Gnau - Orientation

Identification. Speakers of the Gnau language live in the West Sepik Province of Papua New Guinea. "Gnau" is the word for "no" in the local language. While they constitute a linguistic group, Gnau do not define themselves as members of a population extending beyond the village or villages known to them personally.

Location. Gnau villages are found on forested mountain ridges between the Nopan and Assini rivers in the Lumi Subdistrict of West Sepik Province, roughly between 142°9′ and 142°21′ E and 3°32′ to 3°45′ S. The environment is mostly lowland tropical rain forest and the climate is hot and humid, with a dry season lasting from November to March. Average annual rainfall is approximately 250 centimeters.

Demography. In 1981 the population of Gnau speakers was estimated at 980 people. Earlier population figures are unavailable or nonexistent, although there is evidence that as many as one-third of the Gnau died during a dysentery epidemic in the 1930s.

Linguistic Affiliation. Gnau, together with Olo (Wape) and others, is a member of the Wapei Family of Non-Austronesian languages. Today nearly all men and boys as well as some women and girls also speak Tok Pisin.

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