This article should specify the language of its non-English content, using ((lang)), ((transliteration)) for transliterated languages, and ((IPA)) for phonetic transcriptions, with an appropriate ISO 639 code. Wikipedia's multilingual support templates may also be used. See why. (September 2021)
Bosavi languages (red), among other Papua New Guinea languages
RegionPapua New Guinea
Native speakers
3,100 (2015)[1]
Trans–New Guinea
Language codes
ISO 639-3bco Kaluli

Kaluli is a language spoken in Papua New Guinea. It is a developing language with 3,100 speakers.[2] Some people refer to this language as Bosavi, however the people themselves refer to the language as Kaluli.[3] There are four dialects, Ologo, Kaluli, Walulu, and Kugenesi. The differences between the dialects are not clear.[2] Their writing system uses the Latin script. Kaluli belongs to the Trans-New Guinea language family.[3] Kaluli was first analyzed by Murray Rule in 1964 who wrote a preliminary phonological and morphological analysis.[3] A dictionary of Kaluli has been compiled by Schieffelin and Feld (1998).[4]


Like most Trans New Guinea languages, Kaluli is verb-final, as Subject-Object-Verb (SOV). The unmarked word order for bivalent clauses is AOV, but OAV is also possible. Kaluli allows a great deal of deletion and ellipsis in all genres of talk. Utterances may consist of a single verb, or a verb with one or more other sentence constituents. When a person opens a discourse all major NPs (Numeral Phrase) are usually specified, but if one NP does not change, and there is no likelihood of ambiguity, that NP will probably not be repeated.

Examples of inflected Kaluli verbs, showing different stem forms
Immediate imperative Future imperative Future (first person) Past
'take' di-ma di-ya꞉bi di-a꞉no꞉ di
'speak' sa-ma sa꞉l-a꞉bi sa꞉-ma꞉no꞉ siyo꞉
'eat' maya na꞉bi ma꞉no꞉ mo꞉no꞉


The Kaluli tense system appears to show properties of both egophoricity and more typical person-marking. Present tense apparently distinguishes first vs non-first subjects, whereas future tense markers follow a more typically egophoric distribution. This suggests that language can include both indexical speaker reference and personal knowledge marking into their verbal morphology, rather than choosing to focus on one path or the other. The Kaluli data shows much more intriguing variation on egophoricity, the special marking of second-person questions, as well as highlighting parallels between volition-sensitive egophoric marking and impersonal experiencer constructions in person-marking languages.

History and culture

Main article: Kaluli people

See also: Kaluli creation myth

The Kaluli are more closely related to the low land Papuan cultural groups than to those of the nearby highlands, physiological and cultural evidence shows this but there is no hard evidence to suggest that they originated anywhere outside of the general territory that they currently occupy. Early trade relations and cultural borrowings appear to have been mainly with peoples from the north and from the west. Over time, the Kaluli moved eastward, away from established settlement areas, moving even more deeply into the forests. Some of this movement may be attributed to a need to seek fresh garden lands, but it may also be explained in part as a defensive response to the expansionist pressures of the Beami and Edolo, traditional Kaluli enemies who live to the west and northwest of Kaluli territory. Warfare and raiding were common on the plateau, but there were longstanding trade relations between the Kaluli and certain of the other neighbor groups, particularly with the Sonia to the west and the Huli of the Papuan highlands. First European contact on the plateau occurred in 1935, bringing with it the introduction of new goods to the regional trade network, most significantly, steel axes and knives. World War II brought a temporary stop to Australian government exploration of the plateau, which only began in 1953. At this time, there was more frequent, but still irregular, contacts with Australian administrators and more direct interventions into the lives of the plateau peoples. Raiding and cannibalism were outlawed by 1960, and in 1964 missionaries built an airstrip near Kaluli territory to serve two mission stations established nearby.[5]



Based on the properties of the present consonant and vowel inventories, Kaluli is a typologically typical language. It features a traditional seven vowel system, with a vowel height and rounding contrast.[3]

Vowel Inventory
Front Central Back
Close i u
Close-mid e o
Open-mid ɛ ɔ
Open a

















'beat sago'

























'tree knot'





/ o.lo.lo /














'ceiling joist'



Similar to its vowels, Kaluli's consonant inventory follows several common generalizations about consonants in the world’s languages. For example, the consonant chart lists only voiceless obstruents, nasal consonants, and an overall larger inventory that includes a few complex consonants (ex: glottal consonants, alveolar lateral flap, voiced labio-velar approximant).[3]

Labial Dental Alveolar Palatal Velar Glottal
Nasal m n
Plosive p (b) t (d) k (ɡ)
Fricative f s h
Flap ɺ
Semivowel j w


All Kaluli vowels may be nasalised, although nasalisation occurs only on a small percentage of words in the language. Nasalisation does not appear to be predictable, but there is also no clear examples of contrast. Some speakers nasalise words a lot more than others. However, no distinct group of individuals have been identified for consistently using more nasalisation, for either age or geographic group. When a nasalised vowel precedes a [b d g], most speakers pre-nasalise the stop in continuous speech, e.g. /tapo/ ‘all’ is pronounced as [ˡtʰ ɑ̃^mbo], /atep/ ‘two’ as [ãⁿ depʼ] and /wakapi/ ‘angry’ as [wãⁿˡ gabi].[6] Some speakers maintain the nasalisation on the vowel along with the prenasalised stop, whereas other speakers use an oral vowel with the prenasalised stop. If, however, these words are broken into their component syllables, then the pre-nasalisation disappears, and the nasal vowel remains.


The Kaluli orthography uses seven vowel letters. The open-mid vowels are represented by ⟨a꞉⟩ and ⟨o꞉⟩.[7] Kaluli does have tone and nasalization that is not symbolized in the orthography as it is presently used. Verbal morphology in Kaluli is very complicated, and there has been little standardization of rules concerning the writing of these morphological changes.

See also


  1. ^ Kaluli at Ethnologue (18th ed., 2015) (subscription required)
  2. ^ a b c "Kaluli". Ethnologue. Retrieved 2018-05-02.
  3. ^ a b c d e Grosh, Andrew; Grosh, Sylvia (September 2004). "Grammar Essentials for the Kaluli Language". Summer Institute of Linguistics Papua New Guinea.
  4. ^ Schieffelin, Bambi and Steven Feld. 1998. Bosavi-English-Tok-Pisin Dictionary. Canberra: Pacific Linguistics.
  5. ^ Fiske, Alan. "Kaluli". Archived from the original on August 5, 2012. Retrieved 2018-11-09.
  6. ^ Grosh, Sylvia & Andrew (2004). "Organised Phonology Data Supplement" (PDF).
  7. ^ Grosh, Andy. "Kaluli" (PDF).