April 8, 2014

"Back of the Bird's Head: Linguistic Fieldwork in West Papua"

Emily Gasser, PhD Candidate, Department of Linguistics, Yale University

The provinces of Papua and West Papua, in eastern Indonesia, have a combined land mass about the same as that of Sweden, yet they are home to about 275 indigenous languages from at least 25 unrelated language families. Most of these languages are in constant interaction with Papuan Malay/Indonesian, which is taking over as a lingua franca in the region. This talk centers on my six months of fieldwork in West Papua studying Wamesa, an Austronesian language with about 8,000 speakers in the south-eastern Bird's head. I will present some preliminary findings, along with a discussion of the language situation in Papua and the rewards and challenges of working there.

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