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Documenting child language: The Qaqet Baining of Papua New Guinea

(Volkswagenstiftung, Lichtenberg Programme, 04/2014-03/2019)

This project integrates perspectives from language documentation, language acquisition (psycholinguistics) and language socialization (anthropology) in order to document child language among the Qaqet Baining. Qaqet is a non-Austronesian language, spoken by about 6000 speakers in East New Britain Province, Papua New Guinea. The language is still being acquired by children: either as their main, and sometimes only, language (in the remote interior mountains), or together with other languages such as the lingua franca Tok Pisin (in the more accessible coastal regions). The project aims to create a longitudinal and cross-sectional corpus that allows us to compare these two acquisition scenarios. We are interested in the cultural contexts of language learning, the kind of languages used with and around children, and the outputs that children produce.
The project builds on our earlier research on the adult Qaqet language (Semantic categories: Exploring the history of the Baining languages of Island Melanesia, 2010-2014, funded by the Australian Research Council, Grant FT0991412), and on a pilot project that explored the feasibility of documenting child language among the Qaqet (Language socialisation and the transmission of Qaqet Baining (Papua New Guinea): Towards a documentation project, 2012, funded by the Endangered Languages Programme, Grant SG0110).