Malay, Papuan


A language of Indonesia

Alternate Names
Bahasa Tanah, Logat Papua
Melayu Papua

1,100,000 (Kluge 2014), all users. L1 users: 500,000 (Clouse 2000), increasing.


Papua province: Widespread.

Language Status

3 (Wider communication). LWC in the coastal areas of West Papua. Became an LWC mostly as a result of Dutch colonial language policies in the early 20th century, and before that, to a rather limited extent, through trade (Kluge 2014:11–15).


North Papua Malay, Serui Malay, Bird’s Head Malay, South Coast Malay. Reportedly similar to both Ambonese Malay [abs] and Manado Malay [xmm]. Regional variations are minor and support at most a possible dialectal East-West divide (Scott et al 2008:22–100).


SVO, elision of arguments is common; 18 consonant and 5 vowel phonemes, disyllabic roots preferred, CV and CVC syllables preferred, maximal syllable is CCVC, typically penultimate syllable is stressed. Inflectional morphology is lacking; word formation is limited to reduplication which is very productive and affixation (limited productivity). Open word classes are nouns, verbs, and adverbs; closed classes are personal pronouns, interrogatives, demonstratives, locatives, numerals, quantifiers, prepositions, and conjunctions. Prepositions; clause final question particle.

Language Use

Growing number of L1 speakers, who express a strong preference for their Malay variety over Indonesian [ind] or other regional varieties. All domains except formal government settings or formal education. Used unofficially in many school settings. Used by all. Positive attitudes. Some also use Indonesian [ind]. Used as L2 by Ambel [wgo], Beneraf [bnv], Berik [bkl], Betaf [bfe], Bonggo [bpg], Dabe [dbe], Dao [daz], Dineor [mrx], Emem [enr], Fedan [pdn], Jofotek-Bromnya [jbr], Kaptiau [kbi], Kayagar [kyt], Kimki [sbt], Kirikiri [kiy], Kowiai [kwh], Kwinsu [kuc], Liki [lio], Mawes [mgk], Mo [wkd], Morori [mok], Nakai [nkj], Namla [naa], Nimboran [nir], Orya [ury], Skou [skv], Sobei [sob], Sowari [dmy], Sunum [ymn], Tangko [tkx], Tarpia [tpf], Tebi [dmu], Tobati [tti], Towei [ttn], Usku [ulf], Viid [snu], Vitou [vto], Wandamen [wad], Warembori [wsa], Yei [jei], Zorop [wfg].

Language Development

Literacy rate in L2: 67% in Indonesian [ind] in Papua province; 94% in Indonesian [ind] in Papua Barat province (2010 census). Officially no data on L1 literacy are available. Those literate in Indonesian [ind] can read and write Papuan Malay. Videos. Dictionary. Grammar. Bible portions: 2013–2017. Agency: Yayasan Betania Indonesia.


Latin script [Latn].

Other Comments

Christian, Muslim, traditional religion.

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