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South Bird's Head languages

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

South Bird's Head
South Doberai
North Berau Gulf
West Papua
Linguistic classificationTrans–New Guinea
South Bird's Head languages.svg
Map: The South Bird's Head languages of New Guinea
  The South Bird's Head languages
  Other Trans–New Guinea languages
  Other Papuan languages
  Austronesian languages

The South Bird's Head or South Doberai languages are three families of Papuan languages. They form part of the Trans–New Guinea languages in the classifications of Malcolm Ross (2005) and Timothy Usher (2020), though Pawley and Hammarström (2018) do not consider them to be part of Trans–New Guinea.[1]


The languages are as follows,[2][3][1]

Noting low cognacy rates, Holton and Klamer (2018) tentatively consider the following three language groups to each be independent language families, pending further evidence.[4]

Usher classifies the South Bird's Head languages as part of a wider Berau Gulf branch of Trans–New Guinea.[2]


The pronouns are:

sg pl
1ex *na *ni-ri, *i-ri
1in *na-ri, *ya-ri
2 *a *a-ri, *i-ri

3sg *ni is reconstructable for SBH proper. There appears to be both a plural vowel change from *a to *i, as in proto-TNG, and a plural suffix *-ri.


Below are cognates in Nuclear South Bird's Head languages (Arandai, Kokoda, Kemberano, Kaburi, Kais, Puragi) demonstrating their relatedness, as listed by Holton & Klamer (2018):[4]

Nuclear South Bird's Head family cognates
gloss Arandai Kokoda Kemberano Kaburi Kais Puragi
‘eye’ emago mago magu amiagu magu imagu
‘head’ kabe kaba kabe wa’ava kabo koibi
‘egg’ kuo ukwo oku uko uku vuko
‘one’ onate onasia anate ma’aja onate mo’onata
‘two’ ogi ogia oge uge uge oge
‘I’ nendi nedi nedi neri neri nedi

South Bird's Head basic vocabulary quoted by Holton & Klamer (2018)[4] from de Vries (2004), showing diverse non-cognate vocabulary across different language groups:[5]

South Bird's Head basic vocabulary comparison
gloss Yahadian Inanwatan Kokoda Puragi
arm/hand re ewó obora nebɔru
leg/foot dɛbɛ ɔtɔra neʔɔru
house ɔ meʔáro kɛnia einɔ
good hɔbɔre sówato nigeja nai/najɔ
dog ɟia méwoʔo dawɔra rɔga
pig mɔmɔ bidó tabai βuʔi
chicken kokoro ádiro koko korau
louse ʔóto kɔnɔ kɔnɔ
water/river hɛdɛ/mu tó/múro tai/tɔiria adɔna/ɔwedi
banana huŋgunɔn ɸúgi(do) udi amimi


Except for the outlier languages Konda and Yahadian, all South Bird's Head languages have nouns classified according to masculine and feminine genders, which are determined with final vowel quality.[4] West Bird's Head languages also mark nouns for gender.


Unlike many other languages of the Bird's Head Peninsula which display SVO word order (such as Abun, Mpur, Maibrat, West Bird's Head, and others), the South Bird's Head languages have SOV word order.[4]:588–590


  1. ^ a b 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.
  2. ^ a b Usher, Timothy. New Guinea World, North Berau Gulf
  3. ^ Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin, eds. (2019). "Glottolog". 4.0. Jena: Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History.
  4. ^ a b c d e Holton, Gary; Klamer, Marian (2018). "The Papuan languages of East Nusantara and the Bird's Head". 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. 569–640. ISBN 978-3-11-028642-7.
  5. ^ de Vries, Lourens. 2004. A Short Grammar of Inanwatan: An endangered language of the Bird’s Head of Papua, Indonesia. Canberra: Pacific Linguistics.
  • 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.
This page was last edited on 20 July 2020, at 18:09
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