Papuan languages, also known as New Guinean languages, are a huge proportion of the world's languages, perhaps as many as one-fifth. Apart from those belonging to the Austronesian group widespread throughout Asia and the Pacific, most of them have no known connexion with any outside New Guinea.

The classification is in many cases tentative; but the families that have been identified are usually grouped into larger "phyla". Most of the languages belong to the Trans-New Guinea phylum, and other common ones are Torricelli and Sepik-Ramu. Minor phyla include Amto-Musan, East Bird's Head, East Papuan, Geelvink Bay, Kwomtari-Baibai, Left May, Sko, and West Papuan.

Joseph Greenberg tentatively linked them with the Andamanese and Tasmanian languages in a group he called Indo-Pacific.

The enormous number and diversity of them is no doubt in part due to the island being vary mountainous and full of intractable jungle, so breaking the people up into very small communities with little wider contact; and in part to the fact that humans have been settled there for a very long time. As people got to Australia at least 40 000 years ago, they must have been in New Guinea already. Back then they were part of the same landmass, called Sahul, separated at Wallace's Line from the Asian continent. And since Greenberg didn't classify any Australian languages with his Indo-Pacific except the most remote of them, Tasmanian, he must have thought the Australian ones were later intrusions over an even earlier substrate.

Pap"u*an (?), a.

Of or pertaining to Papua.


© Webster 1913.

Pap"u*ans (?), n. pl.; sing. Papuan (). Ethnol.

The native black race of Papua or New Guinea, and the adjacent islands.

© Webster 1913.

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