Mekeo language

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Mekeo
Native toPapua New Guinea
RegionCentral Province
Native speakers
19,000 (2003)[1]
Language codes
ISO 639-3mek
Glottologmeke1243
Approximate location where Mekeo is spoken
Approximate location where Mekeo is spoken
Mekeo
Coordinates: 8°14′S 146°35′E / 8.24°S 146.59°E / -8.24; 146.59
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Mekeo is a language spoken in Papua New Guinea and had 19,000 speakers in 2003. It is an Oceanic language of the Papuan Tip Linkage.[2] The two major villages that the language is spoken in are located in the Central Province of Papua New Guinea. These are named Ongofoina and Inauaisa.[3] The language is also broken up into four dialects: East Mekeo; North West Mekeo; West Mekeo and North Mekeo. The standard dialect is East Mekeo.[4] This main dialect is addressed throughout the article. In addition, there are at least two Mekeo-based pidgins.

Phonology[edit]

Mekeo employs a relatively simple system of phonology which consists of 10 consonants and 5 vowels. The following tables identify both the consonants and vowels present in Mekeo.

Consonants[edit]

Bilabial Linguolabial Alveolar Velar Glottal
Plosive p t k Ɂ
Nasal m n ŋ
Fricative f s
Lateral l

Note that the table above displays the range of consonants used in East Mekeo which is classified as the standard dialect. North West Mekeo, West Mekeo and North Mekeo each have slightly different consonants included in their dialects.[5]:559[4]:9

Vowels[edit]

Mekeo has five vowels, shown on the table below:

Front, Unrounded Central, Unrounded Back, Rounded
Close i u
Mid e o
Open a

Morphology[edit]

Pronouns and Person Markers[edit]

In Mekeo, personal pronouns primarily refer to humans, however the third person forms can also be used for animals and other objects as well. Mekeo uses a range of different pronouns for different situations. The following table shows all the main personal pronouns for East Mekeo. This includes unmarked, emphatic and reflexive personal pronouns. Note, that the emphatic pronouns are not common in East Mekeo as they compete with another more common topicaliser, au-ŋa. For example, the preferred form for the first person singular would be lau- au-ŋa.[5]:148 In the following table, 1, 2 and 3 indicate the person, SG and PL indicate whether the example is singular or plural and I and E stand for inclusive and exclusive.

Unmarked Emphatic Reflexive
1SG lau lau-ŋa Ɂifo-u
2SG oi oi-ŋa Ɂifo-mu/Ɂifō
3SG isa isa-ŋa Ɂifo-ŋa/Ɂifo-ŋa-mo
1PL.I iɁa/isa iɁ-ŋa/isa-ŋa Ɂifo-Ɂa
1PL.E lai lai-ŋa Ɂifo-mai
2PL oi oi-ŋa Ɂifo-mi
3PL isa isa-ŋa Ɂifo-i/Ɂifo-Ɂi


Examples[edit]

The following examples demonstrate the use of some of the above personal pronouns in context.[5]:149, 155

1

E-Ɂifo

3SG-self

(East Mekeo)

 

E-Ɂifo

3SG-self

S/he is one of a kind.

2

Maa-mu

Eye-2SG

umu

charcoal

koà

likeness

lopia-ŋa

beautiful

(East Mekeo)

 

Maa-mu umu koà lopia-ŋa

Eye-2SG charcoal likeness beautiful

Your eyes are beautiful, like charcoal.

3

Oi,

2SG

nao

European

koa,

likeness

ioi-mu

same-2SG

(East Mekeo)

 

Oi, nao koa, ioi-mu

2SG European likeness same-2SG

You are like a European.

4

ia

elsewhere

e-lao

3SG-go

afu

place

ioi-na

different-3SG

e-lao

3SG-go

(East Mekeo)

 

ia e-lao afu ioi-na e-lao

elsewhere 3SG-go place different-3SG 3SG-go

He has gone elsewhere.

Grammar[edit]

Possessive Constructions[edit]

Possession in Mekeo has two morpho-syntactic distinctions: direct or indirect constructions. Direct possession concerns kinship relations and ‘part of a whole relations’ and these kind of relations are cultural in origin. Indirect possession covers a more general possession of alienable property.

Direct Possession[edit]

Direct possession relies on relational terms that often form closed subsystems such as kinship terms. In Mekeo, the two relation terms involved in each equation are joined by another term that operates like a transitive verb. The third term is the ‘relator’ and must be marked for agreement with one of the other terms in the equation. The relator follows the subject and/or the object. The relator is marked for the person and number of the second term or the object.[5]:195

5

SUBJECT

Isa

s/he

OBJECT

lau

I

RELATOR

ama-u

father-1SG

(East Mekeo)

 

 

SUBJECT OBJECT RELATOR

Isa lau ama-u

s/he I father-1SG

He is my father.

Indirect Possession[edit]

Expressing alienable possession in Mekeo requires the prefix E- and its various realisations (including zero). This morpheme is then optionally preceded by a free or bound pronoun and then the compulsory suffixed by a pronominal suffix which indicates the person and number of the possessor.[5]:208-210

6

Eŋaʔi-na

that

lau

I

e-u

POSS-1SG

foʔama

food

(East Mekeo)

 

Eŋaʔi-na lau e-u foʔama

that I POSS-1SG food

That is my (vegetable) food.

The negative is expressed with negators maini, aibaia and laa'i:

7

E-u

POSS-1SG

foʔama

food

laa'i

not

(East Mekeo)

 

E-u foʔama laa'i

POSS-1SG food not

I have no food

The following is an example of an alternation of the cliticisation process:

8

Inaʔina

this

auŋa

TOPIC

iʔa

we.I

ʔa

POSS.1PL.I

eʔa

house

(East Mekeo)

 

Inaʔina auŋa iʔa ʔa eʔa

this TOPIC we.I POSS.1PL.I house

This one is our house

Another morpheme to express possession is the location pronoun KE- (realised as ke or ʔe). This pronoun expresses location or place:

9

Ke-u-ai

LOC-1SG-OBL

pokama

food

mako

much

(West Mekeo)

 

Ke-u-ai pokama mako

LOC-1SG-OBL food much

I have lots of food.

Negation[edit]

Mekeo expresses negation in three ways:[5]:219,234

  • through the negative particle aʼi, which negates nominal predicates;
  • through existential negators, which differ between dialects; and
  • through a negative verb prefix, which negates verbal predicates.

This three-way functional distinction between different types of negation is typical of Oceanic languages.[6]:17

Nominal Negation[edit]

Nominal predicates (which consist of one or more nominals) are negated in two ways — through either the negative particle or proclitic aʼi, or through existential negator particles.

The negative particle aʼi is found in all dialects of Mekeo, with ⟨ʼ⟩ pronounced as either a weak glottal stop or slight pause most dialects, or even not at all (/ai/) in East Mekeo.[5]:175[note 1] Aʼi negates a nominal predicate as seen in examples 10 and 11:

10

A'i

NEG

oʔo!

fat

(West Mekeo)

 

A'i oʔo!

NEG fat

(It is) not fat![5]:175

11

Tsi

tea

aʼi

NEG

mekia-ŋa

sweet-ASS

(East Mekeo)

 

Tsi aʼi mekia-ŋa

tea NEG sweet-ASS

The tea is unsweet![5]:219

Aʼi also occurs as a proclitic particle before nominals, as seen in examples 12 and 13. In this case is functions similar to the English prefixes 'non-' or 'un-'.[5]:175

12

Ai-ofu

NEG-dirt

fa-mia

OBLG.1SG-become

(East Mekeo)

 

Ai-ofu fa-mia

NEG-dirt OBLG.1SG-become

I would like to be spotless.[5]:175

13

E-mu

POSS-2SG

ŋope

fast

a'i-fou-ŋa

NEG-public-3SG

ŋa-mia

IMP.3SG-become

(East Mekeo)

 

E-mu ŋope a'i-fou-ŋa ŋa-mia

POSS-2SG fast NEG-public-3SG IMP.3SG-become

Don't let your fast be public knowledge.[5]:175

All four dialects of Mekeo have existential negators: maini in North-West Mekeo, aibaia or aibaida in West Mekeo, aibaia or aibaiza in North Mekeo, and laaʼi in East Mekeo. The existential negators are sentence-final predicates — where a verb would otherwise be — and express denial of the existence, presence or identity of the preceding nominal predicate.[note 2] Examples 14 to 17 show the existential negator of each dialect.[5]:175,220

In both West Mekeo and Northern Mekeo, aibaia can be analyzed as a compound of a'i 'not' and baia 'mere'. These two dialects also have an intrusive consonant, so aibaia is often realised as /aibaida/ in West Mekeo and /aibaiza/ in North Mekeo.[5]:175

14

Agaoā

spouse.3SG

maini

not

(North-West Mekeo)

 

Agaoā maini

spouse.3SG not

He has no wife. (lit. Wife.his not.)[5]:175

15

Gaba-alaka

thing-one

aibaia

not

(West Mekeo)

 

Gaba-alaka aibaia

thing-one not

It doesn't matter. (lit. There is nothing.)[5]:175

16

Tsuga

sugar

aibaiza

not

(North Mekeo)

 

Tsuga aibaiza

sugar not

There is no sugar.[5]:175

17

Ava

some(-thing)

laa'i.

not

(East Mekeo)

 

Ava laa'i.

some(-thing) not

It doesn't matter. (lit. It is nothing.)[5]:175

The existential negators can also function similarly to aʼi, so examples 13 and 15 above could alternatively be read as "She is not his wife" (or "He is not her husband") and "This is not sugar" respectively.[5]:176

Verbal Negation[edit]

Verbal predicates (which consist of a verb word[note 3] and its arguments) in Mekeo are negated by a negator prefix attached to the predicate's verb word. Within the verb word, the negator prefix is found between tense-aspect-mood prefixes and the subject marker, with an intrusive consonant before the subject marker in some dialects. This negator prefix negates the entire verbal predicate.[5]:225-226,234-235 The position of the negator prefix between the tense-aspect-mood prefixes and the verb base is generally common in Oceanic languages.[7]:51

Example 18 shows the position of the negator prefix in the North Mekeo expression Fázobálifúa! "Don't spill it!":

18
Fázobálifúa!

F-

OBLG-

ai-

NEG-

z-

B-

o-

2SG-

ba-

CA-

lifu

wrong

-Ø-

TH

-Ø-

-PF

-a

-3SG

(North Mekeo)

 

F- ai- z- o- ba- lifu -Ø- -Ø- -a

OBLG- NEG- B- 2SG- CA- wrong TH -PF -3SG

Don't spill it![5]:226

Examples 19 to 22 show the negator prefix in all four Mekeo dialects. Jones tentatively reconstructs the negator prefix in Proto-Mekeo as */aʔi/, cognate with Motu asi and both descended from Proto-Central-Papuan */ati/.[5]:234,235

19

A-e-io.

NEG-3SG-go

(North-West Mekeo)

 

A-e-io.

NEG-3SG-go

(S)he has not gone.[5]:235

20

Ai-j-i-ao.

NEG-B-3SG-go

(West Mekeo)

 

Ai-j-i-ao.

NEG-B-3SG-go

(S)he has not gone.[5]:235

21

Ai-z-e-ao.

NEG-B-3SG-go

(East Mekeo)

 

Ai-z-e-ao.

NEG-B-3SG-go

(S)he has not gone.[5]:235

22

A-e-lao.

NEG-3SG-go

(North Mekeo)

 

A-e-lao.

NEG-3SG-go

(S)he has not gone.[5]:235

In North-West Mekeo, the existential negator maini (see example 14) also occurs before some verbs to negate them in either the past tense or in the prohibitive mood.[5]:175 This occurs in addition to the regular negative prefix ae-, creating a double negative, as seen in example 23. Jones suggests that this may be to reduce ambiguity where the prefix ae- has otherwise assimilated with the verb stem; other dialects have an intrusive consonant between the negator prefix and verb stem, as shown in example 24 from West Mekeo.[5]:574,578

23

maini

not

ae-a-io

NEG-1SG-go

(North-West Mekeo)

 

maini ae-a-io

not NEG-1SG-go

I didn't go.[5]:574

24

ai-d-ao

NEG-B-1SG.go

(West Mekeo)

 

ai-d-ao

NEG-B-1SG.go

I didn't go.[5]:578

Demonstratives and Spatial Deictics[edit]

List of Abbreviations used for examples in this section[edit]

Abbreviation Meaning
ASS Assertion/Predication Marker
B Buffer Consonant
CNT Continuative Aspect Marker
DX Deictic Particle
PF Perfect-Perfective Aspect
OBL Oblique Function
SG Singular

Demonstrative Sentence Structure[edit]

According to World Atlas of Language Structure (WALS) writer Matthew S. Dryer, Mekeo is a mixed language type, meaning it does not follow a demonstrative-noun, or noun-demonstrative sentence structure, but has both. [8]

Mekeo is spoken in the central province of Papua New Guinea. Kaki Ae is a neighbouring language of Mekeo. It is spoken to the North-East of where Mekeo is spoken. Kaki Ae has a demonstrative-noun sentence structure. Clifton describes Kaki Ae’s noun phrase structure as Demonstrative-Place-Noun-Adjective-Numeral-Limiter, where the demonstrative precedes the noun, which is in accordance with the data on WALS. [9]

According to Maino, Aufo and Bullock, Mekeo follows the following noun phrase structure: Demonstrative-Possessive/Noun/Adjective-Numeral/Quantifier.[10]:18

Proximal Demonstratives in the Four Dialects of Mekeo[edit]

According to Jones, in Mekeo, there are three “degrees of proximity… represented in three of the four dialects”.[5]:156 These four dialects are NWMek (North West Mekeo), WMek (West Mekeo), NMek (North Mekeo) and EMek (East Mekeo).

Location NWMek WMek NMek EMek
Here i-ke Namo Namo i-na
There e-ke Na-ba/e-ŋa E-ŋa e-ŋa
Yonder u-ke e-ŋa-ke-ŋa-ina e-ŋa-ke-ŋa-i-na e-ŋa-Ɂe-ŋa-i-na

[5]:158

According to Maino, Aufu and Bullock, there are two demonstratives 'egaina' and 'inaina/l’ina'. “These can refer to singular or plural, near or far”, and is represented in the Tentative Grammar Description with the following table.[10]:20

inaia This, These
I’ina This, Those
Ega’ina That, Those

These can be represented through the following examples, provided by Jones.

Ike auke NWMek

Inaia auke-ŋa WMek

Naimo auke-ŋa WMek

Inaina amuɁe-ŋa EMek

this dog-3SG.ASS

This (is a) dog.[5]:213

This noun phrase can be expanded by adding a suffix that marks the person and number of the deictic pronoun.

25

AmuɁe

Dog-3SG

eɁle,

small

la-isa

1SG-see

(East Mekeo)

 

AmuɁe eɁle, la-isa

Dog-3SG small 1SG-see

The small dog, I saw it

'Inaina' has been dropped as the this has been changed to the, and 'eɁle' (small) has been added.

There can also be a second modifier, attached before the adjective:

26

Eŋaina

that

amuɁe-ŋa

dog-3SG

eɁele-ŋa,

small-3SG

la-isa

1SG-see

(East Mekeo)

 

Eŋaina amuɁe-ŋa eɁele-ŋa, la-isa

that dog-3SG small-3SG 1SG-see

That dog, the small one, I saw it

[5]:76

The demonstrative that (Eŋaina is evident here, along with the 3rd person singular noun dog and adjective. The second modifier ‘-ŋa’ has been attached to ‘eɁele’ (small).

Deictic Particles[edit]

There also exists deictic particles (DX) in Mekeo, illustrated in the West Mekeo example below:

27

Nga-e

DX-CNT

katsia-ŋa-ai

soil-3SG-OBL

(West Mekeo)

 

Nga-e katsia-ŋa-ai

DX-CNT soil-3SG-OBL

'in that place'[5]:86

Anaphoric and Exophoric Use of Demonstratives[edit]

Mekeo uses both anaphoric and exophoric use of demonstratives, and clear anaphors are rare in Mekeo.[5]:531 Anaphoric strategies are not always effective in their identification according to Jones. Jones utilises the phrase “deictic reinforcement” for Mekeos use of personal pronouns or demonstrative pronouns to refer back to what has just been mentioned.[5]:532 Demonstrative pronouns are used for four reasons: to announce a new topic, to return to a previously mentioned topic, to announce a new topic specifically so as to not confuse with already established topics, and to “emphasise the presumed accessibility of a referent to the hearer”.[5]:533

An example of anaphoric demonstrative is shown in East Mekeo:

28

Eŋa’ina

That

amuɁe!

dog-3SG

(East Mekeo)

 

Eŋa’ina amuɁe!

That dog-3SG

That is a dog!

According to Jones, the comma represents the “actual or potential pause” within the sentence.[5]:49

Exophoric Use of Demonstratives[edit]

An example of exophoric use of demonstratives is highlighted by Jones:

29

ini,

bird

bani-na

wing-3SG

(West Mekeo)

 

ini, bani-na

bird wing-3SG

As for the bird, its wing!

According to Jones, this sentence “translates to “As for the bird, its wing!”, that is as for the bird, it is its wing that is here important/salient/relevant”.

Jones points out that there is an “implicit deictic argument it/that”. For exophoric topics, when kin terms are used the topic is always a personal pronoun.[5]:123

30

Isa,

he

lau

I

ama-u

father-1SG

(East Mekeo)

 

Isa, lau ama-u

he I father-1SG

He is my father OR he/him, my father

The personal pronoun ‘isa’ is used.[5]:123

Deictic Predicates[edit]

Deictic predicates occur when the reference is not given. For example, the following response would be given to the question “Which dog do you mean?” [5]:212

31

AmuɁe

dog

eŋaɁi-na

that-3SG

(East Mekeo)

 

AmuɁe eŋaɁi-na

dog that-3SG

That's the dog (The dog is the one)

The demonstrative eŋaɁi-na is used in the example above.

There is variation among the four dialects:

32

Ike

Inaia

Namo

Inaina

this

auke

auke-ŋa

auke-ŋa

amuɁe-ŋa

dog-3SG.ASS

(NWMek)

(WMek)

(WMek)

(EMek)

 

Ike auke

Inaia auke-ŋa

Namo auke-ŋa

Inaina amuɁe-ŋa

this dog-3SG.ASS

'This (is a) dog.'[5]:213

33

Papie

woman

aŋa’o

one

la-isa

1SG-see

au-ŋa

one-3SG

fe’a

basket

e-pua-i-s-a

3SG-carry-PF-B-3SG

(East Mekeo)

 

Papie aŋa’o la-isa au-ŋa fe’a e-pua-i-s-a

woman one 1SG-see one-3SG basket 3SG-carry-PF-B-3SG

I saw a woman (who was) carrying a basket

The placement of commas in important in the Mekeo language. Jones highlights that if a comma had been placed after Papie aŋa’o, then the translation would shift to “a woman who was carrying a basket”.[5]:509

Trade language[edit]

Imunga Trade Language
Native speakers
None
Mekeo-based pidgin
Language codes
ISO 639-3None (mis)
Glottologimun1234
Ioi Trade Jargon
Native speakers
None
Mekeo-based pidgin
Language codes
ISO 639-3None (mis)
Glottologioit1234

Jones (1996) reports two forms of pidgin Mekeo used for trade: the Imunga Trade Language and the Ioi Trade Jargon.[11]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ Jones (1998) only attempts a rough phonemic transcription of this particle, but does record this variation between dialects.
  2. ^ See Mosel (1999) for an explanation of the interpretation of the term 'denial' in this context.
  3. ^ Jones (1998) notes that while a Mekeo verb and its various affixes have traditionally been referred to as a 'verb phrase', this construction is more accurately called a "verb word".

External links[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Mekeo at Ethnologue (18th ed., 2015)
  2. ^ Lewis 2009
  3. ^ Organised Phonology Data: Mekeo Language. (2004). SIL International, 1-3.
  4. ^ a b Chung, Je-Soon (1995). "Orthography paper for Mekeo language in Central Province of Papua New Guinea" (PDF). SIL International.
  5. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w x y z aa ab ac ad ae af ag ah ai aj ak al am an ao ap aq ar Jones, Alan A. (1998). Towards a lexicogrammar of Mekeo (an Austronesian language of Western Central Papua). Pacific Linguistics. Series C-138. Canberra: Pacific Linguistics. doi:10.15144/PL-C138. hdl:1885/146186. ISBN 0-85883-472-3.
  6. ^ Mosel, Ulrike (1999). "Towards a typology of negation in Oceanic languages". In Hovdhaugen, Even; Mosel, Ulrike (eds.). Negation in Oceanic Languages: typological studies. LINCOM studies in Austronesian linguistics. 2. München: LINCOM EUROPA. pp. 1–19. ISBN 3-89586-602-4.
  7. ^ Crowley, Terry; Lynch, John; Ross, Malcolm (2001-12-21). The Oceanic Languages. Routledge Language Family Series. Routledge. ISBN 9781136749858.
  8. ^ Dryer, Matthew S (2013). "Order of Demonstrative and Noun". World Atlas of Language Structures Online. Retrieved 28 March 2020.
  9. ^ Clifton, John M. (1997). The Kaki Ae Language. Pacific Linguistics. p. 30.
  10. ^ a b Aufo, Rose; Maino, Rock; Bullock, Juliann (2015). Tentative Grammar Description for the Mekeo Language. Papua New Guinea: SIL.
  11. ^ Jones, Alan A. (1996). "Privately owned Mekeo-based trade languages". In Wurm, Stephen Adolphe; Mühlhäusler, Peter; Tryon, Darrell T. (eds.). Atlas of languages of intercultural communication in the Pacific, Asia and the Americas. Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter. pp. 219–224. ISBN 3110134179.

Further reading[edit]