|Morehead River watershed, New Guinea|
|Linguistic classification||A primary language family|
Map: The Yam languages of New Guinea
Trans–New Guinea languages
Other Papuan languages
The Yam languages, also known as the Morehead River languages, are a family of Papuan languages. They include many of the languages south and west of the Fly River in Papua New Guinea and Indonesian West Papua.
The name Morehead and Upper Maro River refers to the area around the Morehead and Maro rivers. Most of the languages are found between these rivers, but the Nambu subgroup are spoken east of the Morehead. Evans (2012) refers to the family instead with the more compact name Yam. This name is motivated by a number of linguistic and cultural items of significance: yam (and cognates) means "custom, tradition"; yəm (and cognates) means "is"; and yam tubers are the local staple and of central cultural importance.
Ross (2005) tentatively includes the Yam languages in the proposed Trans-Fly – Bulaka River family. More recently (Evans 2012) has argued that this is not justified and more data has to be gathered. Evans (2018) classifies the Pahoturi River languages as an independent language family.
Yam languages have also been in intensive contact with Marind and Suki speakers, who had historically expanded into Yam-speaking territories via headhunting raids and other expansionary migrations.
Internal classification of the Yam languages:
Wichmann (2013) did not find a connection between the branches in his automated comparison.
Yam languages are spoken by up to 3,000 people on both sides of the border in Papua New Guinea and Indonesia. In Papua New Guinea, Yam languages are spoken in Morehead Rural LLG, Western Province. In Papua, Indonesia, Yam languages are spoken in Merauke Regency.
Yam languages and respective demographic information listed by Evans (2018) are provided below. Geographical coordinates are also provided for some villages.
|Language||Alternative names||Subgroup||Speakers||Villages or hamlets|
|Anta||Tokwe, Upper Morehead, Thamnga||Tonda||150||Ufarua (Morehead Rural LLG, PNG), Forzitho, Thamgakar ( ) in central|
|Komnzo||Kamundjo, Upper Morehead, (Mema, Ranzér), Zókwasi, Farem||Tonda||200||Rouku (Morehead Rural LLG, PNG), Gunana, Morehead ( ), Firra, Masu, Kanathér in central|
|Wára||Tjokwe, Upper Morehead, Wära, Mät||Tonda||350||Yokwa (Morehead Rural LLG, PNG), (Mäwsa, Kwaikér, Zäzér Ménz) in central|
|Wérè||Tokwe, Upper Morehead, Wórä||Tonda||100||Tokwa (Morehead Rural LLG, PNG), Kanfok in central|
|Kémä||Upper Morehead||Tonda||130||Wämnefér (Morehead Rural LLG, PNG) in central|
|Kánchá||Kunja, Lower Morehead, Peremka, Kénzä||Tonda||350*||Bondobol (Morehead Rural LLG, PNG), Bula ( ), Jarai ( ) in southeast|
|Ránmo||Tonda, Renmo, Blafe||Tonda||200*||Yéndorodoro (Morehead Rural LLG, PNG), Mengete ( ) in west|
|Mblafe||Blafe, Blafe Wonana, Tonda||Tonda||350*||Weam (Morehead Rural LLG, PNG), Kandarisa ( ), Wereaver ( ) (only recently in Wereaver) in west|
|Warta Thuntai||Guntai, Kan||Tonda||430||Wando (Morehead Rural LLG, PNG), Bensbach ( ), Balamuk, Korombo 1, Korombo 2 ( ) in mid southwest|
|Arammba||None||Tonda||750||Fwasam, Gowi, Kiriwa (Morehead Rural LLG, PNG), Meru ( ), Sedefi ( ), Serki ( ) in north central|
|Nggarna||Ngar, Kanum, Sota||Tonda||unknown||Vicinity of Sota in west Morehead Rural LLG, PNG|
|Rema||Tonda||10? (moribund or extinct)||Wereaver (Morehead Rural LLG, PNG) in west|
|Smerki||Smärki, Kanum, Barkari||Tonda||150||Rawu Biru, Tomer, Tomerau, Yakiw in southeast Merauke Regency, Indonesia|
|Tamer||Smerki, Smärki, Kanum||Tonda||120||Yanggandur (recently moved there) in southeast Merauke Regency, Indonesia|
|Ngkontar||Ngkontar, Ngkolmpu||Tonda||100||Yanggandur in southeast Merauke Regency, Indonesia and into PNG|
|Ngkolmpu||Kiki, Ngkntra Kiki, Kanum, Enkelembu, Kenume, Knwne||Tonda||east Merauke Regency, Indonesia and into PNG|
|Bedi Ngkolmpu||Kanum, Enkelembu, Kenume, Knwne||Tonda||5 (moribund or extinct)||Onggaya in south central Merauke Regency, Indonesia|
|Yei||Yei||1278||Po, Torai, Bupul, Tanas, Kwel in east Merauke Regency, Indonesia|
|Nen||Nambu||350||Bimadeben (Morehead Rural LLG, PNG) in central|
|Nama||Nambu||1200||Daraia (Morehead Rural LLG, PNG), Mata ( ), Ngaraita ( ) in central|
|Namat||Mibini||Nambu||170*||Mibini (Morehead Rural LLG, PNG) in central|
|Nambo||Nmbo, Keraki; Namna, Yarne||Nambu||710||Nambo variety: Gubam (Morehead Rural LLG, PNG; Namna variety: Pongarki ( ), Derideri ( ) in central Morehead Rural LLG, PNG), Bebdeben ( ), Arufi ( ) in central|
|Neme||Nambu||200||Keru (Morehead Rural LLG, PNG), Mitere in central|
|Dre||Ndre||Nambu||1||Ramar in central Morehead Rural LLG, PNG|
|Namo||Nä||Nambu||374*||Tais (Morehead Rural LLG, PNG), Mari ( ) in south|
|Len||Lä||Nambu||8–10||Now living in Tais (Morehead Rural LLG, PNG), original village was Yaoga in south|
See also: Districts of Papua (Indonesian Wikipedia)
The pronouns Ross (2005) reconstructs for the family are,
Many Yam languages display vowel harmony, including in Nambu and Tonda languages.
The following basic vocabulary words are from McElhanon & Voorhoeve (1970) and Voorhoeve (1975), as cited in the Trans-New Guinea database:
Below are some turtle names in Yam languages, along with names in Suki:: 378
|Turtle species||Arammba (Serki)||Neme (Keru)||Nama Wat (Daraia)||Nama Was (Mibini)||Guntai (Wando)||Blafe (Wereave)||Rema (Metafa)||Suki (Suki, Puka-duka)|
|Elseya branderhorsti||M’bay||Fisor||Fisor Fifi||Rawk Rawk Sutafnarr||Chelba||Nthelon||Forr||Medepka|
|Emydura subglobosa||Maro Kani||Ngani Fisor||Mani Fisor||Mare Sutafnarr||Mare Chelba||Ntharase; Mari Nthelon||Mari Forr||Tegma; i Anki Kan|
|Chelodina rugosa||Tomba Kofe Fisor||Mbuirr||Weya Sutafnarr||Mbroyer||Fisuwar||Tanfer Marr Forr|
|Chelodina novaeguineae||Fasar Kani||Mboro arr||Mbro arr||Magipinini|
|Carettochelys insculpta||Budu Susa||Garr||Budu Susa|
|Pelochelys bibroni||Sokrere||Kiye Eise|
|Emydura sp. aff. worrelli||Riskap Kani|
All species are consumed by humans except for Chelodina novaeguineae, which is avoided due to its pungent odor. Carettochelys insculpta and Elseya branderhorsti are prized for their large sizes, with E. branderhorsti particularly valued for its plastron.
See also: Turama–Kikorian languages § Fauna names