Ramu languages

Ramu languages
New Guinea
Linguistic classification: Ramu – Lower Sepik
  • Ramu
Lower Ramu

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, and suggests that the Piawi languages may form part of the 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.[1] The other four traditional Ramu families have only been connected through their pronoun paradigms, and Ethnologue only accepts the inclusion of Tamolan and Annaberg. The addition of Piawi is tentative.

 Lower   Ramu 

Ottilien family: Watam (shares plural morphology with Nor–Pondo), Gamei, Kaian, Bosman, Awar

Misegian family: Giri, Sepen, Mikarew

Keram (Grass) family: Banaro, Kambot, Aion, Adjora, Gorovu

Ataitan family: Andarum, Igom, Tangu, Tanguat

Tamolan family: Romkun, Breri, Kominimung, Igana, Akrukay, Itutang, Midsivindi

Annaberg family: Rao, Anor, Aiome

Mongol–Langam family (see)

 ? Arafundi– 

Arafundi family: Andai (Meakambut), Nanubae, Tapei

? Piawi family (inclusion tentative)

Ethnologue (2009) lists Mongol–Langam, Arafundi, and Piawi as independent families. Their family tree shows Kambot (Ap Ma) not as a Keram language but as a third branch of Ramu – Lower Sepik; however, the comment that Adjora (Abu) is "most closely related to Banaro and Ap Ma" suggests that this may simply be one of the automated formatting errors that plagues Ethnologue's tables.


The pronouns reconstructed by Ross 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. ^ [1]
  • 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. 

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