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This report describes the number and nature of the languages spoken in the Mur village area on the Rai Coast some 95 kilometres southeast of Madang town. It also assesses the vitality of the Mur vernaculars and examines the interplay of the vernaculars in village society. Previous research claimed the language spoken in Mur village was Karnai [bbv], but with a lexicostatistical similarity percentage at 63 percent between Karnai and the Mur language residents there call Pano, it is clear that they are not one and the same.
The survey team discovered that three vernaculars are currently being spoken in Mur village. Their reported names are Pano, Molet, and Dawang. Both Pano and Dawang are Austronesian languages and fall under the Vitiaz language group, but Pano falls under the Korap subgroup while Dawang likely belongs to the Bel subgroup, as it is reportedly a dialect of Wab or similar to it. Mur Molet is related to and reported by speakers to be part of Asaro’o [mtv], a Trans-New Guinea language; however, their lexical similarity is only 65 percent. This survey investigates the vitality of each language and how they interact within the context of Mur village.
The team found that all three vernaculars contribute to the Mur identity in general, and each vernacular contributes to the distinctive identity of the clans which associate with it. The vernaculars are equally esteemed in the community, but there is universal agreement that Pano is the primary vernacular in use by the community. The vitality of Mur Molet and Dawang is low. The vitality of Pano is high but could decrease in the future because Tok Pisin is used in all of the domains where Pano is used, as well as some where Pano is not used. Children are currently as fluent in Pano as their parents are, but this could change in future generations if use of Tok Pisin is not restricted to particular domains.