RegionNorthern New Guinea
Native speakers
8,000 (2003)[1]
Language codes
ISO 639-3mva
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Manam is a Kairiru–Manam language spoken mainly on the volcanic Manam Island, northeast of New Guinea.



Front Central Back
High i u
Mid e o
Low a


Bilabial Alveolar Velar
Stop p b t d k ~ ʔ ~ q ɡ
Nasal m n ŋ
Fricative (t)s (d)z
Lateral l
Flap ɾ ~ r


Some vowels become glides in diphthongs, e.g. /u/, /o/ > [w] and /i/, /e/ > [j]. /i/ and /u/ are 'weaker' than /e/ and /o/, so that the syllable /kuo/ becomes [kwo] and not *[kuw]

According to Turner, /k/ is more and more often realized as [ʔ], while some older speakers have [q].

Syllable structure

The Manam syllable is (C)(V1)V(V1)(C1), the only exception is a syllabic [m̩].

There are some phonotactic restrictions on the prevalent syllable structure. E.g. V1 cannot be [a], whereas V must be [a] as long as it's not the syllable's sole vowel. C can be any consonant, whereas C1 must be a nasal consonant.


Stress is phonemic: /ˈsara/ 'palm tree', /saˈra/ 'seagull'. The stress falls on one of the three last syllables of a word, and stressing the penult syllable is the most common: /ˈnatu/ 'child', /maˈlipi/ 'work'. If the last syllable ends in a nasal consonant, it will be stressed instead: /naˈtum/ 'your child'. Some inflections and affixes do not alter the stress of the root word: /iˈto/ 'he learned' (i- is a 3rd person prefix), /siˈŋabalo/ 'in the bush' (-lo is a locative suffix).

In the orthography, stressed vowels can be underlined in order to avoid ambiguities. Ie. /ˈsara/ ⟨sara⟩ 'palm tree', /saˈra/ ⟨sara⟩ 'seagull'.


Word order

The basic, unmarked word order in Manam is SOV:

tamoata boro i-un-i
man pig 3SG.SUB-hit-3SG.OBJ
"The man hit the pig."


Lichtenberk defines the predicator as the primary element within a clause.[2]: 92  The predicator of a Manam clause can be realised in a variety of different ways, such as verb phrases Ex. (1), noun phrases Ex. (2), postpositional phrases Ex. (3), numbers Ex. (4), etc.[2]: 93 

Ex. (1): verb phrase predicator[2]: 94 

(1) natu masa ŋa-eno
child INIR 3SG.IRR-sleep
‘the child will sleep’

Ex. (2): noun phrase predicator[2]: 94 

(2) aine ene i-tui=tui tina-gu
woman over 3SG.IRR-stand-RPL mother-1SG.AD
‘the woman who is standing over there is my mother’

Ex. (3): postpositional phrase predicator[2]: 94 

(3) tamoata ŋe-ø paŋana-ø patu boʔana
man this-3SG.AD head-3SG.AD stone SIM
‘this man's head is like a stone’ i.e. this man is stubborn as a mule

Ex. (4): numeral predicator[2]: 94 

(4) boro ne-gu wati
pig POSS-1SG.AD four
‘I have four pigs’ (lit. my pigs are four)


Negation in Manam is primarily expressed using one of two negative markers: moaʔi and tago. moaʔi is used exclusively in direct speech prohibitions; whilst tago is used for all other cases.[2]: 384 

Scope of negation

The use of tago is primarily categorised by its scope of negation, which further indicates the focus of the clause. The spectrum of scope runs from negating one or more elements within a single clause, to negating an entire clause. The concept of scope of negation can be demonstrated in English: ‘I did not go to the party’ is an example of a broad scope of negation, i.e. the verb phrase (VP) is negated, therefore act of going to the party is negated; ‘not one person went to the party’ is an example of a narrow scope of negation, i.e. the subject is negated, not the act of going to the party.

Broad scope

A broad scope of negation is expressed in Manam by negating the predicator—this is done so by placing the negative marker tago before the predicator,[2]: 385  as demonstrated in the following examples:

Ex. (5): broad scope negation–1 element[2]: 385 

(5) tago u-loŋo
‘I did not hear’

Ex. (6): broad scope negation–2 elements[2]: 385 

(6) tamoata tago ŋa-te-a
man NEG 3SG.IRR-see-1SG.OBJ
‘the man will not see me’

Ex. (7): broad scope negation–3 elements[2]: 385 

(7) baʔaraʔa nora tago ʔu-pura?
why yesterday NEG 2SG.REAL-come
‘why didn't you come yesterday?’

Additionally, the negative marker tago can also function as a predicator of existential and possessive clauses.[2]: 387  Compare the following examples:

Ex. (8): negative existential sentence[2]: 387 

(8) ewa tago
fire NEG
‘there is no fire’

Ex. (9): negative possessive sentence[2]: 387 

(9) mone ne-gu tago
money POSS-1SG NEG
‘I have no money’

Narrow scope

As a general rule, Manam primarily expresses narrow scope negation by placing tago before the element which is being negated i.e. the object of focused negation within the clause.

Ex. (10): narrow scope negation[2]: 387 

(10) ŋai tago toʔa-ø di-pura-budu-ru
3SG.IP NEG 3PL.REAL-come-together-DL
‘he came without his brother’

In example (10), it is not the act of coming that is being negated, rather the negation is narrowly focused in negating the presence of the brother.

Ex. (11): narrow scope negation[2]: 387 

(11) tago ara-ø-n-oti i-ʔila-i
‘he did not call him by his name’ (i.e. he called him not by his name but by some other name)

Similarly, in example (11), it is not the act of calling one's name that is being negated, rather the negation focuses the fact that someone was called, but by some other name that was not their own.

Negative quantifiers

Additionally, the negative marker tago can be used in conjunction with the quantifiers teʔe ‘one’ and alu ‘some’ to produce the negative expressions, tago teʔe ‘no; not any’ and tago alu ‘no; not any’.[2]: 386  These expressions function as attributes within the noun phrases that they modify, as seen in the following examples (NP are enclosed within brackets):

Ex. (12): negation using tago teʔe[2]: 386 

(12) ŋau [ʔana tago teʔe-ø] u-te-ø
1SG.IP thing NEG one-3SG.AD 1SG.REAL-see-3SG.OBJ
‘I did not see anything’ (lit. I saw not one thing)

Ex. (13): negation using tago teʔe[2]: 386 

(13) [tamoata tago teʔe-ø] taun-lo i-laʔo
person NEG one-3SG.AD town-to 3SG.REAL-go
‘no one went to town’ (lit. not one person went to town)

More specifically, tago alu is used to modify noun phrases whose head are mass nouns; tago teʔecomparatively modifies count nouns.[2]: 386  Compare the following two examples:

Ex. (14): negative quantifier mass noun[2]: 386 

(14) [daŋ tago alu-ø] di-eno
water NEG one-3SG.AD 3PL.REAL-exist
‘there is no water’ (lit. not some water exists)

Ex. (15): negative quantifier count noun[2]: 386 

(15) [daŋ tago teʔe-ø] di-eno
water NEG some-3SG.AD 3PL.REAL-exist
‘there is no (containerful) of water’

Intensified negation

Negation in Manam can be intensified by appending the buffer element –na and the intensifier suffix –tina to tago,[2]: 388  as seen in the following example:

Ex. (16): intensifier suffix[2]: 389 

(16) ŋai tago-ø-na-tina i-pile=pile
‘he does not speak at all’

The buffer element –na, however, is not included when tago acts as the predicator of a clause,[2]: 388  as seen in the following example:

Ex. (17): intensified predicator[2]: 389 

(17) ŋau bua tago-tina
1SG.IP betelnut NEG-INT
‘I have no betelnuts at all’

Additionally, negation in Manam can be intensified using sesu ‘little’,[2]: 389  as seen in the following example:

Ex. (18): intensifier sesu[2]: 389 

(18) tamoata-ŋe tago sesu u-tea=te-ø
man-this NEG little 1SG.REAL-RPL-see-3SG.OBJ
‘I don't visit (see) this man at all’

Moreover, sesu ‘little’ can be used in conjunction with –tina within the same clause, as seen in the following example:[2]: 388 

Ex. (19): intensifier sesu + suffix –tina[2]: 389 

(19) tago-ø-na-tina sesu di-ra=raŋ-aʔ-idi
NEG-3SG.AD-BF-INT little 3PL.REAL-talk about-RPL-TRANS-3PL.OBJ
‘they do not talk about themselves at all’

Furthermore, the suffix –tina may be appended to the prohibitive marker moaʔi (with the presence of the buffer –na),[2]: 419  as seen in the following example:

Ex. (20): suffix –tina + prohibitive marker moaʔi[2]: 340 

(20) moaʔi-ø-na-tina niu-be ʔulu ʔu-buiriʔapotaʔ-i
PROH-3SG.AD-BF-INT coconut-and breadfruit 2SG.REAL-mix-3PL.OBJ
‘don't mix the coconuts and the breadfruit’


Manam expresses prohibitions in two basic ways: using finite verbs—defined as verb (phrase) forms that can occur on their own in a main clause;[3]: 183  using gerunds and verbal nouns. Lichtenberk defines gerunds as verb nuclei used to indicate ‘non-specific’ events, whereas verbal nouns are used to indicate ‘specific’ events.[2]: 243–244  Compare the following examples:

Ex. (21): gerund[2]: 244 

(21) udi tano-ø tago u-ʔawa
banana plant-3PL.OBJ NEG 1SG.REAL-know
‘I don't know how to plant bananas’ (in general)

Ex. (22): verbal noun[2]: 244 

(22) udi tanom-a-di tago u-ʔawa
banana plant-NOM-3PL.AD NEG 1SG.REAL-know
‘I don't know to plant the bananas’ (specific bananas)

Prohibitive constructions with finite verbs

The basic structure of prohibitive constructions using finite verbs is moaʔi followed by a verb with a realis subject/mood prefix,[2]: 438  as seen in the following examples:

Ex. (23): prohibitive construction finite verb[2]: 418 

(23) moaʔi ʔu-pereʔ-i
‘don't lose it’

Ex. (24): prohibitive construction finite verb w/ subject NP[2]: 419 

(24) ŋai moaʔi i-raʔe-i
‘he should not boast’ (lit. he should not put himself up)

Ex. (25): prohibitive construction finite verb w/ direct object NP[2]: 419 

(25) botolo moapesa-di moaʔi ʔu-roʔaʔ-i-ramo
bottle broken-3PL.AD PROH 2SG.REAL-throw-3PL.OBJ-all
‘don't throw broken bottles around!’

Sometimes, however—the subject or direct object NP may occur between moaʔi and the verb,[2]: 419  as in the following example:

Ex. (26): prohibitive construction finite verb[2]: 419 

(26) moaʔi taburi-miŋ di-raya
PROH fear-2PL.AD 3PL.REAL-be bad
‘don't be afraid!’ (lit. your fear should not be bad)

Prohibitive constructions with gerunds and verbal nouns

Prohibitive constructions using gerunds or verbal nouns are formed by placing the prohibitive/negative marker moaʔi after the gerund or verbal noun,[2]: 420  demonstrated in the following example:

Ex. (27): prohibitive construction using gerund/verbal noun[2]: 421 

(27) taŋ moaʔi
cry PROH
‘don't cry’ / ‘we/they/... should not cry’

: 412 The distinction between using a gerund or a verbal noun is determined by whether the source verb is transitive (verbal noun) or intransitive (gerund).[2]: 420 

Additionally, the form raʔania ‘never mind’ may also be used in forming prohibitive constructions using gerunds and verbal nouns. The location of raʔania within the clause is more dynamic than the prohibitive/negative marker moaʔi, as raʔania may occur both following or preceding the verbal noun or gerund.: 420 [2] Compare the following two examples:

Ex. (28): prohibitive construction using raʔania (following)[2]: 412 

(28) misaʔa raʔania
smack lips never mind
‘stop smacking your lips!’

Ex. (29): prohibitive construction using raʔania (preceding)[2]

(29) raʔania soaʔi-baya
never mind sit-LIM
‘you/we/... should not be just sitting doing nothing’

Indirect prohibitive constructions

The negative marker tago is used when expressing prohibitions in indirect speech[2]: 422 —its behaviour is identical as in its regular usage: tago is placed before the element which is being negated, as seen in the following example:

Ex. (30): indirect prohibitive construction[2]: 422 

(30) di tago ga-taga-di ʔana di-ra-ʔama
‘they told us not to follow them’ (lit. we were/are not going to follow them; they told us)



Manam has an unusual, though regionally common, four-way distinction between singular, dual, paucal, and plural number. Singular and plural are marked on the verb and sometimes on the adjective, but not on the noun.


Person Number
Singular Dual Paucal Plural
1st Inclusive kitaru kitato kita
Exclusive ngau
keru keto keka
2nd kaiko
kamru kamto kam
3rd ngai diaru diato di


Reduplication can be either leftward (sa-salaga) or rightward (salaga-laga). There is no point in distinguishing 'partial' and 'total' reduplication, since at most two syllables are reduplicated.


Rightwards reduplicated nouns can either take on a meaning related to the original word, or function as an agentive marker:

moata snake
moata-moata worm
malipi the work
malipi-lipi worker


Here are two examples of how number can be marked on the adjective through the different kinds of reduplication:

Rightward reduplication (singular)

udi noka-noka ripe banana
tamoata bia-bia the big man

Leftward reduplication (plural)

udi no-noka ripe bananas
tamoata bi-bia the big men

Verb aspects

The verb

The verb always marks the subject and the mood; these are fused together. Optional suffixes includes such things as object, direction, aspectual markers, benefactive and various kinds of intensifiers and quantifiers. Here's a schematical overview of the Manam verb:

Outer prefixes Verb nucleus Outer suffixes
Inner prefixes Root Inner suffixes
Subject/mood marking Manner prefix
aka- transitive
Verb root -ak- transitive Object marking
Optional suffixes

Subject marking

The marking of subject is obligatory. In addition to expressing number and person, the pronouns have fused with the mood markers (see below) called realis and irrealis.

Person Singular Plural
Real Irr Real Irr
1st Inclusive ta-
Exclusive u- m- ki- ga-
2nd ku- go- ka- kama-
3rd i- nga- di- da-


The realis mood (REAL) is used for actual events of the past or present, i.e. things that are certain to have happened, things that are "real". Accordingly, the irrealis (IRR) mood describes anticipated events in the future, or events that the speaker wishes were real.

ura nga-pura
rain 3SG.IRR-come
"it will rain"
"I jumped"
nga-pile i-bebe
3SG.IRR-say 3SG.REAL-unable
"he will say that he is unable" (he still hasn't said anything, but when he does, his inability will be stated as actual)
tama-gu i-rere zama go-pura
father-1SG.POSS 3SG.REAL-want tomorrow 2SG.IRR-come
"my father wants you to come tomorrow" (the father's wanting is real, whereas the anticipated coming is still unreal)

Manner prefixes

Manner prefixes are found between the subject/mood marker and the verb root. The manner prefixes describe in what manner the verb action was done, such as 'biting', 'cutting', 'throwing' etc.

boro u-tara-paka-i
pig 1SG.REAL-spearing-miss-3SG.OBJ
"I speared at the pig but missed it"

Object marking

Person Singular Plural
1st Inclusive -kita
Exclusive -a -kama
2nd -(i)ko -kaming
3rd -i -di
"I will give (it) to you"
niu u-sing-Ø
coconut 1SG.REAL-drink-3SG.OBJ
"I drank a coconut"
"give it to us"


There are three different morphologically overt methods for turning intransitive verbs into transitive ones:

These methods can be combined.

dang i-aka-gita-i
water 3SG.REAL-TRANS-be_hot-3SG.OBJ
"he heated the water"
"to shorten it"

Optional suffixes

The object suffixes are also optional, but rather common. Here are a few examples of some of the more unusual suffix types:


"bring it here"


pipia i-rokaki-ramoi
rubbish 3SG.REAL-throw_away-all_over
"he throws rubbish all over the place"


"I like it very much"


"sing for me"


Most adjectives are derived by reduplication from a verb or a noun. As seen above, some reduplicated adjectives have a number distinction, but some others don't, e.g. siki-siki 'small' (singular and plural). Some adjectives use the possessive pronouns to mark person and number, e.g. kapisa-Ø 'selfish' (singular) and kapisa-di 'selfish' (plural).


As in many other Austronesian languages, Manam expresses different degrees of possession. In addition to the most common differentiation between alienable and inalienable possession, Manam uses a particular morphological processes to describe belongings that are edible or associated with eating.

Possessive pronouns

Person Number
Singular Dual Paucal Plural
1st Inclusive -da-ru -da-to -da
Exclusive -gu -ma-i-ru -ma-i-to -ma
2nd -m / -ng -ming-ru -ming-to -ming
3rd -di-a-ru -di-a-to -di

Inalienable possession

In this class, we find 'belongings' that are involuntary, such as body parts, family members and different kinds of necessary 'parts of a whole'. This class is characterized by simply a possessive suffix attached to the word in question:

"my eye"
niu labu-di
coconut base-3PL.POSS
"the bases of the coconut trees"

Edible possession

In this class, we find things that are edible and 'used to obtain, prepare or store food'. This class is characterized by the word kana, which is placed after the possessed thing and to which the possessive suffix is attached:

udi kana-gu
banana FOOD-1SG.POSS
"my banana"

Alienable possession

In this class, we find belongings that are voluntary; things that we can cease to own, unlike body parts or family. This class is characterized by the word ne, which is placed after the possessed thing and to which the possessive suffix is attached:

kati ne-gu
"my canoe"
natu keu ne-di
child dog ALIEN-3PL.POSS
"the children's dogs"

Cross-class possession

One fascinating thing is that the same word can occur in all three possession classes, and then of course its meaning will differ. Here are two examples:

    boro-gu my pig (as part of one's wealth)
    boro kana-gu my pork (which I am going to eat)
    boro ne-gu my pig (which I may or may not eat later)
    dang-i-gu my water (or rather 'body fluids')
    dang kana-gu my water (to drink)
    dang ne-gu my water (to wash with)


Manam has two kinds of demonstratives.[2]: 331  This two-way system distinguishes between proximal demonstratives, which indicate proximity to a speaker, and distal demonstratives, which indicate distance from a speaker. Both demonstratives occur after the noun phrase. They are formed from the demonstrative marker ŋa, followed by either the proximal suffix -e or the distal marker -ra, followed by either the 3rd person singular marker or the 3rd person plural marker -di as shown in the table[2]: 331  below:

Proximal Distal
Singular ŋa-e-ø






Plural ŋa-e-di






Data from WALS suggests that both the Austronesian and Papuan languages which are geographically close to the Manam language community show an approximately even distribution of two-way and three-way distinction systems for demonstratives.[4] In fact, despite Ross's observation that "Schouten family members are … much more closely related to each other than to any other members of the [North New Guinea] Linkage",[5]: 106  Kairiru, which like Manam is a member of the Schouten family, shows a three-way distinction in its demonstratives. Interestingly, the reconstructed proto language Proto-Oceanic (POc), from which the Schouten family is descended, was determined to have a three-way distinction system.[4] POc's system is believed to have included an additional demonstrative compared to Manam, the medial demonstrative which indicates an intermediate distance, or proximity to the listener rather than the speaker.[5]: 72  However, Manam does show the same noun-demonstrative word order which was reconstructed for POc.[5]: 72 

In Manam, the proximal form is often contracted from ŋa-e- to ŋe-.[2]: 332  It can also be cliticised to a proceeding word when it is not followed by a suffix. Because the 3sg adnominal suffix has a zero form, ŋe- can be cliticised for this construction. This means that Examples (1), (2), and (3) are all acceptable ways to construct ‘this woman’, while example (4) but not Example (5) is an acceptable construction of ‘these women’.

(1)[2]: 332  áine ŋa-e-ø
‘this woman’
(2)[2]: 332  áine ŋe-ø
‘this woman’
(3)[2]: 332  áine-ŋe
‘this woman’
(4)[2]: 332  áine ŋe-di
‘these woman’
(5)[2]: 332  *áine-ŋe-di
‘*these woman’

It is also acceptable to remove the head noun, for instance in the comparative construction in Example (6).[2]: 334 

(6)[2]: 334  bé?e       nára-ø   tágo i-moatúbu ŋa-e-ø i-moatubu-tína
bag that-3SG.AD NEG 3SG.AD-be heavy DEM-PROX-3SG.AD 3SG.RL-be heavy-INT
‘This bag is heavier than that one’ (lit.: that bag is not heavy, this one is very heavy)

Selective forms of proximal demonstratives

A selective form can be derived from the proximal demonstrative (but not the distal demonstrative).[2]: 334  It is formed by adding the suffix -ni after the proximal marker and before the adnominal suffix, as per Example (7) below, and indicates selection out of a set or group of options.

(7)[2]: 334  tabìra   ŋá-e-ni-ø gó-do?-i
‘take this dish (from among several)’

The selective suffix is optional and is used when it is necessary to express selection explicitly. If not, the basic demonstrative can be used.[2]: 335 

Anaphoric usage

Previous examples of the use of the demonstrative in Manam have been exophoric, referring to the world outside of the text. However, they can also be used anaphorically, to reference something previously brought up by a speaker.[2]: 335  Although Example (8) below demonstrates that both the proximal and the distal demonstrative can be used anaphorically, the proximal demonstrative is used much more commonly than the distal in this manner.

(8)[2]: 336  móare   ŋe-ø bó?ai di-alále ... ?ána ŋa-ra-ø ?ába di-zalaóno-ø-di
Flower DEMPROX-3SG.AD thus 3PL.IR-go thing DEM-DIST-3SG.AD again 3PL-RL-block path-BEN-3PL.OBJ
‘those flowers (mentioned earlier) floated like that... those things (i.e. the flowers) again blocked their way (lit. blocked path on them)'
Usage of the proximal demonstrative as a resumptive pro-form

A second anaphoric use of the proximal demonstrative in Manam is as a resumptive pro-form.[2]: 452  In this situation, the proximal demonstrative is used to sum up or resume discussing a topic that has already been spoken about. It can be used in reference to a topic discussed within the same sentence, or in an earlier sentence.[2]: 453  When it is used to reference a topic within one sentence, the resumptive pro-form will immediately follow it's antecedent as in Example (9).

(9)[2]: 456  péra ŋa-ra-ø-na-lo ŋe-ø tamóata tágo té?e-ø i-so?óa?i
House DEM-DIST-3SG.AD-BF-in RESPRO-3SG.AD person NEG one-3SG.AD 3SG.IR-live
‘nobody lives in that house’ or ‘as for that house, nobody lives in it’

When the proximal demonstrative is acting as a resumptive pro-form, it usually takes the from ŋe or -ŋe rather than ŋa-e.[2]: 454  The singular form is also more common than the plural form. This can be seen in Example (10) where the singular form is used despite the pro-from referring to a group of items.

(10)[2]: 454  ?àna moarúŋa ?úsi silíŋgisi sakét tràusis páipo móita ási ŋe-ø ?u-tóa?-i
thing all loincloth t-shirt jacket pants pipe knife bush knife RESPRO-3SG.AD 2SG.RL-imitate-3SG.OBJ
‘(in) everything, loincloths t-shirts, jackets, pants, pipes, knives, bush knives, (in all) this it's her that you imitated’

The resumptive pro-form can be used to reference a clause in order to indicate the time of a second clause, demonstrated by Example (11).[2]: 457  It is also commonly used when a noun phrase is modified by a relative clause, as can be seen in Example (12).

(11)[2]: 460  u-múle-ŋe píta ábe i-alále
1SG.RL-return-RESPRO P. already 3SG.RL-go
'when i came back, Pita had already left' i.e. ‘I came back; at this time Pita had already left’
(12)[2]: 460  tamóata áine i-ra=ra-í-ŋe píta tágo i-?awát-a?-i
man woman 3SG.RL-talk to-RPL-3SG.OBJ-RESPRO P. NEG 3SG.IR-know-TRANS-3SG.OBJ
‘Pita does not know the man who is talking to the woman’ i.e. 'As for the man who is talking to the woman, Pita does not know him'

It is also often used when a sentence is thematised, and can function similarly to a theme-marker even though it does not meet the requirements to be considered a thematiser.[2]: 459  In Example (13) below, 'ziràpu n-m' ('your mattress') is the theme.

(13)[2]: 460  zirápu n-m ŋe-ø fred òno i-en=èno
'As for your mattress, Fred sleeps on it.'

Directional System and Spatial Deixis

Manam, like most Oceanic languages, primarily uses an absolute reference directional system, even on a local scale, (as opposed to many European languages which primarily use relative reference systems). This system is oriented on a land-sea axis.[6] However, Manam's system is unique because it has taken on a circular nature, becoming intrinsically linked to the geography of the island which is almost perfectly circular. Below are the directional terms associated in Manam:[2]

Ilau toward the sea
Auta toward the land
Ata to one's right when one is facing the sea
Awa to one's left when one is facing the sea

This directional system has only been attested in three languages: Manam, Boumaa Fijian,[7] and Makian Taba.[8]

The suffix -lo can be added to any of these terms to indicate movement towards that direction, as in Example (3).[2]: 460  No suffix is needed to indicate movement away from a direction – this is inferred from the context of the sentence (contrast Examples (1) and (2) with Example (3)).

(1)[2]: 593  áta i-sòa?i
ata 3SG.RL-be located
'He is in the ata direction'
(2)[2]: 593  áwa 1.     i-rà?e
awa 3SG.RL-go up
'He went from awa direction'
(3)[2]: 593  aúta-lo i-òro
auta-in 3SG.RL-go inland
'He went in auta direction'

Spatial deixis

Spatial deixis describes how speakers can ‘point out’ the location of an object in relationship to their own position[9]. Manam has two main spatial deictical terms.[2]: 573   These are ma?a (‘here’) and ma?a-ra (‘there’). Ma?a-ra is constructed by suffixing the distal marker -ra to ma?a. These two terms are used regardless of which direction the speaker is indicating.[2]: 573  If it is necessary to specify direction, this can be done by adding the directional term after the deictical term,[2]: 576  as is done in Example (4).

(4)[2]: 593  nátu má?ara iláu i-sóa?i
Child there ilau 3SG.RL-be located
‘the child is there (in ilau direction)'

Manam has three additional spatial deixis, which are used to specify spatial relationships in a specific direction.[2]: 574  These terms refer to the land-sea directional system described above, and are listed below:[2]: 573 

Elau ‘over there in ilau direction’
Eta ‘over there in auta direction’
Ene ‘over there in ata or awa direction’

Interestingly, unlike Manam's two-way distinction for demonstratives, these directional spatial deictical terms show the same three-way distinction that was reconstructed for Proto-Oceanic (POc).[5]: 72   To indicate an intermediate distance, the distal suffix -ra can be added to each directional spatial deictic. If the object described is so far away as to be out of sight, the spatial dialectical term can be combined with a directional term to indicate extreme distance.[2]: 574  This is illustrated in the table below:[2]: 575 

Least distance Middle distance Greatest distance
Ilau direction Elau Elaura Elau + Ilau = Elelau
Auta direction Eta Etara Eta + Auta = Etauta
Ata direction Ene Enera Ene + Ata = Enata
Awa direction Ene Enera Ene + Awa = Enawa

Similar to directional terms, to indicate movement towards the most distant directional spatial dialectical terms, the suffix -lo is added as in Example (5). For the less distant terms, no affix is needed, illustrated by Example (6).

(5)[2]: 576  ene-tu?a-tína i-sóa?i
over there-INT-INT 3SG.RL-be located
‘he is way over there (in ata or awa direction)'
(6)[2]: 576  i-alále enáwa-lo ?ába i-múle enáta-lo
3SG.RL-go far over there-to again 3SG.RL-return far over there-to
'he went long way over there (in awa direction) then (again) went back long way over there (in ata direction)'


AD adnominal
BF buffer
DL dual
EXC exclusive
INIR indefinite irrealis
INSTR instrumental
INT intensifier
IP independent pronoun
IRR irrealis
LIM limiter
NEG negator
NOM nominaliser
OBJ object
PL plural
POSS possessive
PROH prohibitive
REAL realis
RPL reduplication
SG singular
SIM simulative
TRANS transitiviser



  1. ^ Manam at Ethnologue (18th ed., 2015) (subscription required)
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w x y z aa ab ac ad ae af ag ah ai aj ak al am an ao ap aq ar as at au av aw ax ay az ba bb bc bd be bf bg bh bi bj bk bl bm bn bo bp bq br bs bt bu bv bw bx by bz ca cb cc cd ce cf cg ch ci cj ck Lichtenberk, F. 1983. A grammar of Manam. Oceanic Linguistics Special Publications, (18), i-647.
  3. ^ Crystal, David (2008). A dictionary of linguistics and phonetics. Hoboken: John Wiley & Sons, Inc.
  4. ^ a b "WALS Online - Feature 88A: Order of Demonstrative and Noun". Retrieved 2021-03-30.
  5. ^ a b c d Lynch, John; Ross, Malcolm; Terry, Crowley (2001). The Oceanic Languages. Taylor & Francis Group. pp. i-924. ISBN 9781136749858.
  6. ^ François, A. 2004. Reconstructing the geocentric system of Proto-Oceanic. Oceanic linguistics, 43(1), 1-31.
  7. ^ Dixon, R. M. W. 1988. A grammar of Boumaa Fijian. University of Chicago Press.
  8. ^ Bowden, J. 1997. The meaning of directionals in Taba. In Referring to space. Studies in Austronesian and Papuan languages, ed. by Gunter Senft, 251-268. Oxford Studies in Anthropological Linguistics. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
  9. ^ Cairns, Barbara (2009-12-10). "Spatial Deixis - The Use of Spatial Co-ordinates in Spoken Language". Lund University, Dept. of Linguistics; Working Papers. 38: 19–28 – via ResearchGate.