Helter skelter and nugl nagl: English and Kalam Rhyming Jingles and the Psychic Unity of Mankind

    Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


    Kalam, a Trans New Guinea (TNG) language of Madang Province, Papua New Guinea, has at least 60 “rhyming jingles,” expressions similar to English higgledy piggledy and dilly dally. A rhyming jingle consists of two phonological words, the base and the rhyme, which differ in the form of first syllable, and together form a single grammatical word. Kalam rhyming jingles fall into several phonological types, chiefly those where, in the rhyme, (1) only the first consonant changes, e.g., gadal badal, jnow bnow, slom dlom, (2) only the first vowel changes, e.g., gtiŋ gtoŋ, ñugl ñagl, nugsum nagsum, and (3) the first CV changes, e.g., gogeb mageb, kosi masi, ñugog pagog. Such expressions are widespread among TNG languages as well as occurring in many other languages around the world. After examining the phonology, semantics and grammar of the Kalam expressions, I will try to place them in comparative perspective, asking what the occurrence of such similar patterns in unrelated languages tells us about the psychic unity of Mankind?
    Original languageEnglish
    Title of host publicationA Mosaic of Languages and Cultures: studies celebrating the career of Karl J. Franklin
    Editors Kenneth A. McElhanon and Ger Reesink
    Place of PublicationTexas, USA
    PublisherSIL International
    ISBN (Print)9781556712500
    Publication statusPublished - 2010


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