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Dani languages

Balim Valley
EthnicityDani, Lani, Yali, etc
Highlands of Papua Province
Linguistic classificationTrans–New Guinea
  • Wano
  • Dani proper
  • ?Ngalik

The Dani languages are a family of clearly related Trans–New Guinea languages spoken by the Dani and related peoples in the highlands of Papua Province, Indonesia. Foley (2003) considers their TNG status to be established. They may be most closely related to the languages of Paniai Lakes, but this is not yet clear. Capell (1962) had posited that their closest relatives were the Kwerba languages, which Ross (2005) rejects.


Larson (1977) divided the family into three branches based on lexicostatistics, and Nggem was later added as a fourth. The Ngalik languages are very poorly attested.


The independent pronouns and possessive/object prefixes of Central Dani are:

sg pl
1 *an, *n[a] *ni-t, *nin[a]-
2 *ka-t, *k[a] *ki-t, *kin[a]-
3 *a-t, *∅/w- *i-t, *in[a]-


Dani reflexes of proto-Trans-New Guinea (pTNG) etyma are:[2]

Grand Valley Dani language:

  • ap ‘man’ < *ambi
  • meli ‘tongue’ < *me(l,n)e
  • n-esi ‘hair’ < *iti[C] (n- is 1sg possessor)
  • me(m)- ‘come’ < *me-
  • ket ‘new’ < *kVndak

Western Dani language:

  • ap ‘man’ < *ambi
  • (n)iti < *iti[C]
  • meli ‘tongue’ < *me(l,n)e
  • get ‘new’ < *kVndak
  • okut ‘leg’ < *k(a,o)ndok[V]
  • kat(lo) ‘skin’ < *(ŋg,k)a(nd,t)apu
  • idu ‘tree’ < *inda

Ngalik language:

  • idu(k)etu ‘tree’ < *inda
  • (nak) amu ‘breast’ < *amu
  • tokon ‘full’ < *tVkV[ti]
  • kopu ‘smoke’ < *kambu


  1. ^ Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin, eds. (2017). "Dani". Glottolog 3.0. Jena, Germany: Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History.
  2. ^ Pawley, Andrew; Hammarström, Harald (2018). "The Trans New Guinea family". 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. 21–196. ISBN 978-3-11-028642-7.
  • Ross, Malcolm (2005). "Pronouns as a preliminary diagnostic for grouping Papuan languages". In Andrew Pawley; Robert Attenborough; Robin Hide; Jack Golson (eds.). Papuan pasts: cultural, linguistic and biological histories of Papuan-speaking peoples. Canberra: Pacific Linguistics. pp. 15–66. ISBN 0858835622. OCLC 67292782.