Yam languages

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Morehead and Upper Maro Rivers
New Guinea
Linguistic classificationTrans-Fly – Bulaka River ?
  • Yam
  • Kanum
  • Yey
  • Nambu
  • Tonda
Morehead and Upper Maro River languages.svg
Map: The Yam languages of New Guinea
  Yam languages
  Trans–New Guinea languages
  Other Papuan languages
  Austronesian languages
  Australian languages

The Yam languages, also known as the Morehead and Upper Maro River languages, are a family of Papuan languages. They include many of the languages south and west of the Fly River in Papua New Guinea and Indonesian West Papua.

The name Morehead and Upper Maro River refers to the area around the Morehead and Maro rivers. Most of the languages are found between these rivers, but the Nambu subgroup are spoken east of the Morehead. Evans (2012) refers to the family instead with the more compact name Yam. This name is motivated by a number of linguistic and cultural items of significance: yam (and cognates) means "custom, tradition"; yəm (and cognates) means "is"; and yam tubers are the local staple and of central cultural importance.

Ross (2005) tentatively includes the Yam languages in the proposed Trans-Fly – Bulaka River family. More recently (Evans 2012) has argued that this is not justified and more data has to be gathered.

Classification[citation needed][edit]



Tonda (a dialect chain): Kanum (five distinct languages: Smerky, Taemer, Barkari, Ngkolmpu, Baedi), Rema, Blafe, Ránmo, Arammba, Warta Thuntai, Kánchá, Kémä, Wára, Wérè, Kómnzo, Anta

Nambu: Nama, Namat, Neme, Ndre, Nambu, Namo (Nä), Lä (Len), Nen

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


The pronouns Ross reconstructs for the family are,

Proto-Yam (Proto–Morehead – Upper Maro)
I/we *ni
you *bu
s/he/they *be

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin, eds. (2017). "Morehead–Wasur". 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.