Grand Valley Dani
Native toIndonesia
RegionHighland Papua
Native speakers
(90,000 cited 1990–1996)[1]
Language codes
ISO 639-3Variously:
dni – Lower
dnt – Mid
dna – Upper
hap – Hupla

Grand Valley Dani, or simply Dani,[2] is one of the most populous Papuan languages in Indonesian New Guinea (also known as Papua). The Dani people live in the Baliem Valley of the Western Highlands.


Dialectical differentiation is great enough that Ethnologue assigns separate codes to three varieties:

Lower Grand Valley Dani contains subdialects Lower Grand Valley Hitigima (Dani-Kurima, Kurima), Upper Bele, Lower Bele, Lower Kimbin (Kibin), and Upper Pyramid. Hupla, traditionally considered a separate language, is closer to Lower Grand Valley than the varieties of Grand Valley Dani are to each other.


Grand Valley Dani has established its own orthography during a conference between linguists of the Dutch New Guinea government and different missionary bodies on February 1961. This is the phonology of the Central Grand Valley Dani language:[3]


Bilabial Alveolar Palatal Velar Glottal
plain lab.
Nasal m n ŋ
Plosive voiceless p
⟨b, p⟩
⟨d, t⟩
⟨g, k⟩

⟨gw, kw⟩
⟨p, ph⟩

⟨t, th⟩

⟨k, kh⟩
⟨kw, kwh⟩
implosive ɓ
Fricative s h
Lateral l
Semivowel j w

Unlike other orthographies of local languages in Indonesia (largely based on the standard orthography), the original Grand Valley Dani orthography (the current one might be not known) has j instead of y, in common with the Indonesian old spelling.


front central back
close i u
mid e o
low a


This section needs expansion. You can help by adding to it. (February 2022)


Verbs in Grand Valley Dani are highly inflected for many tenses. Infinitive is marked by the suffix -in, although verb stems in -s- change to -t- before consonants: wetasin "to roast", but wetathy "I roasted".

Finite tenses

Default personal markers[5]
Singular Plural
1st -y -o
2nd -en -ep
3rd -e -em

Although there are claimed "default" personal markers, the correspondences between tense suffixes and personal markers are often highly irregular. Nevertheless, inflections of verbs are still highly regular. Unless denoted in the table, verb forms are marked by personal markers.

Tense Suffix(es)
Near future -ikin in the singular, -ukun in the plural.
Never inflected by person, only by number.
Indefinite future -isikin in the singular, -isukun in the plural.
Never inflected by person, only by number.
Near past -h-.
Remote past -hikh- in the 3sg, -hukh- in the 3pl, and -hVk- elsewhere.
-V- is an echo vowel from the personal markers, e.g. -hyky, -heken, etc.
Perfect past Suffixing the near past with -tik in the 1sg, -ttik in the 2sg, -sip in the 2pl and -sik elsewhere.
In the second person, the final consonants of original near past endings, when suffixed, have to be deleted (-hen (2sg) + -ttik-hettik, -hep (2pl) + -sip-hesip).
The ending for 3pl is irregular: -hasik instead of *-hemsik.
Habitual Replacing every instances of syllable-final -i- and -sik (but not -sip-sep) of the perfect past with -e- and -tek, respectively (-hettik-hettek).
Habitual perfect Infixing -si- into the main habitual ending (-hettek-hettesik).
The ending for 2pl is irregular: -hesep-hetesip instead of *-hesesip.
Singular Plural
First Second Third First Second Third
Future Near -ikin -ukun
Indefinite -isikin -isukun
Past Near -hy -hen -he -ho -hep -hem
Remote -hyky -heken -hikhe -huku -hikip -hukha
Perfect -hytik -hettik -hesik -hosik -hesip -hasik
Habitual Main -hytek -hettek -hetek -hotek -hesep -hatek
Perfect -hytesik -hettesik -hetesik -hotesik -hetesip -hatesik
Progressive -hylahy -hylaken -iako -hylako -hylakep -iakoei


The Dani language differentiates only two basic colours, mili for cool/dark shades such as blue, green, and black, and mola for warm/light colours such as red, yellow, and white. This trait makes it an interesting field of research for language psychologists, such as Eleanor Rosch, investigating the Whorf hypothesis.[6][7]


  1. ^ Lower at Ethnologue (18th ed., 2015) (subscription required)
    Mid at Ethnologue (18th ed., 2015) (subscription required)
    Upper at Ethnologue (18th ed., 2015) (subscription required)
    Hupla at Ethnologue (18th ed., 2015) (subscription required)
  2. ^ Compare Lani
  3. ^ Nijhoff 1966, p. 10–11
  4. ^ Bromley 1961, p. 31–32
  5. ^ Nijhoff 1966, p. 22–23
  6. ^ Saunders, Barbara Ann Christine (January 1, 1992). The Invention of Basic Colour Terms. R.U.U.-I.S.O.R. ISBN 9789051870879 – via Google Books.
  7. ^ Heider, Eleanor Rosch (1972). "Probabilities, Sampling, and Ethnographic Method: The Case of Dani Colour Names". Man. 7 (3): 448–466. doi:10.2307/2800917. JSTOR 2800917 – via JSTOR.

Further reading