This page uses content from Wikipedia and is licensed under CC BY-SA.

Pauwasi languages

Pauwasi River
Pauwasi River watershed, West New Guinea, Papua New Guinea
Linguistic classificationOne of the world's primary language families

The Pauwasi languages are a likely family of Papuan languages, mostly in Indonesia. The subfamilies are at best only distantly related. The best described Pauwasi language is Karkar, across the border in Papua New Guinea. They are spoken around the headwaters of the Pauwasi River in the Indonesian-PNG border region.

Based on earlier work, the East and West Pauwasi languages of Indonesia were classified together in Wurm (1975), though he (and later researchers) did not recognize that Yuri (Karkar) of Papua New Guinea was also East Pauwasi. That connection was made by Usher, though anthropologists had long known of the connection. Later the South Pauwasi languages were also identified by Usher, and the West Pauwasi family tentatively expanded.[2] Wichmann (2013), Foley (2018) and Pawley & Hammarström (2018), noting the sharp differences between the three groups, are agnostic about whether West Pauwasi, East Pauwasi and South Pauwasi are related.[3][4][5]


Pauwasi River[2]

The inclusion of Molof (Poule) is especially tentative (as of 2020).[6]

The languages are not close: though the Eastern languages are clearly related, Yafi and Emumu are only 25% lexically similar. Pawley and Hammarström (2018) also question whether Eastern Pauwasi and Western Pauwasi are really related. They also note that Tebi and Towei are very different from each other, and may not necessarily group with each other.[4]

Karkar-Yuri, long thought to be an isolate in Papua New Guinea, is clearly related and may actually form a dialect continuum with Emumu in Indonesia. On the other hand, the Western languages are so poorly attested that it is not certain that they are part of the Pauwasi family (or even related to each other), or if the common words are loans and they constitute a separate family or families, though a family connection appears likely.[7]

The proto-forms of the pronouns have not been reconstructed. Attested forms include:

1sg 2sg 1pl 2pl
West Dubu (Tebi) no, nok fo, fro numu, nəmu nimia, nəmia
Towei ŋo, oŋgo fo, u, ŋgo nu yu-
Afra (Usku) o-, a- po-, pu- no so
Namla na wuŋgiknoko mani yuka
Tofamna 1 ne wo INCL ŋu
EXCL nukwe
Tofamna 2 niawi wame INCL mlo
EXCL wone
East Yafi (Zorop) nam nem, nəm, am nin nin-, nəm-
Emumu (Emem) (w)ɔna(o) mo, mao ninao, nino nimao, nəmou
Karkar ɔnɔ amɔ yino, namo yumo, yimung
South Yetfa nawo, nya(wo) powo, pa no(wo), nana so, sef-
Kimki win (p)ume name, nar same
Murkim nuːk hak(o) nakme(-re) sakme-re
Molof (Poule) məik, mai in, ni ti-PL
(INCL also inte)

Yafi and Emumu are similar, and Dubu and Towei may share 1pl *numu, but there is not apparent connection between them. Dubu no and Yafi nam might reflect pTNG *na, and Towei ngo pTNG *ga (*nga), and the plural pTNG *nu and *ni.


Stephen Wurm (1975) classified the Western (Indonesian) languages as a branch of the Trans–New Guinea (TNG) phylum, a position which Malcolm Ross (2005) tentatively retained. Ross's TNG classification is based on personal pronouns. Since no pronouns could be reconstructed from the available data on the poorly attested Indonesian Pauwasi languages, which were all that were recognized as Pauwasi at the time, only a tentative assessment could be made, based on a few lexical items. Some of the pronouns of Dubu and Yafi look like they might be TNG. However, Ross counted Karkar, for which the pronouns were known, as an isolate because its pronouns did not pattern as TNG. At this stage its identity as a Pauwasi language was unknown.

Pawley and Hammarström (2018) do not consider there to be sufficient evidence for the Pauwasi languages to be classified as part of Trans-New Guinea, though they do note the following lexical resemblances between Tebi, Yafi, and proto-Trans-New Guinea.[4]

  • Tebi ne ‘eat’ < *na-
  • Tebi mi, Yafi yemar ‘louse’ < *iman, *niman

Foley (2018) notes that Western Pauwasi has more Trans-New Guinea lexical similarities than East Pauwasi does. He notes that Karkar-Yuri shares some typological similarities with the Trans-New Guinea languages, which could be due to chance, contact, or genetic inheritance.[5]


  1. ^ Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin, eds. (2017). "Pauwasi". Glottolog 3.0. Jena, Germany: Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History.
  2. ^ a b New Guinea World
  3. ^ Wichmann, Søren. 2013. A classification of Papuan languages. In: Hammarström, Harald and Wilco van den Heuvel (eds.), History, contact and classification of Papuan languages (Language and Linguistics in Melanesia, Special Issue 2012), 313-386. Port Moresby: Linguistic Society of Papua New Guinea.
  4. ^ a b c 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.
  5. ^ a b Foley, William A. (2018). "The Languages of the Sepik-Ramu Basin and Environs". 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. 197–432. ISBN 978-3-11-028642-7.
  6. ^ NewGuineaWorld, Poule
  7. ^ Harald Hammarström, 2010. The status of the least documented language families in the world
  • 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.

External links

Retrieved from "[]"