Sio - Orientation



Identification. "Sio" is the name of a Papua New Guinea people, of their group of four villages, and of their language (also spoken in Nambariwa, a small coastal village to the east). The word means "they put, take up position," and was adopted by the people themselves, in place of their traditional name "Sigaba," less than a century ago.

Location. The Sio inhabit tropical savanna situated on the north coast of the Huon Peninsula in Morobe Province. They are located at 147°20′ E and 6°50′ S. Although predominantly grassland, the area includes extensive tracts of rain forest, and Sio territory also includes several miles of fringing reef, a large lagoon, and a small offshore island where, prior to World War II, most of the Sio-speaking people resided. Precipitation is markedly seasonal, with only a fifth or less of the annual rainfall occurring during the southeast trade wind season from May to October. Drought years and poor harvests occur, but with varying severity.

Demography. At the time of initial European contact in the late nineteenth century, the Sio numbered about 700. The population had increased to 1,500 by the mid-1960s, and in the generation since it has doubled once again.

Linguistic Affiliation. Sio is an Austronesian language that lacks "close relatives" among the dozens of Austronesian languages spoken by the coastal and island peoples of the region. Beginning before 1920, a written form of the language, for liturgical purposes, was produced by German missionaries and Sio catechists. Currently, with the help of missionary linguists, the people are recording traditional myths and folktales.

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