Boazi - Orientation

Identification. Boazi is the name of a language spoken by approximately 2,500 people who live along the middle reaches of the Fly River and along the central and northern shores of Lake Murray in the southern lowlands of New Guinea. Boazi speakers use the name "Boazi" to refer to their language, but their names for themselves are the names of the eight territorial groups into which they are divided. The use of the name "Boazi" (both by Boazi speakers and others) to refer to all Boazi speakers (or in some cases to refer to those who live along the Fly River as opposed to those who live around Lake Murray) is the result of the recent colonial and current postcolonial context in which Boazi speakers live. Prior to the colonial period, there does not seem to have been any conception of group membership beyond the territorial group. Nonetheless, the eight Boazi-speaking territorial groups share a common history, culture, and social structure. Early colonial documents also refer to Boazi speakers as "Suki," a name now reserved for culturally similar people living farther down the Fly River.

Location. The Lake Murray-Middle Fly area is located between 6°30′ and 8° S, and 141° and 141°5′ E. The dominant geographical features of the area are the Fly River, with its 10-kilometer-wide floodplain, and Lake Murray, which is 60 kilometers long and 15 kilometers wide at its widest point. Away from the river and lake are low ridges covered with open forest or closed canopy rain forest. In the marginally lower areas between these ridges are extensive sago swamps from which Boazi speakers get most of their food. The area receives 250 centimeters of rain per year, over half of which falls during the northwest monsoon, which lasts from late December to mid-April.

Demography. In 1980 there were approximately 2,500 Boazi speakers. The population density of the Lake Murray-Middle Fly area is about 0.3 person per square kilometer. There is no reliable information on population growth or decline.

Linguistic Affiliation. According to C. L. Voorhoeve (1970), Boazi is spoken in three dialects: Kuni at Lake Murray, and North Boazi and South Boazi along the Fly River. The Boazi language is one of two languages in the Boazi Language Family, the other being Zimakani which is spoken around the southern part of Lake Murray and the confluence of the Fly and Strickland rivers. The Boazi Language Family is the easternmost of the three language families in the Marind Stock, which is part of the Trans-New Guinea Phylum.

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