Selepet - Orientation

Identification. The name "Selepet" is derived from the sentence "Selep pekyap," meaning "The house collapsed," an event recounted in the story of the people's dispersal from their primordial residential site.

Location. The people live in the Valley of the Pumune River, a tributary of the Kwama River, and along the windward slopes of a low coastal range to the north, located on the Huon Peninsula, Morobe Province, Papua New Guinea, around 6° S and 147° E, mainly at altitudes of 900 to 1,800 meters. They are bounded to the east and west by the more numerous Komba and Timbe peoples. Together these three peoples are separated from the other mountain peoples of the Huon Peninsula by a natural barrier formed by the 3,000-3,900-meter Saruwaged and Cromwell ranges.

Demography. The 1980 census states that 3,600 persons speak the Northern Selepet dialect and 2,700 speak the Southern. The mountain population is relatively dense: 19.6 persons per square kilometer as compared to a national average of 4.6.

Linguistic Affiliation. The language is a member of the Western Huon Family, Finisterre-Huon Stock, Trans-New Guinea Phylum of Papuan languages. It has two major dialects: the Northern, spoken along the coastal slopes and the Lower Pumune Valley; and the Southern, spoken in the Upper Pumune Valley.

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