Ramu languages

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New Guinea
Linguistic classification Ramu–Lower Sepik
  • Ramu
Glottolog ramu1234  (reduced)[1]

The Ramu languages are a family of some thirty languages of northern Papua New Guinea. They were identified as a family by John Z'graggen in 1971, and linked with the Sepik languages by Donald Laycock two years later. Malcolm Ross (2005) classifies them as one branch of a Ramu – Lower Sepik language family. Z'graggen had included the Yuat languages, but that now seems doubtful. Ethnologue (2009) removes them, along with Mongol–Langam and Arafundi (which Ross accepts), and classifies them as independent families.


The small families listed below in boldface are clearly valid units. The first five, sometimes classified together as Lower Ramu, are relatable through lexical data, so their relationship is widely accepted.[2] The other four traditional Ramu families have only been connected through their pronoun paradigms, and Ethnologue only accepts the inclusion of Tamolan and Annaberg.

Languages of the Ottilien family share plural morphology with Nor–Pondo.

 Lower   Ramu 

Ottilien family

Misegian (Mikarew) family

Grass (Keram) family?

Ataitan (Tanggu) family

Tamolan family

Annaberg (Middle Ramu) family

? Mongol–Langam family

Ethnologue (2009) lists Mongol–Langam as an independent family.

Laycock (1973) included the Arafundi family, apparently impressionistically, but Arafundi is poorly known. Ross (2005) retains it in Ramu without comment, but Foley (2005) rejects inclusion. Laycock (1973) also includes the Piawi languages as a branch, but both Ross (2005) and Foley (2005) reject their inclusion.


The pronouns reconstructed by Ross (2005) for Proto-Ramu are:

I *aŋko, *ni we two *a-ŋk-a we *ai, *nai, *a-ni, *na-ni
thou *un, *nu you two *o-ŋk-oa, *no-ŋk-oa you *ne, *u-ni, *nu-ni
s/he *man they two *mani-ŋk ? they *mə, *nda, *manda


  1. ^ Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin, eds. (2017). "Ramu". Glottolog 3.0. Jena, Germany: Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History. 
  2. ^ [1]
  • 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.