Documentation of Chini language and culture

Documentation of Chini language and culture

Language: Chini
Depositor: Joseph Brooks
Location: Papua New Guinea
Deposit Id: 0346, 0443
Grant id: SG0243, IGS0294
Funding body: ELDP
Level: Deposit

Summary of deposit

This deposit contains documentary materials about the Chini people in Andamang and Akrukay villages on the lower Sogeram River in inland Madang, PNG. It is geared toward naturalistic interactive contexts representative of local life, culture, and language use. Most materials are in Chini [afi], some in Tok Pisin, some in other Papuan languages. Materials collected in 2012 and 2014 are mostly audio; materials deposited as of 2016 are mostly audiovisual.

Group represented

Chini people of Andamang and Akrukay villages (respectively: the Awakŋi and Yavɨnaŋri). 'Chini' translates as 'there isn't any'.

People from the following groups are also represented in the corpus: Breri [brq] (various villages), Rao [rao] (various villages), Nend [anh] (various villages), Magɨyi [gmg] (Vguvɨndɨ), Manat [pmr] (Paynamar), Manŋga (Tokegnam) (a Mum [kqa] dialect), Kaje [aod] (Humdor), Yigaves [mzu] (Ponoke), Basimba [omo] (Araŋgɨnam), and Hua (Rosove) (a dialect of Yagaria [ygr]).

Language information

Chini has two dialects, one for each of the two villages. The villages are broken up into a number of smaller hamlets. The number and location of hamlets are in constant flux, and linguistic practices vary from hamlet to hamlet. As of 2019 there about 20 active users of the Andamang dialect and about twice that for Akrukay. Active users of the language are in their late 30s+, and the language has been undergoing shift to Tok Pisin. There are about 350 total people across the two villages.

Chini is a member of the Ramu family, a group of languages spoken along the Ramu River and adjacent areas.

Special characteristics

The different interactive contexts documented here are valuable for understanding language use and code-switching at a time when the vernacular has been undergoing shift. The documentation represents the range of practices characteristic of Chini people's speech at the time of my fieldwork, from Chini-dominant to Tok Pisin-dominant.

Several recordings attest to cultural practices about which little is known outside Melanesia, some of which have been in decline, for example: food restrictions, the culture of the men's house, matrilineal land tenure and clan assignment, female adoption practices between the Chini and other nearby matrilineal groups, menarcheal seclusion, among others. This collection also sheds light on the history of ritual dance (Tok Pisin 'singsing') exchange in the Sogeram/Middle Ramu region.

Deposit contents

This deposit includes around 60 hours of recordings of the cultural and linguistic life found in Chini society from 2012-2019. Just over 30 of these hours involve the use of Chini-dominant speech, of which about 12 hours of multi-participant discourse and about 3 hours of single-participant discourse have been transcribed and translated into Tok Pisin.

The 30 hours of Chini-dominant speech include both dialects and dialect mixing. The Andamang dialect figures more prominently in the documentation than the Akrukay dialect. These data include many hours of interactive conversation, e.g. in family settings over the morning or evening meal, as well as endangered cultural practices, trips through Chini country, folk tales, oral history, and autobiographical texts, among others.

About 15 hours are of Tok Pisin-dominant interactions. These recordings shed light on the dynamic between the vernacular and the language of shift across a wide range of interactional and institutional settings in Chini society. Included are, for instance, a Catholic mass and sermon and a staff meeting for the first graduation of Andamang elementary school.

About 10 hours are roughly 50/50 in terms of the code(s) of use (i.e. Chini versus Tok Pisin). These data are rich in code-switched speech and provide a window into the youth-driven nature of shift in Andamang and Akrukay. Most of these data are from trans-generational interactions in family settings.

About 3 hours are of events with minimal actual speech, for example a father and son constructing a wall for their kitchen house, and a soccer game. In addition there are just under 2,5 hours of performances of ritual exchange dances ('singsings').

About 1,5 hours involve significant use of other languages, including a Chini-Rao-Tok Pisin interaction as well as a number of requests from nearby communities for someone to come document their languages.

There are other types of recordings and materials including: recordings of transcription sessions, text-based elicitation sessions, word lists, permissions, photographs, and copies of field notebooks. Some of these are still being processed and uploaded to the collection.

Deposit history

This collection includes deposits from an ELDP small grant awarded to the depositor in 2014 and an ELDP IGS grant awarded for 2016-2018. The IGS project is part of the depositor's PhD research based at the University of California, Santa Barbara.

Most materials for the first deposit were recorded during 2014, with a few recordings dating from a pilot trip in 2012. Materials for the second deposit were recorded in 2016 and in 2018-2019.

Other information

Annotation files will become available for registered users once they are in a presentable state. Many annotations for recordings in 2014 are in analog format and in the process of being digitized. Much of the digitization of those annotations is thanks to the work of Shannon Li during her time as an undergraduate student and research assistant at the depositor's home university, UCSB. In-situ transcription was done by the depositor primarily with the help of Anton (Mbarɨŋɨnɨ) Mana. I am very thankful to these and so many others who have helped build and enrich the documentation.

Acknowledgment and citation of data

Anyone wishing to use or cite the contents of this collection for research purposes or otherwise is requested to ask the principle investigator prior to doing so. I am best reached at brooks.josephd AT gmail

Any use of this collection should acknowledge Joseph Brooks as the principle investigator and researcher and should acknowledge ELDP (the Endangered Languages Documentation Programme) as the funder of the project.

The corpus should be cited in reference sections as:

Brooks, Joseph. 2018. Documentation of Chini language and culture (Madang Province, Papua New Guinea). London: SOAS, Endangered Languages Archive. URL: Accessed on [insert date here].

The use of linguistic examples or other specific content from recordings in this collection in published materials should be cited and resolvable to the original location in the collection. Recorded connected speech data cited from this corpus should cite the full name or initials of the original person(s) who produced the utterance. This can be done by citing the basic filename associated with the deposited recording and a time stamp that indicates where it can be found. So, the utterance gwrwaŋɨ, dmu ŋgarugruru! 'Go on (follow him), (otherwise) a sorcerer could kill him!' could be cited as: 'Emma Airɨmarɨ: afi011116iv_21:37'.


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Joseph Brooks
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Affiliation: University of California, Santa Barbara

Deposit Statistics

Data from 2020 November 28 to 2020 November 28
Deposit hits:1
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Showing 1 - 10 of 130 Items

This recording is of the ritual emergence of Fiona Mhiti, the daughter of Peter Mhiti and Adolfa Peter, from menarcheal seclusion. At this point in time, the cultural knowledge and ritual practice involved in this event are highly endangered. After about a month of seclusion Fiona emerges, aided by several young girls and in traditional garb for the occasion. Paul administers the event though the critical type of ginger runs short. Most of the discourse that occurs during the event is of several of the older women complaining publically about the negligence of the village men. They are complaining because of all the Andamang men, only Paul retains the right knowledge about how to conduct the ritual, including information about what type of ginger to feed the post-menarcheal girl (amarɨŋgayi), which spirits to invoke and so on. The fact he is elderly and short-winded, they complain, should shame the young men who have avoided learning how to conduct the ritual and have left all the work to Paul. Recorded using a Canon Vixia HF G40 @ 28mbps and Røde NTG2 shotgun mic. Total audiovisual duration [19:46].

Recorded on: 2018-11-02

Joseph and Gordon relax and chew betelnut in the haus win overlooking the Sogeram. They discuss sago harvesting and recall tales of their relatives' fishing experiences. Joseph gossips considerably about his Breri in-laws. Audio duration: [00:43:12]

Recorded on: 2016-02-11

Full or partial transcriptions and translations for the following texts: narr015 ; narr020 ; conv001 ; narr027 ; conv004; narr032 ; narr024 ; narr034 ; narr035 ; narr026 ; narr033

Recorded on: 2016-08-08

Transcriptions and translations of two conversations.

Recorded on: 2016-02-11

Transcription and translation of half of a conversational text and three narrative texts.

Recorded on: 2016-02-11

Transcriptions and translations of two conversations.

Recorded on: 2016-02-11

Photographs from 2014 fieldwork.

Recorded on: 2016-08-08

(Description to be added at a later date) Audio duration [00:46:23]

Recorded on: 2016-08-08

As the five speakers sit around chatting, they discuss a broad range of topics. They discuss the work that needs to be done to slash an area of jungle for a new garden. Paul, the most senior speaker present, steers the conversation several times to the memories he has of Rumtwamrɨ Pond from his childhood. They talk about yam festivals, recent fishing that some of the women had done, and news of wild pigs that had been rooting around their gardens. They spend considerable time discussing aspects of the documentation process and issues surrounding linguist-community relations. They discuss the gift of the outboard motor from the linguist to the community, and they discuss plans for the singsing event and the documentation of it. They discuss the transcription process and their desire for it to become more of a community activity than a one-on-one activity. Audio duration [00:48:04]

Recorded on: 2016-02-05

Max describes how he went to harvest sago but got such a bad stomach ache that he had to be carried back to the village. Audio duration [00:04:47]

Recorded on: 2016-01-26