Wovan - Orientation

Identification. The name "Wovan," applied to a small, culturally distinct population in Papua New Guinea, is derived from the label that the people themselves apply to their language ( wovan a mona, or "Wovan talk"). It is quite possibly an adaptation or corruption of the term "Kopon" (Kobon) applied to the larger ethnic group to the east.

Location. The majority of Wovan live in the Ararne River Valley in the Schrader Range of Madang Province, located at about 5°10′ to 5°15′ S and 144°14′ to 144°18′ E. The Ararne is a southerly flowing tributary of the Jimi River, and most of their dwellings are located on the southern fall of the range. However, the Wovan claim ownership of and control large hunting and gardening territories on the northern fall of the range extending almost to the Sepik lowlands. The area is ruggedly mountainous, with steep valleys cut by swift rivers. Wovan territory varies in altitude from about 2,100 meters above sea level at the top of the range to scarcely 200 meters above sea level at the confluence of the Jimi and Ararne rivers. It thus provides the Wovan with a variety of ecological zones from which subsistence may be extracted. Rainfall is distributed throughout the year but a wetter season may be discerned from December through February and a relatively dry season from June through August.

Demography. The total Wovan population as of 1980 was approximately 700 persons. About 53 percent of these were male and approximately 50 percent of the total population were under 20 years of age. The population appears to be relatively stable. linguistic Affiliation. Wovan is a Non-Austronesian Language and is classified in the Waibuk or Piawi Family, which also includes the Aramo, Pinai, and Wapi languages. It is still not certain whether or how this language family is related to already established, larger linguistic groups in New Guinea. While there is a great deal of language borrowing from Kopon into Wovan, it is uncertain if these languages are related at some more inclusive level. The closest linguistic neighbors of the Wovan are the Aramo people.

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