East Bird's Head – Sentani languages

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East Bird's Head – Sentani
Linguistic classification: Extended West Papuan ?
  • East Bird's Head – Sentani
  • East Bird's Head
  • Burmeso
  • Sentani
Glottolog: None

The East Bird's Head – Sentani languages form a family of Papuan languages proposed by Malcolm Ross which combines the East Bird's Head and Sentani families along with the Burmeso language isolate. Sentani had been a branch of Stephen Wurm's proposal for Trans–New Guinea. It has lexical similarities with the Asmat–Kamoro languages, but Ross does not believe these demonstrate a genealogical relationship.

Ross also included the unclassified language Tause, but as a stimulus for investigation rather than as a serious proposal.

The East Bird's Head – Sentani languages, together with the West Papuan languages and the Yawa isolate, form part of a tentative proposal for an Extended West Papuan family. They are distinguished from the West Papuan family in having forms like ba or wa for the second-person singular ("thou") pronoun.


East Bird's Head – Sentani unifies two groups that Wurm placed at the family level, and one or two isolates.

 East Bird's Head 

Mantion (Manikion)

Meax: Meax (Meyah), Meninggo (Moskona)

? Saponi

Burmeso (Taurap)

? Tause (perhaps two languages, Tause and Weirate)



Sentani proper: Sentani, Nafri, Tabla (Tanah Merah)

Tause is best considered unclassified. Clouse (1997) classified it as a Lakes Plain language, but its pronouns are not a good match. Ross included it here partially to spark further investigation. Saponi shares half of its basic lexical vocabulary with Rasawa, but its pronouns instead resemble those of East Bird's Head.


These families share no common vocabulary, and are linked only by their pronouns. The pronouns Ross reconstructs for proto-families are,

Person Singular Plural
exclusive inclusive
1st *də *me *e
2nd *wa  ?
3rd *nə  ?
East Bird's Head
Person Singular Plural
exclusive inclusive
1st *da, *di- *meme, *me- *mimi, *mi-
2nd *ba, *bi- *ia, *i-
3rd *e, *- *rua, *ri-

Burmeso and Tause correspond in their first and second singular pronouns:

  • Burmeso da (de-), ba (be-)
  • Tause di, ba

Saponi corresponds in first person and second singular:

  • Saponi mamire "I, we", ba "thou".


  • Ross, Malcolm (2005). "Pronouns as a preliminary diagnostic for grouping Papuan languages". In Andrew Pawley, Robert Attenborough, Robin Hide, Jack Golson, eds (ed.). Papuan pasts: cultural, linguistic and biological histories of Papuan-speaking peoples. Canberra: Pacific Linguistics. pp. 15–66. ISBN 0858835622. OCLC 67292782.CS1 maint: multiple names: editors list (link) CS1 maint: extra text: editors list (link)<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>