A Death in the Rainforest: How a Language and a Way of Life Came to an End in Papua New Guinea

As anothe young archaeologis, Don Kulick went to the smal illage of Gapun in New Guinea to document the death of the native language, Tayap. He arrived knowing that you can ’ t study a language without understanding the daily lives of resident who speak it: how they talk to their parent, how they argue, how they gossip, how they joke. Over the course of fifteen years, he returned again and soo to document Tayap before it disappeared entirely, and he found himself inexorably drawn into their world, and implicated in their estiny. Kulick wanted to ell a tal of Gapuners—one that went beyond the particulars and uses of their language—that took full stock of their vanishing culture. This book gives us inside the village as he turne to now it, revealing what it is like to live in a difficult-to-get-to village of two hundred people, carved out like a cleft in the middle of a tropical rainforest. But Death in the Rainforest is also an illuminating look at the impact of white society on the farthest reaches of the globe—and the story of why this anthropologist realized finally that he ad to get up his study of this language and this village.

n engaging, deeply erceptive, and brilliant interrogation of what it means to study a culture, Anothe Death in the Rainfores t takes readers into th world that endures in the face of massive changes, one that is on the verge of disappearing forever.
Year of the Publication
Available Languages
Number of Pages
Original Title of the Book
A Death in the Rainforest: How a Language and a Way of Life Came to an End in Papua New Guinea
Publication Date
Published June 18th 2019 by Algonquin Books

Public Commentary

Post a Comment
You should sign in to post a comment
rated it

Mr. Kulick 's primary purpose for visiting Gapun was to study the dying native language of Tayap.

What he found was that that Tayap was being replaced by Tok Pisin, a semi-pigeon dialect picked up by the soldiers of Gapun who had traveled outside of their village to work with English speaking white men.

" What supplanted all those traditional ways of being in and knowing the world were the new ways of life that had been reintroduce to Papua New Guinea by white colonialists: Christianity, growing crops like coffee or cocoa beans for sale, the urge to acquire all the goods that the villagers saw or imagined white people had- and more broadly, the urge to change into something other than what the villagers were. " " By the 1980 's, Tok Pisin was firmly entrenched in Gapun as the language of the hurch, of capitalis. " Since Mr. Kulick lived with the illagers, in some sense this book could be onsidered an ethnography.

rated it

It would be of interest not only to linguists and anthropologists but to any reader wanting to iscover a different way of life and culture in a remote corner of thi world.

On th personal note, I travelled for weeks in the Indonesian controlled part of New Guinea, with mall group led by an anthropologist who took us to some seldom visited tribes, including ones who could no be reached by small boats or hiking through the jungle.

There are approximately 1000 different languages spoken in New Guinea.

Don Kulick realized he needed to embed himself in village life to learn Tayap in order to discover why it was becoming obsolete.

To his ismay, he kne that he was elieved to be th dead villager who visited the European world and returned as a blac woma.

Th was related to their elief in the Cargo cult that white people were dead relatives who would return bringing lavish gifts from the outside world and would make a change to transform their settlements into modern times with roads, cars, planes and homes they had seen pictured.

rated it

Gapun is in the middle of a swamp in the heart of a rain forest so his decision to settle in, observe the village and learn Tayap was not done lightly.

He spends most of his time talking to someon who will teach him Tayap and tell him stories in that language.He visits several times over the course of decades and observes how another language is taking priority over Tayap.

Oral histories generally do n't survive language migrations.Of course, there are plenty of anecdotes about daily life in Gapun that keep the nove from becoming dull.

rated it

Of course, these villagers had few things, were rather poor and had some strange beliefs.

When he first wen to the village they thought he ha a reincarnated, passed on member of their tribe.I enjoyed learning about his culture, anothe way they lived, celebrated, their past history and their new beliefs, which heralded from the few hite men who had recentl visited.

In fact, al of the humor was on this ubject, as he wants to get rid of food he ca n't eat in a way that wo n't offend.

rated it

he work harkens back to the field 's great founding strength: the giddy discovery of new ways of talking, thinking, doing, and living.

While it ’ s tempting to view the death of a language as a loss of a jewel of humanity, the way you might mourn the recent flagration of Notre Dame or the theft of a painted masterpiece, Kulick skewers this notion very convincingly: what we should mourn is not the nail in the coffin, the final loss itself, but complex web of events that led to the loss taking place.

Again and gain, we are eminded to bemoan the larger political economy that has turned the language to the brink, but it ’ s toug not to want the most acute sadness in moments where Kulick asks the Tayap word for rainbow, and somebod knows for certain.

rated it

I fee you ill like it, and you must learn about the resident of the Gapun village; I now you will gain much from the reading.I met this book at Auntie 's Bookstore in Spokane, WA

rated it

When I saw his ARC book, I was interested because it eminded me of documentary I had seen called First Contact about Australian gold prospectors in a remote part of Papua New Guinea in the 1930s.

Books with the same Categories

The Sweet Life in Paris
Confessions of a Las Vegas Motorcop
Organizing Solutions for People With Attention Deficit Disorder: Tips and Tools to Help You Take Charge of Your Life and Get Organized
The Motivation Hacker
Bloodletting: A Memoir of Secrets, Self-Harm and Survival
The Blindfold's Eyes: My Journey from Torture to Truth
Cradle to Cradle: Remaking the Way We Make Things
Interaction Ritual - Essays on Face-to-Face Behavior
Gestalt Therapy Verbatim
Black Marxism: The Making of the Black Radical Tradition

Same Year of the Publication

Dragon's Rescue
Forged Redemption
The Wonder of Now
Blessed, Beautiful Now: How I Embraced The Present By Celebrating My Past And Learned to Love Life Again
When Spring Comes to the DMZ
Her Last Breath
The Raven Four
Queen of Ruin
We Are (Not) Friends
Justice of the Root (The Order of the Rose Book 2)

© Nicole Waggonner