John Z'graggen
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John Z'graggen
John Z'graggen
Hans Anton Z'graggen

(1932-06-24)24 June 1932
Died20 May 2013(2013-05-20) (aged 80)
Menzingen, Switzerland
Academic background
EducationSt. Gabriel College at Mödling (Diploma in Ethnology, 1961)
Alma materAustralian National University
ThesisClassificatory and typological studies in the languages of Madang District (1969)
Academic work
  • Linguistics
  • Anthropology
Sub-disciplinePapuan and Oceanic linguistics
InstitutionsDivine Word Institute

John Z'graggen (born Hans Anton Z'graggen on 24 June 1932 in Schattdorf, Canton of Uri, Switzerland; died 20 May 2013 in Menzingen, Switzerland) was a Swiss Roman Catholic priest, missionary, linguist, and anthropologist known for his extensive work on Papuan and Oceanic languages, especially the Madang languages.[1] He has also documented languages in Sepik, Manus, and Gulf Provinces.[2][3]


Z'graggen attended St. Gabriel College at Mödling, where he graduated with a Diploma in Ethnology in 1961. He moved to Madang in 1963, where he then began documenting the local Madang languages. In 1965 or 1966, he enrolled at the Australian National University, where he completed the doctoral thesis Classificatory and typological studies in the languages of Madang District in 1969. The dissertation was published in 1971 with additional field data.[4]

In 1981, he joined the newly founded Divine Word Institute (DWI; later renamed as the Divine Word University). He founded and directed the DWI Research Centre in 1984. Z'graggen continued to do research on Madang anthropology and linguistics until he was assigned to return to Switzerland in 1991.[4]

Many of Z'graggen's tape recordings and field notes are kept at the Basel Museum of Cultures, as well as at the Divine Word University in Madang.[4]



Z'graggen collected numerous word lists of Madang languages, many of which have been published as monographs by Pacific Linguistics:

Selected book chapters:


Z'graggen has written prolifically on the mythology and cosmology of the Madang peoples. Some of his books on Madang mythology are:

  • 1992. And thus became man and world. Pentland Press.
  • 1995. Creation through death and deception. Pentland Press.
  • 1996. And thus became God. Pentland Press.
  • 2011. The Lady Daria and Mister Kamadonga: A legend of Papua New Guinea. Crawford House Australia.


  1. ^ Z'graggen, John. 1975. The Madang-Adelbert Range sub-phylum. In New Guinea area languages and language study, vol. 1: Papuan languages and the New Guinea linguistic scene, ed. by S. A. Wurm, 569-612. Canberra: Pacific Linguistics.
  2. ^ Z'graggen, John. 1975. Comparative wordlists of the Admiralty Islands languages, collected by W. E. Smyth. Workpapers in Papua New Guinea Languages 14:117-216.
  3. ^ Z'graggen, John, Karl Franklin. 1975. Comparative wordlists of the Gulf District and adjacent areas. Workpapers in Papua New Guinea Languages 14:5-116.
  4. ^ a b c Pawley, Andrew. "In Memoriam, John (Hans) Z'graggen, 1932-2013." Oceanic Linguistics 53, no. 1 (2014): 170-175. doi:10.1353/ol.2014.0009.

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