Iau language

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RegionNew Guinea
Native speakers
2,100 (2000–2012)[1]
  • Foi
  • Turu
  • Iau
  • Edopi
Language codes
ISO 639-3Either:
tmu – Iau
dbf – Edopi

Iau (Iaw, Yau) or Turu is a Lakes Plain language of West Papua, Indonesia, spoken by about 600 people. Most speakers are monolingual, and their number is growing. Other peoples in the western Lakes Plain area speak basic Iau. Iau is tonal.

Dialects are Foi (Poi), Turu, Edopi (Elopi), and Iau proper; these may be distinct enough to be considered separate languages. Foi is spoken on the large Tariku River (Rouffaer River), Turu on the Van Daalen River, Iau proper between the rivers, and Edopi at the juncture of the Tariku and Kliki (Fou) rivers.

Another name for the language is Urundi ~ Ururi. Dosobou (Dou, Doufou) is specifically Edopi.


The following discussion is based on Bateman (1990a).


Consonant phonemes of Iau
Labial Coronal Velar
Stop    b t  d k   
Fricative f s

There are six consonants. /t d/ are dental; /s/ is alveolar. /b d/ are implosive, and may be realized as nasals before the low nasal vowel /ã/. /d/ may also be realized as the liquid [l].

/f/ is pronounced [ɸ]~[h] word-initially, or as [x] before the high nonback vowels /i ɨ/. The labial allophone [ɸ] is preferred in the Foi dialect; the glottal allophone [h] is preferred in Turu. It is always pronounced [h] word-medially and as an unreleased plosive [p̚] word-finally. /f/ is the only consonant that can occur word-finally.


Front Central Back
Close i   u
Near-close ɪ   ʊ
Open-mid ɛ   ɔ
Open   ã  

The low vowel is always nasalized, except when it is a component of a diphthong. The open-mid front vowel varies between [e], [ɛ], and [æ].

The following diphthongs exist:

ɛ ɪ ʊ i u
a ai au ai̝
ɛ ɛi
ɔ ɔɛ ɔi
ʊ ʊɪ
u ui

No diphthongs begin with /ɪ i i̝/ or end in /a ɔ/.

There are two triphthongs: /aui/ and /aʊɪ/. The back components of these triphthongs are realized as unrounded.


Syllables consist minimally of a vowel. They may include a single onset consonant and/or a single coda consonant. Diphthongs and triphthongs are attested. The template is (C)(V)V(V)(C). The tone-bearing unit is the syllable.


Stress in Iau is predictable: it falls on the final syllable of disyllabic words. (Words may not be longer than two syllables.) The interaction between stress and tone is not clear.


There are eight tones in Iau: two level tones (low and high), two rising tones (low rising and high rising), three falling tones (high-low, high-mid, and mid-low), and one falling-rising tone.

Tone is only lexical on nouns; the lexical forms of verbs are unmarked for tone, and each tone represents a different aspect. The complex system of aspectual marking via tone is discussed in Bateman (1986).

A sequence of two tones (called a tone cluster) may occur on one syllable. There are eleven tone clusters that can occur on verbs to mark aspect; only three of these can occur on nouns.


  1. ^ Iau at Ethnologue (18th ed., 2015)
    Edopi at Ethnologue (18th ed., 2015)
  2. ^ Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin, eds. (2017). "Central Tariku". Glottolog 3.0. Jena, Germany: Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History.
  • Bateman, Janet. 1982. The topic-comment construction in Iau. In Marit Kana (ed.), Workpapers in Indonesian linguistics, vol. 1, 28–49. Irian Jaya, Indonesian: Universitas Cenderawasih.
  • Bateman, Janet. 1986. Iau verb morphology. NUSA: Linguistic Studies of Indonesian and Other Languages in Indonesia 26. Jakarta: Universitas Katolik Atma Jaya. 1–76. http://sealang.net/archives/nusa/pdf/nusa-v26.pdf
  • Bateman, Janet. 1990a. Iau segmental and tone phonology. NUSA: Linguistic Studies of Indonesian and Other Languages in Indonesia 32. 29–42. http://sealang.net/archives/nusa/pdf/nusa-v32-p29-42.pdf
  • Bateman, Janet. 1990b. Pragmatic functions of the tone morphemes on illocutionary force particles in Iau. NUSA: Linguistic Studies of Indonesian and Other Languages in Indonesia 32. 1–28.
  • Edmondson, A., Janet Bateman & Helen Miehle. 1992. Tone contours and tone clusters in Iau. Proceedings of the Annual Meeting of the Berkeley Linguistics Society: Special Session on the Typology of Tone Languages, vol. 18, 92–103. Berkeley, CA: Berkeley Linguistics Society. http://journals.linguisticsociety.org/proceedings/index.php/BLS/article/viewFile/1544/1327