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Encyclopedia > Papuan languages

The term Papuan languages refers to those languages of the western Pacific which are neither Austronesian nor Australian. That is, the term is defined negatively and does not imply a linguistic relationship. The Austronesian languages are a language family widely dispersed throughout the islands of Southeast Asia and the Pacific, with a few members spoken on continental Asia. ...

Contents


The languages

The majority of the Papuan languages are spoken on the island of New Guinea (which is divided between the country of Papua New Guinea and Indonesian provinces of Papua and West Irian Jaya), with a number spoken in the Bismarck Archipelago, Bougainville Island, and the Solomon Islands to the east, and in Halmahera, Timor, and the Alor archipelago to the west. One Papuan language, Meriam Mir, is spoken within the national borders of Australia, in the eastern Torres Strait. The only Papuan languages with official recognition are those of East Timor. Map showing Papua province in Indonesia Papua is a province of Indonesia comprising part of the western half of the island of New Guinea and nearby islands (see also Western New Guinea). ... Map showing West Irian Jaya province in Indonesia West Irian Jaya (Indonesian: Irian Jaya Barat) is a province of Indonesia on the western end of the island of New Guinea. ... The Bismarck Archipelago is a group of islands off the coast of New Guinea in the southwestern Pacific Ocean, named in honour of the German chancellor Otto von Bismarck and belonging to Papua New Guinea. ... Bougainville Bougainville is the largest of the Solomon Islands and is a province of Papua New Guinea. ... Halmahera (also Jilolo or Gilolo) is the largest island in the Maluku Islands. ... Map of Timor Timor Island from space, November 1989 (North is to the bottom of the image). ... Alor is the largest island in the Indonesia, which from the west include such islands as Java, Bali, Lombok, Sumbawa, Komodo, Flores Solor and Lomblen. ... The Torres Strait - Cape York Peninsula is at the top; several of the Torres Strait Islands can be seen strung out towards Papua New Guinea (North is downwards in this image) The Torres Strait is a body of water which lies between Australia and the Melanesian island of New Guinea. ...


New Guinea is perhaps the most linguistically diverse region in the world. Besides the Austronesian languages, there are some 800 languages divided into perhaps sixty small language families, which are not obviously related to each other or to anything else, plus a large number of language isolates. Although there has been relatively little study of these Papuan languages compared with the Austronesian languages, there have been three preliminary attempts at large-scale genealogic classification by Joseph Greenberg, Stephen Würm, and Malcolm Ross. The largest family posited for the Papuan region is the Trans-New Guinea phylum, consisting of the majority of Papuan languages and running mainly along the highlands of New Guinea. Since perhaps only a quarter of Papuan languages have been studied in detail, linguists' understanding of the relationships between them will continue to be revised. A language isolate is a natural language with no demonstrable genealogical (or genetic) relationship with other living languages; that is, one that has not been demonstrated to descend from an ancestor common to any other language. ... Joseph Harold Greenberg (May 28, 1915–May 7, 2001) was a prominent and controversial linguist, known for his work in both language classification and typology. ... Stephen Adolphe Würm (August 1, 1922–October 24, 2001) was a Hungarian linguist. ... Malcolm Ross is a linguist and professor at the Australian National University. ... Trans-New Guinea is a family of languages spoken mainly on the island of New Guinea, which comprises the nation of Papua New Guinea and Irian Jaya, Indonesia. ... A phylum is a term in linguistics used for language classification which denotes the highest recognized level of hierarchy. ...


Several languages of Flores and nearby islands, and especially the language of Savu Island (also called Savu) are usually thought to be Austronesian, but are reported to have large numbers of non-Austronesian words in their basic vocabulary. It has been suggested that these may originally have been non-Austronesian languages that have since borrowed nearly all of their vocabulary from neighboring Austronesian languages, but no connection with the Papuan languages of Timor or Halmahera has been found. Map of Flores Island Flores (Portuguese for flowers) is one of the Lesser Sunda Islands, an island arc with an estimated area of 14,300 km² extending east from the Java island of Indonesia. ... // Location Savu (also known as Sawu, Sabu, Sawoe, Havu, Hawu, Hawoe) is situated midway between Sumba and Rote, west of Timor, in Indonesias eastern province, East Nusa Tenggara. ...


The languages of the Andaman Islands may be related to some western Papuan languages, but are not themselves covered by the term Papuan. Satellite photo of the Andaman Islands. ...


Greenberg classification

Joseph Greenberg proposed an "Indo-Pacific" phylum containing the (Northern) Andamanese languages, Papuan languages, and Tasmanian languages, but not Australian Aboriginal languages. It has no equivalent to the Trans-New Guinea phylum. See Indo-Pacific languages for details. Ethnolinguistic map of the precolonial Andaman Islands (drawn 1902) The Andamanese languages form a language family spoken in the Andaman Islands, a India. ... The Tasmanian languages are a group of aborigine languages spoken in the island of Tasmania, Australia, extinct by 1877. ... The Australian Aboriginal languages comprise several language families and isolates native to Australia and a few nearby islands, but by convention excluding Tasmania. ... The Indo-Pacific super-family groups together several language families, mainly spoken in Papua New Guinea and nearby regions, which are not Austronesian, together with the native languages of Tasmania and the Andaman Islands. ...


Würm classification

The most widely used classification of Papuan languages is that of Würm, listed below with the approximate number of languages in each family in parentheses. This scheme is that used by the Ethnologue. It is based on very preliminary work, much of it typological, and Würm himself has stated that he doesn't expect it to hold up well to scrutiny. Other linguists, including William Foley, suggest that many of Würm's phyla are based on areal features and structural similarities, and accept only the lowest levels of his classification, most of which he inherited from prior taxonomies. Foley deconstructs Papuan languages into over sixty small language families, plus a number of isolates. Ethnologue: Languages of the World is a web and print publication of SIL International (formerly known as the Summer Institute of Linguistics), a Christian linguistic service organization which studies lesser-known languages primarily to provide the speakers with native language biblical texts. ... Typology is the classification of languages by grammatical features. ... William Foley is a linguist and professor at the University of Sydney. ... An areal feature, in linguistics, is the appearance of a given feature of typology in several unrelated languages due to the influence of geographical closeness. ...


The main problem with Würm's classification is that he did not take contact-induced change into account. For example, several of the main branches of his Trans-New Guinea (TNG) phylum have no vocabulary in common with other TNG languages, and were classified as TNG because they are similar grammatically. However, there are also many Austronesian languages that are grammatically similar to TNG languages due to the influence of contact and bilingualism. Similarly, several groups which do have vocabulary in common with TNG languages are excluded from the phylum because they do not resemble it grammatically. The Austronesian languages are a language family widely dispersed throughout the islands of Southeast Asia and the Pacific, with a few members spoken on continental Asia. ... The term bilingualism (from bi meaning two and lingua meaning language) can refer to rather different phenomena. ...


Papuan families proposed by Würm (with approximate number of languages)

Two of Würm's isolates have since been linked as the Amto and Musan are 2 languages spoken in the Sandaun Province of Papua New Guinea. ... The Burmeso or Taurap language is spoken by some 300 people along the mid Mamberamo River in Papua province, Indonesia. ... The Busa language, also known as Odiai (Uriai), is a language isolate in northwestern Papua New Guinea. ... Languages The East Birds Head languages are a hypothetical language family composed of three languages of the Birds Head Peninsula of western New Guinea, spoken by only about 20 000 people in all. ... The East Papuan languages, also called the East Papuan phylum, is a hypothetical family of Papuan languages spoken on the islands east of New Guinea, including New Britain, New Ireland, Bougainville, the Solomon Islands, and the Santa Cruz Islands. ... The Geelvink Bay languages are a hypothetical language family of about two dozen languages in and to the south of Geelvink Bay in Indonesian Papua, also known as Sarera Bay or Cenderawasih. ... The Yuri language, also known as Karkar, is a language isolate in Papua New Guinea, along the Indonesian border. ... The Porome or Kibiri language is a Papuan language of southern Papua New Guinea. ... The Kwomtari-Baibai languages are a hypothetical language family of five languages spoken by some 4000 people in central New Guinea. ... The Left May or Arai languages are a small family of half a dozen closely related but not mutually intelligible languages in the center of New Guinea, along the left bank of the May River. ... The Sepik-Ramu languages are a hypothetical language family of about one hundred languages of the Sepik and Ramu river basins of northern Papua New Guinea, spoken by only about 200 000 people in all. ... The Sko Phylum is a group of languages spoken mainly along the coast of Sandaun Province in Papua New Guinea, with a few being inland from this area and at least one just across the border in the Indonesian province of Papua (formerly known as Irian Jaya). ... The Torricelli languages are a hypothetical language family of about fifty languages of the northern Papua New Guinea coast, spoken by only about 80 000 people in all. ... Trans-New Guinea is a family of languages spoken mainly on the island of New Guinea, which comprises the nation of Papua New Guinea and Irian Jaya, Indonesia. ... The West Papuan languages are a hypothetical language family of about two dozen languages of the Birds Head (Vogelkopf) Peninsula of far western New Guinea and the island of Halmahera, spoken by about 220 000 people in all. ... The Yalë language, also known as Nagatman, is a language isolate in northwestern Papua New Guinea. ...

and since Würm's time another isolate and two languages belonging to a new family have been discovered, The Lower Mamberamo languages are a recently proposed language family linking two isolates in Stephen Würms widely used classification of the languages of New Guinea. ...

The Abinomn language is a language isolate initially reported by Mark Donohue from Papua province, Indonesia. ... The Bayono-Awbono languages are a small family of Papuan languages, Bayono and Awbono, each spoken by a hundred people in the north of Papua province, Indonesia. ...

Ross classification

Malcolm Ross re-evaluated Würm's proposal on purely lexical grounds. That is, he looked at shared vocabulary, and especially shared idiosyncrasies such as English good vs. better. Unfortunately, the poor state of documentation of Papuan languages means that this approach is largely restricted to pronouns. Nonetheless, Ross believes that he has been able to validate much of Würm's classification, albeit with revisions to correct for Würm's partially typological approach. (See Trans-New Guinea languages.) In linguistics and grammar, a pronoun is a pro-form that substitutes for a noun phrase. ... Trans-New Guinea is a family of languages spoken mainly on the island of New Guinea, which comprises the nation of Papua New Guinea and Irian Jaya, Indonesia. ...


It has been suggested that the families which appear when comparing pronouns may be due to pronoun borrowing rather than to genealogical relatedness. However, Ross argues that Papuan languages have closed-class pronoun systems, which are resistant to borrowing, and in any case that the massive number of languages with similar pronouns in a family like Trans-New Guinea preclude borrowing as an explanation. Also, he shows that the two cases of alleged pronoun borrowing in New Guinea are simple coincidence, explainable as regular developments from the protolanguages of the families in question: as earlier forms of the languages are reconstructed, their pronouns become less similar, not more. (Ross argues that open-class pronoun systems, where borrowings are common, are found in hierarchical cultures such as those of Southeast Asia and Japan, where pronouns indicate details of relationship and social status rather than simply being grammatical pro-forms as they are in the more egalitarian New Guinea societies.) In linguistics, a grammatical word belongs to one of the closed parts of speech such as pronouns, numerals, and prepositions, which do not readily admit new members. ... In linguistics, a lexical word belongs to one of the open parts of speech, such as nouns, verbs, and adjectives. ... Location of Southeast Asia Southeast Asia is a subregion of Asia. ... A pro-form is a function word that substitutes a word, phrase, clause, or sentence whose meaning is recoverable from the context, and it is used to avoid redundant expressions. ...


Ross has proposed 23 Papuan language families and 9 isolates. However, because of his more stringent criteria, he was not able to find enough data to classify all Papuan languages, especially many isolates which have no close relatives to aid in their classification.


Ross also found that the Lower Mamberamo languages (or at least the Warembori language; he had insufficient data on Pauwi) are Austronesian languages which have been heavily transformed by contact with Papuan languages, much as the Takia language has. The Reef Islands-Santa Cruz family of Würm's East Papuan phylum are a potential 24th family, but the pronouns suggest that they may also be highly divergent Austronesian languages. The Lower Mamberamo languages are a recently proposed language family linking two isolates in Stephen Würms widely used classification of the languages of New Guinea. ... The East Papuan languages, also called the East Papuan phylum, is a hypothetical family of Papuan languages spoken on the islands east of New Guinea, including New Britain, New Ireland, Bougainville, the Solomon Islands, and the Santa Cruz Islands. ...


Note that while this classification may be more reliable than past attempts, it is based on a single parameter, pronouns, and therefore must remain tentative. Although pronouns are conservative elements in a language, they are both short and utilise a reduced set of the language's phonemic inventory. Both phenomena greatly increase the possibility of chance resemblances, especially when they are not confirmed by lexical similarities. In human language, a phoneme is a set of phones (speech sounds or sign elements) that are cognitively equivalent. ... A lexicon is usually a list of words together with additional word-specific information, i. ...


Papuan families proposed by Ross

Language isolates proposed by Ross (sorted by location) Trans-New Guinea is a family of languages spoken mainly in Papua New Guinea and Indonesia. ... The Extended West Papuan language family is a tentative proposal in Malcolm Rosss classification of Papuan languages. ... The West Papuan languages are a hypothetical language family of about two dozen languages of the Birds Head (Vogelkopf) Peninsula of far western New Guinea and the island of Halmahera, spoken by about 220 000 people in all. ... The East Birds Head-Sentani languages form a family of Papuan languages proposed by Malcolm Ross which combines the East Birds Head and Sentani families along with the Burmeso and Tause language isolates. ... The Yawa languages are a small family of two closely related Papuan languages, Yawa (or Yava) and Saweru, which are often considered to be divergent dialects of a single language (and thus a language isolate). ... The Mairasi languages are a small independent family of Papuan languages in the classification of Malcolm Ross, that had been part of Stephen Würms Trans-New Guinea proposal. ... The East Geelvink Bay or East Cenderawasih languages are a language family of a dozen Papuan languages along the eastern coast of Geelvink Bay in Indonesian Papua, which is also known as Sarera Bay or Cenderawasih. ... The Lakes Plain languages are a small independent family of Papuan languages in the classification of Malcolm Ross, that had been part of Stephen Würms Trans-New Guinea proposal and later classified with the Geelvink Bay languages by Clouse (1997). ... The Mamberamo River is a large river in Papua province, Indonesia. ... The Tor-Kwerba languages are an independent family of Papuan languages proposed in 2005 by Malcolm Ross. ... The Nimboran languages are a small independent family of Papuan languages in the classification of Malcolm Ross, that had been part of Stephen Würms Trans-New Guinea proposal. ... The Sko Phylum is a group of languages spoken mainly along the coast of Sandaun Province in Papua New Guinea, with a few being inland from this area and at least one just across the border in the Indonesian province of Papua (formerly known as Irian Jaya). ... The Border (Tami) languages are an independent family of Papuan languages in the classification of Malcolm Ross, that had been part of Stephen Würms Trans-New Guinea proposal. ... The Left May-Kwomtari languages are a small family of Papuan languages proposed by Malcolm Ross, which links the Left May (Arai) family with the Kwomtari-Baibai proposal (Loving & Bass 1964). ... The Senagi languages are a small independent family of Papuan languages in the classification of Malcolm Ross, that had been part of Stephen Würms Trans-New Guinea proposal. ... The Torricelli languages are a hypothetical language family of about fifty languages of the northern Papua New Guinea coast, spoken by only about 80 000 people in all. ... The Sepik languages are a proposed family of some 50 Papuan languages spoken in the Sepik river basin of northern Papua New Guinea. ... The Ramu-Lower Sepik languages form a family of 35 Papuan languages spoken in the Ramu and Sepik river basins of northern Papua New Guinea. ... The Yuat languages are an independent family of a dozen Papuan languages in the classification of Malcolm Ross, that had been part of Stephen Würms Sepik-Ramu proposal. ... The Piawi languages are a small independent family of Papuan languages in the classification of Malcolm Ross, that had been part of Stephen Würms Trans-New Guinea proposal. ... The South-Central Papuan languages are a family of Papuan languages proposed in 2005 by Malcolm Ross. ... The Eastern Trans-Fly languages are a small independent family of Papuan languages in the classification of Malcolm Ross, that inherits much of the Trans Fly-Bulaka River branch of Stephen Würms Trans-New Guinea proposal. ... The Yele-West New Britain languages are a tentative family proposed by Malcom Ross which unites three language isolates, Anêm and Ata (Wasi) of New Britain, and Yélî Dnye (Yele) of Rossel Island. ... The Yélî Dnye language, also known as Yele, is the language of Rossel island, the easternmost island in the Louisiade Archipelago off the eastern tip of Papua New Guinea. ... The Anêm language is a language isolate spoken in five main villages along the northwestern coast of New Britain island, Papua New Guinea: MalasoÅ‹o (where it is spoken alongside Bariai), Karaiai, Mosiliki, Pudêlîŋ, Atiatu (where it is spoken alongside Lusi) and Bolo (where it is spoken alongside... The Ata language, also known as Pele-Ata or Wasi, is a language isolate spoken on New Britain island, Papua New Guinea. ... The Baining or East New Britain languages are a small language family spoken on the island of New Britain in Papua New Guinea. ... The East Papuan languages form a hypothetical and seemingly spurious family of Papuan languages spoken on the islands to the east of New Guinea, including New Britain, New Ireland, Bougainville, the Solomon Islands, and the Santa Cruz Islands. ... The South or East Bougainville languages are a small language family spoken on the island of Bougainville in Papua New Guinea. ... The Central Solomons languages are four distantly but demonstrably related languages of the Solomon Islands. ...


north Irian: Map showing Papua province in Indonesia Papua is a province of Indonesia comprising part of the western half of the island of New Guinea and nearby islands (see also Western New Guinea). ...

Sandaun Province: The Abinomn language is a language isolate initially reported by Mark Donohue from Papua province, Indonesia. ... The Isirawa language is a language isolate in Malcolm Ross classification of Papuan languages, and linked to the Dani languages within the Trans-New Guinea family by Stephen Würm. ... Sandaun Province, formerly known as West Sepik, is the north-westernmost province of Papua New Guinea. ...

Sepik River: The Yuri language, also known as Karkar, is a language isolate in Papua New Guinea, along the Indonesian border. ... The Busa language, also known as Odiai (Uriai), is a language isolate in northwestern Papua New Guinea. ... The Yalë language, also known as Nagatman, is a language isolate in northwestern Papua New Guinea. ... The Sepik River is the longest river in Papua New Guinea. ...

  • Taiap language (Gapun), located on what had been an offshore island 4000 BCE

Bismarck Archipelago: Taiap (also called Gapun) is a language isolate spoken by around a hundred people in the remote village of Gupun in Papua New Guinea. ... The Bismarck Archipelago is a group of islands off the coast of New Guinea in the southwestern Pacific Ocean, named in honour of the German chancellor Otto von Bismarck and belonging to Papua New Guinea. ...

Other The Sulka language is a possible language isolate scattered across the eastern end of New Britain island, Papua New Guinea. ... (This article is about the island of New Britain in Papua New Guinea. ... The Kol language is a language spoken in eastern New Britain island, Papua New Guinea. ... The Kuot language, or Panaras, is a language isolate, the only non-Austronesian language spoken on the island of New Ireland, Papua New Guinea. ... New Ireland is an island in the Pacific, and the most northeastern province of Papua New Guinea. ...


Former isolates classified by Ross:

Unclassified due to lack of data: The Burmeso or Taurap language is spoken by some 300 people along the mid Mamberamo River in Papua province, Indonesia. ... The East Birds Head-Sentani languages form a family of Papuan languages proposed by Malcolm Ross which combines the East Birds Head and Sentani families along with the Burmeso and Tause language isolates. ... The Porome or Kibiri language is a Papuan language of southern Papua New Guinea. ... Trans-New Guinea is a family of languages spoken mainly on the island of New Guinea, which comprises the nation of Papua New Guinea and Irian Jaya, Indonesia. ... The Border (Tami) languages are an independent family of Papuan languages in the classification of Malcolm Ross, that had been part of Stephen Würms Trans-New Guinea proposal. ...

  • Amto-Musan languages (2)
  • Massep language (isolate)
  • Samarokena (isolate)
  • Kenati (isolate)
  • Komyandaret (isolate)
  • Molof (isolate)
  • Momuna family: Momina, Momuna (Somahai)
  • Tofamna (isolate)
  • Usku (isolate)
  • Maramba (in Ramu?)

Unaccounted for: Amto and Musan are 2 languages spoken in the Sandaun Province of Papua New Guinea. ...

The Bayono-Awbono languages are a small family of Papuan languages, Bayono and Awbono, each spoken by a hundred people in the north of Papua province, Indonesia. ... The East Papuan languages, also called the East Papuan phylum, is a hypothetical family of Papuan languages spoken on the islands east of New Guinea, including New Britain, New Ireland, Bougainville, the Solomon Islands, and the Santa Cruz Islands. ... The Kwomtari-Baibai languages are a hypothetical language family of five languages spoken by some 4000 people in central New Guinea. ...

External relations

Several linguists, including Joseph Greenberg and Timother Usher of the Rosetta Project, believe that the Andamanese languages (or at least the Great Andamanese languages) off the coast of Burma are related to the Papuan or West Papuan languages. Stephen Würm stated that the lexical similarities between Great Andamanese and the West Papuan and Timor-Alor families "are quite striking and amount to vitual formal identity [...] in a number of instances", but considered this to be due to a linguistic substratum. Joseph Harold Greenberg (May 28, 1915–May 7, 2001) was a prominent and controversial linguist, known for his work in both language classification and typology. ... The Rosetta Project is a global collaboration of language specialists and native speakers working to develop a contemporary version of the historic Rosetta Stone to last from 2000 to 2100. ... Ethnolinguistic map of the precolonial Andaman Islands (drawn 1902) The Andamanese languages form a language family spoken in the Andaman Islands, a India. ... Stephen Adolphe Würm (August 1, 1922–October 24, 2001) was a Hungarian linguist. ... In linguistics, a substratum (lat. ...


Greenberg also suggested a connection to the Tasmanian languages. However, the Tasmanian peoples were isolated for perhaps 10,000 years, genocide wiped out their languages before much was recorded of them, and few linguists expect that they will ever be linked to another language family. The Tasmanian languages are a group of aborigine languages spoken in the island of Tasmania, Australia, extinct by 1877. ...


William Foley (1986) noted lexical similarities between R.M.W. Dixon's 1980 reconstruction of proto-Australian and the languages of the East New Guinea Highlands. He believed that it was naive to expect to find a single Papuan or Australian language family when New Guinea and Australia had been a single landmass for most of their human history, having been separated by the Torres Strait only 8000 years ago, and that a deep reconstruction would likely include languages from both. However, Dixon later abandoned his proto-Australian proposal, and Foley's ideas need to be re-evaluated in light of recent research. William Foley is a linguist and professor at the University of Sydney. ... Robert Malcolm Ward Dixon is a Professor of Linguistics and Director of the Research Centre for Linguistic Typology at La Trobe University, Melbourne, Australia. ... East New Guinea Highlands is a 1975 proposal by Stephen Würm for a family of Papuan languages spoken in Papua New Guinea. ... Australia-New Guinea, also called Sahul or Meganesia, is made up of the continent of Australia and the islands of New Guinea and Tasmania. ... The Torres Strait - Cape York Peninsula is at the top; several of the Torres Strait Islands can be seen strung out towards Papua New Guinea (North is downwards in this image) The Torres Strait is a body of water which lies between Australia and the Melanesian island of New Guinea. ...


References

  • Malcom Ross (2005). "Pronouns as a preliminary diagnostic for grouping Papuan languages." In: Andrew Pawley, Robert Attenborough, Robin Hide and Jack Golson, eds, Papuan pasts: cultural, linguistic and biological histories of Papuan-speaking peoples, 15-66. Canberra: Pacific Linguistics.
  • William A. Foley (1986). The Papuan Languages of New Guinea. Cambridge University Press. ISBN: 0521286212
  • 2003 bibliography of Papuan languages
  • Summer Institute of Linguistics site on languages (Papuan and Austronesian) of Papua New Guinea

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