Darja Hoenigman

Research activity per year

Personal profile


Darja is a linguistic anthropologist and ethnographic filmmaker with a background in language teaching and translation. She has been doing research in Papua New Guinea (with Awiakay and Meakambut in East Sepik Province) since 2004, studying the ways people use their language in different social situations.




Research interests

Papua New Guinea, linguistic anthropology, ethnographic filmmaking, Tok Pisin, Awiakay language, Melanesian ethnography, linguistic registers, disputes and conflict resolution, charismatic activities, spirit possession, social identity and otherness, mythology, verbal art, socio-cultural continuity and change



Researcher's projects

ELDP Major documentation project MDP0441

'Traditional ecological knowledge of Awiakay and Meakambut, Papua New Guinea' 


Project description:

This project is set up as a collaborative effort between a linguistic anthropologist and the Awiakay and Meakambut people. It aims to document Awiakay and the neighbouring Meakambut traditional ecological knowledge (TEK) and language use related to TEK. This documentation will ensure that the detailed knowledge about plants and animals found in this ecological area and transmitted through the two languages is not lost. The project builds on previous long-term ethnographic fieldwork, including the documentation of Awiakay and Meakambut ways of speaking.

Documentation of Awiakay and Meakambut TEK at this particular moment in time will be a window on long-standing customs that intimately connect people’s lives to the environment, as well as the transmission of this knowledge in the context of changing linguistic practices and rapid social change that is endangering both the languages and the cultural heritage that lives through them.


Individual Postdoctoral Fellowship ELDP IPF0221

‘Meakambut ways of speaking: Audio-visual documentation of communication practices in a small semi-nomadic hunter-gatherer society in Papua New Guinea’ 


Project description:

The Meakambut of East Sepik in Papua New Guinea lead a lifestyle very different to their sedentary neighbours. They move between camps and rock shelters in their mountainous territory, subsisting mostly on hunting, fishing and gathering. In what ways does such lifestyle influence the ways people use their language?

Apart from basic word lists there has been no prior research on the Meakambut language, spoken by no more than 60 individuals. Using observational filming to supplement basic linguistic documentation, this project provides audio-visual documentation and analysis of a variety of Meakambut speech practices, embedded in rich ethnographic data.


Individual graduate scholarship ELDP IGS0162

‘Language variation and social identity in Kanjimei, East Sepik Province, Papua New Guinea’ 


Project description:

Awiakay is a Papuan language belonging to the small Arafundi group, spoken by about 400 people living in Kanjimei village in the East Sepik Province of Papua New Guinea. This project aims at documenting speech varieties (definable linguistic registers) and their relation to the overall social scene. This includes recording lexical substitution registers such as ‘mountain talk’ and ‘hidden talk’, language of disputes and fighting, language used in catholic charismatic activities, laments and all-night song/dance cycles, together with traditional knowledge and social dynamics necessary for understanding their use. Documentation of all speech varieties will be accompanied with observational ethnographic films.




TOKP2001, Tok Pisin 3

TOKP2002, Tok Pisin 4

Tok Pisin Language and Cultural Awareness - Microcredential


Available student projects

I welcome student projects in linguistic anthropology and anthropology more broadly, in particular those who would like to work in Papua New Guinea. I'm keen to advise students who aim at producing non-traditional academic outputs, such as videos and films, as components of their research.

Expertise Areas

  • Linguistic Anthropology
  • Social and Cultural Anthropology
  • Language in Culture and Society (Sociolinguistics)


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