Sengseng - Orientation

Identification. To outsiders, the Sengseng tend to identify themselves simply as "Arawe," a term designating all the People of southwest New Britain, including Arawe Islanders, who practice artificial deformation of the skull.

Location. Scattered through a region that extends from approximately 149°52′ E and from 6° to 6°17′ S, the Sengseng live on either side of the Andru River on the southern side of the island of New Britain, in the state of Papua New Guinea. A few live directly on the coast, in villages that also contain speakers of neighboring languages, but most are located in the interior, up to a height of about 424 meters in the foothills of the Whiteman Range. The country is limestone karst broken by many small streams that can turn into flash floods during the frequent heavy rains. This is one of the wettest parts of Papua New Guinea, averaging about 635 centimeters annually, with the heaviest falls concentrated from June to September. It is warm during the day but, particularly at the higher altitudes, very cool at night.

Demography. The population in 1980 was probably just under 1,000. There is no evidence of overall increase since the early 1960s. Accurate figures are impossible to obtain Because so many villages now contain speakers of other Languages. Earlier census material indicated a considerable excess of adult males, but this does not appear in the 1980 census (which may not be accurate).

linguistic Affiliation. Sengseng is one of several closely related languages spoken along the southern and eastern side of the Whiteman Range. These languages include Kaulong, with the largest group of speakers, and Miu, to the west, and Karore and Psohoh to the east. Linguists disagree about which languages are the closest relatives of this group, which has been called Pasismanua after the name of a government census division in which most of the Kaulong and Sengseng speakers live. Pasismanua are generally agreed to be Oceanic (Austronesian), but several linguists have argued that they show influences from Non-Austronesian (Papuan) languages once spoken in this region.

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