Skou languages

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Vanimo Coast
New Guinea
Linguistic classificationNorth Papuan?
  • Sko
  • Vanimo
  • (disputed)

The Sko or Skou languages are a small language family spoken by about 7000 people, mainly along the coast of Sandaun Province in Papua New Guinea, with a few being inland from this area and at least one just across the border in the Indonesian province of Papua (formerly known as Irian Jaya). Skou languages are unusual in New Guinea for being tonal. Vanimo, for example, has three tones, high, mid, low.

Currently there are linguists working on most of these languages, writing grammars, compiling dictionaries, and assisting the speakers to develop vernacular materials for use in schools.


Skou languages were first linked by G. Frederici in 1912. In 1941, K.H. Thomas expanded the family to its current extent.

The Sko family is not accepted by Søren Wichmann (2013), who splits it into two separate groups.[2]

Sko (Laycock 1975)[edit]

Laycock posited two branches, Vanimo and Krisa:

Skou (Ross 2005)[edit]

However, Krisa is poorly supported and Malcolm Ross abandoned it,

Macro-Skou linkage (Donohue 2002)[edit]

Mark Donohue proposed a subclassification based on areal diffusion he called Macro-Skou.


The pronouns Ross reconstructs for proto-Skou are,

I *na we *ne
thou *me you ?
he *ka they (M) *ke
she *bo they (F) *de

The Skou languages also have a dual, with a distinction between inclusive and exclusive we, but the forms are not reconstructable for the proto-language.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin, eds. (2017). "Sko". Glottolog 3.0. Jena, Germany: Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History.
  2. ^ Wichmann, Søren. 2013. A classification of Papuan languages. In: Hammarström, Harald and Wilco van den Heuvel (eds.), History, contact and classification of Papuan languages (Language and Linguistics in Melanesia, Special Issue 2012), 313-386. Port Moresby: Linguistic Society of Papua New Guinea.
  • Laycock, Donald C. (1975). "Sko, Kwomtari, and Left May (Arai) phyla". In Stephen A. Wurm (ed.). Papuan languages and the New Guinea linguistic scene: New Guinea area languages and language study 1. Canberra: Dept. of Linguistics, Research School of Pacific Studies, Australian National University. pp. 849–858. OCLC 37096514.
  • Ross, Malcolm (2005). "Pronouns as a preliminary diagnostic for grouping Papuan languages". In Andrew Pawley; Robert Attenborough; Robin Hide; Jack Golson (eds.). Papuan pasts: cultural, linguistic and biological histories of Papuan-speaking peoples. Canberra: Pacific Linguistics. pp. 15–66. ISBN 0858835622. OCLC 67292782.