|Maluku Islands and West Papua|
|Linguistic classification||One of the world's primary language families|
Distribution of the West Papuan languages
The West Papuan languages are a proposed language family of about two dozen Papuan languages of the Bird's Head Peninsula (Vogelkop or Doberai Peninsula) of far western New Guinea, the island of Halmahera and its vicinity, spoken by about 220,000 people in all.
The best known West Papuan language is Ternate (50,000 native speakers) of the island of the same name, which is a regional lingua franca and which, along with neighboring Tidore, were the languages of the rival medieval Ternate and Tidore sultanates, famous for their role in the spice trade.
The German linguist Wilhelm Schmidt first linked the West Bird's Head and North Halmahera languages in 1900. In 1957 HKL Cowan linked them to the non-Austronesian languages of Timor as well. Stephen Wurm believed that although traces of West Papuan languages were to be found in the languages of Timor, as well as those of Aru and Great Andaman, this was due to a substratum and that these languages should be classified as Trans–New Guinea, Austronesian, and Andamanese, respectively. Indeed, most of the languages of East Nusa Tenggara and Maluku appear to have some non-Austronesian influence.
In 2005, Malcolm Ross made a tentative proposal, based on the forms of their pronouns, that the West Papuan languages form one of three branches of an extended West Papuan family that also includes the Yawa languages, and a newly proposed East Bird's Head – Sentani family as a third branch.
Timothy Usher, also somewhat tentatively, accepts Yawa and East Bird's Head, but not Sentani, as part of West Papuan itself, so the family can remain under that name.
Holton and Klamer (2018) do not unequivocally accept the unity of West Papuan, but note that certain proposals linking "West Papuan" groups together may eventually turn out to be fruitful.
The pronouns Ross reconstructs for proto-West Papuan are,
|I||*da, *di-||exclusive we||*mam, *mi-|
|thou||*ni, *na, *a-||you||*nan, *ni-|
|she||*mV||they||*yo, *ana, *yo-|
These are shared by the "core" West Papuan families. Hattam reflects only "I" and "thou", and Amberbaken only "thou", "you", and "she".
Ross's Extended West Papuan languages have forms in *d for "I" and *m for "we". (Most Yawa forms of "we" have m, such as imama, but they are too diverse for an easy reconstruction.) These are found in all branches of the family except for the Amberbaken isolate.
Ross's West Papuan proper is distinguished from Yawa and EBH-Sentani in having forms like na or ni for the second-person singular ("thou") pronoun.
|West Papuan||*da, *di-||*na, *ni, *a-||*mam, *mi|
|EBH-Sentani||*da, *di||*ba~wa, *bi||*meme, *me|
Basic vocabulary of two West Bird's Head languages (WBH) (Moi and Tehit) and three language isolates (Mpur, Abun, Maibrat), quoted by Holton & Klamer (2018) from Miedema & Reesink (2004: 34) and (Reesink 2005: 202):
|gloss||Moi (WBH)||Tehit (WBH)||Mpur||Abun||Maibrat|
|chicken||kelem tole||kokok||kokor||dam kukur||kok|
Lexical comparisons between North Halmahera languages (NH) (Galela and Pagu) and West Bird's Head languages (WBH) (Moi and Tehit) from Voorhoeve (1988: 194), as quoted by Holton & Klamer (2018):
|gloss||Galela (NH)||Pagu (NH)||Moi (WBH)||Tehit (WBH)|