The Merauke Languages Project will focus on ethnobiological documentation of two endangered Papuan languages of the Wasur National Park, Merauke-Indonesia: Marori and Smärky Kanum. The speakers of these languages are multilingual; the Marori people have almost completely switched to the most dominant language, Indonesian. These people have traditionally maintained close spiritual & cultural links to their natural environments, which have undergone unprecedented changes in modern Indonesia, affecting their biodiversity, and the peoples’ languages.

We aim to produce a range of materials and published works, including lexical databases & language corpora, an Ethnobiology Guidebook of the Wasur National Park, and a series of academic papers on language documentation and language ecology from linguistic, biological and anthropological perspectives.

We hope to build on the existing but limited work on these languages, providing further documentation within a range of language domains, especially highly endangered biological and cultural knowledge.

This will be achieved through the production of parallel texts, some with bio-botanical content, and others reflecting everyday language use. Such corpora are essential for linguistic work, particularly in the areas of grammatical description, comparative linguistic typology, historical linguistics and linguistic theory. Their practical non-linguistic purposes include preservation of indigenous knowledge and of the richness of biodiversity.

Both fieldwork and research will be conducted in collaboration with a variety of institutions and stakeholders, including the local government in Merauke, Balai Taman Nasional Wasur, the World Wildlife Fund (WWF), Indonesian Institute of Sciences (LIPI), and the newly established ANU Centre of Excellence for the Dynamics of Language (COEDL).