Eleman languages

Kaki Ae – Kerema Bay
Kerema Bay, Papua New Guinea
Linguistic classificationa primary language family
  • Eleman proper
  • Kaki Ae
Glottolognucl1580  (Eleman proper)
Eleman languages.svg
Map: The Eleman languages of New Guinea
 The Eleman languages
 Trans–New Guinea languages
 Other Papuan languages
 Austronesian languages

The Eleman languages are a family spoken around Kerema Bay, Papua New Guinea.

Languages and classification

The five languages of Eleman proper are clearly related. They were identified as a family by Sidney Herbert Ray in 1907, and would later be incorporated in the Trans–New Guinea classifications of Stephen Wurm (1975) and of Malcolm Ross (2005).

Purari was included by Brown (1968), but the only evidence is the 1sg pronoun nai, which might simply be a reflection of TNG *na.

The purported evidence for including Eleman in the Trans–New Guinea family lies in Kaki Ae. Franklin (1995) shows regular sound correspondences between Kaki Ae and Eleman, including Kaki Ae n to Eleman *r, so Kaki Ae nao 1sg appears to be cognate with Eleman *ara, both perhaps descending from proto-TNG *na. Likewise, Kaki Ae nu'u may reflect pTNG *nu, and the forms of the 2sg pronouns, ao and *a, are common in TNG languages.

Ross states that the Kaki Ae isolate links Eleman proper within TNG. However, Glottolog notes that the sound correspondences are just what would expect from loans, given the different phonologies of the languages: Eleman has no n/l/r distinction, and Kaki Ae has no t/k distinction.[1]

Pawley and Hammarström (2018) classify Kaki Ae as a language isolate rather than as part of Eleman, noting that similarities with Eleman are mostly because of borrowing.[2]


The pronouns are as follows:

Eleman proper
sg pl
1 *ara *ela
2 *a *e(u)
3 *are *ere(u)
Kaki Ae
sg pl
1 nao nu'u
2 ao ofe
3 era era-he

Further reading

  • Ross, Malcolm. 2014. Proto-Eleman. TransNewGuinea.org.
  • Ross, Malcolm. 2014. Proto-Eleman-Koriki. TransNewGuinea.org.
  • Ross, Malcolm. 2014. Proto-East-Eleman. TransNewGuinea.org.
  • Ross, Malcolm. 2014. Proto-West-Eleman. TransNewGuinea.org.
  • Brown, Herbert A. "The Eleman Language Family". In Franklin, K. editor, The linguistic situation in the Gulf District and adjacent areas, Papua New Guinea. C-26:279-376. Pacific Linguistics, The Australian National University, 1973. doi:10.15144/PL-C26.279
  • Brown, Herbert A. 1972. The Elema languages: A comparative study of the Toaripi, Orokolo and their related dialects. PhD thesis: University of London.
  • Franklin, Karl J.. 1973. Appendices. In Karl J. Franklin (ed.), The Linguistic Situation in the Gulf District and Adjacent Areas, Papua New Guinea, 539-592. Canberra: Research School of Pacific and Asian Studies, Australian National University.


  1. ^ Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin, eds. (2017). "Kaki Ae". Glottolog 3.0. Jena, Germany: Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History.
  2. ^ Pawley, Andrew; Hammarström, Harald (2018). "The Trans New Guinea family". 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. 21–196. ISBN 978-3-11-028642-7.
  • Ross, Malcolm (2005). "Pronouns as a preliminary diagnostic for grouping Papuan languages". In Andrew Pawley; Robert Attenborough; Robin Hide; Jack Golson (eds.). Papuan pasts: cultural, linguistic and biological histories of Papuan-speaking peoples. Canberra: Pacific Linguistics. pp. 15–66. ISBN 0858835622. OCLC 67292782.

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