Trans-Fly–Bulaka River languages

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Trans-Fly – Bulaka River
South-Central Papuan
New Guinea
Linguistic classificationProposed language family
Trans-Fly Bulaka River languages.svg
Map: The Trans-Fly–Bulaka River languages of New Guinea
  The Trans-Fly – Bulaka River languages
  Trans–New Guinea languages
  Other Papuan languages
  Austronesian languages
  Australian languages

The Trans-Fly – Bulaka River aka South-Central Papuan languages form a hypothetical family of Papuan languages. They include many of the languages west of the Fly River in southern Papua New Guinea into southern Indonesian West Papua, plus a pair of languages on the Bulaka River a hundred km further west.

The family was posited by Stephen Wurm as a branch of his 1975 Trans–New Guinea proposal. Wurm thought it likely that many of these languages would prove to not actually belong to Trans–New Guinea, but rather to have been heavily influenced by Trans–New Guinea languages. Malcolm Ross (2005) concurred, and removed most of them.


None of the families are closely related; indeed, it is difficult to demonstrate a link between any of them. Wurm's 1975 TNG branch included the following eight demonstrated families:

Ross (2005) accepted the TNG identity of Tirio, Moraori, and, tentatively, Kiwaian. He split off the four Eastern Trans-Fly languages as an independent family. The remainder of the family, which he calls South-Central Papuan, is only tentatively retained: their pronouns are suggestive of a relationship, but this has not been demonstrated.

Trans-Fly – Bulaka River 
(South-Central Papuan) 

Bulaka River family

Pahoturi family

Waia isolate

Yam (Morehead – Upper Maro) family

A more conservative approach would break up Wurm's Trans-Fly – Bulaka River entirely, with two or three of the families remaining within Trans–New Guinea, and five or six being independent. Evans (2012), for example, argues that the inclusion of the Yam language at least is not justified on present evidence. Timothy Usher treats the Bulaka River and Yam languages as separate families, and links the Pahoturi– clade to the Eastern Trans-Fly languages.

Southern New Guinea linguistic area[edit]

A Southern New Guinea linguistic area, which spans both Indonesia and Papua New Guinea, consisting of the following families is mentioned in Evans (2018).[1]

Languages within the Southern New Guinea linguistic area generally share these typological features.[1]


The pronouns Ross reconstructs for the three families he keeps together are suggestively similar, but it has not been possible to reconstruct common forms:

Proto-Yam (Proto–Morehead – Upper Maro)
I/we *ni
you *bu
s/he/they *be
I *ŋa-na we ?
thou *ba or *be you *-bi
s/he *bo they ?
Proto–Bulaka River
I *ŋöl we *ŋag
thou *ob you *el
s/he *ib they *im

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Evans, Nicholas (2018). "The languages of Southern New Guinea". 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. 641–774. 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.

External links[edit]