Doctoral Dissertation Research: Documentation of Mehek (NUX)
Matthew Dryer Principal Investigator
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The primary goal of the project involves linguistic field work on Mehek (nux), an endangered language in the Tama branch of the Sepik family. It is spoken in several villages, the primary of which is Nuku, in Sandaun Province in northwest Papua New Guinea. Adam Hatfield will collect data primarily via direct note-taking and transcription of recorded stories from consultant speech as well as making corrections to data which has already been collected. The project goal is to produce a grammar and dictionary of the language. The latter will, in particular, be utilized directly by the community members in both teaching children and as a reference for adults. In addition to providing a dictionary, community members have requested that many of their traditional stories be written and translated into both English and Tok Pisin (the national language of Papua New Guinea).<br/><br/>Many linguists estimate that more than half the languages currently spoken in the world will be extinct by the end of this century. New Guinea is a unique linguistic area in that one fifth of the languages of the world (approximately 1200 out of about 6000, a more conservative estimate than is often cited) are spoken there. But in many areas of Papua New Guinea, the creole Tok Pisin is rapidly replacing the original vernacular languages. For Mehek, the youngest children no longer speak the vernacular language. And since the reasons why Tok Pisin is taking over so rapidly in this part of Papua New Guinea apply equally well to most areas of the country, it may well be the case that there are many languages in the country that are no longer spoken by young children, hence the need to document, at least to some extent, as many languages of New Guinea as possible as soon as possible.