto Oceanic, the ancestor of all Oceanic languages, Lapita peoples brought their native language to the newly established settlements (Ross 1989). As Santa Cruz is the site in which archaeologists have found the earliest artefacts attributable to the Lapita culture in Remote Oceania, we might assume that Proto Oceanic speakers bypassed the rest of the Solomons Archipelago to land in the Santa Cruz area as early as 1200 BC (Sheppard & Walter 2006). If this hypothesis proves to be true, the Temotu language group could be said to be an early offshoot of Proto Oceanic in Remote Oceania.


Special characteristics

With regard to community materials, the deposit contains 100 short video clips (up to 10 seconds each), whose main function is to elicit the primary valence of predicates. The type of predicates involved range from basic predicates (Leipzig Valency Classes project) to more specific predicates expressing culture-specific activities. I hope that this set of video clips will be useful to explore valency classes in other languages of Melanesia.

The deposit also contains a simple alphabet booklet (two versions), and a set of 137 flash cards for children as language learning support. The flash cards contain words of various basic semantic domains (body parts, kinship, animals, etc.) and grammatical domains (basic verbs, numerals, independent pronouns).


Collection contents

The collection contains more than 20 hours of audio recordings (including extracted audio files) and more than 20 hours of video recordings. Separate audio files include mainly grammar elicitations, translation sessions, and a few narratives. Video recordings include texts of various genres (kastom stories, personal stories, procedural texts, conversations, and stories about cultural practices, village activities and organization). Video recordings also include elicitations on various grammar topics and video stimuli (e.g. valency video clips).

Each video session generally includes the original video file (in mp4 format), and a reduced version of the video (to use with ELAN) and the extracted audio file. Pictures are associated with some sessions along with annotated ELAN files. The annotations will be subject to future changes and further additions.

19 speakers took part in the project (men and women of different generations) in one or more than one session. The language represented is Nalögo, along with Solomon Island Pijin and English as working languages. Recordings are classified according to their genres and topics, as shown in the columns on the left of the collection page.


Collection history

The data of this deposit was collected during my PhD program. I collected this data in the period November 2017-February 2018. The deposit also includes a few audio recordings that I collected in my initial field trip in 2015.

I made video recordings with the video camera ZoomQ8, which produces video files in MOV format. The original MOV files were converted into MP4 files through HandBrake. For each original file, I created two MP4 files (full-size video and e reduced version of the video to open with ELAN). Short video files belonging to the same session were merged together in one single MP4 file. The audio files associated with videos were extracted through Avidemux. More generally, the video editing (if necessary) was done through Avidemux. I made audio recordings with the audio recorder Zoom H4. For audio editing, I used Audacity.

Metadata were collected manually, then imported into CMDI maker or directly into Arbil. Basic annotations (transcription/translation) of texts were done either in ELAN or in Saymore. Most elicitations were transcribed manually. Annotations were imported into FLEx for further grammatical annotations, and then back to ELAN to get a glossed ELAN file. At the current stage, the process of annotation is still ongoing. Annotations will be subject to future changes during and after my PhD.


Other information

References (basic):

Boerger, Brenda H. & Gabrielle Zimmerman. 2012. Recognizing Nalögo and Natügu as separate languages: Code-splitting in ISO 639-3. Language & Linguistics in Melanesia 30(11): 95-132.

Boerger, Brenda H., Åshild Næss, Anders Vaa, Rachel Emerine, & Angela Hoover. 2012. Sociological factors in Reefs-Santa Cruz language vitality: A 40-year retrospective. International Journal of the Sociology of Language 214: 111-52.

Lewis, Paul M. 2009. Ethnologue: Languages of the World. 16th edition. Dallas: SIL International. Online version:

Lynch, John, Malcolm Ross & Terry Crowley. 2002. The Oceanic languages, Curzon language family series. Richmond: Curzon.

Næss, Åshild & Brenda H. Boerger. 2008. Reefs-Santa Cruz as Oceanic: evidence from the verb complex. Oceanic Linguistics 47(1): 185-212.

Ross, Malcolm & Åshild Næss. 2007. An Oceanic origin for Aiwoo, the language of the Reef Islands? Oceanic Linguistics 46: 456-498.

Ross, Malcolm. 1989. Early oceanic linguistic prehistory: A reassessment. The Journal of Pacific History 24(2): 135-149.

Ross, Malcolm. 2004. The morphosyntactic typology of Oceanic languages. Language and Linguistics 5: 491-541. Schachter, Paul. 1976.

Sheppard, Peter & Richard Walter. 2006. A revised model of Solomon Islands culture history. Journal of the Polynesian Society 115: 47-76.

Spriggs, Matthew. 1995. The Lapita culture and Austronesian prehistory in Oceania 119-142.

Vaa, Anders. 2013. A grammar of Engdewu. University of Oslo dissertation.

van den Berg, René & Brenda H. Boerger. A Proto-Oceanic passive? Evidence from Bola and Natügu. Oceanic Linguistics 50: 221-46.

Wurm, Stephen A. 1969. The linguistic situation in the Reef and Santa Cruz Islands. Papers in Linguistics of Melanesia 2: 47-102.

Wurm, Stephen A. 1978. Reefs–Santa Cruz: Austronesian, but…. In Second International Conference on Austronesian Linguistics: Proceedings, ed. by Stephen A. Wurm & Lois Carrington, 969-1010. Canberra: Pacific Linguistics.


Acknowledgement and citation

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

Alfarano, Valentina. 2018. Documenting Nalögo, an Oceanic language of Santa Cruz Island. Endangered Languages Archive. Handle: Accessed on [insert date here].

I wish to thank the Nea and Nemboi community members for allowing me to stay in their villages. In particular, I thank Noel Keniano and his family, Martin and Judith La’ale, who hosted me in Nea. I would like to express my sincere gratitude to Elisabeth Mena, Julia Pute, Billy Palu, Catherine Pweka and Charity Mweabu for the time they spent with me to teach me their language, reply to my questions and share their knowledge with me. Finally, thanks to all those people who wanted to take part in the project.

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