3 Kobon language

Kobon language

states=Papua New Guinea
region=Madang Province, Middle Ramu District, and Western Highlands Province on Kaironk River in lower Jimi River area north of Mt. Hagen
fam1=Trans-New Guinea
fam3=Rai Coast-Kalam

Kobon (pronounced "Kombon)" is a language of Papua New Guinea. It has somewhere around 90-120 verbs.

Geographic distribution

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 SOV language.

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."

Writing system

Kobon has been written in the Latin alphabet for over 30 years. The special letters ƚ and ɫ are used for the retroflex lateral flap and alveolopalatal lateral, respectively.

5–15% of Kobon speakers are literate.

External links

* [http://www.ethnologue.org/show_language.asp?code=KPW Ethnologue report for Kobon]

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