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Kâte language

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Title: Kâte language  
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Subject: Kate, Yabem language, Sio language
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Kâte language

Native to Papua New Guinea
Region Huon Peninsula, Morobe Province
Native speakers
20,000  (2011)[1]
Language codes
ISO 639-3 kmg
Glottolog kate1253[2]

Kâte is a Papuan language spoken by about 6,000 people in the Finschhafen District of Morobe Province, Papua New Guinea. It is part of the Finisterre–Huon branch of the Trans–New Guinea phylum of languages (Ross 2005). It was adopted for teaching and mission work among speakers of Papuan languages by the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Papua New Guinea in the early 1900s and at one time had as many as 80,000 second-language speakers.


Vowels (orthographic)

Kâte distinguishes six vowels. The low back vowel â sounds like the vowel of English law or saw (Pilhofer 1933: 14). Length is not distinctive.
Front Back
High i u
Mid e o
Low a â

Consonants (orthographic)

The glottal stop, written -c, only occurs after a vowel and Pilhofer first describes it as a vowel feature that distinguishes, for instance, bo 'sugarcane' from boc 'very' and si 'planting' from sic 'broth'. The fricatives f and w are both labiodentals, according to Pilhofer (1933), but bilabials, according to Flierl and Strauss (1977). Alveopalatal z and ʒ are affricates, [ts] and [dz] respectively, but they otherwise pattern like the stops, except that z only occurs between vowels, while ʒ occurs morpheme-initially (Flierl and Strauss 1977: xv). Both Pilhofer (1933: 15) and Flierl and Strauss (1977) describe the labiovelars q and q as coarticulated and simultaneously released [kp] and [gb], respectively. (The boldfaced q here stands for a curly q with hooked serifs that cannot properly be rendered here.)
Labial Labiovelar Dental Alveopalatal Velar Glottal
Voiceless stop p q t -z- k -c
Voiced stop b q d ʒ g
Prenasalized mb ŋq nd ŋg
Nasal m n ŋ
Voiceless fricative f s h
Voiced fricative w
Liquid l
Approximant j


Free pronouns

Unlike many Papuan languages, Kâte distinguishes inclusive and exclusive in the 1st person, presumably due to Austronesian influence. The following pronoun table is from Pilhofer (1933: 51-52). Ross (2005: 32) cites nɔh-ɔʔ for 2nd-person plural, corresponding to Pilhofer's nâhâc for 1st-person dual inclusive. Otherwise, Ross's pronouns follow Pilhofer's, except orthographically.
Person Singular Plural Dual
1st person inclusive nâŋac nâhâc
1st person exclusive no nâŋe nâhe
2nd person go ŋoŋe ŋohe
3rd person e jaŋe jahe


  1. ^ Kâte at Ethnologue (17th ed., 2013)
  2. ^ Nordhoff, Sebastian; Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin, eds. (2013). "Kate". Glottolog 2.2. Leipzig: Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology. 
  • Flierl, Wilhelm, and Hermann Strauss, eds. (1977). Kâte dictionary. Series C-41. Canberra: Pacific Linguistics.
  • Pilhofer, G. (1933). Grammatik der Kâte-Sprache in Neuguinea. Vierzehntes Beihelf zur Zeitschrift für Eingeborenen-Sprachen. Berlin: Dietrich Reimer.
  • Ross, Malcolm (2005). "Pronouns as a preliminary diagnostic for grouping Papuan languages". In Andrew Pawley, Robert Attenborough, Robin Hide, Jack Golson, eds. Papuan pasts: cultural, linguistic and biological histories of Papuan-speaking peoples. Canberra: Pacific Linguistics. pp. 15–66. ISBN . OCLC 67292782. 

External links

  • OLAC resources in and about the Kâte language
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