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Burmeso language

RegionPapua: Mamberamo Raya Regency, Mamberamo Tengah subdistrict, Burmeso village on the banks of the Middle Mamberamo River
Native speakers
250 (1998)[1]
West Papuan or language isolate
  • (extended) East Bird's Head
    • Burmeso
Language codes
ISO 639-3bzu

The Burmeso language, also known as Taurap, is spoken by some 300 people in Burmeso village along the mid Mamberamo River in Mamberamo Tengah subdistrict, Mamberamo Raya Regency, Papua province, Indonesia. It is surrounded by the Kwerba languages to the north, the Lakes Plain languages to the south, and the East Cenderawasih Bay languages to the west.

It forms a branch of Malcolm Ross's family of East Bird's Head – Sentani languages, but had been considered a language isolate by Stephen Wurm and William A. Foley.[3]

Burmeso has very distinct grammatical structure.[clarification needed] It has SOV word order.[3]



t k
b d ʤ ɡ
ɸ s h
m n
w j

Probable sound changes proposed by Foley (2018):

  • *p > /ɸ/
  • *tʃ > /s/


i u
e o


Burmeso independent pronouns are:[3]

sg du pl
1 da day boro
2 ba bito


Burmeso has six noun classes, which are:[3]

class semantic category
class 1 male humans and associated things (contains half of all nouns)
class 2 female humans and associated things
class 3 body parts, insects, and lizards; material culture like axes and canoes, some foods; many natural phenomena
class 4 mass nouns
class 5 the two staple foods: sago tree and banana
class 6 arrows, coconuts, and rice (traded items)

Burmeso nouns have three genders: masculine, feminine, and neuter.[4] Singular concordial suffixes are:

  • -ab ‘masculine’
  • -an ‘feminine’
  • -ora ‘neuter’

Examples of nominal concordial suffixes in usage:


koya bek-ab
grandfather good-M.SG
‘Grandfather is good.’


asia ek-an
grandmother good-F.SG
‘Grandmother is good.’

Basic vocabulary

Basic vocabulary of Burmeso (singular and plural nominal forms) listed in Foley (2018):[3]

Burmeso basic vocabulary
gloss singular plural
‘bird’ tahabo tohwodo
‘blood’ sar sarido
‘bone’ hiwraf himaruro
‘breast’ mom momut
‘ear’ ara
‘eat’ bomo
‘egg’ kahup kohuro
‘eye’ anar anuro
‘fire’ hor horemir
‘give’ i ~ o
‘hair’ ihna ihiro
‘leg’ ago agoro
‘louse’ hati
‘man’ tamo dit
‘name’ ahau
‘one’ neisano
‘see’ ihi
‘stone’ ako hiruro
‘sun’ misiabo misiado
‘tooth’ arawar araruro
‘tree’ haman hememido
‘water’ baw bagaruro
‘woman’ nawak nudo

Many Burmeso nouns display irregular and suppletive plural forms.[3]

gloss singular plural
‘man’ tamo dit
‘banana’ mibo mirar
‘dog’ jamo juwdo
‘pig’ sibo sirudo
white cockatoo ayab ayot
‘house’ konor konodo
‘mat’ wira wirasamir


  1. ^ Burmeso at Ethnologue (18th ed., 2015)
  2. ^ Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin, eds. (2017). "Burmeso". Glottolog 3.0. Jena, Germany: Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History.
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h Foley, William A. (2018). "The languages of Northwest New Guinea". 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. 433–568. ISBN 978-3-11-028642-7.
  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.

Further reading

  • Donohue, Mark. 2001. Animacy, class and gender in Burmeso. In: Pawley et al. (eds.), The Boy from Bundaberg: Studies in Melanesian Linguistics in Honour of Tom Dutton. Canberra: Pacific Linguistics.97–117.
  • Tasti, Markus and Mark Donohue. 1998. A Small Dictionary of Burmeso. Unpublished ms, University of Sydney.
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