Warembori language

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Pronunciation [ˈwaɾɛmboiβoɾo]
Region Papua, Indonesia
Native speakers
600 (1998)[1]
Lower Mamberamo
  • Warembori
Language codes
ISO 639-3 wsa
Glottolog ware1253[2]
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Warembori (native name Waremboivoro) is a moribund language spoken by about 600 people in river mouths on the north coast of Papua, Indonesia.


Classification is in dispute. Mark Donohue thinks it is related to Yoke, forming together the Lower Mamberamo family. On a 200 word list, they share 33%. Also there are some grammar similarities. According to Donohue, Warembori is heavily influenced by Austronesian languages to the west, in both vocabulary and grammar, Yoke is less influenced by them. Malcolm Ross thinks Warembori is a papuanised Austronesian language. He leaves Yoke unclassified due to lack of data, apparently referring to the fact that Donohue did not publish independent pronouns in Yoke. He did publish subject prefixes on verbs, which are very similar to Warembori, and the singular prefixes are also remarkably similar to two Kwerba family languages, namely Kauwera and Airoran, suggesting either borrowing or a distant relationship to Kwerba, though the Kwerba family shares almost no vocabulary with the Lower Mamberamo family. The Lower Mamberamo plural prefixes are similar to Austronesian, as are the plural object suffixes and, at least in Warembori, plural independent pronouns.



Front Back
High i u
Mid e o
Low a


Bilabial Alveolar Palatal Velar
Stop Voiceless p t k
Voiced b d
“Heavy” ˀb ˀd
Nasal Voiced m n
“Heavy” ˀm ˀn
Fricative Voiceless s
Semivowel Voiced w j

The sequence /nk/ is realized as [ŋɡ].

The light voiced stops /b d/ lenite to [β r] between vowels within a word. The heavy stops do not lenite.

When a nasal is followed by a heavy plosive, it is lengthened, i.e. /mˀb/ [mːb] /nˀd/ [nːd]. When not followed by a stop, heavy nasals are long and preceded by a glottal closure, i.e. /ˀm/ [ʔmː] /ˀn/ [ʔnː]. Heavy consonants also attract stress (see below).


The independent pronouns are:

sg. du. pl.
Incl. iwi amui ami
Excl. kui ki
2 awi mui mi
3 yi tui ti

The dual pronouns are derived from the plural via the infix ⟨u⟩. This parallels the nearby Austronesian Cenderawasih languages, which derive the dual from the plural with du or ru, from *Dua 'two'. The plural pronouns ami, ki, mi, ti, in turn, appear to be Austronesian in origin, from *kami, *kita, *kamiu, *siDa (the latter via **tira). Although 3sg yi might also derive from Austronesian *ia, 1sg iwi and 2sc awi, the most basic pronouns, have no parallel in Austronesian. However, the basic pronouns iwi, awi, yi, ki, mi, ti resemble Yoke eβu, aβu iβu, kiβu, miβu, siβu, illustrating the strong Austronesian influence on both languages.

Possessive prefixes on nouns are nearly identical to subject prefixes on verbs. The object suffixes are also similar; the paradigm is very close to that of Yoke, apart from an inclusive-exclusive distinction which is not completely grammaticalized in the case of possessives.

Possessive Subject Object
1sg e- i-, e-, ja- -ewi, -e(o)
2sg a- u-, wa-, a- -awi, -a(o)
3sg i-, ∅- i-, ja- ∅- -i, -i(o)
1ex ami ami-, ama-, ame- -mo, -m(o)
1in ki-, ke- ki-, ka-, ke- -ki, -k(o)
2pl mi-, me- mi-, ma-, me- -mi, -m(o)
3pl ti-, te- ti-, ta-, te- -ti, -t(o)

The singular prefixes of Warembori and Yoke are nearly identical to the 1sg e-, 2sg a-, 3sg i- of the Kwerba languages Kauwera and Airoran. However, Kwerba has no more basic vocabulary in common with the Lower Mamberamo family than what is expected by chance.

Writing system[edit]

Warembori is written in a Latin alphabet based on the Indonesian. It represents phonetic, rather than phonemic, distinctions. In particular:

  • /b/ [β] is written v
  • /d/ [r] is written r
  • /nk/ [ŋɡ] is written ngg


  1. ^ Warembori at Ethnologue (18th ed., 2015)
  2. ^ Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin; Bank, Sebastian, eds. (2016). "Warembori". Glottolog 2.7. Jena: Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History. 
  • Donohue, Mark (1999). Warembori. Languages of the World/Materials 341. München: Lincom Europa. 

External links[edit]