Research Programs: Dynamic Language Infrastructure-Documenting Endangered Languages - Fellowships

Period of Performance

6/1/2010 - 6/30/2011

Funding Totals

$50,400.00 (approved)
$50,400.00 (awarded)

Natugu: Grammar Sketch and Texts

FAIN: FN-50063-10

Brenda H. Boerger
Graduate Institute of Applied Linguistics (Dallas, TX 75236-5629)

The purpose of the research is to write a grammar sketch of Natugu based on past and future field data elicitation. Natugu is an endangered Oceanic language spoken by Melanesians on Santa Cruz Island in Temotu Province of the Solomon Islands, South Pacific. Both the language community and the Solomon Island government support language development work, with an eye to future vernacular education. Such documentation and description needs to be undertaken soon in light of language displacement stemming from increased use of Solomon Island Pijin. I have lived on Santa Cruz Island for 16 years doing linguistic, translation, and literacy work in Natugu. This proposal will provide support needed to synthesize my present data in the interest of determining what further structures need to be investigated and to conduct further fieldwork. Outcomes are expected to be a) a revised Natugu grammar for both linguists and Natugu speakers, b) digital recording of texts in audio and some video as well, c) interlinearized versions of the same texts, d) archiving of the grammar and texts, and e) an anthology of the texts for the Natugu community. (Edited by staff)

Media Coverage

Documenting Endangered Languages fellowship received (Media Coverage)
Author(s): staff
Date: 12/4/2010
Abstract: As part of a multi-year funding partnership to preserve and document endangered languages, The National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) and the National Science Foundation (NSF) have granted Dr. Brenda H. Boerger, SIL linguist, a 12-month DEL (Documenting Endangered Languages) fellowship. “This is a rescue mission to save endangered languages,” NEH Chairman Bruce Cole said about the DEL awards. “Language is the DNA of a culture, and it is the vehicle for the traditions, customs, stories, history and beliefs of a people. A lost language is a lost culture. Fortunately, with the aid of modern technology and these federal funds, linguistics scholars can document and record these languages before they become extinct.” Dr. Brenda H. Boerger lived in the Solomon Islands for nearly 20 years as advisor to the Natügu Language Project, and worked alongside the Natügu people in language development efforts.

Associated Products

Reexamining the phonological history of Oceanic’s Temotu subgroup (Article)
Title: Reexamining the phonological history of Oceanic’s Temotu subgroup
Author: Brenda H. Boerger
Author: William James Lackey
Abstract: In recent years, much more lexical data have become available for the Temotu languages, a purported subgroup of Oceanic. This paper reexamines some significant changes to Oceanic consonants in light of this larger dataset. While the bulk of previous analyses is retained, several changes hypothesized in earlier literature are shown to require revision. The syncope and truncation sound changes proposed by Ross and Næss are reinterpreted as emergent from prosodic effects, and as a result of closer study of other sound changes, we find that the hypothesized Utupua–Vanikoro branch is not phonologically well founded. A second merger of sounds in Proto-Oceanic, in addition to the one presented in Ross and Næss, is uncovered for all of Temotu languages, giving support for its acceptance as a subgroup of Oceanic. In a synthesis near the end, we show that evidence from recent archaeological work on the Temotu region that aligns with the linguistic history proposed here.
Year: 2021
Primary URL:
Primary URL Description: Link to journal article.
Secondary URL: https://
Format: Journal
Periodical Title: Oceanic Linguistics 60.2:367-411
Publisher: University of Hawai'i Press

Marked use of personal directionals in Natügu narrative texts (Article)
Title: Marked use of personal directionals in Natügu narrative texts
Author: Brenda H. Boerger
Abstract: In Natügu (Natqgu) [ntu] personal directionals can be used in narrative discourse to shift from a narrator perspective to a main character perspective. The latter is marked in relation to the narrator perspective. This paper shows how the sustained use of the main character perspective occurs at the peak of a narrative, George Meya is shot with an arrow. These findings illustrate one aspect of the range of practice in good Natqgu story-telling and show that accurate description of directionals in a language must examine their functions at the discourse level, and not just in isolated, individual sentences. This also demonstrates the importance of collecting multiple genres during fieldwork.
Year: 2019
Primary URL:
Primary URL Description: Link to the full journal, not the specific article.
Format: Journal
Periodical Title: Selected Proceedings from the Tenth Conference On Oceanic Linguistics (COOL10). SIL Language and Culture Documentation and Description 45:1-23.
Publisher: SIL International