Ambai language

Native to Indonesia
Region Ambai Island
Native speakers
10,100 (2000)[1]
Language codes
ISO 639-3 amk
Glottolog amba1265[2]

The Ambai language is an Austronesian language spoken in Indonesian New Guinea (Papua Province), mostly on the Ambai Islands as well as the southern part of Yapen Island.[3] The number of speakers is estimated to be 10,000.


Ambai has 19 consonants and 6 vowels, shown on the tables below.

Bilabial Labiodental Alveolar Palatal Velar Pharyngeal Glottal
Stop b  p d  t ɡ  k
Nasal m n ŋ
Trill r ħ h
Fricative ɸ f s ç  ʝ
Approximant w j

Front Central Back
Close i u
Mid ɛ ə ɔ
Open a



All pronouns in Ambai mark for number, person and clusivity (in first person).

The following bound pronouns are obligatorily added as affixes to the verb to stand as the subject of the sentence. Every verb in Ambai takes a subject, even if it is a 'dummy' 3rd person pronoun.

Bound Pronouns
Person Number
Singular Dual Trial Plural
1INC tu(r)- to(r)- ta(r)-
1EXCL i-/dj- au(r)- anto(r)- ame(r)-
2 b- mu(r)- munto(r)- me(r)-
3 d- u(r)- co(r)- e(r)-

The following pronouns are independent and are more restricted in use. They do not appear as subjects – since the subject is marked already on the verb – but can appear as objects, in prepositional phrases and in subordinate clauses. Some verbs allow the object pronoun to be omitted.

Free Pronouns
Person Number
Singular Dual Trial Plural
1INC turu totoro tata
1EXCL jau auru antoru amea
2 wau muru muntoro mea
3 i uru coru ea

Examples of pronouns used in everyday language:

(1) b-oti suru
"Look at them (two)."

(2) uru u-minohi
"They sit."


  1. Ambai at Ethnologue (18th ed., 2015)
  2. Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin; Bank, Sebastian, eds. (2016). "Ambai". Glottolog 2.7. Jena: Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History.
  3. "AMBAI" (PDF). PapuaWeb. Retrieved May 30, 2016.

Further reading

External links

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