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Ata language

Native toPapua New Guinea
RegionNew Britain
Native speakers
2,000 (2007)[1]
Language codes
ISO 639-3ata
Map all coordinates using: OpenStreetMap 
Download coordinates as: KML · GPX

The Ata language, also known as Pele-Ata after its two dialects, or Wasi, is a Papuan language spoken on New Britain island, Papua New Guinea. It appears to be related to neighboring Anêm, and possibly also to Yélî Dnye in a proposed Yele-West New Britain family. There are about 2000 speakers.

Ata is spoken in West Pomio-Mamusi Rural LLG, East New Britain Province, and in Talasea District, West New Britain Province.[3]


According to Yanagida (2004), there are two dialects of Ata, a Lower dialect spoken in the lowlands and an Upper dialect spoken in the mountains.[4] The Lower dialect is spoken in Bialla Rural LLG, West New Britain Province, while the Upper dialect is spoken mostly in West Pomio-Mamusi Rural LLG, East New Britain Province:[5]

Lower dialect (in Bialla Rural LLG, West New Britain Province):

Upper dialect (in West Pomio-Mamusi Rural LLG, East New Britain Province, unless noted otherwise):

Both the lower and upper dialects are spoken in the settlement of Silanga.

There are some lexical differences between the dialects. Some examples are listed below.[4]:71

gloss Upper Ata Lower Ata
rain uali laʔiua
sweet potato totoʔo kelatu
cassava mio mio, mioxa
throw something paxele pei
yes iou ani
the day before yesterday malakaumei malaʔo
2nd person dual
independent pronoun
ngolou ngongou
3rd person dual
independent pronoun
olou ilou


Phonology of the Ata language[6]:

Consonant sounds
Labial Alveolar Velar Glottal
Plosive p t k ʔ
Nasal m n ŋ
Fricative β s x
Approximant l

/s/ is pronounced as alveolo-palatal [ɕ] before /i/, /x/ is voiced as [ɣ] when occurring intervocalically.

A word-initial /i/ is realized as a [j], and a word-initial /u/ becomes a [w] when preceding /o/ or /ɑ/.

Vowel sounds
Front Back
High i iː u uː
Mid ɛ ɛː o oː
Low ɑ ɑː

Noun classes

Ata makes use of noun classes, some of which are:[7]:792

  • Class 1 nouns: stationary and function in a state of relative stagnancy
  • Class 2 nouns: portable and function in a state of relative motion
  • Class 3 nouns: relating to the body’s internal needs

Below are some Ata noun class paradigms, using the noun roots lavo’o ‘stone’ and lexe ‘song’ as examples:[7]:792

root lavo’o /stone/ ‘stone’
Class 1 lavo'o-silo /stone-my/ ‘my stone to be used for a house’
Class 2 lavo'o-xeni /stone-my/ ‘my stone to be used for breaking nuts’
Class 3 lavo'o-xo /stone-my/ ‘my stone for a stone oven’
root lexe /song/ ‘song’
Class 1 lexe-silo /song-my/ ‘a song to be sung for me’
Class 2 lexe-xeni /song-my/ ‘the song I sing’
Class 3 lexe-xo /song-my/ ‘the song about me’

See also

Further reading

  • Hashimoto, Kazuo. 2008. Ata - English dictionary with English - Ata finderlist. Ukarumpa: Summer Institute of Linguistics.


  1. ^ Ata at Ethnologue (18th ed., 2015)
  2. ^ Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin, eds. (2017). "Pele-Ata". Glottolog 3.0. Jena, Germany: Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History.
  3. ^ Eberhard, David M.; Simons, Gary F.; Fennig, Charles D., eds. (2019). "Papua New Guinea languages". Ethnologue: Languages of the World (22nd ed.). Dallas: SIL International.
  4. ^ a b Yanagida, Tatsuya. 2004. Socio-historic overview of the Ata language, an endangered Papuan language in New Britain, Papua New Guinea. In Shibata Norio and Shionoya, Toru (eds.), Kan minami Taiheiyoo no gengo 3 [Languages of the South Pacific Rim 3], 61-94. Suita: Faculty of Informatics, Osaka Gakuin University.
  5. ^ United Nations in Papua New Guinea (2018). "Papua New Guinea Village Coordinates Lookup". Humanitarian Data Exchange. 1.31.9.
  6. ^ Hashimoto, Kazuo (June 1992). Ata (Pele Ata, Wasi) Language [ATA] Kimbe – West New Britain Province (PDF). Organised Phonology Data: SIL.
  7. ^ a b Stebbins, Tonya; Evans, Bethwyn; Terrill, Angela (2018). "The Papuan languages of Island Melanesia". 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. 775–894. ISBN 978-3-11-028642-7.
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