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Berik language

Native toIndonesia
RegionTor Atas district, Sarmi Regency
Native speakers
(1,200 cited 1994)[1]
Language codes
ISO 639-3bkl

Berik is a Papuan language spoken in eastern Papua. Speakers are located in four village groups on the Tor river towards the northern coast of Indonesian-controlled Irian Jaya.[3] US linguist John McWhorter cited Berik as an example of a language which puts concepts "together in ways more fascinatingly different from English than most of us are aware".[4] Illustrating this, in the phrase Kitobana (meaning "[he] gives three large objects to a male in the sunlight"), affixes indicating time of day, object number, object size, and gender of recipient are added to the verb.[4][5][6]


Tor Atas subdistrict, Berik is spoken in Beu, Bora Bora, Dangken, Doronta, Kondirjan, Safrontani, Sewan, Somanente, Taminambor, Tenwer, Togonfo, and Waf villages.[7]



Bilabial Labiodental Alveolar Alveolo-palatal palatal Velar
Plosive and affricate p [p] b [b] t [t] d [d] j [d͡ʑ] k [k] g [ɡ]
Fricative f [f] s [s]
Nasal m [m] n [n] ng [ŋ]
Approximant l [l] y [j] w [w]
Tap r [ɾ]


Berik has the common six vowel system (/a/, /e/, /i/, /o/, and /u/ plus /ə/).[8]


  • Angtaneʻ bosna Usafe je gatas tarnap ge nuin. Tesa ga belim taban, ga jes talebowel.
  • "There was once a person named Usafe who lived near the sago acreages. Whenever he finished cutting down a sago tree, he pounded it"[9]


  1. ^ Berik at Ethnologue (18th ed., 2015)
  2. ^ Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin, eds. (2017). "Berik". Glottolog 3.0. Jena, Germany: Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History.
  3. ^ Matthews, "Berik Literacy Program", p. 109
  4. ^ a b McWhorter, "No Tears for Dead Tongues"
  5. ^ "Difficult languages--Tongue twisters--In search of the world’s hardest language"[1], Economist, New York,Dec 17th 2009.
  6. ^ John McWhorter,"No Tears For Dead Tongues"[2], Forbes,2/21/2008 @ 6:00PM.
  7. ^ Eberhard, David M.; Simons, Gary F.; Fennig, Charles D., eds. (2019). "Indonesia languages". Ethnologue: Languages of the World (22nd ed.). Dallas: SIL International.
  8. ^ Westrum, "A Grammatical Sketch of Berik," p. 137
  9. ^ Taken from Jones, "In Pursuit of Discourse Particles", p. 130


  • Jones, Linda K. (1992), "In Pursuit of Discourse Particles", in Hwang, Shin Ja J.; Merrifield, William R. (eds.), Language in context: Essays for Robert E. Longacre (PDF), Summer Institute of Linguistics and the University of Texas at Arlington Publications in Linguistics, 107, Dallas: Summer Institute of Linguistics and the University of Texas at Arlington, pp. 127–36, archived from the original (PDF) on 2012-10-16
  • Matthews, Delle P. (1990), "The Berik Literacy Program: From Illiteracy to National Language Proficiency", Irian: Bulletin of Irian Jaya, 18: 109–24
  • McWhorter, John (21 March 2008), "No Tears for Dead Tongues", Forbes, retrieved 2011-05-09
  • Westrum, Peter N. (1988), "A Grammatical Sketch of Berik", Irian: Bulletin of Irian Jaya, 16: 137