|Native to||Papua New Guinea|
|Region||Gapun village, Marienberg Rural LLG, East Sepik Province|
|less than 50 (2020)|
Tayap (also spelled Taiap; called Gapun in earlier literature, after the name of the village in which it is spoken) is an endangered Papuan language spoken by fewer than 50 people in Gapun village of Marienberg Rural LLG in East Sepik Province, Papua New Guinea (, located just to the south of the Sepik River mouth near the coast). It is being replaced by the national language and lingua franca Tok Pisin.
The first European to describe Tayap was Georg Höltker, a German missionary-linguist, in 1937. Höltker spent three hours in the village and collected a word list of 125 words, which he published in 1938. He wrote that “it will be awhile before any other researcher ‘stumbles across’ Gapun, if only because of the small chances of worthwhile academic yields in this tiny village community, and also because of the inconvenient and arduous route leading to this linguistic island”.
Höltker's list was all that was known about Tayap in literature until the early 1970s, when the Australian linguist Donald Laycock travelled around the lower Sepik to collect basic vocabulary lists that allowed him to identify and propose classifications of the many languages spoken there. Tayap and its speakers have been extensively studied by linguistic anthropologist Don Kulick since the mid-1980s. The language is described in detail in Tayap Grammar and Dictionary: The Life and Death of a Papuan Language and in A Death in the Rainforest: How a Language and a Way of Life Came to an End in Papua New Guinea.
Until World War II, when Japanese soldiers occupied the area and caused the villagers to flee into the rainforest, Gapun was located on a hill that several thousand years earlier had been an island in the sea that receded and formed the lower Sepik River. This indicates that Tayap may be the descendant of an ancient, autochthonous language that was already in place before the various waves of migration from the inland to the coast began occurring thousands of years ago. Foley (2018) also speculates that Tayap could have been part of a larger language family that was spoken on the island before the arrival of Lower Sepik speakers. As the coastline moved further northeast, Lower Sepik speakers migrated from the foothills into the new land areas created by the receding waters.
Up to 2018, Gapun was the only village where Tayap is spoken, although some speakers of the language also lived in neighboring villages such as Wongan and Watam, having moved there because of marriage or as a result of conflicts over land or sorcery in Gapun. However, in 2018, Gapun village was burned down and abandoned due to violence among households. The former residents fled to the nearby villages of Wongan (), Watam (), and Boroi.
As a result of colonial activity, Gapun villagers subconsciously associate Tok Pisin with Christianity, modernity and masculinity, and they associate Tayap with paganism, "backwardness" , disruptive femininity and childish stubbornness. As a result, Tayap is being increasingly, but neither consciously nor deliberately, replaced by Tok Pisin, even though the villagers all express positive sentiments towards it and insist that they want their children to speak the language. Villagers express bewilderment towards the fact that their children no longer actively speak Tayap, and believe that they have, out of stubbornness, decided to reject Tayap entirely, and that they have chosen to speak Tok Pisin instead.
In the 1970s Australian linguist Donald Laycock classified Tayap (which he called "Gapun") as a sub-phylum of the Sepik-Ramu language phylum, on the basis of Georg Höltker's 1938 word list and a few verb paradigms that Laycock gathered from two speakers.
Kulick and Terrill (2019) found no evidence that Tayap is related to the Lower Sepik languages, another branch of the erstwhile Sepik-Ramu phylum. They conclude that Tayap is a language isolate, though they do not compare it to other language families, as would be required to establish Tayap as an independent language family. Comparative vocabulary demonstrates the lexical aberrancy of Tayap as compared to the surrounding Lower Sepik languages: e.g. sene 'two' (cf. proto-Lower Sepik *ri-pa-), neke 'ear' (*kwand-), ŋgino 'eye' (*tambri), tar 'hear' (*and-), min 'breast' (*nɨŋgay), nɨŋg 'bone' (*sariŋamp), malɨt 'tongue' (*minɨŋ), mayar 'leaf' (*nɨmpramp) among the Holman et al. (2008) ranking of the Swadesh list. Cultural vocabulary such as 'village', 'canoe', 'oar', and 'lime', as well as the basic words awin 'water' (cf. *arɨm) and a 'eat' (cf. *am ~ *amb), may be shared with Lower Sepik languages. The word karep 'moon' is shared specifically with Kopar (karep). However, most basic vocabulary items have no apparent cognates in surrounding languages.
|prenasal||ᵐb <mb>||ⁿd <nd>||ⁿdʒ <nj>||ᵑɡ <ŋg>|
|Mid||ɛ <e>||ɵ~ø <ɨ>||ɔ <o>|
Tayap pronouns are:
sg pl 1 ŋa yim 2 yu yum 3m ŋɨ ŋgɨ 3f ŋgu ŋgɨ
Like many Sepik languages, Tayap is a synthetic language. Verbs are the most elaborated area of the grammar. They are complex, fusional and massively suppletive, with opaque verbal morphology including unpredictable conjugation class, both in terms of membership and formal marking.
Tayap distinguishes between realis and irrealis stems and suffixes. Verbal suffixes distinguish between Subject/Agent (S/A) and Object (O), which is marked by discontinuous morphemes in some conjugations. The ergative case (A) is marked by free pronouns and noun phrases, while the absolutive (S/O) does not have marked forms. As in many ergative Papuan languages, the ergative marker is not always included, as it is optional.
Nouns generally do not mark number themselves, although there is a small class of largely human nouns which mark plural, and a smaller class which mark dual. These categories, where marked, are largely marked by partial or full suppletion. Oblique cases, largely local, are marked by clitics attached to the end of the oblique noun phrase.
There are two genders, masculine and feminine, marked not on the noun itself but on deictics, the ergative marker, suppletive verbal stems and verbal affixes. The unmarked, generic form of all nouns, including animate nouns, even humans, is feminine: however, a male referent may be masculine. Another criterion is size and shape: long, thin and large referents tend to be masculine; short, stocky and small referents tend to be feminine. This type of gender-assignment system is typical of the Sepik region. Gender is only ever marked in the singular, never in the dual or plural.
Selected Tayap words from Kulick & Terrill (2019), pp. 442–454:
gloss Tayap pig mbor domesticated dog nje tree possum, cuscus enamb ground possum síw bandicoot sasik rat, mouse ŋgabugar, kokosik, njip, mangɨm sugar glider ŋgesiŋe flying fox njakep bat sumusumu tree kangaroo species kanuŋg crocodile orem snake aram snake, types of ambonor; arambwar; aramŋgor; atemb; karewa; kanakai aramŋgor; nɨŋɨr aram; pake; and venomous snake species mbumjor; kombɨn lizard, types of agin; akirónda; amanep; mbutak; ŋgararik; ŋgogrodak; ŋgurbewat; kurbi; masukondep; onjaŋnoŋor; tapetak frog pasákeke large brown water bullfrog uráŋgeba tadpole mbókokɨr < kokɨr ‘head’ fish ŋgomar freshwater fish aiyo, ndɨdɨmaŋ, ŋgomákokɨr, orɨnd, semb catfish tokine large eel ŋgem
gloss Tayap shrimp sasu small shrimp sasupat freshwater lobster keymare crab kosep, ŋgarorak, sasápoke hermit crab pisik shelled slug kandip clam, types of eporaŋ, oyaŋ mosquito at mosquito, type of aiawaŋgar; indagawr; iurok; mbunbun; mɨriŋa at; njakepma arɨt; njeyewɨr at; ŋgurpan ant sɨwɨr ant, type of kandap; ŋgugrub; kambobai; rewitoto; sɨwɨrdɨdɨm; sɨwɨrkararkarar termite agu; kamus spider tomɨktomɨk spider of the ground tomɨktomɨk sumbwaŋa house spider tomɨktomɨk patɨrŋa (lit. ‘spider of the house’) centipede yandum firefly ŋgudum bee mbadɨŋ bee, type of arúmbatak kunemb; metawr butterfly, moth mumuk caterpillars without fur atɨr caterpillars with fur nɨŋgasin beetle tutumb beetle, type of arawer; mbirkraw onko; ŋgabugrip beetle grub, type of kɨmɨrɨk; komɨ; urukuruk wasp kɨkri fly arúmbatak biting horsefly tetei blue fly arúmbatak wasow (literally ’fly death’) fruit fly, gnat ipipir scorpion katáwa millipede kakámatik walking stick nekan praying mantis ŋgat worm kekékato earwig ikinŋan yandum wood louse tɨtɨpreŋ cicada ŋgaratgarat, kikik grasshopper njojok, njajak cockroach sasawraŋ, numbutik bedbug ndedeŋ flea itum louse pakɨnd leech mbímaŋ mite kandap
gloss Tayap flour muna a kind of rubbery pancake tamwai broken pot shard pambram tennis ball-sized sago chunk muna kokɨr, which literally means ‘sago head’ fire paŋgɨp congeal munakumund sago jelly mum sago soup wawan large chisel makor or yasuk tree wot crown of the palm mar sawdust tawar long funnel iko or ndadum coconut fiber strainer waris palm fronds kondew cakes of sago flour munakatar small benches made of branches kokɨparaŋ short sago-pounder made of a single piece of wood yasuk basket saiput
- wotŋa orom
- ndagŋa orom
- marŋa orom
The word orom means ‘in the vicinity of’.
There are five Tayap clans:
gloss Tayap crocodile orem dog nje parrot karar pig mbor flying fox njakep
- Tayap at Ethnologue (18th ed., 2015) (subscription required)
- Eberhard, David M.; Simons, Gary F.; Fennig, Charles D., eds. (2019). "Papua New Guinea Languages". Ethnologue: Languages of the World (22nd ed.). Dallas: SIL International. Archived from the original on 2019-06-03. Retrieved 2019-06-03.
- United Nations in Papua New Guinea (2018). "Papua New Guinea Village Coordinates Lookup". Humanitarian Data Exchange. 1.31.9. Archived from the original on 2019-06-05. Retrieved 2019-06-07.
- Höltker, Georg (1938). "Eine fragmentarische Wörterliste der Gapún-Sprache Neuguineas". Anthropos. 33 (1/2): 279–282. JSTOR 41103168.
- Kulick & Terrill (2019).
- Kulick (2019)
- Ross (2005)
- Foley, William A. (2018). "The Languages of the Sepik-Ramu Basin and Environs". In Palmer, Bill (ed.). The Languages and Linguistics of the New Guinea Area: A Comprehensive Guide. The World of Linguistics, Vol. 4. Berlin: De Gruyter Mouton. pp. 197–432. ISBN 978-3-11-028642-7.
- Kulick & Terrill (2019), p. 16.
- Kulick (2019), pp. 182–188.
- Kulick (1992)
- Kulick (2019), pp. 182–188; Kulick & Terrill (2019), pp. 1–3.
- Kulick & Terrill (2019), p. 349.
- New Guinea World – Taiap
- Laycock (1973)
- Foley, William A. (2005). "Linguistic Prehistory in the Sepik-Ramu Basin". In Pawley, Andrew; Attenborough, Robert; Hide, Robin; Golson, Jack (eds.). Papuan Pasts: Cultural, Linguistic and Biological Histories of Papuan-Speaking Peoples. Pacific Linguistics 572. Canberra: Pacific Linguistics. pp. 109–144. hdl:1885/146735. ISBN 0-85883-562-2.
- Kulick & Terrill (2019), p. 25.
- Kulick & Terrill (2019), p. 454.
- Kulick, Don (1992). Language Shift and Cultural Reproduction: Socialization, Self, and Syncretism in a Papua New Guinean Village. Studies in the Social and Cultural Foundations of Language 14. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. ISBN 0-521-41484-9.
- Kulick, Don (2019). A Death in the Rainforest: How a Language and a Way of Life Came to an End in Papua New Guinea. Chapel Hill, North Carolina: Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill. ISBN 978-1-61620-904-9.
- Kulick, Don; Terrill, Angela (2019). A Grammar and Dictionary of Tayap: The Life and Death of a Papuan Language. Pacific Linguistics, Vol. 661. Boston: De Gruyter Mouton. ISBN 978-1-5015-1220-9.
- Laycock, D. C. (1973). Sepik Languages – Checklist and Preliminary Classification (PDF). Pacific Linguistics Series B – No. 25. Canberra: The Australian National University. doi:10.15144/pl-b25. hdl:1885/146478. ISBN 0-85883-084-1.
- Laycock, D. C.; Z'graggen, John (1975). "The Sepik–Ramu Phylum". In Wurm, Stephen A. (ed.). New Guinea Area Languages and Language Study Vol. 1: Papuan Languages and the New Guinea Linguistic Scene. Pacific Linguistics Series C – No. 38. Canberra: The Australian National University. pp. 731–763. doi:10.15144/PL-C38.731. hdl:1885/145150. ISBN 0-85883-132-5.
- Ross, Malcolm (2005). "Pronouns as a Preliminary Diagnostic for Grouping Papuan Languages". In Pawley, Andrew; Attenborough, Robert; Golson, Jack; Hide, Robin (eds.). Papuan Pasts: Cultural, Linguistic and Biological Histories of Papuan-Speaking Peoples. Pacific Linguistics 572. Canberra: Pacific Linguistics. pp. 17–65. hdl:1885/146735. ISBN 0-85883-562-2.