Deictic marking in adpositions in Ap Ma and Waran




adpositions, postpositions, deixis, demonstratives, Papuan, Keram-Ramu


Two neighboring languages of the Sepik region of Papua New Guinea, Ap Ma (Keram) and Waran (Ramu), exhibit an unusual structure in adpositional phrases. In both languages, all postpositions that govern nouns are obligatorily marked with deictic prefixes that indicate the position of the referent of the NP relative to the deictic center. Both languages employ deictic morphemes that index whether a referent is near, medial, or far. In addition to having many crosslinguistically common and expected applications, these morphemes also occur as obligatory elements in adpositional phrases. This article examines the details of these unusual deictic-marked adpositional constructions, placing them in a typological context. We conclude that diachronic changes in Ap Ma phonology were likely the historical impetus for these constructions, which may have subsequently spread to Waran through contact.


Barlow, Russell. 2018. A grammar of Ulwa. PhD Dissertation, University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa.

Barlow, Russell. 2019a. Agent demotion through inverted word order: Syntactic passives in Ulwa. Studies in Language 43(4). 1015-1037.

Barlow, Russell. 2019b. A syntactic motivation for valency reduction: Antipassive constructions in Ulwa. Oceanic Linguistics 58(1). 1-30.

Barlow, Russell. 2020. A sketch grammar of Pondi. Canberra: Asia-Pacific Linguistics (College of Asia and the Pacific, the Australian National University).

Barlow, Russell. 2021. Ambakich phonological sketch. Language and Linguistics in Oceania 13. 32-88.

Breunesse, Merlijn. 2019. Demonstratives in space and discourse: A synchronic and diachronic analysis. PhD Dissertation, University of Jena.

Bühler, Karl. 1934. Sprachtheorie: Die Darstellungsfunktion der Sprache. Jena: Gustav Fischer Verlag.

Butler, William. 1981a. Preliminary notes on Banaro grammar. Pioneer Bible Translators. Unpublished MS.

Butler, William. 1981b. A tentative phonology of Banaro. Pioneer Bible Translators. Unpublished MS.

Capell, Arthur. 1951. Languages of Bogia District, New Guinea. Oceania 22(2). 130-147.

Christensen, Fay. 1977. Rao grammar (from stem to clause): A preliminary study. Unpublished MS.

Christensen, Fay. 1978. Combinations of predications in Rao. Unpublished MS.

Daniels, Don. 2010. Akukem 1 notebook. Papuan languages collection: A collection of various materials gathered about several Papuan languages spoken in Madang Province, Papua New Guinea. Pacific and Regional Archive for Digital Sources in Endangered Cultures (PARADISEC).

Diessel, Holger. 1999. Demonstratives: Form, function, and grammaticalization. Amsterdam: John Benjamins.

Diessel, Holger & Breunesse, Merlijn. 2020. A typology of demonstrative clause linkers. In Åshild Næss, Anna Margetts & Yvonne Treis (eds.), Demonstratives in discourse, 305-341. Berlin: Language Science Press.

Dixon, R. M. W. 2003. Demonstratives: A cross-linguistic typology. Studies in Language 27(1). 61-112.

Dixon, R. M. W. 2010. Basic linguistic theory, volume 2: Grammatical topics. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Dryer, Matthew S. 2007. Word order. In Timothy Shopen (ed.), Language typology and syntactic description, volume 1: Clause structure, 61-131. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Foley, William A. 2000. The languages of New Guinea. Annual Review of Anthropology 29. 357-404.

Goudswaard, Nelleke. 2005. The Begak (Ida’an) language of Sabah. Utrecht: LOT (PhD Dissertation, Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam).

Grimes, Charles E. 1991. The Buru language of eastern Indonesia. PhD Dissertation, Australian National University.

Gruzdeva, Ekaterina. 2013. Демонстративные глаголы в языках мира: проблемы идентификации и анализа [Demonstrative verbs in the languages of the world: Problems of identification and analysis]. Acta Linguistica Petropolitana 9(3). 51-80.

Guérin, Valérie 2015. Demonstrative verbs: A typology of verbal manner deixis. Linguistic Typology 19(2). 141-199.

Hagège, Claude. 2010. Adpositions. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Himmelmann, Nikolaus P. 1996. Demonstratives in narrative discourse: A taxonomy of universal uses. In Barbara Fox (ed.), Studies in anaphora, 205-254. Amsterdam / Philadelphia: John Benjamins.

Juillerat, Bernard. 2000. Do the Banaro really exist? Going back after Richard Thurnwald. Oceania 71(1). 46-66.

Killian, Don. 2021. Towards a typology of predicative demonstratives. Linguistic Typology.

König, Ekkehard & Umbach, Carla. 2018. Demonstratives of manner, of quality and of degree. In Marco Coniglio, Andrew Murphy, Eva Schlachter & Tonjes Veenstra (eds.), Atypical demonstratives: Syntax, semantics and pragmatics, 285-328. Berlin: De Gruyter.

Kruspe, Nicole D. 1999. Semelai. PhD Dissertation, University of Melbourne.

Laycock, Donald C. & Z’graggen, John A. 1975. The Sepik-Ramu phylum. In Stephen A. Wurm (ed.), New Guinea area languages and language study, volume 1: Papuan languages and the New Guinea linguistic scene, 731-764. Canberra: Research School of Pacific and Asian Studies, the Australian National University.

Levinson, Stephen C. 2018. Introduction: Demonstratives: Patterns in diversity. In Stephen C. Levinson, Sarah Cutfield, Michael J. Dunn, N. J. Enfield & Sérgio Meira (eds.), Demonstratives in cross-linguistic perspective, 1-42. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Li, Charles & Thompson, Sandra. 1977. A mechanism for the development of copula morphemes. In Charles Li (ed.), Mechanisms of syntactic change, 419-444. Austin: University of Texas Press.

Lichtenberk, Frantisek. 1983. A grammar of Manam. Honolulu: University of Hawai‘i Press.

Lyons, John. 1977. Semantics, volume 2. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Pryor, John. 1986. A provisional semantic-structure analysis of Botin hortatory and descriptive discourse. Pioneer Bible Translators. Unpublished MS.

Pryor, John. 1990. Deixis and participant tracking in Botin. Language and Linguistics in Melanesia 21. 1-29.

Pryor, Bonita & Farr, Cindi. 1989. Botin deictics: Go and come. Language and Linguistics in Melanesia 20. 115-145.

Robert, Stéphane. 2006. Deictic space in Wolof: Discourse, syntax and the importance of absence. In Maya Hickmann & Stéphane Robert (eds.), Space in languages: Linguistic systems and cognitive categories, 155-174. Amsterdam / Philadelphia: John Benjamins.

Ross, Malcolm. 1988. Proto-Oceanic and the Austronesian languages of western Melanesia. Canberra: Pacific Linguistics, the Australian National University.

Ross, Malcolm. 1996. Contact-induced change and the comparative method: Cases from Papua New Guinea. In Mark Durie & Malcolm Ross (eds.), The comparative method reviewed: Regularity and irregularity in language change, 180-217. New York: Oxford University Press.

Stanhope, John M. 1972. The language of the Kire people, Bogia, Madang District, New Guinea. Anthropos 67. 49-71.

Thurnwald, Richard. 1916. Bánaro society: Social organization and kinship system of a tribe in the interior of New Guinea. Memoirs of the American Anthropological Association 3. 251-391.

Wade, Martha. 1982. Pronouns and deictics in Botin. Pioneer Bible Translators. Unpublished MS.

Wade, Martha. 1983a. Botin/English dictionary. Pioneer Bible Translators. Unpublished MS.

Wade, Martha. 1983b. A tentative analysis of Botin morphophonemics in a generative format. Pioneer Bible Translators. Unpublished MS.

Wade, Martha Lynn. 1984. Some stratificational insights concerning Botin (Kambot), a Papuan language. MA Thesis, University of Texas at Arlington.

Wivell, Richard. 1981. Kairiru grammar. MA Thesis, University of Auckland.

Z’graggen, John A. 1971. Classificatory and typological studies in languages of the Madang district. Canberra: Pacific Linguistics, the Australian National University.

Z’graggen, John A. 1972. Comparative wordlist of the Ramu language group, New Guinea. Alexishafen: Anthropos Institute. Unpublished MS.




How to Cite

Killian D, Barlow R. Deictic marking in adpositions in Ap Ma and Waran. LTC [Internet]. 2022Jan.1 [cited 2022Aug.9];2(1):37-64. Available from:



Research articles