Berik language

Native to Indonesia
Region Tor Atas district, Sarmi Regency
Native speakers
1,200 (1994)[1]
Language codes
ISO 639-3 bkl
Glottolog beri1254[2]

Berik is a Papuan language spoken in eastern Papua. Speakers are located in four village groups on the Tor river towards the northern coast of Indonesian-controlled Irian Jaya.[3] US linguist John McWhorter cited Berik as an example of a language which puts concepts "together in ways more fascinatingly different from English than most of us are aware".[4] Illustrating this, in the phrase Kitobana (meaning "[he] gives three large objects to a male in the sunlight"), affixes indicating time of day, object number, object size, and gender of recipient are added to the verb.[4][5][6]



Bilabial Labiodental Alveolar Alveolo-palatal palatal Velar
Plosive and affricate p [p] b [b] t [t] d [d] j [d͡ʑ] k [k] g [ɡ]
Fricative f [f] s [s]
Nasal m [m] n [n] ng [ŋ]
Approximant l [l] y [j] w [w]
Tap r [ɾ]


Berik has the common six vowel system (/a/, /e/, /i/, /o/, and /u/ plus /ə/).[7]



  1. Berik at Ethnologue (18th ed., 2015)
  2. Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin; Bank, Sebastian, eds. (2016). "Berik". Glottolog 2.7. Jena: Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History.
  3. Matthews, "Berik Literacy Program", p. 109
  4. 1 2 McWhorter, "No Tears for Dead Tongues"
  5. "Difficult languages--Tongue twisters--In search of the world’s hardest language", Economist, New York,Dec 17th 2009.
  6. John McWhorter,"No Tears For Dead Tongues", Forbes,2/21/2008 @ 6:00PM.
  7. Westrum, "A Grammatical Sketch of Berik," p. 137
  8. Taken from Jones, "In Pursuit of Discourse Particles", p. 130


  • Jones, Linda K. (1992), "In Pursuit of Discourse Particles", in Hwang, Shin Ja J.; Merrifield, William R., Language in context: Essays for Robert E. Longacre (PDF), Summer Institute of Linguistics and the University of Texas at Arlington Publications in Linguistics, 107, Dallas: Summer Institute of Linguistics and the University of Texas at Arlington, pp. 12736 
  • Matthews, Delle P. (1990), "The Berik Literacy Program: From Illiteracy to National Language Proficiency", Irian: Bulletin of Irian Jaya, 18: 109–24 
  • McWhorter, John (21 March 2008), "No Tears for Dead Tongues", Forbes, retrieved 2011-05-09 
  • Westrum, Peter N. (1988), "A Grammatical Sketch of Berik", Irian: Bulletin of Irian Jaya, 16: 137 
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