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The Documentation of Sonia: An archive of Sonia language materials from the Bosavi region


Depositor Grant Aiton
Affiliation Australian National University
Location Papua New Guinea
Collection ID 0602
Grant ID IPF0295
Funding Body ELDP
Collection Status Forthcoming
Landing Page Handle


Summary of the collection

This collection documents the Sonia language, (ISO-639 SIQ), which is spoken in the Bosavi region of Papua New Guinea. This region extends across northeast Western Province and southwest Southern Highlands province. Sonia is severely underdocumented, with only a preliminary word list available to date.:

Recordings in this deposit will be collected in Lake Campbell during a two-year postdoctoral fellowship hosted by Australian National University and funded by the Endangered Languages Documentation Programme from 2019 to 2021. This research is a continuation of doctoral fieldwork at James Cook University documenting the Eibela language (ISO-636 AIL) which resulted in a grammatical description of the language and approximately 17 hours of transcribed speech from a variety of genres, including legends, oral histories, sermons, conversation, and song, as well as the associated linguistic analysis and description of these materials, which are also available on ELAR as deposit 0395, “The Documentation of Eibela: An archive of Eibela language materials from the Bosavi region”.


Group represented

Sonia has not been previously documented, and the current documentation has not yet begun, so little is known for certain at this point. It is estimated that there are perhaps 300 speakers living primarily in Lake Campbell in Western Province, Papua New Guinea. Some speakers may also reside in communities north of Lake Campbell. Multilingualism is extremely widespread in the region, and the men and women recorded are routinely proficient in other languages spoken in the region, including Kaluli, Beami, and the national languages of English and Tok Pisin.


Language information

The genetic affiliation of Sonia has not been thoroughly investigated, but it is likely that it belongs to the proposed Trans-New Guinea Phylum, of the central and South New Guinea stock, since this is the classification given to the closely related language Kaluli by Wurm (1978) and Voorhoeve (1968), as well as the closely related Eibela language by Aiton (2017). A lower level classification is given as the Bosavi language family in Shaw (1986). Detailed phylogenetic analysis remains difficult, mainly owing to the fact that other Bosavi languages are underdocumented. Some grammar sketches have been completed by SIL linguists (i.e. Kamula, Kaluli, Odoodee, Kasua), and extensive research in linguistic anthropology has been conducted in Kaluli communities by Bambi Schieffelin. Additional typological information on Sonia is currently unavailable.

Aiton, Grant. 2017. A Grammar of Eibela: A language of Western Province, Papua New Guinea. College of Arts, Society and Education. Cairns, Australia, James Cook University. Doctor of Philosophy: 427.

Grosh, Andrew and Sylvia Grosh. 2004. Grammar Essentials for the Kaluli Language. Summer Institute of Linguistics. Ukarumpa, Papua New Guinea.

Hays, Darrell and Kerttu Hays. 2002. Odoodee Grammar Essentials. Summer Institute of Linguistics. Ukarumpa, Papua New Guinea.

Logan, Tommy. 2007. Kasua Grammar Sketch. Summer Institute of Linguistics. Papua New Guinea, Ukarumpa.

Routamaa, Judy. 1994. Kamula Grammar Essentials. Summer Institute of Linguistics. Ukarumpa, Papua New Guinea.

Schieffelin, Bambi. 1990. The Give and Take of Everyday Life: Language Socialization of Kaluli Children. New York, Cambridge University Press.

Shaw, Daniel. 1986. “The Bosavi Language Family.” Papers in New Guinea linguistics No. 24:45-76.

Voorhoeve, Clemens L. 1968. The central and South New Guinea Phylum: A report on the language situation in south New Guinea. Pacific Linguistics A. Occasional Papers 16. 1–17.

Wurm, Stephen A. 1978. New Guinea phylum of languages (Pacific Linguistics D11). Canberra: Australian National University.


Special characteristics

Sonia has not been previously described beyond small word lists by SIL researchers. These documentation materials represent the only compilation of primary recordings and linguistic analysis of the Sonia language that the depositor is aware of.


Collection contents

This collection will included approximately 16 hours or video recordings from a variety of naturalistic genres, including narratives, public speeches, conversations, and songs along with the accompanying transcriptions and annotations of the speech. In addition, linguistic analysis and writing, including a grammar sketch, word lists, and field notes, will be included, as well as audio recordings of the translation and transcription process. Time-aligned transcriptions from the software package ELAN, and interlinearization and morphosyntactic analysis will be provided as a .flextext format using the software package Fieldworks Language Explorer (FLEX). Additional documentation will be provided in the form of field notebooks and a FLEX data base of lexemes and text transcriptions.


Collection history

This documentation project is not yet completed, but will include materials collected by Grant Aiton and community assistants between 2019 and 2021 during two separate field trips to Lake Campbell. This field work is funded by a IPF grant from the Endangered Language Documentation Programme, as well as funding from Australian National University and the ARC Centre of Excellence for the Dynamics of Language.


Acknowledgement and citation

Users of any part of the deposit should acknowledge Grant Aiton as the data collector and researcher. Users should also acknowledge the Endangered Languages Documentation Programme, Australian National University, and the ARC Centre of Excellence for the Dynamics of Language as funders. The materials may be cited in the following format:

Aiton, Grant. 2019. The Documentation of Sonia: An archive of Sonia language materials from the Bosavi region (Western Province, Papua New Guinea). Endangered Languages Archive. Handle: Accessed on [insert date here].

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