Koiari is a Papuan (or nonAustronesian) language spoken by about 1600
people living in the foothills of the Owen Stanley Range just inland of
Port Moresby, the capital of Papua New Guinea. It is a member of the
Koiarian family, one of about sixty families of Papuan languages found in
Papua New Guinea and the surrounding area. In most respects Koiari is a
typical Papuan language.
It is typologically SOV with core relations indicated by affixation on the
verb and peripheral ones by postpositions. The verb is the centre of the
clause and is morphologically complex. There are no articles and no formal
noun classes except that body part, kinship and certain other nouns are
inherently possessed. The language has only six pronouns and no
inclusive-exclusive distinction is made. The Koiari counting system is
based on two. In other respects, however, Koiari is unusual amongst Papuan
languages. It is phonologically relatively simple all syllables are open
and there are no unusual vowels or consonants and no complex consonant
clusters. Its verb system is also unusual in making dual reference to
subjects and objects, one set of suffixes reflecting the number of subjects
and objects ergatively, the other agreeing with subjects nominatively.
Moreover, all nonverbal words in Koiari, except for a small subset of
function words, are inherently marked for category by morphemes which
appear in the surface realisation of sentences under certain conditions.
Possessive case marking is also unusual in Koiari in the manner in which it
is marked, notably by suffixation, and the range of suffixes and
constructions used to indicate different possessive relations. Because of
its geographical location Koiari has been in contact with AN languages
spoken in the surrounding area for a long time. This contact increased
following pax Britannica. At the same time other languages were introduced
the language is in danger of becoming obsolescent as younger Koiari use the
local lingua franca, Hiri (formerly Police) Motu, in domains formerly the
sole preserve of Koiari.
2nd printing 2007.