Eastern Trans-Fly languages

Eastern Trans-Fly
Oriomo Plateau
Papua New Guinea, Torres Strait Islands (Australia)
Linguistic classification Trans-Fly
  • Eastern Trans-Fly
Glottolog east2503[1]
Map: The Eastern Trans-Fly languages of New Guinea
  The Eastern Trans-Fly languages
  Trans–New Guinea languages
  Other Papuan languages
  Austronesian languages
  Australian languages

The Eastern Trans-Fly languages are a small independent family of Papuan languages in the classification of Malcolm Ross, that constituted a branch of Stephen Wurm's 1970 Trans-Fly proposal, which he later incorporated into his 1975 expansion of the Trans–New Guinea family as part of a Trans-Fly – Bulaka River branch.


Wurm himself concluded that some of his purported Trans-Fly languages were not in the Trans–New Guinea family but rather heavily influenced by Trans–New Guinea languages. Ross (2005) removed the bulk of the languages, including Eastern Trans-Fly, from Wurm's Trans–New Guinea.

Timothy Usher links the four languages here, which he calls Oriomo Plateau, to the Pahoturi languages and the Tabo language in an expanded Eastern Trans-Fly family.


Eastern Trans-Fly


The pronouns Ross reconstructs for proto–Eastern Trans-Fly are,

I*kaexclusive we*ki
inclusive we*mi
he/she/it*tabV; ethey*tepi

There is a possibility of a connection here to Trans–New Guinea. If the inclusive pronoun is historically a second-person form, then there would appear to be i-ablaut for the plural: *ka~ki, **ma~mi, **tapa~tapi. This is similar to the ablaut reconstructed for TNG (*na~ni, *ga~gi). Although the pronouns themselves are dissimilar, ablaut is not likely to be borrowed. On the other hand, there is some formal resemblance to Austronesian pronouns (*(a)ku I, *(ka)mu you, *kita we inc., *(ka)mi we exc., *ia he/she/it; some archeological, cultural and linguistic evidence of Austronesian contact and settlement in the area exists (David et al., 2011; McNiven et al., 2011; McNiven et al., 2006; McNiven et al., 2004: 67-68; Mitchell 1995).


  1. Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin, eds. (2017). "Eastern Trans-Fly". Glottolog 3.0. Jena, Germany: Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History.

  • 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. 1566. ISBN 0858835622. OCLC 67292782. 

DAVID, B., MCNIVEN, I.J., MITCHELL, R., ORR, M., HABERLE, S., BRADY, L. & CROUCH, J. 2004. Badu 15 and the Papuan-Austronesian settlement of Torres Strait. Archeology in Oceania 39(2): 65-78.
MCNIVEN, I.J., DICKINSON, W.R., DAVID, B., WEISLER, M., VON GNIELINSKI, F., CARTER, M., & ZOPPI, U. 2006. Mask Cave: red-slipped pottery and the Australian-Papuan settlement of Zenadh Kes (Torres Strait). Archaeology in Oceania 41(2): 49-81.
MCNIVEN, I.J., DAVID, B., RICHARDS, T., APLIN, K., ASMUSSEN, B., MIALANES, J., LEAVESLEY, M., FAULKNER, P., ULM, S. 2011 New directions in human colonisation of the Pacific: Lapita settlement of south coast New Guinea. Australian Archaeology 72:1-6.
MITCHELL, R. 1995. Linguistic Archeology in Torres Strait. Unpublished MA thesis (James Cook University: Townsville).

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