RegionNew Ireland Province, Papua New Guinea
Native speakers
(5,140 cited 1990 census)[1]
Latin script
Language codes
ISO 639-3nal

The Nalik language is spoken by 5,000 or so people, based in 17 villages in Kavieng District, New Ireland, Papua New Guinea. It is an Austronesian language and member of the New Ireland group of languages with a subject–verb–object (SVO) phrase structure. New Ireland languages are among the first Papua New Guinea languages recorded by Westerners.[2]

Laxudumau, spoken in the village of Lakudumau, is transitional to Kara, but is not intelligible to speakers of Nalik.


Speakers of Nalik reside in a series of villages in northern central New Ireland. The Nalik speaking region is an approximately 30-kilometer (19 mi)-long band of the island that spans approximately 10 kilometers (6.2 mi) wide and is flanked on its north by the Kara-speaking region and to its south by speakers of Kuot, the only non-Austronesian language on New Ireland.[2]

In the past, Lugagon, Fesoa, and Fessoa have been used to reference Nalik, which are all names of villages in the region.[3]



A Nalik phonology analysis was developed by Clive H. Beaumont.[4][5]

Consonant phonemes
Labial Alveolar Velar Glottal
Stop p b t d k g ʔ
Fricative f β s z ɣ
Nasal m n ŋ (ng)
Tap/Flap ɾ
Lateral l
Semivowel w j
Front Central Back
High i u
Mid e o
Low a
Diphthong ai oi au


Nalik consonant system

In West Coast and Southern East Coast dialects and when preceded by vowels, /p/ and /k/, two non-coronal voiceless stops, are transformed into fricatives. Additionally, the voiceless fricatives become voiced.[2]

When immediately preceded by a vowel the following consonants change their voicing:

/f/ and /p/ become [β] (written as v)

/s/ becomes [z]

/k/ becomes [ɣ] (written as x)

The following are examples of these characteristics:[2]

Ga vaan-paan
'I always go'
a mun faal a vaal
the houses the house
a buk sina a yai zina
his book his tree
a mun kulau a xulau
the youths the youth (singular)
Ga rain Ga rabung tain
I see I saw


Nouns in Nalik are categorized as being uncountable or countable nouns. Nouns can be part of a noun phrase or can be an independent subject referenced in a verbal complex. When used as subjects, some uncountable nouns are co-referential with plural subject markers; however, those are the exceptions and are usually marked with singular subject markers. With uncountable nouns, numerical markers cannot be used. Countable nouns, however, can be singular or plural and can be modified by numerical markers.

Personal pronouns

person singular non-singular
first ni di (inclusive)

maam (exclusive)

second nu nim
third naan na(a)nde, na(a)ndi, na(a)nda

Variations in the third person non-singular pronouns are attributed to rapid speech and regional variants. In rapid speech naande often becomes nande. In the Northern Eastern Coast naande is the variant used. In the South East Coast naandi is the variant used. Naanda is used primarily by younger speakers from all areas.[2]

Personal pronouns can notably be utilized in the same way as related nouns such as 'a woman' (a ravin) being replaced with 'she' (naan).


The Nalik counting system is reflective of using one's hand to count and indicative of the style in which they do so. They begin with an open palm and bring individual fingers down per digit counted and the action of doing so is shown in their counting system. As such, the Nalik counting system contains elements of a base-five counting system; however, when proceeding past ten, the counting system uses elements of base ten.[2]

The word for the number five, kavitmit, can be analyzed as the phrase ka vit mit: ka being a third-person indicator, vit being a negation particle, and mit meaning 'hand'. It can, therefore, be translated to 'no hand' as all fingers have been lowered.

The numbers six through nine are also representative of this pattern. In these numbers, the phrase describes the act of lowering additional fingers.

Past ten, the counting system starts to use combinations of ten in multiples of a number one to nine. Higher numbers in the hundreds use "ten squared" as a base.

Nalik Number System
Number Word Number Phrase Meaning
1 azaxei 10 sanaflu
2 uru 20 sanaflu vara uru(a) 10 x 2
3 orol 30 sanaflu vara orol 10 x 3
4 orolavaat 40 (ka-)sanaflu vara lavaat 10 x 4
5 kavitmit Meaning 50 kazanaflu va vitmit 10 x 5
6 ka-vizik-saxei it goes down-one 60 kazanaflu va viziksaxei 10 x (5+1)
7 ka-vizik-uru(a) it goes down-two 70 kazanaflu va vizikuru 10 x (5+2)
8 ka-vizik-tal it goes down-three 80 kazanaflu va viziktal 10 x (5+3)
9 ka-vizik-faat it goes down-four 90 kazanaflu va vizik faat 10 x (5+4)
100 kazanaflu vara zuai 10 x 10


Interrogatives in Nalik occur in the same position as adverbs, prepositional phrases, and nouns, and bear the same grammatical relations. Several interrogatives are built off the base word ze, meaning 'what'.

Wh-question words
a ze what
a ze + modifying NP which
a zaa xo + saait 'also' why (rhetorical)
kun a ze why
pan a ze with what, how, why
pan ko ze why
faa where
ang faa which
lasang when
nis who
zis whose
sa(a) how
usfa how many, how much

Word order

The Nalik language features an SVO sentence structure that is common to the languages of the New Ireland–Tolai languages.[2]

Example sentences[2]
A nalik ka lis a baxot sin a das-na The boy is giving/sending the money to his brother
Ka lis sin a das-na. He's giving/sending (it) to his brother.
A nalik ka na lis a baxot sin a das-na l-a fotnait l-a xor. The boy will give some money to his brother next payday.


  1. ^ Nalik at Ethnologue (18th ed., 2015) (subscription required)
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h Volker, Craig Alan, 1953- (1998). The Nalik language of New Ireland, Papua New Guinea. New York: Peter Lang. ISBN 0820436739. OCLC 35360833.((cite book)): CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link) CS1 maint: numeric names: authors list (link)
  3. ^ "Nalik". Ethnologue. Retrieved 2020-01-18.
  4. ^ Beaumont, C. (1972). Papers in linguistics of Melanesia / No. 3. Tryon, Darrell Trevor,, Wurm, S. A. (Stephen Adolphe), 1922-2001. Canberra: Linguistic Circle of Canberra. ISBN 0858830833. OCLC 28991748.
  5. ^ Volker, Craig A. (1994). Nalik grammar (New Ireland, Papua New Guinea). University of Hawaii.