|Cenderawasih Bay, Indonesia|
|Linguistic classification:||Extended West Papuan ?
The Yawa languages, or Yapen, are a small family of two closely related Papuan languages, Yawa (or Yava) and Saweru, which are often considered to be divergent dialects of a single language (and thus a language isolate). They are spoken on central Yapen Island and nearby islets, in Cenderawasih Bay, Indonesian Papua, which they share with the Austronesian Yapen languages.
Yawa proper had 6000 speakers in 1987. Saweru has been variously reported to be partially intelligible with other dialects of Yawa and to be considered a dialect of Yawa by its speakers, and to be too divergent for intelligibility and to be perceived as a separate language. It is moribund, spoken by 150 people out of an ethnic group of 300.
C. L. Voorhoeve tentatively linked Yawa with the East Geelvink Bay languages in his Geelvink Bay proposal. However, the relationship would be a distant one at best, and Mark Donohue felt in 2001 that Yawa had not been shown to be related to any other language. Recently Malcolm Ross made a tentative proposal that Yawa might be part of an Extended West Papuan language phylum. The pronominal resemblances are most apparent when comparing proto-Yawa to the East Bird's Head language Meax:
I thou s/he you Proto-Yawa *rei *uein *wepi *waya Meax didif bua ofa iwa
d~r, b~w, we~o, p~f are all common sound correspondences.
Ethnologue (2009, 2013) takes this a step further, and placed Yawa within West Papuan itself.
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