The striking answer from the Biakker is explained by the fact that in the Biak language some word types contain much more information than in languages such as Dutch. For example definite and indefinite articles often refer not just to an object (for example the houses the Biakker was talking about) but also to the location or movement of the object or of a person. And hence the (literally translated) answer given: 'On the other side of the river close to us away from here going backwards'.
Additionally the context in which Biak is spoken has a considerable influence on the language. Van den Heuvel discovered, for example, that on the island Biak, the component for 'behind' is used for downstream. Yet in another context that refers to a movement in a westerly direction.
Jokes and prayers
The context in which Biak is spoken not only has a considerable influence on the type of language that is used but also the type of language that is studied. According to Van den Heuvel the language can therefore best be studied in the environment where it is spoken. He spent a total of 12 months on Biak, where he lived in two different villages. There he used audiocassettes or videotapes to record stories, jokes, sermons, songs, prayers, speeches and other spoken texts. These texts were written down by Van den Heuvel and his language assistants and then translated and analysed. The speakers were then questioned about any gaps in the analysis.
Van den Heuvel’s study is the first scientific language description of the Biak grammar, with attention for phonetics, sentence structure and word structure. Additionally the study is a valuable source of information for those who are interested in the historical relationships between Biak and other Austronesian languages and historical (trade) contacts between Biakkers and speakers of other languages in the region.
With his linguistic description Van den Heuvel has saved a language threatened with extinction for posterity. About 70,000 residents of a group of islands off the coast of Papua (former Irian Jaya) still speak the language. That is a lot compared with other languages in the region, yet most of the speakers are aged 50 or over. Young people scarcely speak Biak and only have a passive knowledge of the language. The population is increasingly switching to a Malay dialect or, to a lesser extent, Indonesian. In remote villages, Biak is still the main language and even the children speak it fluently.
Van den Heuvel carried out his research under the auspices of the Areal Studies in Eastern Indonesia programme. That programme is part of the Spinoza research Lexicon and Syntax of professor Pieter Muysken, Spinoza laureate in 1998. Van den Heuvel’s research was sponsored by NWO.
Kim van den Wijngaard | alfa
The Great Unknown: Risk-Taking Behavior in Adolescents
19.01.2017 | Max-Planck-Institut für Bildungsforschung
A sudden drop in outdoor temperature increases the risk of respiratory infections
11.01.2017 | University of Gothenburg
An important step towards a completely new experimental access to quantum physics has been made at University of Konstanz. The team of scientists headed by...
Yersiniae cause severe intestinal infections. Studies using Yersinia pseudotuberculosis as a model organism aim to elucidate the infection mechanisms of these...
Researchers from the University of Hamburg in Germany, in collaboration with colleagues from the University of Aarhus in Denmark, have synthesized a new superconducting material by growing a few layers of an antiferromagnetic transition-metal chalcogenide on a bismuth-based topological insulator, both being non-superconducting materials.
While superconductivity and magnetism are generally believed to be mutually exclusive, surprisingly, in this new material, superconducting correlations...
Laser-driving of semimetals allows creating novel quasiparticle states within condensed matter systems and switching between different states on ultrafast time scales
Studying properties of fundamental particles in condensed matter systems is a promising approach to quantum field theory. Quasiparticles offer the opportunity...
Among the general public, solar thermal energy is currently associated with dark blue, rectangular collectors on building roofs. Technologies are needed for aesthetically high quality architecture which offer the architect more room for manoeuvre when it comes to low- and plus-energy buildings. With the “ArKol” project, researchers at Fraunhofer ISE together with partners are currently developing two façade collectors for solar thermal energy generation, which permit a high degree of design flexibility: a strip collector for opaque façade sections and a solar thermal blind for transparent sections. The current state of the two developments will be presented at the BAU 2017 trade fair.
As part of the “ArKol – development of architecturally highly integrated façade collectors with heat pipes” project, Fraunhofer ISE together with its partners...
19.01.2017 | Event News
10.01.2017 | Event News
09.01.2017 | Event News
20.01.2017 | Awards Funding
20.01.2017 | Materials Sciences
20.01.2017 | Life Sciences