Nen (or Nen Zi) is spoken in the village of Bimadbn (= Bimadeben) in the Morehead District of Western Province, by around 250 people. It is the easternmost language of the Morehead-Maro family, adjoining Nambu to the west, Neme to the northwest and Idi to the east. Nambu and Neme are both closely related to Nen, while Idi belongs to the unrelated Pahoturi Rivers family. As with most languages of the region, the language name is based on the word for 'what', nen; Zi means 'language'. There is no prior published material on the language; Evans began work on it in 2008 and will produce a full grammar by the end of the Southern New Guinea project, as well as substantial lexical and textual materials.
Nen is an SOV language, with ergative/absolutive case marking and rich verb morphology. Typologically it differs from the highlands Trans New Guinea languages that are taken as typical of Papuan in many ways: there is a large, open-class verb lexicon, verb chaining/serialisation is virtually absent, and there is extensive use of verbal prefixes and a rich grammar of non-finite constructions.
Verbs take prefixes for undergoer and suffixes for actor, as well as coding an extensive series of tense/aspect/mood values (coded by both prefix and suffix) organised around a threefold partition into imperfective, perfective and neutral aspects: the immperfective vs perfective contrast is primarily based on the opposition between initiation and continuation phases, rather than focussing on termination phases. The system of grammatical number, being based on the intersection of a singular vs nonsingular contrast in the pronominal indices with a dual vs non-dual contrast in the verb thematic. Other interesting features of the language include a senary (base six) numeral system, extensive use of nominalised constructions inflected for case in subordination, a disproportionately large set of middle verbs, and a large set of positional/postural verbs for encoding states.
- Evans, Nicholas. 2011. Valence in Nen. Presented at Valence Workshop, Leipzig MPI-EVA, April 2011 (Paper in .pdf).
- Evans, Nicholas. 2011. Some puzzles of aspect in Nen. Handout for talk given at RCLT, LaTrobe, January 13, 2011. (Handout in .pdf)
- Evans, Nicholas. 2011. Positional verbs in Nen. Departmental Seminar, ANU 25 February 2011. (Handout in .pdf)
- Evans, Nicholas. 2009. Two pus one makes thirteen: senary numerals in the Morehead-Maro region. Linguistic Typology 13.2:319-333. (Paper in .pdf)