Native toPapua New Guinea
RegionSandaun province,
Telefomin district
Native speakers
from 1,400 (2000 census)[1]
to 3,500 (2007)[2]
Language codes
ISO 639-3mpt – inclusive code
Individual code:
sug – Suganga
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Mian is an Ok language spoken in the Telefomin district of the Sandaun province in Papua New Guinea by the Mian people. It has some 3,500 speakers spread across two dialects: West Mian (a.k.a. Suganga), with approximately 1,000 speakers in around Yapsiei, and East Mian, with approximately 2,500 speakers in and around Timeilmin, Temsakmin, Sokamin, Gubil, Fiak and Hotmin.[2]


Phonologically, Mian is very similar to other Papuan languages in the size of its phoneme inventory, but it nevertheless has some peculiarities, such as its contrast between a plain [a] and a pharyngealized [aˤ]. It is also a tonal language.


Mian has six vowels, including the pharyngealized open front vowel.

Mian vowels
Front Back
Unrounded Rounded
Close i /i/ u /u/
Close-mid o /o/
Open-mid e /ɛ/
Open a /a/
aa /aˤ/

Mian also has four diphthongs:

Mian diphthongs
Ending with /i/ Ending with /u/
ai /a͡i/ au /a͡u/
ei /ɛ͡i/ ou /o͡u/

/ɛ/ is realized as [ə] in word-initial low-tone syllables, [ɛ] elsewhere.

/a/ is realized as [ɐ] in unaccented syllables, [ə] in word-initial low-tone syllables beginning with a consonant, [a] elsewhere.

/o/ is realized as [ɔ] in word-initial low-tone syllables and in syllables ending in a voiceless plosive or [ŋ], [o] elsewhere.

/u/ is realized as [ʊ] in word-initial low-tone syllables, [u] elsewhere.


Mian has 16 consonants:

Mian consonants
Labial Alveolar Palatal Velar Glottal
Plain Labialized
Plosive Voiceless t ⟨t⟩ k ⟨k⟩ ⟨kw⟩
Voiced b ⟨b⟩ d ⟨d⟩ ɡ ⟨g⟩ ɡʷ ⟨gw⟩
Nasal m ⟨m⟩ n ⟨n⟩ ŋ ⟨ng⟩
Fricative f ⟨f⟩ s ⟨s⟩ h ⟨h⟩
Approximant l ⟨l⟩ j ⟨y⟩ w ⟨w⟩

/b/ is realized as [ᵐb] word-initially, [pʰ] or [p̚] syllable-finally, [b] elsewhere.

Examples: banǒn [ᵐbànǒn] lower arm, mǎab [mǎˤːp̚] frog, teběl [tʰɛ̀bɛ̌l] ant

/t/ is realized as [tʰ] before vowels, [tʰ] or [t̚] syllable-finally.

Examples: tam [tʰàm] temple, mát [mát̚] gall bladder

/k/ is realized as [kʰ] before vowels, [kʰ] or [k̚] syllable-finally, sometimes [x] between vowels, [qʰ] before [aˤ].

Examples: kemin [kʰèmìn] to do, manggěk [màŋgɛ̌k̚] bee, okok [òxòk̚] work, kaawá [qʰàˤwá] steel axe

/ɡ/ is realized as [ᵑɡ] word-initially, [ɡ] elsewhere.

Examples: gát [ᵑɡát̚] mole, manggěk [màŋɡɛ̌k̚] bee

/ɡʷ/ is realized as [ᵑɡʷ] word-initially, [ɡʷ] elsewhere.

Examples: gwaán [ᵑɡʷàán] spider, gwalgwal [ᵑɡʷàlɡʷàl] twins


Mian has five tonemes:

Mian tones
Tone Example
Low am [àm] house
High án [án] arrow
Low-High ǎam [ǎˤːm] Pandanus species
High-Low hâs [hâs] hat
Low-High-Low aam [àˤːm̂] older sister

The tones of Mian are very complex, as they are subject to various phonological processes, and furthermore, they can be used for indicating various grammatical aspects, especially in connection with verbs, where the tones are crucial for understanding.

Consider the two verb forms below, being non-hodiernal and imperfective respectively:

dolâbībe [dòlábíbè] I wrote
dolâbibe [dòlábìbè] I am writing


Large objects in Mianmin are feminine, while small objects are masculine.[4]






‘small/one taro’






‘large taro/large quantity of taro’


  1. ^ Mian at Ethnologue (18th ed., 2015) (subscription required)
    Suganga at Ethnologue (18th ed., 2015) (subscription required)
  2. ^ a b Fedden, Olcher Sebastian (2007). A Grammar of Mian, a Papuan Language of New Guinea (PhD thesis). University of Melbourne. hdl:11343/39327.
  3. ^ Endangered Languages Project data for Suganga.
  4. ^ Foley, William A. (2018). "The morphosyntactic typology of Papuan languages". 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. 895–938. ISBN 978-3-11-028642-7.

Further reading

Digital resources