Lakes Plain languages

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Lakes Plain
New Guinea
Linguistic classification Possibly one of the world's primary language families
Glottolog lake1255[1]

The Lakes Plain languages are a small family of Papuan languages. They were tentatively grouped by Stephen Wurm with the Tor languages in his Trans–New Guinea proposal. Clouse (1997) found no evidence of a connection to the Tor languages and grouped them with the Geelvink Bay languages. Malcolm Ross classifies the languages as an independent family.


Wurm's family-level nodes are bold in the cladogram below:

Lakes Plain 


Rasawa–Saponi: Rasawa, ?? Saponi

East Lakes Plain: Foau, Taworta (Diebroud)


Turu: Edopi–Iau–Foi–Turu [a dialect cluster]


West Tariku: Fayu, Kirikiri (but not Tause)

 East Tariku 

SikaritaiEritaiObokuitaiBiritaiKaiy, Kwerisa


Doutai, Waritai


The pronouns Ross reconstructs for proto-Tariku are,

I *a/*i we *a/*ai
thou *de you *da
s/he *au they  ?

The corresponding "I" and "thou" pronouns are proto–East Lake Plain *a, *do, Awera yai, nai (the latter from *dai; compare also e "we"), and Rasawa e-, de-. Saponi shares no pronouns with the Lakes Plain family; indeed its pronouns mamire "I, we" and ba "thou" are remenincent of proto–East Bird's Head *meme "we" and *ba "thou". However, Saponi shares half its basic lexical vocabulary with Rasawa, and Ross left it in the Lakes Plain family pending further investigation. The Tause language was also previously grouped amongst the Tariku group of Lakes Plains languages. Ross transferred it to the East Bird's Head – Sentani languages on the basis of pronoun similarities; he hoped this would promote further research.


Clouse and Clouse (1993) note many of the Lakes Plains languages share several unusual phonological features. While Papuan languages typically have at least two nasal phonemes, this is not the case for Lakes Plains languages. Although phonetic nasals do exist in most Lakes Plains languages, they do not contrast with the corresponding voiced stops. Doutai, Sikaritai and Obokuitai lack even phonetic nasals. Additionally, no Lakes Plains language has a liquid phoneme. Clouse (1997) reconstructs for the ancestor of Lakes Plains the typologically remarkable consonant inventory, consisting entirely of stops, /p, t, k, b, d/.

Many of the languages have very high constricted (fricativised) vowels; in Doutai and Kirikiri these constitute separate phonemes from /i/ and /u/. The fricativised vowels seem to have developed from deletion of a following consonant.


  1. ^ Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin; Bank, Sebastian, eds. (2016). "Lakes Plain". Glottolog 2.7. Jena: Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History. 
  • Clouse, Duane A. (1997). Karl Franklin, ed., ed. "Towards a reconstruction and reclassification of the Lakes Plains languages of Irian Jaya". Papers in New Guinea Linguistics. 2: 133–236. ISSN 0078-9135. OCLC 2729642. 
  • Clouse, Heljä; Duane A. Clouse (1993). "Kirikiri and the western Lakes Plains languages: selected phonological phenomena". Language and Linguistics in Melanesia. 24: 1–18. OCLC 9188672. 
  • Ross, Malcolm (2005). "Pronouns as a preliminary diagnostic for grouping Papuan languages". In Andrew Pawley; Robert Attenborough; Robin Hide; Jack Golson. Papuan pasts: cultural, linguistic and biological histories of Papuan-speaking peoples. Canberra: Pacific Linguistics. pp. 15–66. ISBN 0858835622. OCLC 67292782. 
  • Silzer, Peter; Heljä Heikkinen (1991). Index of Irian Jaya languages (Second ed.). Jayapura: University Cenderawasih and Summer Institute of Linguistics. OCLC 26368341.