Meyah language

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Native toIndonesia
RegionBird's Head Peninsula
Native speakers
15,000 (2000)[1]
West Papuan
Language codes
ISO 639-3mej
Meyah is located in Western New Guinea
Meyah is located in Southeast Asia
Coordinates: 1°11′S 133°37′E / 1.18°S 133.62°E / -1.18; 133.62

Meyah (Meax) is a West Papuan language spoken in the Manokwari Regency of West Papua, Indonesia. The Meyah language is agglutinative and head-marking, and has no grammatical cases. It has subject-object-verb word order, which comes from nearby Austronesian languages.[3]


Meax has 5 vowels: /a, ɛ, i, o, u/, and 13 consonants.[3]

Bilabial Alveolar Palatal Velar Glottal
Stop voiceless t k
voiced b d g
Fricative voiceless f /ɸ/ s c /ç/ h
voiced j /ʝ/
Nasal m n
Trill r


Like many other Papuan languages of the Bird's Head Peninsula, Meyah is a pitch-accent language with two phonemic pitch levels: rising high and falling high, which contrast.

Rising Falling

  • éj 'drink' èj 'peel
  • mós 'fish' mòs 'toad'



Pronouns demonstrate three numbers: singular, dual, and plural. The first person dual and plural pronouns also demonstrate clusivity.

Singular Dual Plural
inc. exc. inc. exc.
1st didif nagif magif mimif memef
2nd bua goga iwa
3rd ofa rua
Possessive prefixes
Singular Dual Plural
inc. exc. inc. exc.
1st di- na- ma- mi- me-
2nd bi- ge- i-
3rd ø- ri-

These prefixes are used for verbs, body parts and kinship terms.


Nouns in Meyah are divided into two types: alienable and inalienable, the latter of which includes terms for body parts and kinship relations, and are obligatorily marked for possessor. With alienable nouns, there is morphological complexity. The plural marker '-ir' can only be used with humans, pigs and dogs. There is no other method of indicating plurality for other alienable nouns. For inanimate nouns, plurality may be indicated by certain modifiers such as mod ofokou 'house many' or mod efaga orgomu 'house CLF three.'


Kinship terms, as inalienable nouns, share the same possessor prefixes as body parts and verb stems, however they differ in the singular possessive prefixes. Instead of the '(C)i-' prefix found on first and second singular prefixes, kinship terms have 'ed-.' (1st singular) and 'eb-' (2nd singular). On verbs and other inalienable nouns, the third person singular possessive prefix is normally unmarked, but kinship terms use the same prefix as the first person plural exclusive, 'me-.' Terms for important kinship relations have divergent morphology, like the lack of a first-person singular possessive prefix for father 'akeina' and mother 'ameina,' which are also used to refer to father and mothers' brothers respectively.


There are six classes of nouns, which are differentiated on the basis of their classifier when they are modified by a numeral. The first class is a class used exclusively for humans. Classes two and three relate for food, with the former being for food growing underground and the latter being for food growing on trees and vines. When this food is removed from trees or vines, it is classified according to whether it is 'round,' placed in the fourth class, and 'flat,' found in the fifth class. Class six consists of terms for animals and 'house.'[3]


  1. ^ Meyah at Ethnologue (18th ed., 2015)
  2. ^ Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin, eds. (2017). "Meyah". Glottolog 3.0. Jena, Germany: Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History.
  3. ^ a b c "WALS Online -". Retrieved 2018-08-18.

Further reading[edit]

  • Gravelle, Gilles (2002). "Morposyntactic Properties of Meyah Word Classes". In Ger P. Reesink (ed.) (eds.). Languages of the Eastern Bird's Head. Pacific Linguistics. 524. Canberra: Research School of Pacific and Asian Studies, Australian National University. pp. 109–180.CS1 maint: Uses editors parameter (link)
  • Gravelle, Gilles (2004). The Meyah Language of Papua (PhD). Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam.
  • Gravelle, Gilles (2011). Meyah: a language of West Papua, Indonesia. Pacific Linguistics. 619. Canberra: Research School of Pacific and Asian Studies, Australian National University. ISBN 978-0-85883-625-9.