New Book from SIL PNG

Richard Parker richardparker01 at YAHOO.COM
Tue Jun 12 08:37:15 UTC 2007

I would like to express my personal appreciation 
to the authors of the the Emira-Mussau grammar paper
(and to John Bowden for telling us about it) 
and to the PNG branch of SIL for making so much useful 
language documentation available on the internet, 
in one spot (others please follow).  
  It's quite difficult to study anything without access 
to paper documents, and I've learned a lot from this 
particular open source. 

  (I'm getting very fed up with Springer Link, Muse, 
JStor and so on for making access to their knowledge 
almost impossible).
  On the Emira-Mussau grammar paper:
  I was particularly interested in their quotation of 
number names from 1-8192 (others please follow), 
and their discussion of number classifiers (7 prenominal 
and 7 postnominal), and puzzled that the Emira-Mussauans 
didn't follow the example of nearby (and far-away) 
island languages. 
  Ere-Lele-Gele'-Kuruti on Manus Island (only some 200 
miles from Mussau) has (or had, in the 1940s) 43 separate 
postnominal numeral classifiers for different types of objects. 
This idiosyncracy is common to most Manus languages, together 
with an almost unique subtraction system for numbers 7-9, 
and in one case, from 6-9.
Woleai, in Micronesia, miles away from anywhere, in the 
Carolines, has 57 postnominal number classifiers, covering 
everything from coconuts to testicles.
In my amateur analysis of number names and systems, I've been 
ignoring prenominal numeral classifiers quoted in number 
wordlists, not realising before, at all, that they might 
be significant. 
  They obviously are.
  I would appreciate any help or information on the following 
(possible) prenominal classifier:
  Very prevalent in number wordlists from the SW Malukus 

  (Kisar - wo'neme = 6, Luang - wo'nema).
  What does it mean?
  This (preposition?) seems to occur first in New Ireland, where 
it's attached to a '2' morpheme (iwolo = 6 in Nakanai), 
then spreads west to the Admiralties, where it is expressed in 
6 = wono, mawono, wonof, wonop, etc.
  In the Papuan Tip An languages, it's doubled up with another 
  Tagula/Sudest - ghewona = 6, 
Nimowa ho-woni = 6
but I think these are secondary developments.
  It doesn't appear to get attached to an identifiable 'hand' 
morpheme (nim, nem) until around Cenderawasih Bay  
(Kawe - wonom) 
- but those languages have been messed around by 
Tidore slave traders relatively recently. 
  Then it seems to occur more obviously in the Malukus 
Imroing - 6 = wo'lemu
Masela East - 6 = 'wolem
  or gets dropped altogether
Teun - 'nemu
Dawera-Dawelor -'lem
In most early finger-hand tally systems, there's an obvious
break between counting the fingers of one hand, and then 
transferring to the other: 
  Bibling - New Britain 
5 = elme (hand) 
6 = lome kapuk (hand &-one). 
  In some PNG An languages, the hand-counting survives 
even more obviously: 
  In Maisin (An - Huon Gulf) 
  5 = faketi tarosi = hand on-the-one-side
  6 = faketi tarosi taure sese 
= hand-on-the one side - other-side - one 
  And so on: 
27 = tamati seseina tamati itere faketi tarosi taure sandi 
= man-one DEM man-another hand-one-side other-side two
  In one attic of Austronesian languages, New Caledonia 
(and in most of Vanuatu), 6 survives as hand+1 
  Tinrin 6 = anoro me sa
Pije 6 = ni-bweec 
Nindi - tomusoi
Namakura - lateh
In the other attic, Taiwan, the same construction survives in:
  Saisyat - 6 = sayboshi = aseb (5) ?aha? (1) 
  Pazeh 6 = xasebuza? = xaseb (5) and (1) 
(but not quite,because their word for 1 is only recorded as ?ida?)
  In Sediq (Taiwan), the word for 6 seems to reflect the New Ireland 
Nakanai i-wo-lo (in system if not in name) as materu = hand-ta-2, 
where 5 is the familiar 'hand = rima'.
  Somewhere, along the language development chain, some bright spark 
put those more cumbersome combinations of words into shorthand: 
  wo-'hand - nim, lem' = other hand or 2nd hand, or first-on-the 
other-hand, and thus: 
  the combination finally developed into the familiar 
6 = *enem in Proto-Austronesian
6 = *onom in Proto-Oceanic.
I would also like to thank the late Dr Glendon Lean, whose
work I discovered only 2 weeks ago at:
  where he analysed Papuan NAN and local An number systems 
in great detail.
  I am very grateful to have found his work, done over a quarter-century, 
in the jungles, swamps, and fly blown libraries of New Guinea, 
and for giving me some very good guidance on how I should 
proceed with my own 'work'. 
  Richard Parker
Siargao Island, The Philippines. 
  My website at is about the island and its people,  
coastal early humans, fishing, coconuts, bananas and 
whatever took my fancy at the time.

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