Pauwasi languages

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West New Guinea, Papua New Guinea
Linguistic classification: One of the world's primary language families
  • Eastern
  •  ? Western
Glottolog: pauw1244[1]

The Pauwasi languages are a likely family of Papuan languages, mostly in Indonesia. The best described Pauwasi language is Karkar, across the border in Papua New Guinea.


The languages are not close: though the Eastern languages are clearly related, Yafi and Emumu are only 25% lexically similar.

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.[2]

Only 1sg, 2sg, and 1pl pronouns are attested for any Indonesian language, and the proto-language cannot be reconstructed. Attested forms are:

1sg 2sg 1pl
Dubu no fo numu
Towei oŋgo ŋgo nu
Yafi nam nəm nin
Emumu  ? mo nin
Karkar on-o am-o ex. yin-o, in. nám-o

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 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 relationship to Emumu was unknown.


  1. Nordhoff, Sebastian; Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin, eds. (2013). "Pauwasi". Glottolog. Leipzig: Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  2. 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 (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>