French original version
French love poem

The poem into Papuan languages

Papua New Guinea is a dream place for a poet.

It is the place where the greatest number of languages are found.

The mystery of such distant cultures was well worth our interest.

Real audio voices: papuan kuanua, motu, tok pisin, enga etc!

Languages in Papua New Guinea

Papua New Guinea holds the world record for linguistic diversity. There is an average of 5,000 speakers by language, which means that for the 800 languages listed in the country some have very few speakers. These languages can be divided into two main groups: the Papuan (non-Melanesian) and the Austronesian languages.

Almost all the languages of the Solomon Islands, Vanuatu and New Caledonia are Austronesian, but the majority of those of New Guinea belong to the Papuan group. While the latter are often classified as Austronesian languages, recent research shows that many of them are related at the level of families, or more distantly at the level of phyla or macro families.

It is very difficult to find correlations between all these languages because of their large number. We still manage to identify some generalities concerning their morphology, phonology and a syntax that are typical. Word order is most often SOV. The verb, which is therefore at the end of the sentence, poses a real difference with the Austronesian languages, which are most often SVO. Verb morphology is generally complex, while noun morphology is much simpler.

Linguists in their latest studies, show that we could group these languages of Trans-New Guinea, in a large group of about 500 languages. Other finer classifications are in progress. They attempt to show the links that unite all these languages. And if we find any, they do us to go a little deeper into the mystery of a country whose entry into history is so recent that everything is to be discovered.

As for many other places in the world, it is very difficult to get a consensus from the specialists, to know the precise, exact number of all these languages, because how to separate the languages, from those that could be counted as their dialects. There is no agreement between linguists, no fixed standard, to measure the linguistic distance between two speeches, to be able to say, if they are languages or dialects.

If the true definition of a dialect is politics and nothing else; because it is only the political which imposes a speech as a language, in general to unify, it remains that today there is no consensus to mesure the linguistic distance, between two speeches. You will therefore understand why according to the works, the number concerning the languages of a family, a continent, or as a whole, can show so many differences.

But if we estimate the total number of languages spoken by humans at 6,000, even adding or subtracting 10% from this estimate, and doing the same for the 800 languages of Papua, that mean the 1/7 language on the planet comes from Papua New Guinea.

How to explain such a large number, compared to such a small population? The explanation surely comes from a geography made up of mountain ranges and rugged terrain, making communication between populations difficult. But probably not only, because there is also a strong desire for identity there. The native tribes, being often only in will of assertion, when it is a question of contact between them (the numerous past wars are a testimony). Here are two explanations, which allowed the development of this proliferation of idioms, in opposite of power of one language over the others, as is often the case in many regions of the world.

In any case, with globalization, and as everything is becoming standardized, the 21st century will surely be the one in which we will see the most languages disappear, and it is of course over there that will be the more numerous.

Poem translated into 524 languages: New Guinea