Trans New Guinea Languages

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The Trans-New Guinea languages (also: Trans-New Guinea-Phylum) are the largest language family within the non- Austronesian languages ​​of New Guinea , the so-called Papuan languages , both numerically and geographically .

They include over 500 languages, they are spoken in around 80 percent of New Guinea and, at the same time, around 80 percent of the speakers of Papuan languages ​​are speakers of a “trans New Guinea language”.

Major Trans New Guinea Languages

There are only seven Papuan languages ​​with at least 100,000 speakers, they all belong to the Trans New Guinea macro family :

Another important language is

  • Chimbu ( Simbu , Kuman ) 80,000, Eastern New Guinea Highlands

Research history

The language group of the Trans New Guinea languages ​​was postulated in 1970 by CL Voorhoeve and Kenneth McElhanon . In 1975 the group was redefined by Stephen Wurm , which included many more languages ​​and would therefore be spread over large parts of New Guinea, Timor and small neighboring islands. In 2005, the group was reduced by about 1/6 through the work of Malcolm Ross , but Wurm's basic analysis was supported. Other linguists such as B. William A. Foley doubt the correctness of the worm-like analysis and prefer to set up various smaller groups that do not belong to this family in addition to the main Trans New Guinea group.

Grammatical peculiarities


It is typical of the Trans New Guinea phylum that they usually have two rows of plosives and usually only one fricative . Most Trans New Guinea languages ​​have a 5-vowel system consisting of a, e, i, o, u.

Voiced plosives are prenasalized in a great many of these languages . However, this is a characteristic that applies to many other Papuan languages ​​as well.

Many Trans New Guinea languages ​​only have open syllables, that is, those that end in a vowel.


A distinctive feature of the Trans New Guinea languages ​​is that they show a correlation between a phonological characteristic and a grammatical category . Singular forms have back vowels (a, o, u), plural forms have front vowels (e, i). In many languages ​​the plural pattern is also used for the 3rd person singular. A typical system of personal pronouns is that of the Tauya language , which is spoken on the Ramu River south of Madang :

person Singular Plural
1st person ya sen
2nd person n / A th
3rd person no nen

In addition, there are ablaut rules in many TNGP languages that change the verb stem depending on the number .


The existence of medial verbs is generally considered to be very typical of the Trans New Guinea phylum. Medial verbs are verbs with auxiliary verbs or affixes that are used to connect sentences and indicate whether the subject of the first sentence is the same or different from that of the second sentence. To illustrate this, an example from the Tauya mentioned above follows:

ya yate- pa ni-e-ʔa
I go- same subject eat 1st / 2nd person indicative
I went and ate.

Internal structure

    Subgroups Number of languages Number of speakers place
Trans New Guinea main branch 294 2,600,000 New Guinea (Irian Jaya and Papua New Guinea)
Central & West TNG 249 2,400,000 Central and West New Guinea
Huon-Finisterre 63 165,000 Northeast Papua New Guinea
East New Guinea highlands 64 1,400,000 Papua New Guinea: Eastern Highlands
Central & South New Guinea 57 190,000 Irian Jaya, West Papua New Guinea
Kutuban 3 5,000 South Papua New Guinea
Angan 13 95,000 Southeast Papua New Guinea
Gogodala-Suki 4th 13,000 South Papua New Guinea: Fly River
Kayagar 3 15,000 South Irian Jaya
Sentani 4th 37,000 Northeast Irian Jaya
Marind 6th 22,000 South Irian Jaya, Southwest Papua New Guinea
Dani -Kwerba 17th 340,000 North-Central Irian Jaya
Wissel Lakes 6th 140,000 West Irian Jaya
Mairasi 4th 5,000 West Irian Jaya
West Bomberai 3 7,000 West Irian Jaya
Dem 1 1,000 West Irian Jaya
Mor 1 <1,000 Irian Jaya ( Northwest Bomberai )
Eastern Trans New Guinea 45 170,000 Southeast Papua New Guinea
I'm other 10 80,000 Southeast Papua New Guinea
Central-Southeast TNG 35 90,000 Southeast Papua New Guinea
Madang-Adelbert Range 102 85,000 North Papua New Guinea
Madang 58 40,000 North Papua New Guinea: Madang
Adelbert Range 44 45,000 North Papua New Guinea: Adalbert Chain
Teberan-Pawaian 3 17,000 North Papua New Guinea: Simbu
Turama-Kikorian 3 3,000 South Papua New Guinea
Inland Gulf 4th 1,000 South Papua New Guinea
Eleman 7th 50,000 South Papua New Guinea
Trans Fly - Bulaka 30th 45,000 Southwest Papua New Guinea, South Irian Jaya
Mek 7th 40,000 Irian Jaya: Highlands
Senagi 2 3,500 Northwest Papua New Guinea
Pauwasi 4th 1,200 Northwest Irian Jaya
Northern Trans New Guinea 27 25,000 Northeast Irian Jaya, Northwest Papua New Guinea
Nimborane 5 9,000 Northeast Irian Jaya
Kaure 5 1,000 North Irian Jaya
South Vogelkop 10 11,000 Northwest Irian Jaya: South Vogelkop Peninsula
Colopom 3 4,500 Southwest Irian Jaya
Timor-Alor-Pantar 22nd 244,000 in Timor alone Timor, Alor , Pantar , Kisar , Liran
Oksapmin 1 8,000 Papua New Guinea, Sandaun Province, Telefomin District
Elseng (Morwap) 1 300 Irian Jaya, south of Jayapura
Molof (Ampas) 1 200 Irian Jaya, south of Jayapura
Usku 1 nearly † Irian Jaya, south of Jayapura, near Pauwasi
Tofamna 1 100 Irian Jaya, south of Jayapura, east of the Nawa River

See also


  • Lorna MacDonald: A Grammar of Tauya . (MGL 6) Mouton de Gruyter, Berlin / New York 1990, ISBN 3-11-012673-7 (also contains a lot of general information about special features of the TNG languages)
  • Ernst Kausen: The language families of the world . Part 2: Africa - Indo-Pacific - Australia - America. Buske, Hamburg 2014, ISBN 978-3-87548-656-8 , pp. 609–623.

Web links