Madang languages

Madang–Adelbert Range
Papua New Guinea
Linguistic classificationNortheast New Guinea and/or Trans–New Guinea
Madang languages.svg
Map: The Madang languages of New Guinea
 The Madang languages
 Trans–New Guinea languages
 Other Papuan languages
 Austronesian languages

The Madang or Madang–Adelbert Range languages are a language family of Papua New Guinea. They were classified as a branch of Trans–New Guinea by Stephen Wurm, followed by Malcolm Ross. William A. Foley concurs that it is "highly likely" that the Madang languages are part of TNG, although the pronouns, the usual basis for classification in TNG, have been "replaced" in Madang. Timothy Usher finds that Madang is closest to the Upper Yuat River languages and other families to its west, but does not for now address whether this larger group forms part of the TNG family.[1]

The family is named after Madang Province and the Adelbert Range.


Sidney Herbert Ray identified the Rai Coast family in 1919. In 1951 these were linked with the Mabuso languages by Arthur Capell to create his Madang family. John Z'graggen (1971, 1975) expanded Madang to languages of the Adelbert Range and renamed the family Madang–Adelbert Range, and Stephen Wurm (1975)[2] adopted this as a branch of his Trans–New Guinea phylum. For the most part, Malcolm Ross's (2005) Madang family includes the same languages as Z'graggen Madang–Adelbert Range, but the internal classification is different in several respects, such as the dissolution of the Brahman branch.

Internal classification

The languages are as follows:[1][3]

Yamben has been added as a probable primary branch of Madang by Andrew Pick (2019).[3]

The time depth of Madang is comparable to that of Austronesian or Indo-European.


Ross (2000) reconstructed the pronouns as follows:

sg pl
1 *ya *i[4]
2 *na *ni, *ta
3 *nu

These are not the common TNG pronouns. However, Ross postulates that the TNG dual suffixes *-le and *-t remain, and suggests that the TNG pronouns live on as Kalam verbal suffixes.


Madang family reflexes of proto-Trans-New Guinea (pTNG) etyma:[5]

Family-wide innovations

  • pTNG *mbena ‘arm’ > proto-Madang *kambena (accretion of *ka-)
  • pTNG *mb(i,u)t(i,u)C ‘fingernail’ > proto-Madang *timbi(n,t) (metathesis)
  • pTNG *(n)ok ‘water’ replaced by proto-Madang *yaŋgu


Garuh language:

  • muki ‘brain’ < *muku
  • bi ‘guts’ < *simbi
  • hap ‘cloud’ < *samb(V)
  • balamu ‘firelight’ < *mbalaŋ
  • wani ‘name’ < *[w]ani ‘who?’
  • wus ‘wind, breeze’ < *kumbutu
  • kalam ‘moon’ < *kala(a,i)m
  • neg- ‘to watch’ < *nVŋg- ‘see, know’
  • ma ‘taro’ < *mV
  • ahi ‘sand’ < *sa(ŋg,k)asiŋ

Pay language:

  • in- ‘sleep’ < *kin(i,u)-
  • kawus ‘smoke’ < *kambu
  • tawu-na ‘ashes’ < *sambu
  • imun ‘hair’ < *sumu(n,t)
  • ano ‘who’ < *[w]ani


Kalam language (most closely related to the Rai Coast languages):

  • meg ‘teeth’ < *maŋgat[a]
  • md-magi ‘heart’ < *mundu-maŋgV
  • mkem ‘cheek’ < *mVkVm ‘cheek, chin’
  • sb ‘excrement, guts’ < *simbi
  • muk ‘milk, sap, brain’ < *muku
  • yman ‘louse’ < *iman
  • yb ‘name’ < *imbi
  • kdl ‘root’ < *kindil
  • malaŋ ‘flame’ < *mbalaŋ
  • melk ‘(fire or day)light’ < *(m,mb)elak
  • kn- ‘to sleep, lie down’ < *kini(i,u)[m]-
  • kum- ‘die’ < *kumV-
  • md- < *mVna- ‘be, stay’
  • nŋ-, ng- ‘perceive, know, see, hear, etc’ < *nVŋg-
  • kawnan ‘shadow, spirit’ < *k(a,o)
  • nan, takn ‘moon’ < *takVn[V]
  • magi ‘round thing, egg, fruit, etc.’ < *maŋgV
  • ami ‘mother’ < *am(a,i,u)
  • b ‘man’ < *ambi
  • bapi, -ap ‘father’ < *mbapa, *ap
  • saŋ ‘women’s dancing song’ < *saŋ
  • ma- ‘negator’ < *ma-
  • an ‘who’ < *[w]ani

Rai Coast

Dumpu language:

  • man- ‘be, stay’ < *mVna-
  • mekh ‘teeth’ < *maŋgat[a]
  • im ‘louse’ < *iman
  • munu ‘heart’ < *mundun ‘inner organs’
  • kum- ‘die’ < *kumV-
  • kono ‘shadow’ < *k(a,o)nan
  • kini- ‘sleep’ < *kin(i,u)[m]-
  • ra- ‘take’ < *(nd,t)a-
  • urau ‘long’ < *k(o,u)ti(mb,p)V
  • gra ‘dry’ < *(ŋg,k)atata

Southern Adelbert

Sirva language:

  • mun(zera) ‘be, stay’ < *mVna-
  • kaja ‘blood’ < *kenja
  • miku ‘brain’ < *muku
  • simbil ‘guts’ < *simbi
  • tipi ‘fingernail’ < *mb(i,)ut(i,u)C (metathesis)
  • iːma ‘louse’ < *iman
  • ibu ‘name’ < *imbi
  • kanumbu ‘wind’ < *kumbutu
  • mundu(ma) ‘nose’ < *mundu
  • kaːsi ‘sand’ < *sa(ŋg,k)asiŋ
  • apapara ‘butterfly’ < *apa(pa)ta
  • kumu- ‘die’ < *kumV-
  • ŋg- ‘see’ < *nVŋg-


The following selected reconstructions of Proto-Madang by Ross (2014)[6] are from the Trans-New Guinea database.[7] Proto-Trans–New Guinea are from Andrew Pawley and Harald Hammarström (2018).[5]:141–146

gloss Proto-Madang Proto-Trans–New Guinea
head *gat(a,i)(m) *kV(mb,p)utu; mVtVna
hair *imunu *(nd,s)umu(n,t)[V]; *iti
ear *kaun(i) *kand(i,e)k[V]
eye *amu *ŋg(a,u)mu; *(ŋg,k)iti-maŋgV; *nVpV
nose *mutu(gu) *mundu
tooth *make *titi
tongue *mele *me(l,n)e; *mbilaŋ
leg *kani(n) *k(a,o)nd(a,o)[C]; *kitu
louse *[n]iman *(n)iman
bird *kVbara *yaka[i]; *n[e]i
egg *munaka *mun(a,e,i)ka; *maŋgV
blood *ka(d,r)a; *kara *ke(nj,s)a
bone *kwaten *kondaC
skin *ga(n,r)a *(ŋg,k)a(nd,t)apu
breast *amu(na) *amu
tree *tari *inda
woman *na-gali(k) *panV
sky *ku(m,b)ut *kumut, *tumuk; *samb[V]
sun *kamali *kamali; *ketane
moon *kalam; *takun *kal(a,i)m; *takVn[V]
water *yag(V) *(n)ok[V]
fire *k(a,e)dap *k(a,o)nd(a,u)p; *inda; *kambu
stone *namanu *[na]muna; *kamb(a,u)na
name *ibi; *wañim *imbi; *wani
eat *(n,ñ)a *na-
one *kati(ŋ,g)a
two *arigita *ta(l,t)(a,e)


  1. ^ a b c Madang
  2. ^ Ethnologue (15th edition)
  3. ^ a b Pick, Andrew (2019). "Yamben: A previously undocumented language of Madang" (PDF). 5th Workshop on the Languages of Papua. Universitas Negeri Papua, Manokwari, West Papua, Indonesia.
  4. ^ actually i ~ si
  5. ^ a b 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.
  6. ^ Ross, Malcolm. 2014. Proto-Madang. TransNewGuinea.org.
  7. ^ Greenhill, Simon (2016). "TransNewGuinea.org - database of the languages of New Guinea". Retrieved 2020-11-05.


  • 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.
  • Pawley, Ross, & Osmond, 2005. Papuan languages and the Trans New Guinea phylum. Canberra: Pacific Linguistics. pp. 38–51.

CLDF Dataset

  • Z'graggen, J A. (1980) A comparative word list of the Northern Adelbert Range Languages, Madang Province, Papua New Guinea. Canberra: Pacific Linguistics. (CLDF dataset on Zenodo doi:10.5281/zenodo.3537580)

External links

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