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11 February 2016


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I am very worried because this is my language and I don't know how to speak...Ameiyo Ayari is my grand mother she always complain to my dad about our original language....Thanks God linguistic staff for answering my grandma prayer and translate the bible in to Akadou language.
Currently I am studying at divine Word university.I read the newspaper i drop my tears..because my grandma was put it on national news paper front page.
Keep up the good work Samantha and other translator...please do contact me if you need assistance for bible translation...

Thank you may God Bless you all for great job....

Appreciate all your comments once again. Interesting story of the butter knife Paul.
According to Ngugi Wa Thiong'o (Decolonizing the Mind), language has two characteristics. Firstly it is a medium of communication and secondly it is a carrier of culture. In fact language is culture itself and vice versa. So, if you're preserving a culture you're preserving a language and if you're preserving a language, you're preserving a culture.
Our aim here is to preserve language/culture, document it and archive it, even if it is a minority language where resources cannot be made available to the community.
And of course the world is changing, languages are changing and we cannot force people to learn and speak their language. We can only help them by preserving it as part of their history.

This article obviously has raised some very important issues.

I will provide the lead of this article to the Language and Literature strand here at UPNG so that they can take up and debate as well!

Hi Samantha, you've raised a very important aspect that goes to the heart of every culture. Language.

Yet therein lies a conundrum for PNG. What language or languages out the 800+ do you preserve and devote resources to?

Do you concentrate on the large language groups and ignore the smaller ones? Do you record the language of the groups who have in past history overtaken or conquered other language groups. Is Kuanua a suitable language to select from East New Britain? Would those referred to as 'The Bainings' object?

Language studied today is only a snapshot in history. Language changes and evolves albeit perhaps not as quickly as English. New words are made up or discarded every day.

The reference to a butter knife is an interesting example. Why has a butter knife no pointed tip? Because 300 years ago sailors didn't use forks (a Norse tradition and name), and cut their food using a sharp pointed knife which they then used the point to skewer their food and convey it to their mouth. Then there was a mutiny and a Captain ordered all knives on board to have their points knocked off to stop them being used as weapons.....

Perhaps the real issue here is culture and the preservation of it rather than the preservation of every language ever spoken in PNG?

Understood, Samantha.

I am a very good user of English but the language still feels foreign to me, like a tool that I've learned how to use well but don't know the manufacturer.

Hearing my people's language sounds 'natural' to me - there is a familiarity at a deeper level...

That may be because I have heard my parents speaking it when I was a child.

But there is the key to it, that speaking a specific language unites the human soul with others on a different but parallel plane to another language.

There's almost nothing that beats meeting someone in a foreign country who speaks your language.

There is a history of human experience behind each language.

There is a music unique to each language.

There is a logic specific in the formation of words and sounds.

So if language represents the history, intellect and artistry it must be central to the essence of a people - who we are.

I think that makes our languages worth preserving when they must be and practiced when they should.

Thank you everyone. Much appreciate all your comments. Akadou was an accidental discovery, not a planned one.

With only three aged speakers left I don't think language revitalization is something that can be done but like Ed mentioned, it can be preserved as a cultural artefact.

Better to preserve it rather than let it vanish without a trace. It is part of PNG's rich history and it needs to be documented and preserved, even if no one cares to learn and use it.

English may bring national unity in PNG but it is not the carrier of our culture. Our languages are.

A PNG'ean may speak English very well but bring a butter knife and fork to him at a dinner table and watch how he struggles to use those utensils.

No offence to other highly educated PNG'eans who are OK with the English culture but you get my point.

At the risk of raining on someone's parade it surely must be axiomatic that unless a language is used and spoken by a largish group of people it will surely die. Just look at how many languages are being affected world while by the use of computers and American English.

Yet English has evolved over the last millennium and the variety of English spoken 1,000 years ago would barely be understood by today's speakers. In another 1,000 years who knows what it might sound like or if people will be actually speaking it at all?

While the benefits of a local language can reveal practical and important aspects of the local area if the people have lived there for many years, if the same aspect could be translated into many languages and still retain the same meaning, the only real advantage to preserving a particular language is to preserve a distinct cultural identity.

I'll not deny that my culture is a product of many and varied histories but predominantly Celtic Cornish. Have I tried to learn my original language? No way. It's not only too hard but no one I know would use it anyway. So is a language important to preserve? Well the Cornish in Cornwall believe it is and the Welsh not only believe it is but insist it has to be taught in school. All road signs are for example, in dual languages of Welsh and English and Welsh is on top. The Irish in Eire are of the same opinion.

The obvious extension of this practice is to encourage disunity rather than national unity. Is this what is desired in PNG? Most people in Europe know at least three or four languages. So do most people in PNG.

But if you rule out preserving a separate ethnic identity, why bother preserving a language? Just look how Latin has lost its relevance in only the last 50 years? Yet Latin was so important to so many professions like the Law, Medicine, Pharmacy and almost any specialized scientific pursuit.

One last plea about English. When I returned from PNG I had trouble spelling as I was used to spelling words phonetically as in Tok Pisin and Motu, etc. When I suggested it would help many newly arrived migrants if we changed the spelling of English, almost to a person, academics and teachers turned puce in the face and looked at me like I'd lost my wits. Yet Americans often try and change the way they spell what we accept as the correct standard. Just look at the use of the letter 's' and 'z'.

The sad reality is that the use of Akadou will cease upon the deaths of the remaining speakers and, apart from recording it for scholarly purposes at least, there wont be much point in producing an Akadou version of the bible.

The responsibility for language maintenance and currency lies completely with the speakers. Linguists can document and record to their hearts content, but if the speaker custodians allow the language to wither, then so it will.

Viable languages remain so largely because speakers husband, adapt and amend them in keeping with the inevitable cultural and societal shifts and changes that we all experience. Those that aren't will die. They can be preserved as cultural artefacts. They can't be revived

Col and others interested in PNG's history might be interested in the following post on the Exkiap Network site yesterday:

Dear Ex-Kiaps members,

The University of California San Diego Library, with permission from the PNG National Archives, is providing online access to patrol reports through the Library's Digital Collections website. The reports date primarily from the post-WW2 era and were scanned from microfiche held at UC San Diego. The original reports are in Port Moresby, of course.

For now, we have reports from four districts up online and we expect to have the reports for the rest of the districts up within a few weeks. The districts available online now are: Bougainville, Central, Gulf, and Morobe.

The short-cut URL is:
Thanks to many of you over the years for your queries and requests--definitely part of our motivation for putting these materials online!

Best wishes,
Kathy Creely
University of California, San Diego

Getting into the archives in Mosbi is a vexed experience at the best of times - you're lucky to find it open these days.

As a related aside, when a kiap in the 1960's I usually included in my patrol reports an amateur anthropology section which included a listing of some 50 to 100 common words of the area patrolled, initiation, birth, marriage, and death practices, and other matters of interest. I can remember the many language similarities between an East New Britain group and Motu. Other kiaps likely included similar observations in their reports; one day someone may cross-check and analyse them to better complete PNG's history.

Great work Samantha. Maybe not so much of a new language but revitalising and keeping alive an existing yet dying language would be a better description.

Many PNG languages are dying out, and quite rightly like Akadou has very few surviving speakers.

The richness of a culture, people including knowledge and history are probably lost through the disappearances of languages. There is a very good reason to preserve what languages that are left.

Well done, Samantha, and your team.

This was a good article with a positive message about one of our languages.

We Pngians are so proud of boasting that we have over 800 languages but you and your team are doing the vital work of preserving them.

And you get to see some country and enjoy the real Pngian hospitality - lucky you.

I've been involved in what is loosely defined as cultural revival with several Aboriginal groups over the years. I'm currently working with Butchulla people from the Fraser Island area in Queensland.

An important part of the process is revitalizing language, often from scratch using old records and what is left in people's memories. Sometimes it's necessary to extrapolate from known words to arrive at what a word might have been for a particular thing.

A lot of Butchulla people can now speak in their old language and we are currently trying to locate archaeological sites in the area to work out where they lived and how.

I just act as the occasional advisor. Most of the work is done by Butchulla people.

If you are prepared to do the hard work it is possible to revive cultures, including languages.

In PNG, I think, you are at a point where the knowledge is still there with the old people and the time is right to think about preservation.

Keep up the good work Samantha.

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