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Who Can Still
Speak Daakaka?

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For many years the tiny South Sea island state of Vanuatu remained isolated and cut off from all outside influence. However, nowadays, thanks to cell phones and commerce, the official language of the country, Bislama, has penetrated through to even the most remote villages – and threatens to displace the languages originally spoken there. Five languages are still spoken on Ambrym, an island in the middle of the island state. Daakaka is one of them. However, the language is in danger of dying out: only 600 people can still speak it and until now Daakaka has neither been documented nor translated. Anthropologist Soraya Hosni is trying to save the language from disappearing completely without trace. Together with the inhabitants of Ambrym and her fellow three researchers she is compiling dictionaries and investigating the cultural significance of the Daakaka language.

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Endangered vocabulary

The South Pacific language Daakaka is in danger of dying out: today it is only spoken by about 600 people. Will the inhabitants of Ambrym Isand be able to save it from disappearing completely? A team of researchers from Berlin wants to help them.

Second father in the South Sea

Anthropologist Soraya Hosni has a close friendship with the families on Ambrym. It would otherwise be impossible to investigate their language and its cultural significance.

Research under a bamboo roof

Where can the village inhabitants and the linguistic researchers meet and learn from each other? Until now there had been no suitable meeting place on Ambrym. An enthusiastic village chief builds a House of Languages.

Female linguistic geniuses

A surprising discovery poses a puzzle for the researchers: Are the linguistically talented island women unwittingly displacing the original languages of Ambrym?

Bride price

The most beautiful day in life - if the money is right. At the wedding in the village, bananas and pigs easily upstage the couple.

Gateway to the world of letters

How can Daakaka be saved? So far, it was never fixed in writing and not taught in school. A dictionary and a collection of stories should improve this situation.

And what about Daakie?

On Ambrym, only the older residents speak the language Daakie. To revive Daakie, the linguists from Berlin develop a written form.

Ornaments in the sand

They are under the protection of the UNESCO: The sand drawings of Ambrym are considered a cultural treasure. The linguist suspect that they are older than the spoken language of the island - and closely interwoven with it.

Toxic clouds

Above the villages of Ambrym, their silhouettes throne: two volcanoes make life on the island difficult. They cut down on the already scarce drinking water and poison the precipitation.

Child's play for the future

Only if the young people of Ambrym learn from the older ones, their traditional language, Daakaka, will have a future. Games, songs and school books can help.
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*) The Project

Pepelyen na tu wu means “Good morning!” in Daakaka. Fewer than 1,000 people on the South Sea island of Ambrym still speak this endangered language. Anthropologist Soraya Hosni and her colleagues travel to the South Pacific in order to document the Daakaka language and save it from disappearing completely without trace. The researchers have no time to lose – for Daakaka is not only being rapidly displaced by the country’s official language, Bislama. The island’s active volcano is also contributing to the disappearance of the people and their fascinating culture.

Soraya Hosni

On the South Sea Island of Ambrym the young social anthropologist Soraya Hosni and her colleagues Kilu von Prince and Susanne Fuchs are documenting the Daakaka language, which is in danger of dying out. The three researchers belong to a research group led by Professor Manfred Krifka from the Center for General Linguistics in Berlin.
The social anthropologist Soraya Hosni from Berlin is documenting the South Pacific language Daakaka, which is in danger of dying out.

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