Languages ​​in New Guinea

Which country has the most languages and japanese translator? Surprisingly, not in China, not in India, and generally not in a large state. Tiny Papua New Guinea covers an area of ​​462,840 square kilometers – almost like the state of California. But despite such a small size, it is the country with the most variegated linguistic diversity on the planet.

According to the Ethnology directory (Ethnologue.com), today there are approximately 6912 living languages ​​known to scientists in the world. The exact number is difficult to establish: it changes – new languages ​​are discovered, old ones die out. Of these 6912 languages, 820 are spoken in Papua New Guinea. Just imagine – 820 languages ​​in one country!

Why so much?

There are a couple of reasons why there are so many different languages ​​in New Guinea. To begin with, humans have lived on the island for at least 40,000 years!

This means that there was plenty of time for the development and change of the language or languages ​​spoken by the indigenous people. Despite the fact that New Guinea and Australia were once inhabited by the same ethnic group, 40,000 years later, the similarities between the indigenous languages ​​of Australia and New Guinea can actually be counted on one hand. For more than a thousand years they have developed in isolation from each other, so they cannot even be attributed to the same language group.

In addition, the territory of New Guinea is highly fragmented. Neighboring villages are cut off from each other by various barriers: steep mountains, dense forests, rivers and treacherous swamps. This fragmentation has led to the formation of many small groups of natives in New Guinea with their own way of life, since they were relatively isolated from each other for millennia.

Small tribes live off coastal fishing, upland agriculture, and sago palm harvesting in low-lying swamps. For many centuries, each of these small groups has developed its own culture and often developed its own language.

Most of the languages ​​in New Guinea have relatively few speakers. The indigenous language with the largest number of speakers is Enga, spoken by approximately 165,000 members of the nomadic Maramuni tribe. As a rule, countries maintain their unity thanks to a common language. In New Guinea, the common land and common history of the country as an Australian colony failed to bind the citizens with strong bonds.

But how do they communicate?

New Guinea has three official languages: Tok Pisin, Hiri Motu, and English. Tok Pisin is an English-based Creole language that began as a combination of two different languages ​​and has evolved into a separate language as such. About 121,000 New Guinea citizens have spoken Tok Pisin as their first language since childhood. In addition, four million inhabitants of the country speak it fluently.

If you want to understand and be understood in New Guinea, Tok Pisin is probably the language to learn. Hiri-motu is a pijin (hybrid language) – a combination of Motu with English, Tok Pisin and many other local dialects. Very few have spoken Hiri-motu since childhood, yet some 120,000 New Guineans understand it as a second language. And since it has the status of a second language, it cannot currently be considered a Creole language.

According to The New York Times, at least one language is dying out in the world every two weeks. The linguistic diversity of New Guinea has so far been protected due to the inaccessibility of most of the country, and also due to the fact that many New Guineans see themselves primarily as members of their tribe, and only then as citizens of the state.

It is hoped that as New Guinea acquires more modern features, its rich linguistic heritage will remain intact.

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