Anêm language

The Anêm language is a language isolate spoken in five main villages along the northwestern coast of New Britain island, Papua New Guinea: Malasoŋo (where it is spoken alongside Bariai), Karaiai, Mosiliki, Pudêlîŋ, Atiatu (where it is spoken alongside Lusi) and Bolo (where it is spoken alongside a version of Aria). It is also spoken by small numbers of people, mostly of Anêm descent, scattered among the surrounding villages. There are two main dialects. Akiblîk, the dialect of Bolo was near functional extinction in 1982, the youngest speaker being about 35 years of age then. The main dialect is spoken in the other villages named above. There are about 550 speakers.

Anêm is an accusative language with unmarked subject-verb-object word order in plain statements. Yes/no questions are indicated with an intonation contour rather than alterations in word order. Negation (not, not yet, don't) and completive aspect (already) are indicated by modality markers which occur in clause-final position. Tense is not indicated directly. There are three distinctions of mood (realis, irrealis and hortative). Realis refers to something that has happened or is happening; irrealis refers to future tense and hypotheticals; and hortative (only in third persons) is used in commands.

  • Transitive clauses showing subject-verb-object order:

Tita-nae  u-b-î               aba niak.
father-my realis.he-kill-them pig two
'My father killed two pigs.'

Aia-nae   i-sama-dî          uas.
mother-my realis.she-seek-it tobacco
'My mother is looking for some tobacco.'

  • Negative markers are clause final:

U-k          a-xî  nan?
realis.he-go to-it garden
'Did he go to the garden?'

U-k          a-xî  nan    mantu.
realis.he-go to-it garden not
'He didn't go to the garden.'

U-k          a-xî  nan    pmaga.
realis.he-go to-it garden not.yet
'He hasn't gone to the garden yet.'

Na-k          a-xî  nan    êbêl. to-it garden don't
'Don't go to the garden.'

o-k             a-xî  nan!
hortative.he-go to-it garden
"Let him go to the garden!'

Anêm nouns are distinguished syntactically for gender, masculine or feminine. Masculine nouns are followed by demonstratives or relative pronouns that begin with /l/ while feminine nouns are followed by demonstratives or relative pronouns that begin with /s/. In addition, both subject prefixes and some object suffixes agree in gender with the noun they refer to:

  • Masculine and feminine gender forms of demonstratives:

Doxa   lê    u-ko-lo.
person the.m realis.he-see-him
'The man saw him.'

Doxa   sê    i-ko-lo.
person the.f realis.she-see-him.
'The woman saw him.'

  • Gender agreement by subject prefix and object suffix:

Onu    lê    i-kê-lêm.
people the.m realis.they-see-her.
'The people saw her.'

It may be related to the Ata and Yélî Dnye isolates in a tentative Yele-West New Britain family.

Further information


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