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Asmat language

Native toIndonesia
RegionWest Papua
EthnicityAsmat people
Native speakers
(19,290 cited 1991)[1]
Language codes
ISO 639-3Variously:
asc – Casuarina Coast
cns – Central
nks – North
asy – Yaosakor
tml – Tamnim Citak

Asmat is a Papuan dialect cluster of West New Guinea.


The principal dialects, distinct enough to be considered separate languages, are:

  • Casuarina Coast, also known as Kaweinag (subdialects Matia and Sapan~Safan)
  • Central, also known as Jas~Yas or Manowee (subdialects Simai~Simay, Misman, Ajam~Ayam)
  • North (Momogo-Pupis-Irogo), also known as Keenok
  • Yaosakor

Some of these may be closer to the other Asmat ethnicity, Citak, than they are to each other, but their speakers identify themselves as Asmat. Similarly, Tamnim Citak is closer to Asmat than to Citak, but the people identify themselves as Citak.


Below are some reflexes of proto-Trans-New Guinea proposed by Pawley (2012):[3]

proto-Trans-New Guinea Asmat (Flamingo Bay)
*maŋgat[a] ‘teeth, mouth’ me
*(m,mb)elak ‘light, lightning’ mer
*niman ‘louse’ (Kamoro namo)
*na- ‘eat’ na-
*ni, *nu ‘IPL’ na ‘1PL.incl’, na(r) ‘1PL.excl’
*mun(a,i,u)ka ‘egg’ manaka
*niman ‘louse’ (cf. Kamoro namo)
*kasin ‘mosquito’ isi
*mbena ‘arm’ man [ban]
*mb(i,u)t(i,u)C ‘fingernail’ fit
*imbi ‘name’ yipi
*si(mb,p)at[V] ‘saliva’ (me)sep
*(mb,p)ututu- ‘to fly’ (?) pimedial
*kV(mb,p)(i,u)t(i,u) ‘head’ kuwus
*inda ‘fire’ (Central Coast Asmat isi)
*tututu[ku] ‘straight’ toror
*k(i,u)tuma ‘night, morning’ iram
*tututu[ku] ‘straight’ toror
*ti, *titi ‘tooth’ ji
*ata ‘excrement’ asa
*(ŋg,k)atata ‘dry’ soso
*kV(mb,p)(i,u)t(i,u) ‘head’ kuwus
*kasin ‘mosquito’ (Citak Asmat isi)
*inda ‘fire’ (Central Coast Asmat isi)
*ke(nj,s)a ‘blood’ es
*maŋgV ‘compact round object’ moko-per ‘navel’
*mun(a,i,u)ka ‘egg’ manaka
*ke(nj,s)a ‘blood’ es
*kasin ‘mosquito’ (Central Asmat isi)
*k(i,u)tuma ‘night, morning’ yiram
*kV(mb,p)(i,u)t(i,u) ‘head’ kuwus
*(m,mb)elak ‘light, lightning’ (Flamingo Bay Asmat mer ‘lightning’)
*ya ‘3SG’ a


In Flamingo Bay Asmat, light verbs are combined with adjuncts to form predicative expressions.[4]

  • e- ‘do’
    • atow e- /play do/ ‘play’
    • caj e- /copulate do/ ‘copulate’
    • yan e- /ear do/ ‘listen’
  • yi- ‘say’
    • po yi- /paddle say/ ‘paddle’
    • yan yi- /ear say/ ‘hear’
    • mesa yi- /saliva say/ ‘spit’
  • af- ‘hit’
    • yaki af- /sneeze hit/ ‘sneeze’
    • namir af- /death hit/ ‘die’
    • omop af- /blow hit/ ‘beat’


  1. ^ Casuarina Coast at Ethnologue (18th ed., 2015)
    Central at Ethnologue (18th ed., 2015)
    North at Ethnologue (18th ed., 2015)
    Yaosakor at Ethnologue (18th ed., 2015)
    Tamnim Citak at Ethnologue (18th ed., 2015)
  2. ^ Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin, eds. (2017). "Asmat". Glottolog 3.0. Jena, Germany: Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History.
  3. ^ Pawley, Andrew (2012). Hammarström, Harald; van den Heuvel, Wilco (eds.). "How reconstructable is proto Trans New Guinea? Problems, progress, prospects". History, contact and classification of Papuan languages. Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea: Linguistic Society of Papua New Guinea (Language & Linguistics in Melanesia Special Issue 2012: Part I): 88–164. ISSN 0023-1959.
  4. ^ Foley, William A. (2018). "The morphosyntactic typology of Papuan languages". In Palmer, Bill (ed.). The Languages and Linguistics of the New Guinea Area: A Comprehensive Guide. The World of Linguistics. 4. Berlin: De Gruyter Mouton. pp. 895–938. ISBN 978-3-11-028642-7.

External links