Indo-Pacific languages

The Indo-Pacific language family proposed by Joseph Greenberg in 1971 consists of the non-Austronesian languages of New Guinea and neighboring islands, the languages of Tasmania, and the languages of the Andaman Islands.


The proposal was based on rough estimation of lexical similarity and typological similarity and has not reached a stage where it can be confirmed by the standard comparative method or the reconstruction of a protolanguage and has therefore not been widely accepted by linguists.

An additional difficulty is the fact that the languages of Tasmania are extinct and so poorly attested that most historical linguists regard them as unclassifiable. The greatest controversy concerns the geographic outliers, Tasmanian and Andamanese.


The languages in the group are primarily tone languages and feature nouns marked for case, but not necessarily for number, with the SOV word order being most common. [Contemporary linguistics, p400. O'Grady, Dobrovolsky, Katamba. 1997: ISBN 058224691 1 Ppr.]


According to Greenberg, the family consists of fourteen families. He suggested a tentative sub-classification into seven groups, listed in bold below. He presented no evidence for this subgrouping.

**Tasmanian languages
**Andamanese languages (perhaps only the Great Andamanese languages)Fact|date=November 2007
*Nuclear New Guinea
**Central New Guinea languages
**Kapauku-Baliem languages
**North New Guinea languages
**South New Guinea languages
**Southwest New Guinea languages
*West Papuan
**West New Guinea languages
**North Halmahera languages
**Timor-Alor languages
*East New Guinea
**East New Guinea languages
*Northeast New Guinea
**Northeast New Guinea languages
**Bougainville languages (see East Papuan languages)
**New Britain languages (see East Papuan languages)
**Central Melanesian languages (see East Papuan languages)
***Central Solomons languages
***Santa Cruz languages

This classification was never widely accepted, and has largely been supplanted by that of Stephen Wurm (see Papuan languages). They do not generally agree well. For example:

*Greenberg's North New Guinea family corresponds to four of Wurm's families, Sko, Sepik-Ramu, Torricelli, and the Northern branch of Trans-New Guinea;

*Greenberg's West New Guinea family corresponds to four of Wurm's, East Bird's Head, Geelvink Bay, the South Bird's Head and West Bomberai branches of Trans-New Guinea, and the Bird's Head branch of West Papuan.

The few similarities are retentions from earlier linguists' work:

*Greenberg's Northeast New Guinea family closely matches Wurm's Madang-Adelbert Range branch of Trans-New Guinea
*Greenberg's Eastern New Guinea family and Wurm's Eastern Main-Section branch of Trans-New Guinea both preserve Tom Dutton's Southeast New Guinea family.


ee also

*Trans-New Guinea languages

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