Hi, guys! Today’s endangered language is Duwet, coming to us all the way from Papua New Guinea.

Duwet | A-Z of Endangered Language | 学习Sprachen

Duwet (also known as Guwet, Guwot or Waing), is a member of the Busu subgroup of Lower Markham languages. It is spoken by approximately 300-400 people (Moseley, 2010; Lewis, 2016) in the lower Busu river area in Papua New Guinea.

This language seems to be suffering under the pressure from large related languages; in particular Tok Pisin, which is preferred by children (Moseley, 2007). There is also no literacy in Duwet – as far as I can tell, there is no standard written form, though the Latin script has been used in the course of research. There is also a dearth of research into Duwet, which could be a result of the small number of speakers of the language.

Despite this, it does appear that the number of people speaking Duwet has increased in the last few years. In the Encyclopedia of the World’s Endangered Languages (2007), it is reported that there were 398 speakers in 1988 and there were probably 300 at the time of writing. However, Lewis (2016) has a 2011 figure of 400 speakers (from an ethnic population of 450) and notes that that number is, in fact, increasing. This seems odd considering the fact that none of these speakers are monolinguals – and that there appears to be so much outside pressure on Duwet; but it could be that positive attitudes from Duwet speakers are assisting in the maintenance and spread of the language. Hopefully this will mean that Duwet has a much longer lease of life than was predicted in 2007.


Lewis, M. Paul, Gary F. Simons, and Charles D. Fennig (eds.). 2016. Ethnologue: Languages of the World, Nineteenth edition. Dallas, Texas: SIL International. Online version: http://www.ethnologue.com.

Moseley, C., ed., 2007. Encyclopedia of the World’s Endangered Languages. Oxon: Routledge.

Moseley, C., ed., 2010. Atlas of the World’s Languages in Danger. Paris: UNESCO Publishing. Online version: http://www.unesco.org/culture/en/endangeredlanguages/atlas.

Further Reading

Wikipedia: Duwet language (has some interesting notes on Duwet morphology, including how numbers are formed)

There also appears to be one journal article that talks about Duwet in any depth – Holzknecht, Susanne (2001). “Number and Person in the Duwet Language of Papua New Guinea.” In Andrew Pawley, Malcolm Ross, and Darrell Tryon, eds., The Boy from Bundaberg: Studies in Melanesian Linguistics in Honour of Tom Dutton, 175-191. Canberra: Pacific Linguistics. However, this has been very difficult to track down online. 


    • So true – there is so much wrapped up in a language. And I am enjoying the challenge thanks, I hope you are too! Thanks for stopping by! 😀

  1. Hopefully it gets to stick around with the increased attention on it. It is sad to think how much is lost when a language goes out of existence.

    • I hope so; it’s definitely more difficult to keep a language around when it only really has a spoken form, but things do look surprisingly good for Duwet!

      Thanks for stopping by! 🙂

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