Annotated Swadesh wordlists for the Bulaka River group (Bulaka River family).

Languages included: Makléw [bul-mak]; Welbuti Makléw [bul-wel]; Jélmèk [bul-jel]; Jabsch [bul-jab].


I. Makléw; Jélmèk.

Drabbe 1950 = Drabbe, Petrus. Talen en dialecten van Zuid-West Nieuw-Guinea. In: Anthropos, 45, pp. 545-574. // Grammar notes and (pp. 566-574) 422 comparative terms for Jélmèk and Makléw.

Voorhoeve 1975 = Voorhoeve, Clemens Lambertus. Languages of Irian Jaya, Checklist: preliminary classification, language maps, wordlists. Pacific Linguistics, Series B, No. 31. Canberra: The Australian National University. // On p. 95, excerpts 40 terms each for Yelmek and Maklew following Drabbe 1950.

II. Welbuti.

Lebold, Kriens & de Vries 2010 = Lebold, Randy; Kriens, Ron; de Vries, Peter Jan. Report on the Okaba Subdistrict Survey in Papua, Indonesia. SIL Electronic Survey Report 2010-008. SIL International. // On pp. 46-52, lists 239 comparative terms for Maklew of Welbuti.

III. Jabsch.

Geurtjens 1933 = Geurtjens, Hendrik. Marindineesch-Nederlandsch Woordenboek. Bandoeng: Nix. // On pp. 398-433, lists 455 comparative terms for Jab(sch) organized by Southeast Marind equivalents.


1. General.

The Bulaka River language family is comprised of two closely-related languages, Jélmèk and Makléw, spoken to the east of Marianne Strait, across from Kolopom (Frederik Hendrik) island, in the Merauke district of Indonesia's Papua province. Drabbe (1950: 549) counted 350 speakers of Yelmek in four villages, Yelwayab on the Wanam River, from which his material was collected, Woboyu, Dudaling and Bibikem, and 120 speakers of Maklew in a single village on the Welbuti River, a tributary of the Bulaka (q.v. Boelaars 1950: 19, 25). More recent figures from the Summer Institute of Linguistics give a Welbuti population of 226 (Lebold, Kriens and de Vries 2010: 8).

Like other languages of the Marianne Strait region, both Yelmek and Maklew have been significantly influenced by the unrelated Marind language, the intrusion of which from the north separates them from the Morehead River languages near the Papuan border (Nevermann 1952). Maklew in particular has coparticipated in a number of sound changes characteristic of Marind dialects. A smaller amount of more basic vocabulary is shared with the equally unrelated Kolopom family to the west. There is no trace of either Asmat or Awyu influence.

Although "Makléw" and "Welbuti" wordlists, extracted from Drabbe 1950 and Lebold, Kriens & de Vries 2010 respectively, allegedly represent a single speech variety, there is more than a 10% lexicostatistical discrepancy between the two; this could be due to glossing mistakes on the part of the researchers, but could also indicate that the dialectal situation in the area is slightly more complicated. For the sake of accuracy, we present both wordlists as separate speech varieties.

2. Transcription.

Drabbe (1950: 549) provides a brief (one paragraph) key to the orthography used in Jélmèk and Makléw transcriptions. As this is generally the same throughout all of Drabbe's southwest New Guinean transcriptions, it must be viewed as more a practical standard than a serious phonological analysis of either language.

Vowels are given as <a e e i o o u u>, with accented values described informally with reference to Dutch and French:

<e> as in Dutch <pet> – given here as a low mid front [ɛ]
<e> as in French <elefant> - given here as a high mid front [e]
<o> as in Dutch <put> - given here as
<u> as in French <but> - given here as high front rounded <u>

Drabbe marks stress with an accent grave <V>, leading to the peculiarity that stress on vowels <e o u> is not shown due to the limitations of the typeface.

Consonants for both languages are given as <b mb d nd g j k l m n p t w ng>, with <j> indicating a palatal glide [y] and <ng> a velar nasal [ŋ] as they do throughout Drabbe's transcriptions. In addition to these, Makléw has fricatives <f h s>.

Lebold, Randy, Ron Kriens and Peter Jan de Vries' (2010) survey vocabulary of Welbuti village uses standard IPA values, which are translated here to GLD's UTS.

Database compiled by: T. Usher (last update: September 2016).