Kwomtari languages

Last updated
Senu River
Papua New Guinea
Linguistic classification One of the world's primary language families
Glottolog kwom1263  (Kwomtari–Nai) [1]
guri1248  (Guriaso) [2]
Kwomtari-Fas languages.png
The neighboring Kwomtari–Nai and Fas language families

The Kwomtari languages are a small language family of Papua New Guinea.

Language family group of languages related through descent from a common ancestor

A language family is a group of languages related through descent from a common ancestral language or parental language, called the proto-language of that family. The term "family" reflects the tree model of language origination in historical linguistics, which makes use of a metaphor comparing languages to people in a biological family tree, or in a subsequent modification, to species in a phylogenetic tree of evolutionary taxonomy. Linguists therefore describe the daughter languages within a language family as being genetically related.

Papua New Guinea Constitutional monarchy in Oceania

Papua New Guinea, officially the Independent State of Papua New Guinea is a country in Oceania that occupies the eastern half of the island of New Guinea and its offshore islands in Melanesia, a region of the southwestern Pacific Ocean north of Australia. Its capital, located along its southeastern coast, is Port Moresby. The western half of New Guinea forms the Indonesian provinces of Papua and West Papua. It is the world's 3rd largest island country with 462,840 km2 (178,700 sq mi).



The family consists of at least the two relatively closely related languages Kwomtari and Nai.


Baron adds the highly divergent language Guriaso:

Guriaso is a language of Papua New Guinea. Only described in 1983, it appears to be distantly related to the Kwomtari and Nai languages. It is spoken in Guriaso ward, Amanab Rural LLG, Sandaun Province.

Kwomtari is the eponymous language of the Kwomtari family of Papua New Guinea.

Nai or Biaka is a language of Papua New Guinea.

Guriaso shares a small number of cognates with Kwomtari–Nai. Baron (1983) says the evidence is convincing once a correspondence between /ɾ~l/ and /n/ (from ) is established:

Gloss Guriaso Kwomtari
Verb suffixes
(1pl, 2pl, 3pl)
-nɔ, -mɛ, -no-ɾe, -mo, -ɾe*

* Compare Biaka -ɾo, -mo, -na.

** Metathesis of /p/ and /t/.


Usher further classifies Yale (Nagatman) with Guriaso, and adds Busa, all under the name "Senu River". [3]

The Busa language, also known as Odiai (Uriai), is spoken in three hamlets of northwestern Papua New Guinea. There were 244 speakers at the time of the 2000 census. One of the hamlets where Busa is spoken is Busa in Rawei ward, Green River Rural LLG, Sandaun Province.

Senu River (Kwomtari–Busa)

Confusion from Laycock

There has been confusion over the membership of the Kwomtari family, apparently due to a misalignment in the publication (Loving & Bass 1964) of the data used for the initial classification. (See Baron 1983.) Because of this, Laycock classified the Kwomtari languages as part of a spurious Kwomtari–Fas family, which confusingly was also often called "Kwomtari" in the literature. However, Baron sees no evidence that the similarities are due to relationship. Usher likewise discounts the inclusion of the Fas languages. See Kwomtari–Fas languages for details.

The Kwomtari–Fas languages, often referred to ambiguously as Kwomtari, are a dubious language family of six languages spoken by some 4,000 people in the north of Papua New Guinea, near the border with Indonesia. The term "Kwomtari languages" can also refer to one of the established families that makes up this proposal.

Foley (2018)

Foley (2018) provides the following classification (see Kwomtari–Fas languages). [4]

Kwomtari family

Foley (2018) considers the possibility that each of the four groups may in fact constitute separate language families of their own, with there being a Fas family, Kwomtari family, Guriaso isolate, and Pyu isolate. Nevertheless, Foley is still open to the idea that all four groups may possibly be related to each other, but leaves this question open at the time of publication.


Pronouns in Momu and Kwomtari: [4]

Kwomtari pronouns
Momu Kwomtari


Unlike in many other Papuan languages, nouns in Kwomtari languages do not have gender, noun classes, or number marking. [4]

However, Kwomtari languages do have case inflection, such as possessive suffixes, some of which are: [4]

Related Research Articles

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Fas languages

The Fas languages are a small language family of Papua New Guinea.

Pyu is a language isolate spoken in Papua New Guinea. As of 2000, the language had about 100 speakers. It is spoken in Biake No. 2 village of Biake ward, Green River Rural LLG in Sandaun Province.

Fas is the eponymous language of the small Fas language family of Sandaun Province, Papua New Guinea.

Baibai is one of two Fas languages of Amanab District, Sandaun Province, Papua New Guinea. It is the eponymous language of the spurious Baibai family, which was posited when the Fas language was mistakenly swapped for the Kwomtari language Biaka in published data. It actually has little in common with Kwomtari, but is 40% cognate with Fas.

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Yetfa and Biksi are dialects of a language spoken in Papua, Indonesia, and across the border in Papua New Guinea. It is a trade language spoken in West Papua up to the PNG border.

The Lepki–Murkim languages are a pair of apparently related but otherwise isolated languages of New Guinea, Lepki and Murkim.


  1. Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin, eds. (2017). "Kwomtari–Nai". Glottolog 3.0 . Jena, Germany: Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History.
  2. Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin, eds. (2017). "Guriaso". Glottolog 3.0 . Jena, Germany: Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History.
  3. NewGuineaWorld Senu River
  4. 1 2 3 4 Foley, William A. (2018). "The Languages of the Sepik-Ramu Basin and Environs". 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. 197–432. ISBN   978-3-11-028642-7.