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Asmat-Marianne Strait

    Timothy Usher, Santa Fe Institute

    Situation

    The Asmat-Marianne Strait family is comprised of perhaps 11 languages spoken along New Guinea's southwest coast from Kamrau Bay in the northwest to Kolopom and Komelom islands to the southeast.

    Subclassification

    The internal classification of Asmat-Marianne Strait languages is as follows: 

    Asmat-Marianne Strait 
        Marianne Strait
            Mombum
            Koneraw
        Asmat-Kamrau Bay
            Kamrau Bay
            Asmat-Kamoro
                Kamoro
                Sempan
                Asmat

    The differences between Marianne Strait and Asmat-Kamrau Bay are significantly greater than those between Kamrau Bay and Asmat-Kamoro. The Marianne Strait languages, Mombum and Koneraw, are very similar to one another (q.v. Geurtjens 1933: 398-433.).

    Sources

    Geurtjens (1933: 398-433) 455 comparative terms for Komelom(sch) (Mombum) and Koneraw(sch)
    Drabbe (1950: 561-574) brief grammar and 422 comparative terms for Mombum
    Voorhoeve (1980: 61-121) Proto-Asmat includes comparisons to Drabbe's Mombum

    Sources for Asmat-Kamrau Bay languages are listed in their respective pages.

    History of classification

    The special relationship between Drabbe's (1953) Central South Coast (Asmat-Kamoro) and Mombum was first recognized by Voorhoeve (1968: 3-4,) who included Mombum in the Asmat-Awyu-Ok Family of his Central and South New Guinea Stock: "Mombum is a border case; its closest relationship is with Asmat. Since it does not show comparably close links with any other language it has been provisionally included in the Asmat-Awyu-Ok Family." This assertion was reiterated in Voorhoeve's (1980) Asmat survey and reconstruction, where he states (p. 1), "The Mombum Family is the closest relative of the Asmat-Kamoro Family; together they form a subgroup with the CSNG [Central and South New Guinea] Stock," and a number of Mombum comparisons are presented along with Proto Asmat (pp. 61-121.)

    While Bromley (1973: 18) credits Voorhoeve’s proposal, it was inexplicably ignored in works which otherwise recapitulated Voorhoeve’s findings, such as Wurm (1982) and other tertiary works which followed. Perhaps Voorhoeve’s additional insistence upon a special relationship between Asmat, Awyu-Dumut and Ok had confused matters. Both Asmat-Marianne Strait and Digul River-Ok form valid subgroups of Trans New Guinea, but whether these two in turn form a higher level subgroup is a much hazier proposition. The sharp division between Asmat-Kamoro on the one hand and Awyu-Dumut and Ok on the other is quite visible in Voorhoeve (2005: 152-164,) although his conclusion (pp. 164-165) is somewhat equivocal.

    Wurm (1982: 136-138) presents the Mombum Family as a first order member of the Central and South New Guinea Stock along with Asmat-Kamoro (including Kamrau Bay) and eight other families, but notes typological similarities between the two groups (p. 139): "The second type is represented by the languages of the Mombum and the Asmat-Kamoro Families. It is characterized by the presence of two genders in third (in some instances also second) person pronouns, the appearance of subject and object suffixes with the verb, and a low-level elaboration of sentence-medial verb forms in which identity versus non-identity of the two subjects involved is usually not distinguished by separate forms." It's not immediately clear to what evidence Wurm refers in his comments about pronominal genders, but the formal as well as typological similarities between verbal desinences (below) constitute strong evidence which went unmentioned in Voorhoeve (1968, 1980.)

    Greenberg (1971: 840) recognized the relationship between Kamrau Bay and Asmat-Kamoro, but the Marianne Strait languages were placed with a number of unrelated nearby languages in his Jei subgroup of South New Guinea (pp. 829-830,) probably due to loans shared with Kimaghama immediately to the north (q.v. Geurtjens 1933: 398-433.) Asmat-Kamrau Bay is left unplaced relative to his larger Indo-Pacific scheme.

    Historical phonology

    Proto-Asmat-Marianne Strait had 14 consonants and perhaps 5 vowels as follows:

*m *n
*p *t *k
*mb *nd *ŋg
*f *s
*w *r *j

*i *u
*e *o
*a

    [under construction]

    Consonants correspond as follows:

Asm.-Marianne Asmat-Kamrau Marianne
*m *m *m
*n *n *n
*-n  *n *r
*p *p *p
 *t- *s *t
*-t- *r *t
*k
*mb
*nd *d *nd
*ŋg    
*f
*-f- *f *p
*s *s *s
*-s  *s *r
*r *r *r
*-r 
*j *j *z
*w *w *p

    These correspondences are exemplified as follows.

    Bilabial nasal /*m/ is retained as such in both families:

   Asm.-Marianne  Asmat-Kamrau  Marianne Strait
   *m  *m  *m
 saliva/spittle  *mita…  *masaip  *mita...
 thought  *menip  *minip  *meni…
 nose/tip  *maeneɣ  *maene  *meneɣ
 foot  *mawu  *mawu  *mop
 causative  *-mV    *-mo
 water  *moi  *moi  *moi
 rain  *munV    *mun
 ashes  *[i/u]m[i/u]nd  *umid  *imund
 louse  *aom  *aom  *am
 drum  *ɣaim  *em  *ɣaim
 night/dark  *ioɣotam  *juram  *ioɣotom

    Initial and medial apical nasal /*n/ is retained as such in both families:

   Asm.-Marianne  Asmat-Kamrau  Marianne Strait
   *n  *n  *n
 eat  *nV  *nV  *noku
 1 sg.  *no  *no  *no
 centipede  *an[i]  *an[i]  *an
 thought  *minip  *minip  *meni…
 nose/tip  *maeneɣ  *maene  *meneɣ
 rain  *munV    *mun

    Final /*n/ is reflected as apical non-stop /*r/ in Marianne Strait:

   Asm.-Marianne  Asmat-Kamrau  Marianne Strait
   *-n  *n  *r
 ear  *iafaen  *jafaen  *i[a]p[e/a]r
 sand  *sin  *sin  *sir

    Plain bilabial stop /*p/ …:

   Asm.-Marianne  Asmat-Kamrau  Marianne Strait
   *p-  *p  *p
 flatulate  *as pu  *as pu-m  *ar pu

    Final /*p/ …

   Asm.-Marianne  Asmat-Kamrau  Marianne Strait
   *-p  *p  *...
 tail  *efep  *efep  *pe...
 thought  *menip  *minip  *meni…
 spittle  *mita...  *masaip  *mita...

    Plain apical stop /*t/ …:

   Asm.-Marianne  Asmat-Kamrau  Marianne Strait
   *t  *r  *t
 go/walk  *jat[V]  *jar[e]  *jato
 night/dark    *juram  *ioɣotom

    /*t/ …

   Asm.-Marianne  Asmat-Kamrau  Marianne Strait
   *t    
       
 saliva/spittle  *mita...  *masaip  

    Plain velar stop /*k/ …:

    …

    Prenasalized bilabial stop /*mb/ …:

    …

    Prenasalized apical stop /*nd/ …:

   Asm.-Marianne  Asmat-Kamrau  Marianne Strait
   *nd  *d  *nd
 ashes  *[i/u]m[i/u]nd  *umid  *imund

    Prenasalized velar stop /*ŋg/ …:

     ….

    Initial /*f/ …:

     ….

    Medial /*f/ is reflected as /*p/ in Marianne Strait. This probably followed a merger with /*w/, which is likewise occluded to /*p/ (see below):

   Asm.-Marianne  Asmat-Kamrau  Marianne Strait
   *f  *f  *p
 ear  *iafaen  *jafaen  *i[a]p[e/a]r
 cold    *jufoC  
 tail  *efep  *efep  *pe...

    Final /*f/ is lost in Marianne Strait:

   Asm.-Marianne  Asmat-Kamrau  Marianne Strait
   *-f  *f  *…
 pig  *of  *of  *u

    Initial fricative /*s/ is retained in both families:

   Asm.-Marianne  Asmat-Kamrau  Marianne Strait
   *s-  *s  *s
 sand  *sin  *sin  *sir
 charcoal/black  *sos  *sos  *sor

     Final /*s/ is reflected as apical non-stop /*r/ in Marianne Strait (Voorhoeve 1980: 69):

   Asm.-Marianne  Asmat-Kamrau  Marianne Strait
   *-s  *s  *r
 blood  *ies  *es  *ir
 name  *iuaes (?)  *juaes  *ur
 excrement  *as  *as  *ar
 charcoal/black  *sos  *sos  *sor
 garden/clearing  *was  *was  *par

    Velar non-stop /*ɣ/ is lost in Asmat-Kamrau Bay:

   Asm.-Marianne  Asmat-Kamrau  Marianne Strait
   *ɣ  *ø  *ɣ
 kunai grass  *ɣiu[a]  *jua  *ɣiu
 drum  *ɣaim  *em  *ɣaim
 night/dark  *ioɣotam  *juram  *ioɣotom
 breast  *awoɣ  *awo  *apuɣ
 nose/tip  *maeneɣ  *maene  *meneɣ

    Medial /*r/ is retained as such in both families:

   Asm.-Marianne  Asmat-Kamrau  Marianne Strait
   *r  *r  *r
 butterfly  *wuri  *wuri  *puri

    Final /*r/ is lost in Marianne Strait:

   Asm.-Marianne  Asmat-Kamrau  Marianne Strait
   *r  *r  *ø
 dog  *iuwuir  *juwuir  *iupui

    Glides /*j *w/ are occluded in Marianne Strait to /*z *p/ respectively:

   Asm.-Marianne  Asmat-Kamrau  Marianne Strait
   *j  *j  *z
 hear/sense  *jiu  *jiw  *ziu
 sun  *jau[a]  *jawu  *zaua
   *w  *w  *p
 garden/clearing  *was  *was  *par
 butterfly  *wuri  *wuri  *puri
 dog  *iuwuir  *juwuir  *iupui
 breast  *awoɣ  *awo  *apuɣ
 foot  *mawu  *mawu  *mop

    This differs from the development of glides in Marind and Maklew to the northeast, where they are aspirated.

    As in Marind and Bulaka River, high vowels /*i *u/ are distinguished from glides /*j *w/ by the failure of the former to undergo occlusion in Marianne Strait, a contrast which appears to have been levelled in Asmat-Kamoro:

   Asm.-Marianne  Asmat-Kamrau  Marianne Strait
   *i  *j  *i
 ear  *iafaen  *jafaen  *i[a]p[e/a]r
 go/walk  *jatV  *jar[e]  *jato
 cold    *jufoC  
 dog  *iuwuir  *juwuir  *iupui
   *u  *w  *u
 hear/sense  *jiu  *jiw  *ziu
 sun  *jau[a]  *jawu  *zaua

    Pronouns

    [under construction]

    Verbal morphology

    One of the most striking grammatical similarities between the two subfamilies are the forms of the postposed verbal subjects. As nothing is known about Kamrau Bay or Koneraw verbal morphology, Asmat-Kamoro and Mombum (Drabbe 1950: 564-566) are compared directly:

   Asm.-Marianne  Asmat-Kamoro  Mombum  Mombum
       indicative  imperative
 1 sg.      -u  ---
 2 sg.      -im  -u
 3 sg.      -i  ---
 1 pl.      -am  ---
 2 pl.      -am  -mi
 3 pl.      -a/-i  ---

    [comparisons] 
    "afraid", "brain", "elbow", "hot", "sweat", ?"hungry", "banana"