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Subject: Slit-drum signals and other surrogates
From: Don Niles <[log in to unmask]>
Reply-To:Don Niles <[log in to unmask]>
Date:Wed, 23 May 2001 12:13:50 +1000
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The IPNGS will be publishing an English translation of a classic paper on
Kwoma (East Sepik) slit-drum signals by Hugo Zemp and Christian Kaufmann.
I'm writing an introduction concerning a number of things for which I'm
seeking further information. Can you help?

1. Although information is scanty, there is a fair bit of evidence that
personal call signs (i.e., signals identifying a person) are often composed
of signals for (most of the groups I know of are patrilineal):

father's clan + mother's clan + [wife's clan--optional]

Such a combination, with minor variants, is reported for Kwoma, Ambonwari,
Waxei, Ilahita, and Sanio. Quite different things seem to happen amongst
the Iatmul and Abelam, but particularly for the latter, information is
unclear. These clan signals are often imitative of the sound of a totemic
animal of some sort, e.g., a bird song, the flapping wings of a flying fox,
etc.

Can you report on similar or dissimilar structures for other groups? I'm
interested in groups from anywhere in PNG. Both published and unpublished
sources are welcome.

2. Signals for women are usually similar, but may have a special sign for
"female" attached. Often a woman's signal is the same as her husband's
except for this addition. Anything similar or not?

3. While my contribution mainly concerns slit-drum signals, I am also
interested in all types of speech surrogates in PNG, such as whistle
languages, call languages or yodelling, instrumental substitutes other than
slit-drums, etc. Any recent work on these areas?

4. Is anyone familiar with any research in the last 25 years on such
surrogate languages? I know of the valuable semiotic approach by
Umiker-[Sebeok] in the mid-1970s, but have seen nothing more recent. Any
idea how to contact Donna Jean Umiker-Sebeok?

There's a lot more to say, but I'm trying to keep this short. I'd very much
value any communications with anyone concerning these subjects. Thanks for
your help.


Don Niles
Acting Director
Institute of PNG Studies
P.O. Box 1432
Boroko 111
PAPUA NEW GUINEA

tel: [675] 325-4644
fax: [675] 325-0531
email: [log in to unmask]

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