Meriam language

Meriam language
Spoken in Murray Island, Torres Strait, Queensland, Australia
Ethnicity Meriam
Native speakers 300–400  (1991)
Language family
Language codes
ISO 639-3 ulk

Meriam (in the language itself Meriam Mìr; also Miriam, Meryam, Mer, Mir, Miriam-Mir, etc. and Eastern, Isten, Esten, The Eastern Torres Strait Language and Able Able) is the language of the people of Mer (Murray Island), Waier and Dauar, Erub (Darnley Island) and Ugar (Stephens Island) in the Torres Strait, Queensland, Australia. In the Western-Central Language of Torres Strait (Kala Lagaw Ya), it is generally called Mœyam, or Mœyamau Ya.



Although Meriam is located in Australian territory, it is classified as a Papuan language. It has, however, around 25 percent common vocabulary with its Torres Strait Island neighbour Kala Lagaw Ya, which is an Australian language. There are some very minor vocabulary influences of Melanesian, Polynesian (in particular Rotuman), Indonesian, Filipino, Japanese and European origin. Many such outsiders were recruited – or in some cases black-birded – in the 19th century for pearl diving, and other marine work.

Meriam was placed in the Eastern Trans-Fly family of Trans–New Guinea by Stephen Wurm, who however felt that these have retained remnants of pre-TransNG languages, and this is followed by Ethnologue (2005). In 2005 Malcolm Ross concluded that the Eastern Trans-Fly languages were not part of the Trans–New Guinea phylum, but kept the family itself with Meriam as a member. R.M.W. Dixon (2002) regards claims of a relationship between the Fly River languages and Meriam as unproven, though what he bases his claim on is not clear, as Meriam Mir has a high cognation rate with its sister language, and a certain amount of mutual intelligibility is claimed by Meriam speakers. Such cognates include the personal pronouns, verbs, nominals, verbal and nominal morphology, cultural vocabulary, and so on.

The other Eastern Trans-Fly languages are Bine, Gizra, and Wipii (also known as Gidra).


The language is dialectless. However, formerly there was a separate dialect spoken on Erub and Ugar islands, characterised in part by the retention of phonemic distinctions between 'ng', 'g', 'n' and 'r' where these have fallen together in two ways in Meriam Mir. The sound 'ng' in Modern Meriam has become 'n' at the beginning of words and 'g' within words; 'n' in general has become 'r' within words. The earliest records (early 19th century) of Meriam Mìr, which were actually in the Erub dialect, Erubim Mìr, included the phrase debe lang good taste/nice, where lang is identical to the Gizra lang of the same meaning. In present-day Meriam Mìr the phrase is debe lag.

  • 'ng' > 'n' at the beginning of a word : Erub ngenkep, Mer nerkep heart (ngen/ner breath, kep body part, (cf. Kala Lagaw Ya ngœnakaapu, ngœna breath + kaapu body part)
  • 'ng' > 'g' within and at the eng of a word : Erub debe lang > Mer debe lag; Erub denger, Mer deger dugong (cf. Kala Lagaw Ya dhangal)
  • Erub ngeng, Mer neg, Bine ngango laugh.
  • 'n' > 'n' at the beginning of a word : Erub naiger > Mer naiger North-East
  • 'n' > 'r' in the middle and at the end of a word : Erub ngenkep > Mer nerkep heart



Front Back
High i (i) u (u)
Retracted High ɪ (ì) ʊ (ù)
Mid e (e) o (o)
Low a, ə (a) ɔ (ò)

The sounds represented by [a] and [ə] are allophonic. Schwa appears mainly in syllables BEFORE the stress accent and optionally in open unstressed syllables otherwise. [a] appears in stressed syllables and in unstressed closed syllables.


Bilabial Dental Alveo-Palatal Velar
Stop Voiceless p t k
Voiced b d ɡ
Nasal m n
Fricative Voiceless s
Voiced z
Lateral l
Trill/Tap r
Semivowel w j


Stress is contrastive in Meriam and can occur on the first or second syllable. Examples are tábo snake and tabó neck


  • Dixon, R. M. W. (2002). Australian Languages: Their Nature and Development. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 
  • Passi, Gamalai Ken; Piper, Nick (1994). "Meryam Mir". In Nick Thieberger & William McGregor. Macquarie Aboriginal Words. Macquarie Library. pp. 320–351. 
  • Piper, N. (1989). A sketch grammar of Meryam Mer. Australian National University. 
  • Ross, Malcolm (2005). "Pronouns as a preliminary diagnostic for grouping Papuan languages". In Andrew Pawley, Robert Attenborough, Robin Hide and Jack Golson. Papuan pasts: cultural, linguistic and biological histories of Papuan-speaking peoples. Canberra: Pacific Linguistics. pp. 15–66. 

External links

Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.

См. также в других словарях:

  • Meriam — may refer to: Someone or something related to Murray Island, Queensland, also called Mer Meriam people, the people of Mer Meriam language, the language of the Meriam people Lady Meriam, Chong Ah Mei (died 1935), first wife of the first Prime… …   Wikipedia

  • Meriam people — Mer (Murray Island), in the eastern group of Torres Strait Islands off the northern tip of Australia, is home to the Meriam people. The Meriam people are perhaps best known for their involvement in the High Court of Australia s Mabo decision… …   Wikipedia

  • Meriam — Parlée en  Australie Région Queensland (Île Murray, Détroit de …   Wikipédia en Français

  • Meriam — /ˈmɛriəm/ (say mereeuhm) noun 1. the indigenous people of Mer (Murray Island) and other eastern Torres Strait Islands. –adjective 2. of or relating to this people or their language. Also, Meryam, Miriam. Many of the Christian missionaries who… …   Australian English dictionary

  • Meriam Mir — /mɛriəm ˈmɪə/ (say mereeuhm mear) noun 1. the language of the Meriam people. –adjective 2. of or relating to this language. Also, Meryam Mir, Miriam Mir …   Australian English dictionary

  • Meriam — noun a) An aboriginal people who live on Mer (Murray Island), in the eastern group of Torres Strait Islands off the northern tip of Australia. b) The language of the Meriam people …   Wiktionary

  • Meriam — ISO 639 3 Code : ulk ISO 639 2/B Code : ISO 639 2/T Code : ISO 639 1 Code : Scope : Individual Language Type : Living …   Names of Languages ISO 639-3

  • Mer language (disambiguation) — There are several languages or dialects called Mer: Mer language, a Papuan language of Western New Guinea Mer, a dialect of the Bench language of Ethiopia Meriam language, a Papuan language of Torres Strait mer is the ISO 639 3 code for the Meru… …   Wikipedia

  • Kala Lagaw Ya — Infobox Language name=Kala Lagaw Ya/Kalau Kawau Ya/Kulkalgau Ya/Kawalgau Ya Lagau Ya region=Western and Central Torres Strait Islands, Queensland speakers=3000–4000 familycolor=Australian fam1=Pama Nyungan iso3=mwpKala Lagaw Ya (correctly Kalaw… …   Wikipedia

  • Torres Strait Island languages — There are two languages indigenous to Torres Strait Islanders, and and English based Creole. The western central language is an agglutinative language which however appears to be undergoing a transition into a declensional language, while Meriam… …   Wikipedia

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