I'saka language

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
Region Sandaun Province, Papua New Guinea
Native speakers
420 (2003)[1]
  • Isaka
Language codes
ISO 639-3 ksi
Glottolog kris1246[2]
This article contains IPA phonetic symbols. Without proper rendering support, you may see question marks, boxes, or other symbols instead of Unicode characters.

Isaka (I’saka) is the language spoken by the people of the villages of Krisa and Pasi in Sandaun Province, Papua New Guinea. It has also been referred to as Krisa, after the village, although this name is not actually a possible word in the language itself. The sole published source for the language is Donohue and San Roque (2004) (see references), although the authors of this have also Identified I’saka material in Donald Laycock's unpublished fieldnotes.


Apart from segmental phonemes, I’saka and also make suprasegmental distinctions in tone and nasality.

Segmental phonemes[edit]

There are the following consonants in I’saka:

  Bilabial Dento-Alveolar Palatal Velar
Voiced stop b ~ m d ~ n
Voiceless stop p ~ ɸ t k
Fricative s
Semivowel w j

The sounds [p], [ɸ], and occasionally [f] are heard in non-contrastive free variation, making them reflexes of a single phoneme (transcribed p). Donohue and San Roque (2004) suggest that there was an earlier phonemic or allophonic contrast which is in the process of merging, perhaps under the influence of neighboring languages and Tok Pisin. The voiced stops (and semivowels) are nasalized before nasal vowels.

There are five oral vowel phonemes distinguished by most speakers, although older speakers sometimes also distinguish a high central rounded vowel /ʉ/.

Oral vowels
  front central back
high i (ʉ) u
mid ɛ   ɔ
low   a

Vowels also occur nasalized, and these nasalize preceding voiced stops. For example, /bɔ̌w/ heart (with a rising tone) is pronounced [bǒw], while /bɔ̃̌w/ none is pronounced [mõ̌w̃].

(These are spelled bou and mou; after other consonants, nasal vowels are spelled with a final -ng: that is, voiceless pa, pang, ta, tang, ka, kang, voiced stops ba, ma, da, na, other sa, sang, wa, wang, ya, yang.)

Donohue & San Roque (2004) present nasality as a suprasegmental feature of the syllable, rather than of the vowel.


The tone system makes four tone contrasts on single syllables, high, low, rising, and falling. On words of more than one syllable, the tonal system is more complex, and adjacent syllables never show the same tone.


Personal pronouns show morphological variants for number (singular, plural, and a dual in first and second person), gender (masculine or non-masculine, marked on third person singular pronouns only) and case (see below). The semantic basis for the grammatical gender system is as follows. The masculine gender indicates 'animate male entities and items immediately associated with them', and the non-masculine gender indicates anything else, i.e. a generic, default gender.

I’saka has fairly strict Subject–Object–Verb word order for declarative sentences. Personal pronouns have Unmarked, Nominative, Accusative and Possessive case forms. The Nominative case pronouns are used for the subjects of transitive and intransitive verbs, the accusative pronouns for the objects of transitives. Pronouns in oblique roles take the Unmarked case form. The Unmarked case forms can also be used in place of Nominative and Possessive pronouns, but the significance of the choice is not clear. Nouns do not have case marking in core grammatical roles, although there are suffixes for Instrumental, Accompaniment/Location and Predicate possessor.

Verbs have more obligatory morpholological marking than nouns. There are prefixes agreeing with the subject. A subset of transitive verbs mark their objects, either by means of an object suffix, or by suppletion of the verb stem. Most verbs do not have object marking.



  1. ^ Isaka at Ethnologue (18th ed., 2015)
  2. ^ Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin; Bank, Sebastian, eds. (2016). "Krisa". Glottolog 2.7. Jena: Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History.