Native toPapua New Guinea
RegionBaluan Island and Pam Islands, Manus Province
Native speakers
2,000 (2000)[1]
Language codes
ISO 639-3blq
Baluan Island

Baluan-Pam is an Oceanic language of Manus Province, Papua New Guinea. It is spoken on Baluan Island and on nearby Pam Island. The number of speakers, according to the latest estimate based on the 2000 Census, is 2,000. Speakers on Baluan Island prefer to refer to their language with its native name Paluai.

The language is of the agglutinating type with comparatively little productive morphology. Basic constituent order is subject–verb–object (SVO).

Varieties and related languages

The Baluan Island and Pam Island varieties of the language are practically similar, apart from a number of lexical differences. The language is closely related to Lou, spoken on Lou Island. Lou forms a dialect chain, with the varieties spoken on the far side of the island, facing Manus mainland, differing the most from Paluai and the ones on the side facing Baluan Island being the closest.

Bush material house

In Manus Province, about 32 languages are spoken, all of which belong to the Admiralties branch, a higher-order subgroup of Oceanic, which belongs to the Malayo-Polynesian branch of Austronesian. Most of the languages of Manus Province are scarcely documented. A reference grammar of Loniu was published in 1994.[2]

There is a minority of Titan speakers on Baluan, relatively recent immigrants living in Mouk village. The Titan people have become well known through the work of Margaret Mead. Many speakers have at least a passive command of Titan and Lou. In addition, the creole language Tok Pisin is widely spoken on the island, and most people have at least a basic command of English.


Consonant phonemes

The table below shows the consonant phonemes in the language.

Yams exchanged at bride price
Labial Coronal Dorsal
Nasal m n ŋ
Plosive p t k ()
Fricative s (h)
Approximant l (j) (w)
Vibrant (ɾ~r)

In contrast to many of the Manus languages, there are no bilabial trill or prenasalised consonants. The consonant inventory is rather simple, with a labialised nasal and plosive in addition to bilabial, apico-alveolar and dorso-velar stops and nasals. There is just one fricative, /s/, with /h/ being a very marginal phoneme. /t/ has a tap or trill as a variant. The glides [j] and [w] are analysed as non-syllabic variants of /i/ and /u/, respectively.[3]

Vowel phonemes

The vowels of Baluan-Pam are /i, e, ɛ, ɐ, ɔ, o, u/.

The vowel inventory consists of the standard five vowels most common in Oceanic languages,[4] with two additional segments: open-mid /ɛ/ and /ɔ/, which are much more frequently occurring. For younger speakers, /e/ appears to be merging with /ɛ/ and /o/ appears to be merging with /u/.

Syllable structure

The syllable template is (C)V(C). Not many syllables start with a vowel. Due to loss of word-final consonants and consequently vowels, which is a feature of eastern Admiralties languages,[5] the language allows consonants in the syllable coda and has many monosyllabic words with CVC form.

Word classes

Open classes

The two major open word classes are noun and verb (with a major subclass of stative verbs), with adjectives and adverbs as minor classes distinguished from both noun and verb and from each other. Verb to noun and verb to adjective derivations are very common, but not vice versa. Most predicates are headed by a verb complex, but nouns, adjectives, numerals and some prepositions can also function as predicate head. Only verbs, however, can take bound pronouns and be modified by tense–aspect–mood (TAM) particles.

Closed classes

The major closed classes in the language, containing function words, are pronouns, demonstratives, prepositions, numerals, quantifiers, and interrogative words. The pronominal system distinguishes singular, dual, paucal and plural number and first, second and third person, but not gender. The range of adpositional forms is limited, since most spatial relations are expressed either by a directly possessed spatial noun, or by a serial verb construction containing a directional.


Ladle made from coconut shell

Nominal morphology

The language does not have case or number marking on nouns. The only nominal morphology in the language functions to indicate possession. A distinction is made within nominal possessive constructions between direct and indirect possession. This correlates with, but does not coincide completely with, a semantic distinction between inalienable and alienable possession. With direct possession, a suffix indicating person and number of the possessor is added directly to the noun stem. With indirect possession, this suffix is added to a postposed possessive particle ta-. Most kinship terms and body part terms either can or must be used in a direct possessive construction. In addition, spatial nouns, referring to concepts such as "inside", "on top of" and "behind", are obligatorily used in a direct possessive construction.

Verbal morphology

Verbal derivational morphology is limited to the causative prefix pe-, the applicative suffix -ek, and reduplication.


The causative pe- makes transitive an intransitive verb. Causatives can be productively formed, but only with stative verbs. A causative adds an extra "causer" A argument, demoting the original S argument of the intransitive verb to O position. Examples are mat 'die, be dead' → pemat 'kill'.


The applicative in this language is a valency-rearranging rather than a valency-increasing device. It promotes an instrumental Oblique constituent of a verb to O position. The original O is not demoted, but rather follows the promoted constituent as a second object. The applicative is typically encountered in one specific discourse/information structure context. It is used as an anaphorical device to refer back to an item mentioned just before, usually in the previous clause, as in the example below:

(1) ope lêp suep a ope yilek ponat
[wo]=pe lêp [suep] a [wo]=pe yil-ek=Ø [ponat]
2sg=PFV take hoe and 2sg=PFV dig-APPL=3sg.ZERO soil
'You will take a hoe and you will dig the ground with it.' [lit. 'dig-with (it) the ground']


With transitive verbs, full or partial reduplication can be used as an intransitivising device. With intransitive verbs, reduplication adds aspectual meanings such as continuous aspect. A second function of reduplication within the verb class is to derive nominalizations.


Abbreviations used in this section:
3 Third Person
DEM Demonstrative
DIST Distal
EMP Emphatic Marker
INT Intermediate
PROX Proximate
sg Singular

Demonstratives in Paluai utilise a three-way distinction pattern based upon person (near speaker, near addressee or neither) or relative distance (close, intermediate, distant).[3]

These three distinctions can be defined as 1. position at or very close to the deictic centre, proximate 2. an intermediate position, and 3. a position considered to be significant distance from the deictic centre.[6]

Here the deictic centre refers to the speaker.

When considering discourse deixis, demonstratives will function as anaphors (referring to previously mentioned information) or cataphors (referring forward).[7]

Basic forms as well as forms prefixed by te- that are either proximate or distal are usually cataphors. Meanwhile, forms beginning with ta- are often used as anaphors, in addition to all intermediate forms despite prefixes.[8]

Demonstratives: basic forms

Three basic forms

Pwo: proximate, 'this'

Yo: intermediate, 'that'

Lo: distal 'that (far)'[6]

The above three demonstratives are often used to modify pronouns as seen in examples 1–2.

1. Pwo

Proximate demonstrative: Situational deictic use of pwo. Can mean 'this'.[9]

i pwo, moni reo pepa sangal

yi pwo moni teyo pepa sangal

3sg DEM.PROX money DEM ten.kina ten

'Here. The money is one hundred kina'

2. Yo

Intermediate demonstrative: Discourse deictic use of yo. Can mean 'that'[9]

Example of anaphor – refers to previously mentioned discourse[10]

i o. naman kamou rang teo inêm

yi yo naman kamou tang teyo yinêm

3sg DEM.INT perhaps speech my DEM be finished

'That's it. Perhaps my talk is finished'

It is unusual for either three of the basic demonstrative forms to modify nouns and it is also uncommon that the distal form lo is used in discourse, rather used to indicate to a distant object.[9]

Demonstratives: the formative te-

Forms tepwo, teyp and telo have the ability to modify both nouns and pronouns and are more common in the Paluai language than basic forms of demonstratives.[9]

Te- is classed as an emphatic marker and is used in conjunction with the basic demonstrative form.[9]

Since forms with te- must always modify either a noun or a pronoun, they cannot occur independently.[11]

Examples 3–5 show use of each demonstrative form with formative te-

3. Tepwo

Proximate demonstrative. Refers to place and time, can mean 'this', 'here' and 'now'[9]

Example of cataphor – refers forward[8]

On pwa mun tepwo iro Paluai

Woan pwa min te-pwo yito Paluai

2sg think banana EMP-DEM.PROX be Paluai

'Do you think this kind of banana grows on Baluan?'[12]

4. Teyo

Intermediate demonstrative. Used to indicate definiteness 'those'[11]

Example of anaphor, refers to previously mentioned discourse.[10]

Mun teo i makerin sip pwên

Mun teyo yi makerin sip pwên

Banana EMP-DEM.INT 3sg Negation.bunch one negation.

'Those bananas, they are not in a bunch'

4b. Unusual case – teyo

Intermediate demonstrative teyo in this situation is not an anaphor, new participant is mentioned for the first time, not referring to previously mentioned participants.[13]

Te yoy reo, yamat te I pari ai pusungop turê tepwo mqanen teo ipwak ai

Line 1. Te yoy teyo yamat te yi pari ayi pusungop

Sub stone EMP-DEM.INT person relative.3sg. belong at clan

Line 2. taurê tepwo mwanenen teyo yipwak ayi

Possessive EMP-DEM.PROX straight EMP-DEM.INT meet at

'As for these stones, this person who is straight from our clan encountered them'

5. Telo

Distal demonstrative. Can mean 'those (far)'[11]

Example of cataphor – refers forward[8]

Kei reywei relo ila ro monokinirê

Kei tayuei telo yila to monokinirê

Tree two.far EMP-DEM.DIST be behind

'Those two trees are behind them'

Demonstratives: spatial deictics with a-

Another set of demonstratives is formed by prefixing emplatic particle te- with preposition a- to form a spatial adverbial demonstrative of which has the ability to modify verbs only.

Atepwo, ateyo and atelo refer to the location where the activity described by verb is held.[11]

6. Atepwo

Proximate demonstrative. Can mean 'here'[11]

Wosa yen arepwo pwên

Wosa yen atepwo pwên

2sg lie at-EMP-DEM.PROX negation

'You cannot lie here'

7. Ateyo

Intermediate demonstrative. Can mean 'there'[11]

Wuisot kunawayut areo

Wuisot kunawayut ateyo

Go.up at-EMP-DEM.INT

'We went up to take a rest there'

8. Atelo

Distal demonstrative. Can mean 'there (far)'[14]

Ola lêp kong payanpôl sip te ila ro arelo me

Wola lêp kang payanpôl sip te yila to atelo me take food dry.coconut one be at-EMP-DEM.DIST    come

'You go and take my coconut (for me to eat) that is over there, and bring it here'

Demonstrative: free forms with ta-

This complex demonstrative uses formative ta-, the emphatic particle te- and a basic form of demonstrative. In comparison to the earlier mentioned demonstrative forms, free forms with ta- often have an element of definiteness when referring to a subject/object.[15] It is the one form of demonstrative that can be used independently and can therefore substitute the place of a noun and be the subject or object to a verb in noun phrases. Three forms with formative ta- include tatepwo, tateyo and tatelo. Here the proximate and distal demonstrative function as verbless clause subject, whilst the intermediate demonstrative functions as a transitive object.[14]

9. Tatepwo

Proximate demonstrative. Can mean 'this' with reference to specific subject or object[14]

Nulik, tarepwo ran sê

Nulik tatepwo tan sê

Nulik DEF-EMP-DEM.PROX possessive who

'Nulik, whose is this?'

10. Tateyo

Intermediate demonstrative. Can mean 'that', as in previously discussed subject/object[14]

Irouek nêm tareo la ran pein teo

Yitouek nêm tateyo la tan pein teyo

Show be DEF-EMP-DEM.INT possessive woman.      EMP-DEM.INT

'She showed all that [what has been talked about just before] to the woman'

11. Tatelo

Distal demonstrative. Can mean 'those', as in pointing out a specific subject/object[15]

Tarelo yeuyeu

Tatelo yeuyeu


'Those are stars'



There are four pronominal paradigms: free subject forms, bound subject forms, object forms and possessive forms. They are formally very similar. Pronouns distinguish singular, dual, paucal and plural number, and have a clusivity distinction. Dual refers to two entities, paucal refers to a few (any number between three and about ten), and plural refers to many. Inclusive pronouns include the addressee ('we, including you'), whereas exclusive ones exclude them ('we, but not you'). Below, the paradigm for the free forms is given.

First person Second person Third person
Singular wong wo yi
Dual Inclusive tau au u
Exclusive wui
Paucal Inclusive tare are ire
Exclusive wure
Plural Inclusive tap ap ip
Exclusive ep

Directional system

Forms in the paradigm

Navigating the outrigger canoe

The language has a system of directionals composed of ten members, eight of which are specified with regard to an absolute frame of reference (FoR).[16][17] An absolute FoR is based on fixed bearings, such as where the sun rises or sets or wind directions. In Baluan-Pam the FoR is based on a land-sea axis; a distinction is made between 1) seaward movement, 2) landward movement, and 3) movement parallel to the shore. Therefore, going inland always means going up, and going towards the shore always means going down. In addition, since motion parallel to the shore (i.e. intersecting the land–sea axis) usually means moving on more or less the same level, this has obtained a secondary meaning of 'moving on a horizontal level'. At sea, the system is extrapolated: thus, for moving towards the shore the same directionals are used as for moving inland, and for moving out to sea the same directionals are used as for moving towards the shore when on land.

The directionals are organised along two dimensions: absolute FoR and deixis. The table below shows the paradigm.

down, seaward (on land);

out to sea (on water)

up, landward (on land);

toward the shore (on water)

parallel to shore not specified
away from deictic centre suwot sot wot la, lak
toward deictic centre si sa, sak - me
not deictically anchored suwen sen wen -

The deixis distinction cross-cuts with the FoR distinction, so that five terms are specified for FoR and for deixis, three are specified for FoR only, and two are specified for deixis but not FoR. There is no dedicated term for motion toward the deictic centre parallel to the shore, and no unspecified term that is not deictically anchored (such a term would not add any information to a lexical verb of motion).

Use of directionals

The directional paradigm provides a very precise reference structure with ample use in discourse. For virtually all actions that in some sense involve motion (including perception-based actions such as seeing/looking, speaking or listening), the direction of the action has to be specified with a directional. In Paluai, this is done by a serial verb construction (SVC), in which a directional either precedes or follows the main verb. Directional SVCs are a common feature of Oceanic languages.[18][19]


  1. ^ "Manus Language Map". Archived from the original on 2016-03-04. Retrieved 2015-01-12.
  2. ^ Hamel, Patricia J. (1994). A grammar and lexicon of Loniu, Papua New Guinea (PDF). Series C - 103. Canberra: Pacific Linguistics. doi:10.15144/pl-c103. ISBN 0-85883-410-3.
  3. ^ a b Schokkin, Dineke (2014). A grammar of Paluai, the language of Baluan Island, Papua New Guinea (PhD thesis). James Cook University. p. 20
  4. ^ Lynch, John; Ross, Malcolm; Crowley, Terry (2002). The Oceanic languages. Richmond, Surrey: Curzon.
  5. ^ Blust, Robert (2009). The Austronesian languages. Canberra: Pacific Linguistics.
  6. ^ a b Schokkin, Dineke (2014). A grammar of Paluai, the language of Baluan Island, Papua New Guinea (PhD thesis). James Cook University. p. 148
  7. ^ Schokkin, Dineke (2014). A grammar of Paluai, the language of Baluan Island, Papua New Guinea (PhD thesis). James Cook University. p. 147
  8. ^ a b c Schokkin, Dineke (2014). A grammar of Paluai, the language of Baluan Island, Papua New Guinea (PhD thesis). James Cook University. p. 447
  9. ^ a b c d e f Schokkin, Dineke (2014). A grammar of Paluai, the language of Baluan Island, Papua New Guinea (PhD thesis). James Cook University. p. 149
  10. ^ a b Schokkin, Dineke (2014). A grammar of Paluai, the language of Baluan Island, Papua New Guinea (PhD thesis). James Cook University. p. 448
  11. ^ a b c d e f Schokkin, Dineke (2014). A grammar of Paluai, the language of Baluan Island, Papua New Guinea (PhD thesis). James Cook University. p. 151
  12. ^ Schokkin, Dineke (2014). A grammar of Paluai, the language of Baluan Island, Papua New Guinea (PhD thesis). James Cook University. p. 150
  13. ^ Schokkin, Dineke (2014). A grammar of Paluai, the language of Baluan Island, Papua New Guinea (PhD thesis). James Cook University. p. 449
  14. ^ a b c d Schokkin, Dineke (2014). A grammar of Paluai, the language of Baluan Island, Papua New Guinea (PhD thesis). James Cook University. p. 152
  15. ^ a b Schokkin, Dineke (2014). A grammar of Paluai, the language of Baluan Island, Papua New Guinea (PhD thesis). James Cook University. p. 153
  16. ^ Levinson, Stephen C. (2003). Space in language and cognition: explorations in cognitive diversity. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
  17. ^ Levinson, Stephen C.; Wilkins, David (2006). Grammars of space: explorations in cognitive diversity. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
  18. ^ Crowley, Terry (2002). Serial verbs in Oceanic: a descriptive typology. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
  19. ^ Durie, M. (1988). "Verb serialization and "verbal-prepositions" in Oceanic languages". Oceanic Linguistics. 27 (1/2): 1–23. doi:10.2307/3623147. JSTOR 3623147.