Fieldwork in Limol, Western Province, PNG

For seven weeks during September, October and November 2017, I had the privilege of living with the wonderful people of Limol (also known as Keiti), Papua New Guinea. Around 200 people live in this tiny village dotted with coconut trees, pineapple bushes, and paths twisting through the bottlebrush and eucalypts to shady waterholes and sago glades. The language of Limol is Ende, which is also spoken in the neighbouring villages of Mallam and Kinkin. Ende is one of six varieties in the Pahoturi River language family of southern New Guinea. Its siblings are Em, Kalam, Agob, Tame and Idi.


Horsing around at the crocodile hunt; Limol, PNG


The Ende Language Committee is headed by Warama Kurupel, a minister and community leader in Limol. Formed in 2007, the Committee’s main goal is vernacular literacy in Ende. Linguist Kate Lindsey of Stanford University was invited by the Ende Language Committee in 2015, and continues to work with the people of Limol on the production of a dictionary, grammar, and literacy materials. Kate invited me to be part of her 2017 fieldtrip to Limol.


A recording session with Old Man Kidarga and Jeff; Limol, PNG


In Limol, I worked to support the Ende Language Committee’s literacy goals by facilitating the production of two Ende language books. Ende people worked to tell, transcribe, translate and illustrate the stories in these collections, which showcase Ende hunting and fishing traditions, culture, and inimitable sense of humour. You can see Mamoeatt Ttoenttoen (“Hunting Stories)” here, and Tudiatt Ttoenttoen (“Fishing Stories”) here.


Winson transcribing stories for Mamoett Ttoenttoen and Tudiatt Ttoenttoen; Limol, PNG


I also worked on a project investigating directional inflection in the Ende verb. The Ende verb is complex, featuring multiple exponence, marking for pluractionality, and vowel harmony. Fieldwork confirmed our pre-existing hypothesis that Ende has a hither/neutral distinction in verbs of motion and transfer. However, in addition, fieldwork revealed that Ende has a system of associated motion, similar to directional morpheme-based systems attested in Somali, Quechua, and Berber (cf. Belkadi 2015).


Sandra, Wai, Francis and Wantok, ready to leave Limol for the day.


I was delighted to have examples and analysis from my working paper on Ende directionality and associated motion included in Antoine Guillaume’s presentation, “Associated motion: Australia, South America and beyond”, given at the 2017 meeting of the Association of Linguistic Typology. My paper on Ende directionality has been accepted to the 10th International Austronesian and Papuan Languages and Linguistics Conference, to be held in May 2018 at the University of Surrey, UK. I look forward to continuing to explore this fascinating phenomenon and to contribute to an understudied area of linguistics.


Wagiba’s sweet potato harvest; Limol, PNG


My deep thanks go to my dear friends in Limol, especially Warama Kurupel, Wagiba Geser, Wendy Bewag, Mecklyn Diab and Warea Giniya; the Firebird Foundation for Anthropological Research for generous funding; the Centre of Excellence for the Dynamics of Language for support in kind; and fellow fieldworkers Kate Lindsey and Grace Maher for their support, advice, and friendship.


Sarbi weaving a sago basket; Limol, PNG