|Native to||Papua New Guinea|
Labu (called Hapa by its speakers) is an Austronesian language spoken among 1,600 people (1989) in three older villages and one new one across the Markham River from Lae in Morobe Province, Papua New Guinea.
Although it belongs to the Lower Markham languages, Labu appears to have been strongly influenced by the coastal languages of the Huon Gulf, Bukawa in particular. For instance, Labu shows tonal contrasts, like Bukawa but unlike any of the Markham languages; and Labu numerals show separate forms for '3', '4', and '5', like Bukawa, even though salu '2', sidi '3', and sôha '4' contain the Lower Markham numeral classifier *sV-. (The pattern for numerals in the other Markham languages is '1', '2', '2+1', '2+2', then 'hand' or '2+2+1', and so on.)
Labu distinguishes 7 vowels and 17 consonants. The vowels also exhibit contrasts between high and low pitch (or "tone"), just as in Yabêm, the Lutheran mission lingua franca for the coastal languages of Morobe Province during much of the 20th century. The orthography of Labu is based on that of Yabêm (= Jabêm), except that y replaces Yabêm j.
The vowels of some words in Labu are distinguished by lowered pitch, which is marked orthographically by a grave accent. Labu distinctions in tone are thus based on register tone, not contour tone as in Mandarin Chinese. Register tone contrasts are a relatively recent innovation of the North Huon Gulf languages, which many Labu speakers include in their linguistic repertoires, so one should not look back to voice contrasts in Proto-Oceanic (POc) or some other ancestral language to explain the origins of tone contrasts in Labu. Instead, one should look to areal influences, primarily from neighboring Bukawa.
|a 'sun'||à 'tree, wood' (POc *kayu)|
|ani 'centipede' (POc *qalipan)||ànì 'one' (indefinite article)|
|maya 'shame'||mayà 'dead' (POc *mate)|
|ôpa 'crocodile' (POc *puqaya)||ôpà 'thouGght'|
|ô 'breadfruit' (POc *kuluR)||ồ 'garden' (POc *quma)|
|u 'rain' (POc *qusan)||ù 'clay pot' (POc *kuron)|
Pronouns and person markers
|Person||Singular||Dual (D)||Trial (T)||Plural (P)|
|1st person inclusive||a(lu)||(ê)sidi||a(ha)|
|1st person exclusive||ai||(ê)ma(lu)||êmidi||(ê)ma(ha)|
|1st person inclusive||la|
|1st person exclusive||nda||mê|
The genitive possessive noun phrase (PNP) conforms to the following structure:
PNP → NP1 (=possessor) POS (=possessive marker) NP2 (=possessed) (Siegel, 1984, p.95)
If the possessor has already been established earlier in the discourse and it is clear to both the speaker and listener, then the NP1 can be omitted from the possessive phrase (Siegel, 1984, p.95). If the omitted NP1 is an inanimate object then the possessive marker êna is used (Siegel, 1984, p.96).
Some examples of the genitive possessive noun phrase (taken from Siegel's Introduction of the Labu Language, p.95-96) are as follows:
(a) ai yu-dumala kô yê na ana
I 1S.PT-look at you 2S.POS mother
I saw your mother.
(b) amêna ŋatô salu le sê hanô nda mêna
man old two this 3P.POS house stay village
These two old men's house was in the village.
(c) êmôha mô-kôna êna taiya mê-nda nôsôlô
we.XD 1X-look.at POS tyre 1P-stay rubbish
We looked at its tyre in the rubbish dump.
|Nominal possessive markers||Singular||Plural (D,T,P)|
|1st person inclusive||lêêna|
|1st person exclusive||ndêêna||mêêna|
The nominal possessive phrase (PNP) conforms to the following structure:
PNP → NP1 (possessor) POSN (nominal possessive marker) (Siegel, 1984, p.96)
When the thing being possessed is not explicitly stated within the phrase then the nominal possessive phrase is used (Siegel, 1984, p.96). If the possessor has already been established earlier in the discourse then the NP1 can be omitted from a possessive phrase (Siegel, 1984, p.97).
Some examples of the nominal possessive phrase (taken from Jeff Siegel's Introduction to the Labu Language, p.96-97) are as follows:
(a) ini gwê yê nôôna
he (3S.PT-)take you 2S.POSN
He took yours.
(b) tawala lene hanô lênê nêêna
door this house that 3S.POSN
This door is that house's.
(c) ai ya-gwê ndêêna
I 1S.PT-take 1S.POSN
I took mine.
Labu deictics correlate with first, second, and third person, the first two of which have long and short forms. The third person singular free pronoun can also take deictic suffixes: ini-ne 'this/these one(s)', ini-lê 'that/those one(s)'. Deictics may occur either in place of nouns or postposed to nouns, as in hanô lene 'that house'.
- le(ne) 'near speaker'
- lê(nê) 'near addressee'
- laê 'away from speaker or addressee'
Traditional Labu counting practices started with the digits of one hand, then continued on the other hand, and then the feet to reach '20', which translates as 'one person'. Higher numbers are multiples of 'one person'. Nowadays, most counting above '5' is done in Tok Pisin.
|6||ma-ipi anêndi tôgwatô (or maipa tômôlô)||'hands-half offspring/addition one'|
|7||ma-ipi anêndi salu (or maipa salu)||'hands-half offspring/addition two'|
|8||ma-ipi anêndi sidi (or maipa sidi)||'hands-half offspring/addition three'|
|9||ma-ipi anêndi sôha (or maipa sôha)||'hands-half offspring/addition four'|
|20||asamô-ni||'whole-one' (samô 'whole', ànì 'one')|
|60||asamô sidi||'whole three'|
Like most of the coastal languages around the Huon Gulf, Labu has a system of birth-order names.
|Birth order||Sons (ai)||Daughters (ahêna)|
- Anon. (2004). Labu organized phonology data. Summer Institute of Linguistics. 
- Siegel, Jeff (1984). "Introduction to the Labu language." In Malcolm Ross, Jeff Siegel, Robert Blust, Michael A. Colburn, W. Seiler, Papers in New Guinea Linguistics, No. 23, 83-159. Series A-69. Canberra: Pacific Linguistics.
- Ross, Malcolm (1988). Proto Oceanic and the Austronesian languages of western Melanesia. Canberra: Pacific Linguistics.