Publication details [#59883]

Schreyer, Christine. 2015. Community consensus and social identity in alphabet development. The relationship between Kala and Jabêm. Written Language & Literacy 18 (1) : 175–199.
Publication type
Article in journal
Publication language
Language as a subject
Place, Publisher
John Benjamins
Journal DOI


In the Huon Gulf area of Papua New Guinea, the indigenous language Jabêm was one of the languages of first contact for Lutheran German Missionaries, circa 1900. As a result, Jabêm became a language of the church and, later, a language of education. In both domains, written materials were commonly produced and generations of children were schooled in Jabêm rather than their own mother tongues. This paper discusses the relationship between Jabêm and Kala, an indigenous language spoken in six villages along the Huon Gulf Coast. Kala was without a standard orthography until recent collaborations between members of the communities and researchers from UBC Okanagan. This paper, therefore, also describes the development of the Kala standardized orthography and examines the distinct influences Jabêm has in both spoken and written domains. For instance, Jabêm’s role as a written authority retains positive connotation, which influenced the newly created Kala orthography.