This week’s language is the first I ever did any “fieldwork” on. It was the field methods language when I first took field methods in 1997, when I was a third year undergrad at ANU. Sasha Aikhenvald was in charge of the class.
Petats is an Austronesian language. It’s a member of the Oceanic subgroup and is spoken by a few thousand people on Buka Island, just north of Bouganville in Papua New Guinea. Our consultant had lived in Australia for quite a few years at that point, and before that she’d been a school teacher in Rabaul. She spoke a huge number of languages to various extents – not only Petats, her mother’s language, but also her father’s language, Hiri Motu, Tok Pisin, English, and several other languages from the Bouganville area.
Petats was a great field methods language. The segments are quite straightforward, but there’s enough going on allophonically that it was necessary to do a lot of testing of different allophones. Morphologically it’s a fairly typical of Oceanic languages of the area. There’s person agreement cliticisation, and applicative markers, and fairly minimal tense marking.
There’s not much Petats available online or elsewhere (another reason it was a good language to do for field methods – nothing like feeling you’re adding to the documentation of the world’s languages as a motivation for doing well in a class!) but there are a few things:
- Paradisec’s record of Arthur Capell’s field notes on Petats.
- Two papers on Petats phonology: here (Petats phonemes and orthography) and here (Petats phoneme data).
- This page links to the Global Recordings Network, a missionary organisation which has gospel and other recordings in various languages. This is the Petats page.