Authored by: Malcolm Ross

The Oceanic Languages

Print publication date:  December  2001
Online publication date:  March  2013

Print ISBN: 9780700711284
eBook ISBN: 9780203820384
Adobe ISBN: 9781136749858


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The first German Lutheran missionaries to New Guinea in 1886 found themselves in the middle of the Jabêm language area and adopted Jabêm as their language of evangelisation for coastal and lowland groups. As a result, the number of speakers grew from 900 in 1886 to 15,000 in 1939, by which time the language was also understood as a lingua franca by as many as 100,000 (Zahn 1940:v). Renck (1977) estimated that there were 25,000 speakers. Today this number has receded, as the younger generation is instead acquiring Tok Pisin as the language of inter-tribal communication. For more detail about the post-contact history of Jabêm, the reader is referred to Renck (1977) and Ross (1995d, 1996c).

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