Language name and locationː Onobasulu, Papua New Guinea  [Refer to Ethnologue]

言名称和分布地区奥诺巴苏鲁语, 巴布亚新几内亚中部赫拉省及南高地省


1. ɑ'ɡɛlɛ (litː ''little finger'') 

21.  ɡifoɡolo no (litː the other side of neck)

2. ɑɡɑ'nɛbo (litː ''ring finger'')

22.  huɡulu no (litː the other collar)

3. o'solo  (litː ''middle finger'')

23.  kilele no (litː the other shoulder)

4. bi'nibo (litː ''index finger'')

24.  dɑbulu no (litː the other bicep)

5. bi (litː ''thumb'')

25.  kilele no (litː the other elbow (inner))

6. 'kabe (litː ''palm'')

26.  aiyo no (litː the other forearm)

7. 'domo  (litː ''wrist (inner)'')

27.  domo no (litː the other wrist (inner))

8. 'aiyo (litː ''forearm'')

28.  kabe no (litː the other palm)

9. ɑɡo'folo (litː ''elbow (inner)'')

29.  bi no (litː the other palm)

10. 'dɑbulu (litː ''bicep'')

30.  binibo no (litː the other index finger)

11. ki'lɛlɛ (litː ''shoulder (joint'')

31.  osolo no (litː the other middle finger)

12. 'huɡulu (litː ''collarbone'')

32.  ɑɡɑnɛbo no (litː the other ring finger)

13. ɡifo'ɡolo (litː ''neck'')

33.  ɑɡɛlɛ no (litː the other little finger)

14. bolo'bolo (litː ''check'') 


15. ko'neni (litː ''ear'')


16. si (litː ''eye'')


17. mi (litː ''nose'')


18. si no (litː ''the other eye'')


19. koneni no (litː ''the other ear'')


20. bolobolo no (litː ''the other check'')



Linguist providing data and dateː Ms. Anne Stoppels-Dondorp, SIL International, Papua New Guinea, February 20, 2010.

供资料的语言学家: Ms. Anne Stoppels-Dondorp, 2010 年 2 月 20 日.


Other comments: Onobasulu is spoken by about 1,200 speakers in Hela and Southern Highlands provinces: midway between Mount Sisa and Mount Bosavi, Papua New Guinea. Onobasulu resembles Edolo and Kaluli in its numerical system in counting body parts starting with the little finger of  the right hand and ending with the little finger of the left hand, having the nose as middle point. Kaluli seems to count both sides of the nose and the nose tip, resulting in a maximum of 35. Edolo jumps from the eye to the nose, like Onobasulu, and then apparently counts all the opposite body parts. Ernst (1997) says the following about the Onobasulu counting system:
Onabasulu, like many peoples in this region, count up and then down the body (see Ernst 1996).  Starting with the little finger of the right hand, they count the fingers, palm, wrist, parts of the arm and neck, cheek, ear, eye and finally the nose (seventeen). The number eighteen is the same word as the number sixteen, but refers to the left rather than the right eye. This applies all down the left side, until the small finger of the left hand is reached, which signifies thirty-three. 

   All the Onobasulu numbers are listed in the above table, which should be read as

if looking at a person who is facing the reader. This person's little finger on his right hand is number one. This particular use of bodyparts makes non-verbal indication of numbers easy. It is not unusual, with older people especially, to see someone touch their particular part of the arm, neck or face to answer a question of how many people or things were involved in some action. There is also a word to indicate one full count, fula, which of course strictly taken would mean ‘thirty-three’. However, nowadays this word is also used to refer to one hundred.

  When numbers are used as modifiers in a Noun phrase to quantify nouns the modifier–ba is attached to the number word. The modifying number follows the noun that it quantifies. Thus we have inolo kabeba 'six men', dofene domoba 'seven pigs', etc. The numbers 'one' to 'five' have deviant forms, shown below.

dofene ule                                        'one pig'

dofene aida                                       'two pigs'

dofene osoloa                                    three pigs'

dofene biniba                                    'four pigs'

dofene bia                                         'five pigs'

To indicate that the number of objects counted by the modifying numeral is considered to be not very big, the diminutive –deno can be attached to the numeral.

                 SEQ nx 1x230)             hilia osolo-a-deno
                                day three-mdfr-dim

                                ‘Only three days’

In their modifying form the number words can function as head of the Noun Phrase and as such occur independently as subject or object of clauses.

                 SEQ nx 2x437)             Bia         fisa-ba           dalu.
                                five.mdfr              escape-adj.dep   go-pst

                                ‘Five escaped’

                 SEQ nx 3x247)             Na biniba dulu
1sg four.mdfr get-pst

‘I got four (items)'

To express that things or persons are dealt with individually, or in pairs of two, or groups of three or more,  an adverbial-like construction is formed in which the modifying number in question is repeated and suffixed with the suffix –ba.[6]

                 SEQ nx 4x261)             Aida aida-ba dalu
two two-mdfr go-pst

‘They went two by two'

                 SEQ nx 5x262)             Dabulu-ba dabulu-ba-ba dima
                                ten-mdfr ten-mdfr-mdfr get-imp

        ‘Take ten at the time’

   As for Edolo and Kaluli, Onobasulu is leaving its traditional counting system behind, due to the influence of the decimal based national monetary system and the English language educational system. What we find now is a mix of traditional numbers, English and a system of counting groups of tens. For numbers up till twelve, people will use the Onobasulu words. From thirteen up the English words are used when just counting. When using numerals to indicate how many things or people are involved, people use a system in which the groups of tens and ones are counted as in the following example.            

        SEQ nx 6x436)             Inolo       dabulu-ba-fia     ule
                                man         ten-mdfr-seq       one.mdfr

        ‘Eleven men’

         7x246)                             Dabulu kabe-ba osolo
                                ten          six-mdfr three

                                ‘sixty-three’ (lit: 6 (units of) ten, three)

[1] For the younger generation it does not seem to matter anymore whether one starts with the left or the right side.

[2] Grosh (2000) p. 39.

[3] Gossner (1994: 76), states that the base of the counting system is 34, but he does not mention how he gets there. Assumebly the Edolo count both sides of the nose.

[4] Ernst (1997: p.15f.). Ernst adheres cultural significance to the Onobasulu number system: "As the number seventeen (which is also "nose" and "center") is the only unpaired number in the counting system, it represents singularity, as opposed to the plurality of the paired numbers.  It is therefore appropriate to the cosmogonic myth of Duduma, who is killed at the center, a location from which diversity emerges.  The "seventeen clans" corresponds to an Onabasulu identity in relation to the cosmogonic myth of Duduma, not necessarily empirical extant kinship groups."
In this light it is interesting that the Onobasulu alphabet ended up having 17 letters!

[5] Since almost everything can be 'verbed' in Onobasulu, I would be inclined to interpret this suffix –ba to be the same as the adjunct dependent verb form marker –ba. A sentence as (3) would then be interpreted as 'I quadriplifyingly got it'.  The event of getting something is quadriplified.

[6] Similarly here, the suffix –ba can be interpreted as the adjunct dependent form. The link between this verb form and adverbial notions is a firm one in the language. See section

[7] Old people will still use the traditional counting system, although I have not met any pair of old men yet who would agree over which exact body parts are counted between the shoulder and the nose. This might be because of the disconvergence with the Kaluli system.

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