Mer, or Murray Island in the Torres Strait, is known to most Australians as the place where the notion of terra nullius at the time of European settlement was challenged and won in the courts of Australia. It is the language of Mer and its neighbours, Erub (Darnley Is.) and Ugar (Stephen Is.) which is described in this book. The language is called Meriam or Meryam Mir, where mir means language. It is of great interest to scholars as it is related to Papuan languages spoken to the north whereas the other indigenous language spoken in the Torres Strait is related to Australian Aboriginal languages spoken to the south.
Meryam is a verb final language with an agglutinating morphology. The morphology includes case inflections and crossreference markers for the core syntactic roles. The crossreference markers also provide information about their number, singular, dual, paucal or plural, and to some degree, about person. Verbs are divided into two basic categories: atelic stative events, which are ongoing, and telic active events, which have a termination point. In typological terms, Meryam can be regarded as a double-marking language.
Piper has maintained her interest with the Eastern Islands of Torres Strait since the compilation of this sketch grammar. She has collaborated with Meriam for publications (Passi & Piper, 1994), the delivery of a language course for Batchelor Institute of Indigenous Education as well as interpreted for a Meriam witness for the Torres Strait sea claim.