North Ambrym language

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North Ambrym
Native toVanuatu
RegionAmbrym Island
Native speakers
5,300 (2001)[1]
Language codes
ISO 639-3mmg

North Ambrym is a language of Ambrym Island, Vanuatu.


Today there are two main dialects of North Ambrym, levelled from a previous five or six due to population movements towards the coast. The Western dialect (spoken in Lonhali district) is better documented than the North-Eastern dialect (spoken in Wowan district).[3]


Noun Phrases[edit]

There are two classes of nouns – free nouns that occur independently or bound nouns that require a possessor, either a pronominal suffix or a possessor noun phrase. Some nouns alternate between free and bound classes.[3]

Nouns can also be derived from verbs using two clitics: instruments are derived with a= and abstract nouns are derived with =an.[3]

Free pronouns distinguish between singular, dual, paucal and plural numbers, and distinguish inclusive and exclusive first person.[3]

Singular Dual Paucal Plural
First person inclusive kerong kesul, kensul ken
First person exclusive ni gemaro gemasul gema
Second person neng gomoro gomosul gimi
Third person nge nyero nyesul nyer

Non-singular pronouns in third person pronouns can be used to quantify nominals, and paucal and plural third person pronouns can be used to quantify over proper names, signifying a group containing that person.[3]

Nominal modifiers (such as adjectives, possessor nominals, quantifiers, numerals, relative clauses) generally follow the head nominal. There are four deictic demonstratives (two proximal, one medial and one distal) which must be introduced by either the subordinate clause marker ge or the topic marker nge. The numeral hu 'one' can appear directly after the head nominal to indicate as specific indefinite, and non-specific indefinites are marked te hu and only occur in negative or irrealis clauses. Te hu can also function as a pronominal meaning 'no-one'.[3]

Noun phrases can be coordinated with the verb kirine 'be with' or the third person dual free pronoun nyero, or with disjunctive o which is also used to coordinate clauses.[3]

Verb phrases[edit]

The verbal complex can contain the following elements, with optional elements in brackets:[3]

(potential) subject indexing particle (tense/mood/negation) (aspect) verb (compound) (-valence increasing suffix)

In addition the subject indexing particle can take tense prefixes and tense or mood suffixes.[3]

Verbs can be transitive or intransitive.

Dynamic intransitive verbs can take preposition phrases as oblique arguments and a subset can have their valency changed by the applicative suffix Ci-. Stative/inchoative intransitive verbs select a patient subject, and are interpreted as stative or inchoative depending on the aspect marking. When marked with the non-recent past tense marker, these are interpreted as perfective stative verbs, while the recent past marker is interpreted as imperfective and inchoative. A subset of stative/inchoative verbs can be transitivised with the transitive suffix -ne, which also makes the subject the agent. m-initial stative/inchoative verbs begin with /m/ and are derived from the Proto-Oceanic stative verb prefix *ma-, though only one has a non-stative equivalent remaining.[3]

While there is a small group of morphologically simple transitive verbs, a large group are derived from semitransitive verbs with the transitive suffix -ne. Semitransitive verbs have a transitive meaning and a derived transitive form but only allow restricted objects.[3]

Non-verbal predicates are also possible in topic-comment constructions, and have to include the topic marker nge.[3]


  1. ^ North Ambrym at Ethnologue (18th ed., 2015)
  2. ^ Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin, eds. (2017). "North Ambrym". Glottolog 3.0. Jena, Germany: Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History.
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l Franjieh, Michael (2012) Possessive Classifiers in North Ambrym, a Language of Vanuatu: Explorations in Semantic Classification. PhD thesis. University of London: School of Oriental and African Studies.

External links[edit]