Yele – West New Britain languages

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Yele – West New Britain
New Britain & Rossel Island
Linguistic classification: Proposed language family
Glottolog: None

The Yele – West New Britain languages are a tentative language family that unites three language isolates, Anêm and Ata (Wasi) of New Britain, and Yélî Dnye (Yele) of Rossel Island. These were classified as East Papuan languages by Stephen Wurm, but this does not now seem tenable, and was abandoned in Ethnologue (2009), though the tentative relationship between them was accepted. The Yele – West New Britain family was first proposed by Malcolm Ross.


The evidence for the Yele – West New Britain family comes from the pronouns. Each language has two distinct sets of pronouns, and both sets correspond across the three languages. The forms illustrated here are the free pronouns and subject prefixes of Anêm and Ata, and the free and possessive/prepositional pronouns of Yele. Anêm and Ata make a distinction between inclusive and exclusive we. Yele also has dual pronouns which aren't shown.

I ue, a- excl. mɯn, mɯ-
incl. miŋ, –
thou nin, nɯ- you –, ŋɯ-
he –, u- they –, i-
she –, i-
I eni, a- excl. neɣi, ta-
incl. ŋeŋe, –
thou nini, na- you ŋiŋi, ŋa-
he anu, u- they aneʔi, i-
she ani, i-
I ɳə, a we ɳ͡mo, ɳ͡mɨ
thou ni, N- you n͡mo, n͡me
s/he –, u they –, ji

See also


  • Structural Phylogenetics and the Reconstruction of Ancient Language History. Michael Dunn, Angela Terrill, Ger Reesink, Robert A. Foley, Stephen C. Levinson. Science magazine, 23 Sept. 2005, vol. 309, p 2072.
  • Malcolm Ross (2005). "Pronouns as a preliminary diagnostic for grouping Papuan languages." In: Andrew Pawley, Robert Attenborough, Robin Hide and Jack Golson, eds, Papuan pasts: cultural, linguistic and biological histories of Papuan-speaking peoples, 15-66. Canberra: Pacific Linguistics.