RegionWestern Province, Papua New Guinea
Native speakers
3,000 (2002)[1]
Language codes
ISO 639-3knv
Map: The Waia language of New Guinea
  The Waia language (south center)
  Trans–New Guinea languages
  Other Papuan languages
  Austronesian languages

Tabo, also known as Waia (Waya), is a Papuan language of Western Province, Papua New Guinea, just north of the Fly River delta. The language has also been known as Hiwi and Hibaradai.[2]

Tabo means ‘word, mouth’ and is the name of the language, whereas Waia is the name of one of the ten villages where Tabo is spoken.[3]


Tabo is not close to other languages. Evans (2018) classifies it as a language isolate.[3] Usher (2020) includes it in the Trans-Fly family.[4] Part of the uncertainty is because many of the attested words of Tabo are loans from Gogodala or Kiwai, reducing the number of native Tabo words that can be used for comparison and thus making classification difficult.


In Gogodala Rural LLG, Western Province, Papua New Guinea, Tabo is spoken in:[5][6]

It is spoken by 3,500 people mainly in the southern part Bamu Rural LLG of Western Province.[3]


The phonemic inventory of Tabo is given below.[3]

b, d, ɡ, p, t, k, m, n, l, w, j, h, s
i, e, æ, a, o, u


The following basic vocabulary words are from Reesink (1976) and Wurm (1973), as cited in the Trans-New Guinea database:[7]

gloss Tabo
head wato
hair hinibó; hinibɔ
ear galo
eye ba ͥdi; baidi
nose dopo; dɔ:pɔ
tooth lalo; lolo
tongue mɛlpila; merapira
leg nato
louse tamani
dog gaha
bird hola; hola:
egg kikipo
blood hawi; haᵘwi
bone goha; goha:
skin tama
breast nono
tree ke'ha; kɛha
man dubu; tubu
woman kamena
sun kadepa; kadɛpa
moon manome; manomi
water bea
fire koe; kue:
stone -nadi; naki
road, path gabo
name mahiro; mahiřo
eat hɛna; nɛ:na
one kapia
two nete'ewa

Further reading


  1. ^ Waia at Ethnologue (18th ed., 2015) (subscription required)
  2. ^ Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin, eds. (2017). "Tabo language". Glottolog 3.0. Jena, Germany: Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History.
  3. ^ a b c d Evans, Nicholas (2018). "The languages of Southern 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. 641–774. ISBN 978-3-11-028642-7.
  4. ^ NewGuineaWorld
  5. ^ Eberhard, David M.; Simons, Gary F.; Fennig, Charles D., eds. (2019). "Papua New Guinea languages". Ethnologue: Languages of the World (22nd ed.). Dallas: SIL International.
  6. ^ United Nations in Papua New Guinea (2018). "Papua New Guinea Village Coordinates Lookup". Humanitarian Data Exchange. 1.31.9.
  7. ^ Greenhill, Simon (2016). "TransNewGuinea.org - database of the languages of New Guinea". Retrieved 2020-11-05.