Papua New Guinea
Madang Province, Middle Ramu District, and Western Highlands Province on Kaironk Riverin lower Jimi Riverarea north of Mt. Hagen
Kobon (pronounced "Kombon)" is a language of
Papua New Guinea. It has somewhere around 90-120 verbs.
Kobon is spoken in
Papua New Guinea.
Kobon distinguishes an
alveolar lateral/l/, an alveolopalatal lateral/ȴ/, and a retroflex lateral flap.
Kobon is an
Like the other Kalam languages, Kobon is famous for having a very small number of
verbs—perhaps less than 120 for the entire language. These verbs are combined with nouns into phrases with specific meanings, much as one says "have dinner" rather than "dine" in English.
This makes for an interesting window into
semantics. One might expect that with a very limited set of verbs, their meanings would be quite general, as "have, do, be" and "go" are in English. To some extent this is born out. For example, there is only one verb of perception. That is, the same verb is used for "see, hear, taste, smell, feel" (both physically and emotionally), "think," and "understand" (compare with "I see" for "I understand" in English). Another verb is used for making sound, whether it's speaking, singing, praying, crying, twigs breaking, rocks clattering, or water gurgling. However, some Kobon verbs are quite specific. There is one exception for "sound," for example: there's a specific verb for calling a pig. There are also three verbs of "pouring," depending on whether the thing being poured is solid, liquid, or food; and there is even a verb that means "to quarter a cassowary."
Kobon has been written in the
Latin alphabetfor over 30 years. The special letters ƚ and ɫ are used for the retroflex lateral flapand alveolopalatal lateral, respectively.
5–15% of Kobon speakers are literate.
* [http://www.ethnologue.org/show_language.asp?code=KPW Ethnologue report for Kobon]
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