Talk:Hiri Motu language

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Hiri Motu grammar and syntax[edit]

The article claims that Hiri Motu (both dialects) have an Austronesian grammar and syntax. Not being formally trained in linguistics, I will not try to use technical terms, but as a life long speaker of Hiri Motu (I grew up in Gulf Province), I must dispute this statement. The original (tribal) Motu language is, of course, Austronesian in grammar and syntax. But one of the key differences between Motu and Hiri Motu, is that Hiri Motu largely does not use standard Austronesian grammar structures. Rather, it follows similar structures to Tok Pisin.

"True" (Tribal) Motu verbal phrases are often one word, including verb, tense, person and even mode, and where applicable, negation, and may include object (in pronoun suffix form). This is not true of Hiri Motu. The subject pronoun is usually a prefix though in negation may be a suffix, so is the negation. I am not fluent in tribal Motu - these complexities are one of the reasons why! Possession is indicated by a suffix added to the noun. (This last is immitated in the Central dialect of Hiri Motu).

Hiri Motu grammar uses auxilliary words to designate tense ("vadaeni" added after the verb to indicate past tense, and "dohore" added before, or "gwauraia" after the verb, to indicate future tense), and the subject is usually a separate pronoun, as is the object. Negation is a separate word (lasi) added after the verb. Thus, "I do not know" in tribal Motu is "asidibagu" (not-know-I), while in Hiri Motu, it is "lau diba lasi" (I know not)... And possession in Hiri Motu uses possessive words somewhat as English does - thus, "My father" in tribal Motu is "tamagu" (father-mine), but in Hiri Motu is "Lau egu tamana" (I my father)... (talk) 09:13, 6 March 2010 (UTC) (Colin) (Now identifying myself as the originator of this comment). Ptilinopus (talk) 07:36, 23 June 2012 (UTC)

It's still Austronesian though. Austronesian languages - like Indo-European ones, do not all have identical grammatical structures, French and German for instance, like "tribal" Motu, are moderately highly inflected (lots of verbal (not to mention adjective and noun) suffixes and prefixes). Languages like Latin and Sanskrit - older Indo-European languages - are much more highly inflected again - whereas English, to take one of the most extreme examples - has shed almost all of its inflections. The English verb structure, funnily enough, consists mainly of particles and auxillaries, so that its relationship to Old English (or Anglo-Saxon) is very like that of "pure" and "Hiri" Motu! In exactly the same way, Hanuabada Motu, Maori, and Tongan are all moderately highly inflected (to different degrees) - whereas Malay, Indonesian, and Hiri Motu all have simplified grammars, shedding inflections (again, to differing degrees), or replacing them with auxillaries.
One of many features that help one pick an Austronesian language from an Indo-European one is the use of "postpositions" instead of prepositions. (In the "non-central" dialect of Hiri Motu we tend to use the "all-purpose" postposition "dekanai" - but it still comes AFTER the noun it governs instead of before (as do adjectives, of course. Another is the ai/ita distinction - "we" that includes the person spoken to and "we" that doesn't. These (and lexis, or vocabulary) are actually the kind of things that linguists look for when they're classifying a language - inflections differ widely, both in form and application, even between quite closely related languages - so that they're not a lot of help. Some people even say Tokpisin must be an Austronesian language because it distinguishes between "mipela" and "yumi" - a bit far fetched for me, because a lot of Tokpisin "grammar" and almost all the vocabulary is simplified English (Indo-European) - and while it has some Austronesian features (the mipela/yumi one is the only one I can think of off-hand) it also has things, so I'm told, from some of the many PNG languages that are NOT Austronesian.
Incidentally - the Central dialect (or "good" Hiri Motu as it used to be called when the language was actually used a little more than it is) is indeed closer to "pure" Motu in a number of ways - but this is not "imitation" as such - mainly just that it hadn't gone quite so far down the "simplification" road. It's probably the older, original form of the language that existed before European contact.
Lau ese Motugado lau diba tahua lagani idaunai - Daru kahanai - lau uhau neganai - to murinai be Bereina kahanai lau lao dinana be idia kiri badina mero kurokurona ese gunika tauna bamona ia herevahereva idia kamonai - lau vavagu ese hari gadona ia hadibagu.
I learned Hiri Motu many years ago in the Western Province - as a very young man - later when I moved to the Mekeo people thought it was very funny to hear a white lad talk like a "bushy" - my father-in-law taught me this kind (Central dialect) of Motu!
Have fun! --Soundofmusicals (talk) 14:26, 6 March 2010 (UTC)
Another Austronesian feature of TokPisin which it shares with Hiri Motu and "true" Motu is the brother/sister usage. In Motu (both types), kakana/tadina refer to older/younger sibling of the same gender while taihuna refers to sibling of opposite gender. The same is true of brata and susa in Tok Pisin especially among rural people (though urban speakers have largely adopted the English usage of assigned gender) - brata refers to sibling of same gender, susa to sibling of opposite gender. Ptilinopus (talk) 23:26, 20 April 2014 (UTC)
Lau danu Motu gado lau abia lagani haniahui elabona imahui idia ore - Kikori kahanai, lau mero negana. Murinai momokani (1999-2002) lau lou PNG dekenai, Lae kahanai, bona lauegu gaukara ia hakaugu gabu momo-ai. Lau davaria lauegu Motu gado hari taunimanima idia gwau be Central ena bamona; Kikori dekenai herevadia momo idia boio.
I too picked up Hiri Motu forty to fifty years ago in Kikori (Gulf) when I was a boy. Much later (1999-2002) I returned to PNG to the Lae area, and my work led me to many parts of the country. I found that people now said my Motu was like the Central dialect; in the Kikori area many words had been lost.
Nice to hear from you Soundofmusicals! Ptilinopus (talk) 06:43, 23 June 2012 (UTC)
Madi, hari be gado inai na kahirakahira idia laloaboio vadaeni. Ita buruka taudia siboda gauna.
I'm afraid the language is just about forgotten nowadays. Just something for us oldies.
--Soundofmusicals (talk) 15:37, 15 August 2012 (UTC)


The following sentence seem to be causing confusion and probably needs recasting:

The dialect names refer to the first languages spoken by users of this lingua franca.

To clarify the situation - Hiri Motu was spoken by people speaking (as a first language) a number a different languages and dialects. Of course this was the whole point. People whose own "village" languages were mutually quite unintelligible were able to communicate using Hiri Motu.

Now Hiri Motu speakers fell into two broad categories, based on their "original" or "first" languages.

One group spoke the original ("pure") language (Motu) or one of a number of quite closely related languages (for instance Waima, Mekeo, Roro etc). To a lesser extent, this group also included many speakers who had as their mother tongue another Austronesian language less closely related to Motu, but still having many words, basic constructions etc. in common. This group spoke what was usually called "Central" Hiri Motu (or the "Austronesian" dialect, as we call it here). The vocabulary included a larger percentage of the words of the original language, and the grammar was also a lot closer to "pure" Motu (although some parts of it were still radically simplified).

The other group of speakers spoke a very motley collection of first languages, few of them related in anyway to the Austronesian family, and many of them in no way related to each other either. Calling these languages "Papuan" is a convenience, apart from occurring nowhere else but New Guinea they have little in common, and they certainly don't form a single "family" of related languages. Austronesian languages, on the other hand, are found from Easter Island to Madagascar and many points between. Mastering an Austronesian language (even a simplified one like Hiri Motu) is naturally more difficult if you don't already speak one, and unsurprisingly even quite fluent "Papuan" language speakers tended to use an even more "pidginised" or simplified form of Motu. Their vocabulary tended to be much more limited, and the grammar even simpler than the Austronesian dialect.

Now the sentence in question attempts to summarise all THAT in 15 words - and unsurprisingly fails. Anyone like to have a go at writing a (probably rather longer) sentence or group of sentences that covers the facts succinctly, but in a more comprehensive way? --Soundofmusicals (talk) 09:41, 28 March 2014 (UTC)