Morphological Analysis of Negation in Amele, Papua New Guinea

Author: Masahiko Nose ( Shiga University )
Speaker: Masahiko Nose
Topic: Anthropological Linguistics
CALA 2020 General Session


Amele represents one of the several Trans-New Guinea languages, spoken in Papua New Guinea. The language comprises three known dialects, Huar, Jagahala and Haija. Foley (2000) described that the Trans-New Guinea languages have a complicated verbal morphology. Amele itself displays complicated verbal morphology, including uses of negation.

This study attends to negation in the Amele language, and attempts to clarify its morphological behaviors and attributes. The grammar of Amele was documented and described by Roberts (1987). However, this study, based on fieldwork, sought to accumulate more data with regards to negative expressions. For example,

Amele has its negator “qee” (“q” indicates voiced dorso-labiovelar plosive) and this negator comes after the element which is negated, as shown in (1).

(1)a. Ija jo ac.
I house have
”I have a house.”

b. Ija jo ac qee.

I house have not
“I don’t have a house.”

Amele has verbal conjugations in persons and numbers, but there is no negative conjugation in the present tense. It is peculiar that Amele has negative conjugations in past and future tenses. The following is the conjugation of negative past tense, the verb “hoga” (to come). In the following paradigm, “ho” is verbal base and the element “l” is the past and the remaining forms can be analyzed as a complicated form of negative/person/number.

“hoga” (to come)
1st person singular (1 sg): ho-l-o-m
2sg: ho-l-o-m
3sg: ho-l
1st person dual (1d): ho-l-o-h
2/3d: ho-l-o-sin
1st person plural: ho-l-o-m
2/3p: ho-l-o-in

Moreover, Amele contains various forms of past tense, that is, today’s past, yesterday’s past, a remote past, and a negative past, each of which displays an inflection. Typologically, other language have verb negative conjugations (cf. Miestamo 2007) and Payne 1985). However, this study seeks to describe the unique characteristics of Amele verb negators.

As a methodology, this study utilizes a functional basis of grammar, and asserts that Amele has positive/negative and present/past distinctions grammatically. Further, the study suggests that the Amele language is functionally marked in past tense constructions, and hence places specific attention on past events.


Foley, W. A. 2000. The languages of New Guinea. Annual review of anthropology, 357-404.

Miestamo, M. 2007. Negation: an overview of typological research. Language and Linguistics Compass, 1, 552-570.

Payne, J. R. 1985. Negation. Language typology and syntactic description, 1, 197-242.

Roberts, John. R. 1987. Amele. Croom Helm.

Keywords: Amele, Papua New Guinea, negation, tense, morphology