West Trans–New Guinea languages
|West Trans–New Guinea|
|Highlands of Irian Jaya, in and around Timor|
|Linguistic classification:||Trans–New Guinea
Map: The West Trans–New Guinea languages of New Guinea
The West Trans–New Guinea languages
Other Trans–New Guinea languages
Other Papuan languages
The West Trans–New Guinea languages are a suggested linguistic linkage of Papuan languages, not well established as a group, proposed by Malcolm Ross in his 2005 classification of the Trans–New Guinea languages. Ross suspects they are an old dialect continuum, because they share numerous features that have not been traced to a single ancestor using comparative historical linguistics. The internal divisions of the languages are also unclear. William Foley considers the TNG identity of the Irian Highlands languages at least to be established.
The West Trans–New Guinea languages are a group of small families and isolates within Trans–New Guinea which are only tentatively connected. The Irian Highlands families (Dani and Paniai Lakes) appear to belong together, and the Timor and West Bomberai languages share two probable innovations in their pronouns, compared to the rest of TNG. However, the languages of Timor are essentially a set of language isolates, and the western branch especially is not well supported as a valid family. It can be expected therefore that the membership and internal classification of West Trans–New Guinea will continue to be revised.
Families that are clearly valid, including isolates, are listed here in boldface.
- West Trans–New Guinea linkage.
- West Timor – Alor–Pantar [not well supported as a group]
- East Timor [perhaps closest to West Bomberai]
- West Bomberai [perhaps closest to East Timor]
- Paniai Lakes (Wissel Lakes) family [perhaps in an Irian Highlands branch]
- Dani family [perhaps in an Irian Highlands branch]
Fataluku has high dialect diversity, and may be more than a single language, for example with Rusenu. An additional Makuv'a (Lovaea) branch was once assumed for East Timor, but that appears to be a heavily Papuan-influenced Austronesian language.
The Savu languages (Hawu and Dhao) appear to be non-Austronesian, but do not align with the languages of Timor and Alor. Indeed, most of the languages of East Nusa Tenggara and Maluku appear to have some non-Austronesian influence.
History of the proposal
Despite their geographic proximity, the Papuan languages of Timor are not closely related, and demonstration of a relationship between any of them is difficult, apart from the clearly related Alor–Pantar languages on the islands neighboring Timor.
Arthur Capell first proposed that the Timor languages were a family in 1941, and Watuseke & Anceaux did the same for Timor–Alor–Pantar in 1973. Both units have been broken up in more recent classifications, though their ultimate relationship is generally accepted.
In 1957 HKL Cowan linked the Timor languages to the West Papuan family. However, when Stephen Wurm expanded Trans–New Guinea in 1975, he decided Timor–Alor–Pantar belonged there, and he linked it to the South Bird's Head languages in a South Bird's Head – Timor–Alor–Pantar branch of that phylum. Wurm noted similarities with West Papuan, a different family, but suggested this was due to substratum influence.
Of the Irian Highlands families, Capell linked the Dani languages to Kwerba in 1962. Wurm added Dani-Kwerba, the Wissel Lakes (Paniai Lakes) languages, and South Bomberai to TNG as separate branches of that family. Ross (2005) suggests a possible link between Dani and Paniai with his West TNG proposal, but excludes South Bird's Head as a separate branch of TNG, and Kwerba as belonging to a different family altogether. He did not note any connections to West Papuan.
- 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.
- Arthur Capell, 'The "West Papuan Phylum", Stephen Wurm 1977 , New Guinea Area Languages and Language Study, volume 1.