Ramu-Lower Sepik languages

Ramu-Lower Sepik languages

Infobox Language family
name=Ramu-Lower Sepik
region=New Guinea
family=a primary family of Papuan languages
child1=Lower Sepik
The Ramu-Lower Sepik languages form a family of 35 Papuan languages spoken in the Ramu and Sepik river basins of northern Papua New Guinea. These languages tend to have simple phonologies, with few consonants or vowels and usually no tones.

The family was proposed by William Foley and accepted by Malcolm Ross. Its two branches, Ramu and Lower Sepik, had belonged to Laycock's Sepik-Ramu proposal. They are not closely related.

Based on oral histories of the Lower Sepik peoples, which record that Yimas is spoken near their homeland, as well as the conservative nature of Yimas itself, Ross suggests that the speakers ofProto Ramu–Lower Sepik may have lived in the northern foothills of the New Guinea highlands and moved into the Sepik Basin as the inland Sepik Sea started to recede six thousand years ago.


The small families listed below in boldface are clearly valid units. The internal coherence of the two branches, Ramu and Lower Sepik, is based on similar pronoun paradigms, which however do not connect the two branches to each other. The primary evidence for this wider Ramu-Lower Sepik connection is a number of irregular plural markers shared by the Lower Sepik languages and the Ramu languages Watam and Bosman. There are indications that the Piawi languages may belong here as well.

* Lower Sepik (Nor-Pondo)
** "Murik"
** "Kopar"
** Pondo family: Chambri, Yimas, Karawari, Angoram

* 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: Langam, Mongol, Yaul
** ? Arafundi-Piawi
*** Arafundi family: Alfendio (Arafundi), Meakambut
*** ? Piawi family (inclusion tentative)

Of the Ramu families, the first five (sometimes classified together as "Lower Ramu)" are relatable through lexical data. The other four can only be connected through their pronouns.

In Lower Sepik, Murik and Kopar are usually placed into a Nor family (thus the name "Nor-Pondo)". However, Murik does not share the /p/s characteristic of the first- and second-person pronouns of the other languages.


The Ramu languages have singular, dual, and plural pronouns; the Lower Sepik languages also have paucal pronouns. Despite Foley being able to connect the two families lexically, the pronouns have little in common except for 3sg "man/mɨn" and non-singular "-ŋk-" (dual in Ramu and paucal in Lower Sepik). The pronouns reconstructed for the two constituent proto-families are,

;Proto-Ramu (Ross)


ee also

*Papuan languages



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