Native toPapua
RegionWapoga River, in the foothills inland from Cenderawasih Bay: Wapoga District, Nabire Regency, Papua province
Native speakers
200 (2007)[1]
Lakes Plain?
  • Wapoga
    • Keuw
Language codes
ISO 639-3khh

Keuw (Keu, Kehu) is an unclassified language of New Guinea.

Keuw is spoken in a swampy lowland region along the Poronai River in Keuw village (kampung) of Wapoga District, Nabire Regency, Papua province, Indonesia. According to oral folklore, the Keuw were originally from Woisaru, and then moved to Sanawado, which may be locations in Wapoga District.[2]


Mark Donohue (2007) said that Kehu is "probably a Geelvink Bay language, but no one knows enough about those languages, systematically, to say this with confidence for [any of them] beyond Barapasi, T(ar)unggare and Bauzi."[3]

Timothy Usher (2018) classifies it as a Lakes Plain language, closest to Awera and RasawaSaponi. According to Foley, based on some lexical and phonological similarities, Keuw may possibly share a deep relationship with the Lakes Plain languages.[4] Palmer (2018) treats Keuw as a language isolate.[5]


Phonology of Keuw from Kamholz (2012), quoted in Foley (2018):[6][4]


Keuw has ten consonants.

Labial Alveolar Palatal Velar
Plosive voiceless p t k
voiced b d ɡ
Fricative s
Liquid l
Semivowel w j


Keuw has five vowels.

Front Back
Close i u
Mid e o
Open a


Keuw has contrastive tone. Some minimal pairs demonstrating phonemic tonal contrasts:


Keuw has SOV word order, as exemplified by the sentence below. The morphemic suffixes remain unglossed.[4]







kómúul-yò yúmséet-yò núu-nô

boar-? cassava-? eat-?

‘The boar ate the cassava.’

Basic vocabulary

Basic vocabulary of Keuw from Kamholz (2012), quoted in Foley (2018):[6][4]

Keuw basic vocabulary
gloss Keuw
‘bird’ páupǝn
‘blood’ kpíi
‘bone’ ntyéns
‘breast’ túulí
‘ear’ téemé
‘eat’ núu
‘egg’ bléemí
‘eye’ mlúul
‘fire’ núup
‘go’ páwì
‘ground’ píi
‘hair’ plíikd
‘head’ kpúunt
‘leg’ páud
‘louse (body)’ máa
‘louse (head)’ bréen
‘man’ méeli
‘moon’ dyúutǝn
‘one’ bíisìp
‘path, road’ ngkéempúkə
‘see’ líyè, tíyè, kúntáb
‘sky’ tpáapí
‘stone’ tóotí
‘sun’ tandən
‘tooth’ mée
‘tree’ kúd
‘two’ páid
‘water’ yél
‘woman’ úun

The following basic vocabulary words are from the Trans-New Guinea database:[7][6]

gloss Keuw
head kpúunt-yô
ear téemé-yô
eye mlúul-yô
nose klókəә̀n-yô
tooth mée-yô
tongue áalì-yò
pig kómúul-yò
egg bléemí-yò
blood kpíi-yò
bone ntyéns-yô
skin mpáakəә́t-yô
breast túulí-yò
tree kúd-yô
sky tpáapí-yò
sun táadəә́n-yô
moon dyúutəә́n-yò
water yél-yò
fire núup-yò; óopí-yò
stone tóotí-yò
road, path ŋkéempúkəә̀-yô
eat kéep-yô; núu-nô
one bíisìp-yò
two páid-yô


  1. ^ Keuw at Ethnologue (18th ed., 2015) (subscription required)
  2. ^ Kamholz, David. 2012. The Keuw isolate: Preliminary materials and classification. In Harald Hammarström and Wilco van den Heuvel (eds.), History, contact, and classification of Papuan languages, 243–268. Special issue of Language and Linguistics in Melanesia. Port Moresby: Linguistic Society of Papua New Guinea.
  3. ^ Donohue (2007)
  4. ^ a b c d Foley, William A. (2018). "The languages of Northwest New Guinea". 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. 433–568. ISBN 978-3-11-028642-7.
  5. ^ Palmer, Bill (2018). "Language families of the New Guinea Area". 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. 1–20. ISBN 978-3-11-028642-7.
  6. ^ a b c Kamholz, David. 2012. The Keuw isolate: preliminary materials and classification. Language and Linguistics in Melanesia Special Issue: History, Contact and Classification of Papuan Languages: 243–268.
  7. ^ Greenhill, Simon (2016). " - database of the languages of New Guinea". Retrieved 2020-11-05.