|Native to||Papua New Guinea|
|Region||Madang Province, Middle Ramu District, and Western Highlands Province on Kaironk River in lower Jimi River area north of Mt. Hagen|
4,000 monolinguals (2007?)
Monophthongal vowels are /i e ɨ ə a o u/, diphthongs are /ai̯ au̯/. /i/ and /u/ may be [jɪ] and [wʊ~ʍʊ] word-initially. /ɨ/ ([ɨ~ɯ]) is written ⟨ü⟩ and /ə/ ([ɜ~ɘ~ɪ]) is written ⟨ö⟩.
Only /i a u/ and the diphthongs occur word-initially, apart from the quotative particle, which is variably /a~e~o~ö/. /e o/ occur syllable-initially within a word. All vowels (including the diphthongs) occur syllable-medially (in CVC syllables), syllable-finally and at the ends of words. Many vowel sequences occur, including some with identical vowels.
|nasal||m ⟨m⟩||n ⟨n⟩||ɲ ⟨ñ⟩||ŋ ⟨ŋ⟩|
|lenis obstruent||p~b~mb~mpʰ ⟨b⟩||tʰ~d~nd~ntʰ ⟨d⟩||dʑ~ɲdʑ~ɲtɕ ⟨j⟩||k~ɡ~ɣ~ŋɡ~ŋkʰ ⟨g⟩|
|fortis obstruent||f~ɸ~β~v~ʋ~p̚ ⟨p⟩||s ⟨s⟩||tɕ~dʑ ⟨c⟩||kʰ~kx~x~ɣ ⟨k⟩|
|lateral||l~ɬ ⟨l⟩||ʎ ⟨ɫ⟩|
|rhotic||ɾ̝̊~ɾ̥~ɾ~r̝̊~r̥~r ⟨r⟩||ɭ~ɽ~ɽ̊ ⟨ƚ⟩|
|approximant||w ⟨w⟩||j ⟨y⟩||h ⟨h⟩|
Voiced obstruents may be prenasalized after vowels, depending on the preceding consonant, and are voiceless word-initially. Liquids other than /ʎ/ tend toward final devoicing. For example, final /d/ is [ntʰ] and final /l/ tends to [ɬ]. (/w/ and /j/ do not occur in final position, while nasals and /ʎ/ retain voicing.) Voiceless consonants other than /s/ and /h/ are optionally voiced between vowels.
⟨ƚ⟩ is sublaminal retroflex. It has been described as a lateral flap, .
All consonants occur syllable initially, though /ŋ/ only occurs word-initially in a single mimetic word. All consonants but /h j w/ occur syllable- and word-finally. Clusters occur in many (C)VC.CV(C) words, as well as initially in a handful of mostly monosyllabic CCV(C) words. Attested initial clusters are /bɽ, xɽ, fr, xl/.
also ɣ intervocalically
|⟨p⟩||ɸ~f||β~ʋ (occas. v)||ɸ~p̚|
|⟨d⟩||d||d, n͜d||n͜tʰ (occas. tʰ)|
|⟨b⟩||b (occas. p)||b, m͜b||m͡pʰ|
Intervocalically, the lenis obstruents are oral [b d dʑ ɡ~ɣ] when a nasal or another lenis obstruent occurs in the preceding syllable, and are prenasalized [mb nd ɲdʑ ŋɡ] otherwise, with some variability after /h/. They are often oral in a medial cluster after another consonant. Otherwise the allophones in the table above are largely in free variation.
Kobon is a subject–object–verb language.
Like the other Kalam languages, Kobon is famous for having a very small number of verbs—perhaps less than 120 for the entire language. These verbs are combined with nouns into phrases with specific meanings, much as one says "have dinner" rather than "dine" in English.
This makes for an interesting window into semantics. One might expect that with a very limited set of verbs, their meanings would be quite general as have, do, be and go are in English. To a certain extent this is really the case, as there is for example only one verb of perception. That is, the same verb is used for see, hear, taste, smell, feel (both physically and emotionally), think, and understand (compare with "I see" for "I understand" in English). Another verb is used for making sound, whether it's speaking, singing, praying, crying, twigs breaking, rocks clattering, or water gurgling. However, some Kobon verbs are quite specific. There is one exception for sound, for example: there's a specific verb for calling a pig. There are also three verbs of pouring, depending on whether the thing being poured is solid, liquid, or food; and there is even a verb that means to quarter a cassowary.
This section needs expansion. You can help by adding to it. (December 2009)
- a b c d e g h i j k l ƚ ɫ m n ñ ŋ o ö p r s u ü w y
5–15% of Kobon speakers are literate.
- Kobon at Ethnologue (18th ed., 2015)
- Kobon language at Ethnologue (16th ed., 2009)
- Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin, eds. (2017). "Kobon". Glottolog 3.0. Jena, Germany: Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History.
- Pawley, Andrew (1992). "Kalam Pandanus Language: An Old New Guinea Experiment in Language Engineering". In Dutton, Tom E.; Ross, Malcolm; Tryon, Darrell (eds.). The Language Game: Papers in Memory of Donald C. Laycock. Pacific Linguistics Series C. 110. Canberra: Department of Linguistics, Research School of Pacific Studies, Australian National University. pp. 313–334. ISBN 0-85883-400-6. ISSN 0078-7558. OCLC 222981840.
- Davies (1981: 215 ff)
- Word medially next to a consonant, ⟨p⟩ is [ɸ] or [β] depending on the voicing of that consonant.
- John Davies, 1981. Kobon. Lingua Descriptive Series 3.