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 materials depicting the Chini cultural group located on the lower Sogeram River in inland Madang Province, PNG. It spans a range of settings and discourse types: community activities, conversation, singsings/ritual dances, trips through Chini territory, folktales, oral history, autobiography, and procedural texts, among others. It is geared toward naturalistic interactive contexts, because those are the ones that are representative of daily life, culture, and language use. Most materials are in Chini, 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

The Chini of Andamang and Akrukay villages (in local terms, the Awakŋi and Yavɨnaŋri, respectively). Similar to most other autonyms in Chini's immediate region, 'chini' translates as 'there isn't any'. 'Chini' refers to the same people and language as the misnomer 'Akrukay'. (Some materials in this collection are labeled under either name but there is no difference; all materials in the process of being changed over to Chini which is the correct, locally-recognized name).

Individuals from the following people groups in PNG are also represented in the corpus (to a much lesser extent): Breri (various villages), Rao (various villages), Nend (various villages), Magɨyi (Vguvɨndɨ village), Manat (Paynamar), Manŋga (Tokegnam), Kaje (Humdor), and Hua (Rosove).

Language information

Chini has two dialects, each associated with one of the two villages. There are about 20 speakers of the Andamang dialect and about twice that for Akrukay. Some speakers mix dialects.

All speakers were in their late thirties or older at the time of the research and the language is undergoing shift to Tok Pisin.

Chini is a member of the Ramu family, a group of languages spoken along the Ramu River and adjacent areas. Virtually all are endangered, undocumented, and minimally if at all described.

Special characteristics

This deposit contains materials that shed light on the dialectal differences between Andamang and Akrukay, which occur in all areas of structure and in the lexicon.

The diverse interactive contexts documented here are valuable for understanding language use and code-switching at a time when the (endangered) vernacular has been undergoing shift. The documentation shows how in most contexts very little code-switching into Chini occurs whereas in others Chini is still dominant.

Several recordings in this collection attest to cultural practices about which very little is known and/or which have declined or become obsolete in many/most areas of Melanesia, 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, 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 currently houses about 13 hours of audiovisual and about 9.5 hours of audio recordings of primary data, that is, interactive events depicting the cultural and linguistic life of the Chini people. Some of these recordings are primarily in Tok Pisin. Of the total primary data, about 16 hours are in Chini. Of these 16 hours, 10.5 have been transcribed.

Where recordings of the primary data are concerned, the following gives an overall impression according to discourse type and quantity recorded.

Community events and activities [4h50m audiovisual, 1h30m audio]

Conversation (diverse settings) [5h20m audiovisual, 4h20m audio]

Trips through Chini country (bush walks, garden walks, canoe rides) [2h20m audiovisual]

Ritual dances ('singsings') [50m Andamang community singsings audiovisual, 1h30m audio of Andamang and Paynamar community singsings]

Monologues including folktales, oral history, autobiography, procedures, explanations, pear story narrations, among others [30m audiovisual, 3h10m audio]

There are additionally many other types of recordings and materials that enrich the collection: recordings of transcription sessions, text-based elicitation sessions, word lists intended to elucidate complex phonetic structures, permissions, community requests for linguists from 5 other language groups, and copies of 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 short research trip in 2012. Materials for the second deposit are in the process of being submitted, with materials from a 2016 fieldtrip having been deposited at this time.

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 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 monumental help of Anton (Mbarɨŋɨnɨ) Mana. I am extraordinarily thankful to these and so many others who have helped shape and enrich the documentation.

Filenames are fairly simple and straightforward, e.g. 'afi011116iv' indicates a recording within this collection according to the ISO code for Chini [afi], an interactive event with four main interactants, and one recorded on 1 November 2016. File names for some materials may deviate slightly from this structure; for instance the letter 'm' designates not 'one thousand' interactants but simply 'many'.

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 josephdbrooks AT and welcome inquiries pertaining to the collection.

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 any other specific content from recordings in this collection that appear in published materials or presentations should be individually cited so that they are properly resolvable to their location in this collection. Recorded connected speech data cited from this corpus should also cite the full name or initials of the original person(s) who produced the utterance. This can all be done easily 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! 'Kuon! Nogut sanguma kilim em!' 'Go (follow him), (otherwise) a sorcerer could kill him!' would ideally not appear in isolation in a publication or presentation but would instead be cited as something like: 'Emma Airɨmarɨ: afi011116iv_21:37'.


Collection online
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Joseph Brooks
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Affiliation: University of California, Santa Barbara

Deposit Statistics

Data from 2019 May 24 to 2019 May 24
Deposit hits:1
Downloaded files
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Showing 1 - 10 of 131 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