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« The making and unmaking of Papua New Guinea | Main | Strike #2 coming up - but change is more than removing a PM »

01 November 2018


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I think the point is that languages are probably not a good indicator of migrations way back 65,000 years ago.

That bunch of multiple languages in the Top End and Kimberleys is very interesting.

I'd assumed that they come from a northern influence in the form of visitors to Australia like the Macassans who were pottering around the coast after trepang etc several centuries before the Europeans arrived and are credited with teaching the locals how to built seaworthy canoes.

I was being a bit mischievous about turning the equation around but whose to say that people didn't go back and forth across the land bridge while it was there.

The good old Marind raided far and wide, including towards the Fly River and into Torres Strait. Maybe they picked up a few influences as well as heads on their travels.

Phil writes that "the main [indigenous] language in Australia is called Pama-Nyungan."

The language family, much disputed. Non Pama-Nyungan languages in the Top End and the Kimberleys may have come with the earliest arrivals. Or not.

A couple of linguists now claim to have models that produce enough evidence to unite Pama-Nyungan and non-Pama-Nyungan.

Then there are Pama-Nyungan speaking groups in the Torres Strait who were probably there before Austronesian speakers.

Languages can be replaced completely very quickly. Evidence of Sepik and Pama-Nyungan cognates isn't good, so the hunt is on for 'semantic primes.'

"Or it may be that people actually travelled the other way," Phil post-scripted (perhaps miscievously).

Back-migration? Some of the first Formosan Austronesian speakers returned to Formosa.

There's rock art in West Papua's coastal Birdshead; hand stencils and boomerangs, perhaps from people who went north instead of south when old 'Arafuraland' was inundated.

For what it's worth, possible cultural similarities between the Marind around Merauke and Nunggubuyu (both have bullroarers) on the mainland west of Groote look promising for researchers.

The Austronesian languages in PNG and the Pacific are a fairly recent thing, maybe in the last 4,000 years. The Motu language is an Austronesian language for instance. Austronesian comes from around Taiwan.

Most languages in PNG are Trans-New Guinean and are much older.

The main language in Australia is called Pama-Nyungan. Attempts to compare that to Trans-New Guinea have been tried but not very successfully.

One would assume that, since PNG and Australia were part of the same continent (Sahul) up until about 10,000 years ago, there would be similarities.

Chronolinguistic research of languages spoken throughout the Pacific region suggests strongly that the forebear/root Austronesian language - the predominant language type of Polynesia, Micronesia and the coastal regions of Melanesia, Indonesia and Malaysia (but not mainland Australia where indigenous languages are generally classified as Non-Austronesian) is in Taiwan - not Africa.

Or it may be that people actually travelled the other way.

We seem to be hooked on the 'out of Africa' story but maybe humans also developed somewhere else. Like Australia for instance.

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