A group of at least ten languages located around the junction
of the borders of Irian Barat, the Territory of New Guinea, and
Papua is examined and it is demonstrated that they constitute a
single linguistic family. This volume is mainly descriptive,
and the conclusions and methodological and theoretical implications
are discussed within each chapter rather than at the end of the
thesis. Chapter I describes the methods employed in collecting the
linguistic data on which this study is...[Show more] based. The problems
peculiar to linguistic surveys are discussed, as well as those that arise when the linguist and informant have no language in
common. Pair testing has been found to be a very helpful device
for studying the phonemic contrasts of a language, and a tape-recorder
has proved a versatile tool in field work (provided
one doesn't become its slave). An extensive bibliography on
field method has been added. Chapter II describes and compares the languages of the
Ok Family. The names, dialects, location, and population of
each language is presented within the framework of a tentative
classification into two subfamilies -- Mountain-Ok and
Lowland-Ole. An alternative classification into three sub-families
is possible, and is actually preferred later (Chapter III, Conclusion).
The Ok languages have relatively simple phonemic systems based
on a maximum of 14 consonants and 7 vowels. All
Mountain-Ok languages have lexical pitch. Closed syllables,
especially at the end of words, predominate in most languages.
Nouns have almost no inflection, but verbs are suffixed for
subject person/number, tense and aspect, and some verbs are
prefixed for object person/number. Pronouns distinguish 'I' , 'you.m', 'you f.', 'he', 'she', 'we' , 'you pl.', and 'they', whereas subject suffixes on verbs distinguish 'I', 'you', 'he',
'she', 'we', and 'you pl./they'. A few indications are given
of phrase and clause structure. Lexicostatistical
word lists, scorings, and percentages are presented, and they
support the language classification adopted and at the same time
they indicate two cases of probable borrowing. Other language
families neighbouring the Ok Family are examined and their contrast
with it demonstrated.
Chapter III identifies sound correspondences within
Mountain--Ok and within Lowland-Ok, and lists of tentative
proto-forms are given to illustrate these correspondences. The considerable amount of regularity observed indicates that
the comparative'method is just as applicable to these Hew Guinea
languages as to Indo-European or Austronesian languages. Some
preliminary Proto-Ok cognate sets are offered, and some doublets
that may point to Archaic Ok are discussed.
Chapter IV illustrates Mountain-Ok phonologies by that of
Teléfól. A method of scanning tape-recorded data is used to
measure the length of phonetic segments, and by this technique
vowel length is shown to be neutralized in medial syllables.
Vowel distribution and neutralization are examined in detail.
Lexical pitch is analyzed in terms of two step tonemes, UP and
DOWN. Juncture and sandhi are also discussed.
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