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Papuan languages

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The term Papuan languages means languages of the western Pacific which are neither Austronesian nor Australian. That is, the term is defined negatively and does not mean a linguistic relationship.

The languages

The majority of the Papuan languages are spoken on the island of New Guinea (which is divided between the country of Papua New Guinea and Indonesian provinces of Papua and West Irian Jaya), with a number spoken in the Bismarck Archipelago, Bougainville Island, and the Solomon Islands to the east, and in Halmahera, Timor, and the Alor archipelago to the west. One Papuan language, Meriam Mir, is spoken within the national borders of Australia, in the eastern Torres Strait. The only Papuan languages with official recognition are those of East Timor.

New Guinea is perhaps the most linguistically diverse region in the world. Besides the Austronesian languages, there are some 800 languages divided into perhaps sixty small language families, with unclear relationships to each other or to anything else, plus a large number of language isolates.


  • Pawley, Andrew; Robert Attenborough; Robin Hide; Jack Golson, eds. (2005). Papuan pasts: cultural, linguistic and biological histories of Papuan-speaking peoples. Canberra: Pacific Linguistics. ISBN 0858835622
      . OCLC 67292782

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