Greater Binanderean
Oro Province and parts of southern Morobe Province, Papua New Guinea
Linguistic classificationBinanderean–Goilalan[1]
  • Greater Binanderean
Map: The Greater Binanderean languages of New Guinea
  Greater Binanderean languages
  Trans–New Guinea languages
  Other Papuan languages
  Austronesian languages

The Greater Binanderean or Guhu-Oro languages are a language family spoken along the northeast coast of the Papuan Peninsula – the "Bird's Tail" of New Guinea – and appear to be a recent expansion from the north. They were classified as a branch of the Trans–New Guinea languages by Stephen Wurm (1975) and Malcolm Ross (2005), but removed (along with the related Goilalan languages) by Timothy Usher (2020).[2] The Binandere family proper is transparently valid; Ross connected it to the Guhu-Semane isolate based on pronominal evidence, and this has been confirmed by Smallhorn (2011). Proto-Binanderean (which excludes Guhu-Samane) has been reconstructed in Smallhorn (2011).

Language contact

There is evidence that settlements of people speaking Oceanic languages along the Binanderean coast were gradually absorbed into inland communities speaking Binanderean languages (Bradshaw 2017). For instance, the SOV word order of Papuan Tip languages is due to Binanderean influence.[3]

Korafe displays significant influence from Oceanic languages. Meanwhile, Maisin, spoken in Oro Province, is an Oceanic language with very heavy Binanderean influence and shows characteristics typical of mixed languages.[3]

Spoken in Morobe Province, Guhu-Samane is divergent, which may be due to extensive historical contact with Oceanic languages such as Numbami.[3]


Greater Binanderean consists of the Guhu-Samane language and the Binanderean languages proper. Smallhorn (2011:444) provides the following classification:

However, South Binanderean and Nuclear Binanderean are non-genealogical linkages. Usher (2020), who calls the Binanderean languages proper "Oro" after Oro Province, classifies them very similarly, apart from not reproducing the non-cladistic linkages:[2]


Smallhorn (2011:3) provides population figures for the following Binanderean languages.

about 80,000



Ross (2005) reconstructs both independent pronouns and verbal person prefixes:

sg. pronoun prefix
1 *na *a-
2 *ni *i-
3 *nu *u-

Only 1sg continues the Trans-New Guinea set.


The following selected reconstructions of Proto-Binanderean and other lower-level reconstructions are from the Trans-New Guinea database:[4]

gloss Proto-Binandere Proto-North-Binandere Proto-Nuclear-Binandere
head *ciro; *giti
hair *tu
ear *doŋgarә *onje
eye *dibe; *diti
nose *mendә
tooth *di
tongue *VwVwV
dog *sinә
pig *pu
bird *ndi
egg *munju
blood *ju; *or{a,o}rә
bone *bobo; *wetu
skin *tamә
breast *ami
tree *i
man *embә
woman *bam{u,o}nә *ewVtu
sky *utu
sun *iji; *waeko *wari
moon *inua *kariga
fire *awo
stone *g{o,e}mb{a,i}(ro) *daba *ganuma
road, path *begata; *esa; *ndai
name *jajo; *jawә
eat *ind-; *mind-
one *daba


See also: Binandere language § Evolution

Greater Binanderean reflexes of proto-Trans-New Guinea (pTNG) etyma are:[5]

Binandere language:

Korafe language:

Suena language:

Yega language:


Like the Koiarian languages, Binanderean languages only allow for open syllables and do not allow final CVC.[5]: 87 


  1. ^ New Guinea World, Oro – Wharton Range
  2. ^ a b New Guinea World – Guhu-Oro
  3. ^ a b c Bradshaw, Joel (2017). Evidence of contact between Binanderean and Oceanic languages. Oceanic Linguistics 56:395–414.
  4. ^ Greenhill, Simon (2016). " - database of the languages of New Guinea". Retrieved 2020-11-05.
  5. ^ a b 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. Vol. 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.
  • Smallhorn, Jacinta Mary (2011). The Binanderean languages of Papua New Guinea: reconstruction and subgrouping. Canberra: Pacific Linguistics.

Further reading