Huli language

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Huli Wigman from Hela Province of Papua New Guinea
RegionSouthern Highlands, Papua New Guinea
EthnicityHuli people
Native speakers
150,000 (2011)[1]
  • South Engan
    • Huli
Latin script (Huli alphabet)
Huli Braille
Language codes
ISO 639-3hui

Huli is a Tari language spoken by the Huli people of the Hela Province of Papua New Guinea. It features a pentadecimal (base-15) numeral system: ngui means 15, ngui ki means 15×2 = 30, and ngui ngui means 15×15 = 225.

Huli has a pandanus language called tayenda tu ha illili (bush divide taboo) used for collecting karuka nuts (anga) as well as hunting or traveling.[3] Tayenda is used to evade malevolent bush spirits.[3] The grammar for Tayenda is nearly identical to normal Huli, but the vocabulary is changed, often borrowing words from Duna but with changed meanings.[3]


Huli has a syllable structure of (C)V.


Front Back
Close i ĩ u ũ
Mid e ẽ o õ
Open ɑ ɑ̃

/ɑ/ is pronounced more fronted as [æ] before /r/ and /ʝ/.[4]

Vowel nasality is phonemic in the language. Vowels can also carry three phonemic tones; high-falling, mid-level, and low-rising.


Bilabial Alveolar Retroflex Palatal Velar Glottal
Stop voiceless p t k
voiced b d g
prenasal ᵐb ⁿd ᵑɡ
Fricative ʝ h
Nasal m n ŋ
Approximant w ɭ
Trill r

Stops /p t k/ can become aspirated as [pʰ tʰ kʰ].

Many speakers pronounce /t/ as [s] before /i/.

/d/ is realized as voiceless as [d̥] when occurring word-initially, and is palatalized as [dʲ] between /i/ and a word-final /ɑ/.

/r/ only occurs word-medially.

/b ɡ/ can be phonetically realized as fricatives intervocalically as [β ɣ].


  1. ^ Huli at Ethnologue (18th ed., 2015)
  2. ^ Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin, eds. (2017). "Huli". Glottolog 3.0. Jena, Germany: Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History.
  3. ^ a b c Goldman, Laurence (1983). "Talking about talk". Talk Never Dies: The Language of Huli Disputes. London and New York: Tavistock Publications. pp. 254–257. ISBN 978-0422782104. OCLC 993340993.
  4. ^ Organised Phonology Data: Huli Language [HUI] Southern Highlands Province (PDF). 1992. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2016-03-04. Retrieved 2017-03-11.
  • Lomas, Gabe (1988). The Huli language of Papua New Guinea. PhD Thesis, Macquarie University.

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