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The Engan languages are a small family of Papuan languages of the highlands of Papua New Guinea. The two branches of the family are rather distantly related, but were connected by Franklin and Voorhoeve (1973).

Enga – Southern Highlands
New Guinea
Linguistic classificationNortheast New Guinea?
  • Engan
  • North (Engan)
  • South (Kewa–Huli)
Engan languages.svg
Map: The Engan languages of New Guinea
  The Engan languages
  Trans–New Guinea languages
  Other Papuan languages
  Austronesian languages


The name "Engan" is sometimes restricted to the northern branch of the family, to those languages transparently related to Enga, sometimes to the family as a whole.


The languages fall into three quite distinct branches: Engan proper, Huli, and Southern Highlands:


The Engan family constitutes a branch of the Trans–New Guinea languages in the classification of Malcolm Ross, but the evidence for this is weak.

There are a considerable number of resemblances with Wiru. Borrowing has not been ruled out as the reason for this, though the pronouns are similar as well.

Reconstructed pronounsEdit

Pronouns are easy to reconstruct for the northern and southern branches, but much more difficult for Engan as a whole. Ross (2005) has the following for the singular, Wiru has been added for comparison:

pEngan N Engan S Engan Wiru
1 **nə *na-ba *ní no (gen. anu)
2 **ne-ke *ne-ba *ne-ke ne (gen. ne-ke)
3 ? *ba *[n]i-bu one


Enga-Kewa-Huli reflexes of proto-Trans-New Guinea (pTNG) etyma are:[2]


  • mona ‘heart’ < *mundun
  • yaka ‘bird’ < *yaka(i)
  • lyaŋa ‘ashes’ < *la(ŋ,k)a
  • ŋaŋa ‘baby < *ŋaŋ(a)
  • (m)ama ‘mother’ < *am(a,i)
  • kuri ‘bone’ < *kondaC
  • kare ‘ear’ < *kand(e,i)k(V]
  • ne- ‘eat’ < *na
  • apa(ne) ‘father’ < *apa
  • iti ‘hair’ < *iti[C]
  • endo ‘fire’ < *kend(o,u)p
  • lema ‘louse’ < *niman
  • kana ‘moon’ < *takVn[V]
  • mana ‘instructions’ < *mana
  • kitama ‘morning’ < *k(i,u)tuma
  • kumi- ‘die’ < *kumV-
  • re- ‘speak’ < *nde-
  • maa ‘taro’ < *mV
  • ita ‘tree’ < *inda


  • ega ‘bird’ < *yaka(i)
  • na- ‘eat’ < *na-
  • aba ‘father’ < *apa
  • iri ‘hair’ < *iti[C]
  • ira ‘tree’ < *inda
  • ma ‘taro’ < *mV


  • ama ‘mother’ < *am(a,i)
  • ibi ‘name’ < *imbi
  • iri ‘hair’ < *iti[C]
  • uni ‘bone’ < *kwanjaC
  • apu ‘tail’ < *a(mb,m)u
  • lema ‘louse’ < *niman
  • oma ‘die’ < *kumV-
  • reka- ‘stand’ < *t(a,e)kV-
  • la- ‘talk’ < *nde-
  • maa ‘taro’ < *mV
  • yaa ‘bird’ < *yaka(i)


  • am ‘mother’ < *am(a,i)
  • ap ‘father’ < *apa
  • mbi ‘name’ < *imbi
  • ome- ‘die’ < *kumV-


  1. ^ Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin, eds. (2017). "Enga–Kewa–Huli". Glottolog 3.0. Jena, Germany: Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History.
  2. ^ Pawley, Andrew; Hammarström, Harald (2018). "The Trans New Guinea family". In Palmer, Bill (ed.). The Languages and Linguistics of the New Guinea Area: A Comprehensive Guide. The World of Linguistics. 4. Berlin: De Gruyter Mouton. pp. 21–196. ISBN 978-3-11-028642-7.
  • 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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