Now, we will go far to the east of south east asia and also south of earth. Papuan and Australian are next! Who’s excited?!

Let’s go!


Yellow : Pama-Nyungan
other than Yellow : Macro Pama-Nyungan

The Pama–Nyungan languages are the most widespread family of Australian Aboriginal languages, containing perhaps 300 languages. The name “Pama–Nyungan” is derived from the names of the two most widely separated groups, the Pama languages of the northeast and the Nyungan languages of the southwest. The words pama and nyunga mean “man” in their respective languages.

The other language families indigenous to the continent of Australia are occasionally referred to, by exclusion, as non-Pama–Nyungan languages, though this is not a taxonomic term. The Pama–Nyungan family accounts for most of the geographic spread, most of the Aboriginal population, and the greatest number of languages. Most of the Pama–Nyungan languages are spoken by small ethnic groups of hundreds of speakers or fewer. The vast majority of languages, either due to disease or elimination of their speakers, have become extinct, and almost all remaining ones are endangered in some way. Only in the central inland portions of the continent do Pama-Nyungan languages remain spoken vigorously by the entire community.

The Pama–Nyungan family was identified and named by Kenneth L. Hale, in his work on the classification of Native Australian languages. Hale’s research led him to the conclusion that of the Aboriginal Australian languages, one relatively closely interrelated family had spread and proliferated over most of the continent, while approximately a dozen other families were concentrated along the North coast.

(source : here)

Pama-Nyungan just under 6,000 years ago in an area around what is now the Queensland town of Burketown. The timing of this expansion is consistent with a theory that increasingly unstable conditions caused groups of people to fragment and spread. But correlation is not causation: just because two patterns appear related, it does not mean that one caused the other. In this case, however, we have other evidence that access to ecological resources has shaped how people migrated. Groups of people moved more slowly near the coast and major waterways, and faster across deserts. This implies that populations increase where food and water are plentiful, and then spread out and fissure when resources are harder to obtain. (source : here)

a) Pama-Nyungan covers a great chunk of the continent spreading mainly across the southern two-thirds of Australia. It includes several groups and isolates:

The Yuulngu group is a separate Pama-Nyungan enclave in eastern Arnhem Land, isolated from the main block by intervening non-Pama-Nyungan languages. It includes several partly mutually intelligible languages of which the most widely spoken is Djambarrpuyngu. 

Torres Strait Islands language, spoken in the western and central islands, whose main dialect is Kalaw Lagaw Ya. 

Paman, spoken on the Cape York Peninsula of Queensland, represented by Wik Mungkan and many other languages.

Warlpiri, a language found in the Northern Territory northwest of Alice Springs. It is related to the almost extinct Warlmanpa, and to a small family of central Australia called Ngumpin.

Arandic, a small family integrated by several closely related languages or dialects of which Arrernte, Alyawarr, and Anmatyerr are the most populous.

Southwest, a hypothetical grouping of a variety of diverse languages. It is divided into the Wati subgroup of central Australia, and into several other subgroups predominant in the coast of Western Australia. Wati includes the large Pitjantjatjara, Ngaanyatjarra, and Luritja languages (the last one also called Pintupi).

b) The non-Pama-Nyungan family stretches across northernmost Australia, except Queensland, and includes, among others, Tiwi, a language isolate spoken in the Tiwi Islands which is one of the more robust native languages of Australia, and the Gunwingguan group, spread in most of Arnhern Land, whose major languages are Anindilyakwa (Enindhilyagwa) and Burarra. Another relatively large language is Murrinh Patha of disputed classification.

(source : here)


The Papuan languages are the non-Austronesian and non-Australian languages spoken on the western Pacific island of New Guinea, and neighbouring islands, by around 4 million people. It is a strictly geographical grouping, and does not imply a genetic relationship. The concept of Papuan peoples as distinct from Austronesian-speaking Melanesians was first suggested and named by Sidney Herbert Ray in 1892.

New Guinea is one of the most linguistically diverse regions in the world. Besides the Austronesian languages, there are some 800 languages divided into perhaps sixty small language families, with unclear relationships to each other or to any other languages, plus a large number of language isolates. The majority of the Papuan languages are spoken on the island of New Guinea, with a number spoken in the Bismarck Archipelago, Bougainville Island and the Solomon Islands to the east, and in Halmahera, Timor and the Alorarchipelago to the west. The westernmost language, Tambora in Sumbawa, is extinct.

One Papuan language, Meriam, is spoken within the national borders of Australia, in the eastern Torres Strait. The only Papuan languages with official recognition are those of East Timor.

Several languages of Flores, Sumba, and other islands of eastern Indonesia are classified as Austronesian but have large numbers of non-Austronesian words in their basic vocabulary and non-Austronesian grammatical features. It has been suggested that these may have originally been non-Austronesian languages that have borrowed nearly all of their vocabulary from neighboring Austronesian languages, but no connection with the Papuan languages of Timor has been found. In general, the Central–Eastern Malayo-Polynesian languages are marked by a significant historical Papuan influence, lexically, grammatically, and phonologically, and this is responsible for much of the diversity of the Austronesian language family.

The largest family of Papuan languages is the Trans-New Guinea family, which is typified by the object prefixes mentioned above. More than 650,000 people, or about 20 percent of the total Papuan-speaking population, speak one of the languages in this family. Groups of 

Most Papuan languages are spoken by hundreds to thousands of people; the most populous are found in the New Guinea highlands, where a few exceed a hundred thousand. These include ; 

  • Along the north coast of Papua and the Mamberamo River basin there are several other major language families: the Sentani family, spoken immediately to the west of Jayapura; the Lakes Plain family, a phonologically highly exotic family spoken in the flooded plains area of the Mamberamo River basin; and the Cenderawasih Bay family, spoken on Yava Island in Cenderawasih Bay and the adjoining mainland, which may form a larger genetic grouping with the Lakes Plain family.
  • The East Bird’s Head family, spoken on the eastern side of the Doberai (Vogelkop or Bird’s Head) Peninsula in the far west of Papua, and the West Bird’s Head family, found on the western side and central area of the Doberai Peninsula. The West Bird’s Head family is probably related to Papuan languages farther west in the eastern Indonesian island of Halmahera.
  • In the Sepik-Ramu basin of the north coast of Papua New Guinea, the major language groups are the Lower Sepik-Ramu family (spoken along the lower reaches of the Sepik and Ramu rivers and adjoining riverine and coastal regions); the Sepik family (found in the middle region of the Sepik River and adjoining areas to the north and south); and the Sko family, which is spoken along the north coast of New Guinea and near the border between Papua and Papua New Guinea.
    The Torricelli family, which is spoken in the Torricelli Mountains between the north coast and the Sepik River, is highly divergent from other Papuan languages of the Sepik-Ramu basin as well as from the Trans-New Guinea family. It consists of nearly 50 languages spoken by more than 80,000 speakers .
  • Western Dani (180,000 in 1993) and Ekari (100,000 reported 1985) in the western (Indonesian) highlands,
  • Enga (230,000 in 2000), Huli (150,000 reported 2011), and Melpa (130,000 reported 1991) in the eastern (PNG) highlands.
  • To the west of New Guinea, the largest languages are Makasae in East Timor (100,000 in 2010) and Galela in Halmahera (80,000 reported 1990).
  • To the east, Terei (27,000 reported 2003) and Naasioi (20,000 reported 2007) are spoken on Bougainville.

Although there has been relatively little study of these languages compared with the Austronesian family, there have been three preliminary attempts at large-scale genealogical classification, by Joseph Greenberg, Stephen Wurm, and Malcolm Ross. The largest family posited for the Papuan region is the Trans–New Guinea phylum, consisting of the majority of Papuan languages and running mainly along the highlands of New Guinea.

Statistical analyses designed to pick up signals too faint to be detected by the comparative method, though of disputed validity, suggest five major Papuan stocks (roughly Trans–New Guinea, West, North, East, and South Papuan languages); long-range comparison has also suggested connections between selected languages, but again the methodology is not orthodox in historical linguistics.

The Great Andamanese languages may be related to some western Papuan languages, but are not themselves covered by the term Papuan.

Trans–New Guinea (TNG) is an extensive family of Papuan languages spoken in New Guinea and neighboring islands, perhaps the third-largest language family in the world by number of languages. The core of the family is considered to be established, but its boundaries and overall membership are uncertain. The languages are spoken by around 3 million people. There have been three main proposals as to its internal classification. Malcolm Ross re-evaluated Wurm’s proposal on purely lexical grounds. That is, he looked at shared vocabulary, and especially shared idiosyncrasies analogous to English I and me vs. German ich and mich. The poor state of documentation of Papuan languages restricts this approach largely to pronouns. Nonetheless, Ross believes that he has been able to validate much of Wurm’s classification, albeit with revisions to correct for Wurm’s partially typological approach.

Ross has proposed 23 Papuan language families and 9–13 isolates. However, because of his more stringent criteria, he was not able to find enough data to classify all Papuan languages, especially many isolates that have no close relatives to aid in their classification.

Ross also found that the Lower Mamberamo languages (or at least the Warembori language—he had insufficient data on Pauwi) are Austronesian languages that have been heavily transformed by contact with Papuan languages, much as the Takia language has. The Reef Islands – Santa Cruz languages of Wurm’s East Papuan phylum were a potential 24th family, but subsequent work has shown them to be highly divergent Austronesian languages as well.

Although Ross based his classification on pronoun systems, many languages in New Guinea are too poorly documented for even this to work. Thus there are several isolates that were placed in TNG by Wurm but that cannot be addressed by Ross’s classification. A few of them (Komyandaret, Samarokena, and maybe Kenati) have since been assigned to existing branches (or ex-branches) of TNG, whereas others (Massep, Momuna) continue to defy classification.

In the list given here, the uncontroversial families that are accepted by Foley and other Papuanists and that are the building blocks of Ross’s TNG are printed in boldface. Language isolates are printed in italics.

Unclassified Wurmian languages

  • Kenati (→ Kainantu?)
  • Komyandaret (→ Greater Awyu)
  • Massep isolate
  • Molof isolate
  • Momuna family (2)
  • Samarokena (→ Kwerba)
  • Tofamna isolate
  • Usku isolate

Reclassified Wurmian languages

Ross removed 95 languages from TNG. These are small families with no pronouns in common with TNG languages, but that are typologically similar, perhaps due to long periods of contact with TNG languages.

  • Border and Morwap (Elseng), as an independent Border family (15 languages)
  • Isirawa (Saberi), as a language isolate (though classified as Kwerba by Clouse, Donohue & Ma 2002)[8]
  • Lakes Plain, as an independent Lakes Plain family (19)
  • Mairasi, as an independent Mairasi family (4)
  • Nimboran, as an independent Nimboran family (5)
  • Piawi, as an independent Piawi family (2)
  • Senagi, as an independent Senagi family (2)
  • Sentani (4 languages), within an East Bird’s Head – Sentani family
  • Tor and Kwerba, joined as a Tor–Kwerba family (17)
  • Trans-Fly – Bulaka River is broken into five groups: three remaining (tentatively) in TNG (Kiwaian, Moraori, Tirio), plus the independent South-Central Papuan and Eastern Trans-Fly families (22 and 4 languages).

(source : here, here, and here)

(to be continued)

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