Kove language

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RegionNew Britain
Native speakers
(6,800 cited 1994)[1]
Language codes
ISO 639-3kvc

Kove is one of the Austronesian languages of New Britain which is spoken by the people of Papua New Guinea. The language is found in 18 villages with their populations totaling 9,000 people; however, most of the people are unfamiliar with the language. Instead of using the Kove language, many of them are using Tok Pisin as their daily language.[2]

Changing Kove to Tok Pisin[edit]

Although in the past the Kove people had contact with foreign languages as a result of trading, the location where they lived was isolated enough that they maintained Kove as their daily language. This is caused by interacting with more people than they used to because of the increase in transportation. However, the younger generation, people who are below fifty, started to use Tok Pisin as their daily language. In addition, the language of education used in schools is not Kove, except one school that recently changed to Kove, but this does not mean that the student will use Kove outside of the class. Also, some Kove people are married to a non-Kove speaker and they use other languages in their daily life rather than Kove. As a result, their child will learn the other language as their first language.[3]


There are three dialects of Kove: East Kove, Central Kove, and West Kove. The Central Kove dialect is considered as the standard Kove. This is because the central Kove area is the place where the Kove ancestors first arrived. Additionally, it is the dialect that is closest to the original Kove language. In fact, the other two dialects, East Kove and West Kove, has changed slightly due to the languages around them.[4]



The Kove independent pronouns are given in the following table.[5]

1 incl 1 excl 2 3
Singular yau veao veai
Plural taita yai amiu asiri
Dual tahua yahua amihua asihua
Group tangera yangera angera asingera

The pronominal system for Kove is somewhat different from other Oceanic languages. Among the similarities that Kove and other Oceanic languages have is the use of first person, second person, and third person. They also separate the inclusive and the exclusive. Also, "gender is not encoded" as observed by Sato (2013).[6] However, unlike other Oceanic languages, Kove only uses singular and plural for numbers. The pronominal system for Kove is separated into four functions: independent, subject marker, object, and possessive.[6]

Morphosyntactic Patterns[edit]

The grammar pattern in Kove is SV and AYO, "where S represents an intransitive subject, A a transitive subject, V a verb, and O a direct object" (Sato 2013).[6]



Kove consonants may be changed anytime due to the interaction with the language of Tok Pisin and English. You can also combine all the consonants with the vowels that they have.[7]

Biliabial Labiovelar Alveolar Palatal Velar Glottal
Stops p b t   d k   g
Prenasalized   (mb)   (nd)
Nasals m n ŋ
Fricatives β s ɣ h
Approximant ɹ
Lateral l
Glides w j


In Kove, there are five vowels. The lips will round to produce the vowels /u/ and /o/. For vowels /i/, /e/, and /a/ the lips will not be rounded. Vowels can be at the beginning of the word or at the end of the word. Also, the same two vowels cannot be used together. For example, using the vowels /ii/ together is not allowed; however, there is one word that is uses the same two vowels which is /ee/ "yes." This example is the only case where two of the same vowels can appear next to each other.[6]

Front Central Back
High i u
Mid e o
Low a

Furthermore, if the vowels are followed by a velar nasal ng, then it will become a negative tense, except the vowel a.[6]


Some of the elementary schools in Kove use an orthography "that was established by elementary school teachers who were neither native speakers of Kove nor trained in linguistics" (Sato 2013). However, these teachers are unfamiliar with the system.[6]

Phoneme /a/ /e/ /i/ /o/ /u/ /p/ /b/ /t/ /d/ /k/ /g/ /mb/
Grapheme a e i o u p b t d k g mb
Phoneme /nd/ /m/ /n/ /ŋ/ /β/ /s/ /ɣ/ /h/ /r/ /l/ /w/ /j/
Grapheme nd m n ng β s gh h r l w y

Stress patterns[edit]

There are two different types of stress in Kove, one is primary and the other is secondary. "Primary stress always falls on the penultimate syllable" and "secondary stress falls on every second syllable to the left of the syllable receiving primary stress"(Sato 2013).[6]


Just like the other Oceanic languages, Kove has many words that are reduplicated. There are three type of reduplication in Kove. The first one which is full reduplication. The examples for this type of duplication is tama "father" is reduplicated to tamatama "father" in Kove. Also, ani "eat" reduplicated to aniani "be eating". The second type of reduplication is leftward. For examples, pau "new" is reduplicated to papau "new" and tari "younger parallel sibling and cousin" reduplicated to tatari "younger parallel siblings and cousins". The third type of reduplication is rightward but, this type of reduplication is rarely used in Kove.[6]

Borrowing and adaptive phonology[edit]

The language Kove has also borrowed words from other languages, for example, the Austronesian languages like Anem, Papuan. This is because when they are trading with other people, they will apparently saw new things. In this case, they will borrow the other language word and combine with their own language to named it. Some examples that the language of Kove have borrowed the words from other languages are tavila "large wooden bowl for pounding taro", amouru "rain tree", ahila "small-leafed rattan originating in the bush", rodya "short and light yellow tapioca" (Sato 2013). And as time passes, these words are fully incorporated into the Kove language.[6] This type of situation is getting more commonly in today's live. Due to the increasing of interaction with the outside world and easier of transportation, Kove people will eventually know more things. This means that they have to borrow the word from other language to name it. In fact, due to the language of Tok Pisin that the Kove people has used as their daily language, many new things are named using Tok Pisin. For examples, car, airplane, paper, money, and many more are named using the Tok Pisin language instead of Kove language.[6]

Word Classes[edit]

The language of Kove has three word classes: open lexical classes, closed lexical classes, and grammatical classes. Lexical class is also known as the part of speech and "grammatical words or morphemes are elements shared in the grammatical structure of clauses," claimed Hiroko.[6] Which includes the nouns and the verbs. On the other hand, closed lexical classes includes adjectives, adverbs, and cardinal numerals. The grammatical classes includes adpositions, articles, causative marker, serialed verb unifier, conjunctions, demonstratives, intransitive marker, locative demonstratives, nominalizers, particles, possessive markers, pronouns, reciprocal marker, tense, aspect, mood markers, and all other element that are not included in the other two classes.[6]


  1. ^ Kove at Ethnologue (18th ed., 2015) (subscription required)
  2. ^ Sato 2013, p. 1–3
  3. ^ Sato 2013, p. 20–23
  4. ^ Sato 2013, p. 9–11
  5. ^ Sato 2013
  6. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l Sato 2013
  7. ^ Sato 2013, p. 33
  • Sato, Hiroko (2013). Grammar of Kove: an Austronesian language of the West New Britain province, Papua New Guinea (Ph.D. thesis). University of Hawaii at Manoa. hdl:10125/100749.

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