Are Austronesians or Melanesians West Africans

Melanesian languages

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This refers to the languages ​​spoken on the islands of the western Pacific, from the islands of New Caledonia to the Bismarck Archipelago and the Admiralty Islands, as well as on the north and south coasts of eastern and central New Guinea. The Melanesian languages ​​together with the Indonesian and Polynesian languages ​​form the Malaio-Polynesian or the Austronesian language family. They have a different proportion of elements from the Papuan languages.

While the affiliation of the two other subgroups was recognized in the first decades of the 19th century, it was the German linguist GCVD GABELENTZ who was the first in 1861 and 1879 in a fundamental paper to demonstrate the affiliation of the Melanesian languages ​​known to him at the time, without that he would have dared to say more about their kinship with the Polynesian languages ​​than that they "have more in common with each other than can emerge from a mere borrowing of one from the other".

The Reverend R. H. CODRINGTON emerged in 1885 with an abundance of new material, which he had collected himself in many years of missionary activity and processed in thorough research, and expanded the circle of the known Melanesian languages ​​to the north and provided more reliable and deeper insight into their grammatical structure. It was also he who ruled out a mixed character of the Melanesian languages, as represented by some other scholars.

From 1891 on, SYDNEY H. RAY began to intervene with his work, in which he initially demonstrated the existence of non-Austronesian languages ​​in British New Guinea, to which he attached the name "Papuan languages". In several works from 1899 on W. SCHMIDT stated that the Polynesian languages ​​are to be regarded as a descendant of the Melanesian, specifically the group of the South Solomonic languages. The great majority of the Melanesian languages ​​should not be understood as mixed languages, but as real Austronesian languages.

With regard to the volume of sounds, all Melanesian languages ​​demonstrate their secondary character in relation to Indonesian by the fact that they all sound sounds, nasals and liquids (r, l) that are in the end. Just "R" is sometimes retained. Some of the languages ​​go further and also throw off the primary or secondary vowel sound. In the formation of words, the disuse of the infixes is to be emphasized. Forms with an older infix "in" or "around" occur occasionally, but the infixes themselves no longer work.

Particularly noteworthy among the commonly used prefixes are: ma- as adjective and state prefix, ta- as a state and conditional prefix, ka-, as a collective prefix, vaka, vaga, haa,va, ta, ha, a as a causative prefix and vei, hey, we, e or var, ver Reciprocal prefix for verbs. Not that common i- as an instrumental prefix. Among the suffixes it should be mentioned: -a, -ga as a noun and adjective suffix, -i less common -a as a transitive suffix for verbs, aki, akan as relationship suffixes. Reduplication is also used as a word formation tool, both simple (repetition) and qualified in various forms. In the noun and adjective, it can express both the reinforcement (plural) and the weakening (= German ending “lich” in “blackish”).

In the verb, it mostly expresses repetition, continuity or emphasis of the action. With regard to the grammatical relationships, special attention should be given to the two points by which the Melanesian languages ​​can most easily be distinguished from both the Indonesian and the Polynesian languages. These are the numerical expression in the personal pronoun, the possessive expression and the related grouping of nouns in two classes. While there is no actual designation of the number, the greatest value is placed on the number designation in the personal pronoun. As in the Indonesian languages, singular and plural forms are initially available.

The Melanesian languages ​​also developed a dual and a large majority also forms a trial. Some of the youngest languages, for example a quatral in the southern Solomon Islands and some in Vanuatu itself. All these forms are formed by adding the number forms for "two", three "or" four "to the plural forms, but often merge so closely with them that their actual origin becomes indistinct. In several languages ​​with four, the simple plural has become obsolete, and an original four is now used in its place as a plural. Only the language of the Gilbert Islands, which is advanced to the east on the outermost border area, like the Indonesian languages, does not know any other forms apart from singular and plural.

The possessive designation is effected by adding suffixes derived from the personal pronouns. The Melanesian languages ​​divide all nouns into two classes. There is generally just as little a separate number designation as there is a separate gender designation. However, when designating people in some languages, a number and gender expression is created by prefixing or suffixing the personal article, which changes according to number and gender, which takes the form of plural suffixes, especially in the suffixing languages ​​of Papua New Guinea and the islands to the north-west.

In sharp contrast to the strict uniformity of the Polynesian languages, Melanesian languages ​​reveal a wide range of vocabulary and grammar. As "Melanesians" the approximately 5 million inhabitants of the Pacific islands are largely referred to, which extend in a wide arc from New Guinea via the Solomon Islands and New Hebrides to the Fiji Islands and in the narrower sense the almost 1.5 million speakers of Melanesian languages ​​in these Islands. Melanesia consists of predominantly large and mountainous islands, some of which have a continental character and lie in the area of ​​the hot, humid tropics.

In addition to New Guinea in the west and the islands of the Bismarck Archipelago in the north, the Solomon Islands with the Santa Cruz Islands in the east, the New Hebrides with the Banks Islands and New Caledonia with the Loyalty Islands in the south and southeast belong to Melanesia. The borders with Polynesia and Micronesia are fluid. The term Melanesians is a collective term and is used inconsistently in ethnology. Geographically, the Papuans belong to Melanesia, culturally and linguistically a distinction is made between the Papuans and the Melanesians. The area of ​​the Fiji Islands is a transition area. From an anthropological point of view, the Fijians are Melanesians, in the cultural field Polynesian influences predominate and linguistically they are a separate group of the East Oceanic Polynesian branch of the Austronesian language family.

The inhabitants of the southern Santa Cruz Islands of the Solomon Islands form a Polynesian exclave. The Admiralty Islanders living north of New Guinea are Melanesians, but show quite strong Micronesian influences, which is why they are sometimes also referred to as Para-Micronesians. The peoples of Melanesia are linguistically and culturally fragmented, and they also differ considerably in their appearance. The history of the colonization of Melanesia has so far only been clarified relatively imprecisely. It is assumed that very early, towards the end of the last ice age, peoples occupied these islands in several waves of immigration and later, in a second wave of migration, came from Southeast Asia in the period between 2000 and 800 BC. Reached the north coast of New Guinea.

The immigrants met and mixed with the pre-Indonesian population. As a result of these migrations and superimpositions, relatively uniform and specifically Melanesian cultures gradually developed, which also shaped the surrounding islands. The name Melanesia based on the Greek words: "Mela = black" and "Nesos = islands" based on the dark skin color of its residents, goes back to the French explorer DUMONT D’URVILLE, who divided the Pacific into Melanesia, Micronesia and Polynesia in 1832. The Melanesians, like the Papuans, have dark, frizzy hair.

Usually they are named after the islands or their parts on which they live. The majority of Melanesians still live today as planters and fishermen in the traditional way of farming. Taro is mainly grown in the marshland along the coast, along with sweet potatoes, yams and bananas. The cultivation methods are varied according to the natural conditions. They range from slash-and-burn cultivation to terrace cultivation based on irrigation. In slash-and-burn agriculture, the gardens, which are laid out in frequently changing locations, are often several kilometers from the villages. The coast and river valleys are abundant in fish and pigs, chickens and dogs are kept almost everywhere. Successful pig breeding is often considered a prestigious activity.

The technical equipment of the Melanesians is generally very limited. Digging stick, cross hatchet and knife-like blades are often the only tools. In addition, there are in some cases very sophisticated devices for the extraction of the saga and fishing, as well as traps for small mammals and bows and arrows for hunting birds. Food is usually prepared in an earth oven. The traditional economy is still largely the basis of life today, but is often supplemented by imported food. Canned meat, fish and vegetables as well as rice, cola and beer are valued luxury goods. Betel nut chewing is the only traditional luxury food that is widespread.

A piece of the areka nut is wrapped in leaves of the pepper bush and chewed with burnt, powdered lime. This lime is kept in artfully decorated calabashes made of bamboo or pumpkin. The Melanesians, like all Oceanians, are excellent boat builders. They have already achieved excellent results in this area. Dugouts of up to 20 meters in length are used on the rivers of New Guinea and New Britain, and outrigger boats are used for coastal and deep sea travel. There are sometimes very intensive relationships between individual islands. In the Trobriand Archipelago, for example, there was a strictly organized trade and exchange system (kula), in which the inhabitants of over 20 islands participated.

The vitreous obsidian rock found on the Admiralty Islands was traded over long distances because it can be worked into sharp blades and arrowheads. So-called "primitive money" made from shells or feathers is used in exchange campaigns, but usually has no direct economic value, but symbolizes the owner's prestige and thus social obligation. It cannot be exchanged for any goods and only circulates within a system of exchange that is determined by complex rules. Pottery, plaiting and knotting are widespread throughout Melanesia, and weaving is also common on some islands, such as Santa Cruz and St. Matthias. The technical skills of the Melanesians are Stone Age.

Ground and polished stone blades in various wooden frames serve as axes or tools for building houses and boats. Wooden carvings and masks from all over Melanesia became famous, some of which are filigree despite the relatively coarse tools. The Baining in New Britain made oversized masks 10-15 meters high, which were balanced by several dancers at the same time during special ceremonies. The basis was a light wooden frame that was covered with bast made of bark and then painted. This tradition has continued to this day, but only smaller masks are made. Similar to the West African sculptures, various Melanesian works were models of European naive art.

Carvings can be found in all areas of life, from decorated everyday objects to house posts or other building elements to cult objects. Sculptures and everyday objects such as boats were occasionally provided with elaborate inlays and trimmings made of mother-of-pearl, mussels, snails and seeds. Everyday clothing was usually limited to pubic coverings made of bast and grass. Jewelry has always played a bigger role on special occasions. Splendid pendants and head attachments made of valuable, rare materials such as shells, insects, feathers, etc. in combination with colorful body paintings are characteristic.

There are major differences among the Melanesians in the way they build houses and settle. In the wetlands of the lowlands and in the coastal area, the houses stand on stilts. In the Manus on the Admiralty Islands, the stilt houses often slide out into the lagoon in long rows. The most important basic unit from an economic and political point of view is the settlement community in Melanesia, which can vary considerably in shape and size. On the coasts of New Guinea there are large closed villages that are inhabited by 1,000 to 2,000 inhabitants.

In contrast to this, the people in the more remote regions of the island's interior live in small hamlets with a maximum of 300 inhabitants or in individual farmsteads that are scattered across the country and mostly belong to a clan. Traditionally, the Melanesians lived in small settlement groups with mostly a few hundred people. State-like forms of organization were unknown to them. Society is organized on a patriarchal basis, political and religious rule is incumbent exclusively on men. Their claim to power is not based on a particular origin or inheritance law, but on outstanding prestige that is acquired through economic, political and military success.

These men, usually referred to as "Big Men", had a special one "Mana", an extraordinary, immediate effect that gave them special power. Headhunting and the consumption of human flesh, which were once widespread in Melanesia, should also be seen in this context. That is how one looked for that "Mana" to appropriate the opponent and thus to strengthen one's own. The adult men often form a closed secret society from which women and children are excluded. These are exclusive, sacred associations, whose membership is usually acquired through purchase.

The gathering place of these secret societies is the men's and cult house, which is larger than any other building in terms of size and decoration. Male adolescents are accepted into the secret society as part of an initiation ceremony. The separation from the biological parents, i.e. growing up, is sealed. The candidate has to pass the most varied tests of courage and is initiated into the secret teachings of the mythical tradition. The most famous secret societies in Melanesia include the Duduk Bund on the Gazelle Peninsula in New Britain, the Suque Bund on the Banks Islands and the Iniet Bund in Northern New Britain.

Another structural element of social organization are clans, kinship groups that trace their ancestry back to a common mythical ancestor. This is symbolized in the respective totem of a clan. There is often a ban on marriage between members of the same clan. The traditional religion of the Melanesians has become very differentiated at the local level. Almost every settlement community has developed its own specific form. Nevertheless, similar basic structures can be recognized. The line between deities, demigods and demons is fluid.

The basis of religious beliefs is ancestor worship, which includes both immediate ancestors and mythical primordial beings who created the world. The Melanesians are convinced that these creator beings still exist today. They live in the same world as their deceased ancestors and can intervene in everyday life at any time, for good or bad. The living must not arouse the displeasure of a being of the ancestral world by violating certain rules, which at the same time structure the life of the community as social norms. One way to communicate directly with ancestors is through magic.

Their influence can be used for both “good” and “bad” purposes. The whole world view of the Melanesians is determined by opposing but ultimately related polarities: day and night, man and woman, heaven and earth, water and air, etc. Creation is made possible through the connection of these opposites. Although the Spaniard JORGE DE MENESES landed in New Guinea in 1526, the inaccessible hinterland remained an unexplored Stone Age refuge until the 20th century. Missionaries first settled in the 19th century, followed by traders, the military and, above all, settlers.

West New Guinea became Dutch in 1828, Northeast German and South British in 1884. In 1853 France occupied New Caledonia and in 1906 France and Great Britain agreed on a condominium over the New Hebrides. After World War II, Eastern New Guinea and the Bismarck Archipelago came under Australian administration. Europe and Western civilization had a powerful and corrosive influence on the peoples and tribes of Melanesia. The Europeans introduced the plantation economy and trade in labor in the second half of the 19th century. The local population was also brought in for forced labor against their will.

On the island of Tanna (New Hebrides) alone, 60% of the men fit for work were absent in 1870 and deported to work on plantations in Australia. Conscious, eradicating practices of the Europeans and introduced diseases contributed to the decimation of the Melanesians. For example, between 1910 and 1915, around half of the native population in the villages on the southwest coast of New Guinea died of infectious diseases introduced. The Melanesians have been exposed to the influence of Christian missions since the 19th century. Over 50 different sects and religious communities, often working against one another, have become active here since then.

The traditional religion of the Melanesians was opposed by these Christian missions. Most of them have now converted to Christianity, but this is often understood as a formal creed. In many cases, however, both still exist side by side. The Christian religion is practiced in the church, the traditional religion is an everyday matter. In the course of the colonization of Melanesia, as a reaction to contacts with Europe, the religious and politically oriented movements of expectations of salvation, the so-called “cargo cults”, emerged in almost all parts of the country.

The confrontation with the previously unknown goods and goods (cargo) of white civilization on the one hand and the awareness of a crisis in their own society on the other, combined against the background of religious traditions to the assumption that the demise of contemporary society was imminent. Then the ancestors, provided with goods, return and create a new society in which there is no shortage of goods and the existing world order is turned upside down. The whites will be the servants and the Melanesians the masters.

In anticipation of this future "paradisiacal" state, Melanesian societies that were followers of this cargo cult began to take precautions. They built runways for the aircraft that would bring the goods and even destroyed some of their own plantings, which they believe would no longer be necessary. The earliest cargo movement originated in the Fiji archipelago in 1885 and since then around 200 cargo cults have been identified, some of which also assumed the traits of political independence movements. In the second half of the 20th century, attempts at autonomy became louder and louder in Melanesia.

Western New Guinea has been part of Indonesia under the name Papua Barat since 1963, and it is here in particular that in recent years there have been repeated tensions aimed at the autonomy of this region. Together with the offshore islands of the Bismarck Archipelago and the northern Solomon Islands, the east has formed the independent state of Papua New Guinea since 1973. The other Melanesian islands were also European colonies, but with the exception of French New Caledonia have now become independent states, such as Fiji since 1970, the Solomon Islands since 1978 and the New Hebrides, which have formed the Republic of Vanuatu since 1980. Overall, Melanesia is still one of the few regions in the world, in spite of strong external influences and modern developments, in which a variety of traditional cultural elements and ways of life has been preserved.

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