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

Period of Performance

9/1/2008 - 5/31/2009

Funding Totals

$40,000.00 (approved)
$40,000.00 (awarded)

A Reference Grammar of Cemaun Arapesh

FAIN: FN-50022-07

Lise Dobrin
University of Virginia (Charlottesville, VA 22903-4833)

The overarching goal of this project is to document the endangered Arapesh languages, which are traditionally spoken by Melanesian people living along the New Guinea north coast in the East Sepik and Sandaun provinces of Papua New Guinea. Drawing on my past fieldwork on Arapesh, as well as on the fruits of collaborative work currently underway with support from a DEL-NEH institutional grant for the Arapesh Digital Language Archive, I will devote the fellowship year to writing the core chapters of an Arapesh reference grammar. Arapesh is of special significance to linguistic theory for its typologically unusual system of noun classification that elaborates phonological, as opposed to semantic, principles of morphological class assignment and syntactic agreement. Like other Arapesh varieties, the Cemaun dialect of Mountain Arapesh this project documents is seriously endangered; there are fewer than 100 speakers, none of whom are under 40 and none of whom are Arapesh monolingual. The grammar will be theoretically informed but ecumenical, comprehensively describing the Cemaun dialect while synthesizing the data on variation across the Arapesh family as a whole. It will be based on elicited linguistic data and more than 50 texts representing different genres of discourse, including conversation, that I audiorecorded, transcribed, and annotated in the field. Together with the Arapesh Digital Language Archive currently being constructed at the University of Virginia, the grammar will lay the foundation for pedagogical materials to be created later for use in Arapesh village schools. (Edited by staff)