About the Panim Dictionary by Madeleine Booth

Panim pnr language is a Gum Croisilles language belonging to the Madang branch of the Trans-New Guinea phylum. It is spoken by around 400 people, all living in a single village called Panim in Madang Province, Papua New Guinea. The language is highly endangered since it is no longer learned by children, who instead grow up speaking Tok Pisin, the local lingua franca and dominant language.

A preliminary assessment of the current status, vitality, and documentation level of Panim was carried out in July 2009 by Greg Anderson and K. David Harrison of the Living Tongues Institute, in coordination with the National Geographic Society's Enduring Voices Project. Living Tongues Institute Fellow Don Daniels continued the collection of materials for a Panim Talking Dictionary and Online Grammar during July 2010. The main consultants in the project are Lihot Wagadu and Segena Som, with additional consultation with Deb Molem.

In his 2010 field report, Don Daniels writes: "Speakers have expressed the most interest and enthusiasm for the recording of traditional narratives and the documentation of traditional cultural practices...Such cultural knowledge will be a priceless record for the Panim community...Panim is also a fascinating language in its own right. For example, it has a very rare system for expressing the notion of giving. Rather than having one word that means ‘give’, Panim has seven—one for each of the seven Panim pronouns. These words, in addition to meaning ‘give’, also say who is receiving, so that there is a different word in Panim for ‘give to me’ as opposed to ‘give to you’."

The Panim Talking Dictionary was constructed in July 2014 by Madeleine Booth, under the direction of K. David Harrison and with technical support by Jeremy Fahringer. Support was provided by Swarthmore College and the Living Tongues Institute for Endangered Languages.

We hope to collaborate further with the Panim community in the future to expand the Panim talking dictionary, and also to produce a print version.

About The Panim Language and Dictionary

The proposed Panim transcriptions in the Talking Dictionary are tentative as some phonemes (sounds) are only slightly different from others, which can lead to mishearing on the part of the transcriber. Panim appears to have a contrast between voiced and voiceless bilabial fricatives (ɸ, β), front/mid and back low vowels (a, ɔ), and plosive and implosive stops (b, ɓ; d, ɗ; g, ɠ). It is possible that ɸ and β are allophones (phonemes which are interchangeable without changing the meaning of the word, written ɸ ~ β), as well as n ~ l, z ~ j, β ~ w, and i ~ e when unstressed. Don Daniels also speculates that t and k, although common among the world’s languages, are only found in words that Panim has borrowed from other languages, and Booth extends this speculation to p as well. The transcriptions in the Talking Dictionary should be considered speculative, especially those concerning plosive and implosive stops, and the exact phoneme inventory will need to be verified with further research.

At the time of this dictionary’s production, we are not aware of any written form of Panim. As such, this dictionary uses a phonetic transcription to transcribe Panim words. The pronunciation guide below gives (from left to right) the characters used in the Talking Dictionary’s phonetic transcription, their IPA (international phonetic alphabet) equivalent, and examples of those sounds if applicable in English, Tok Pisin, and Panim.

Panim transcription IPA symbol English and Tok Pisin examples Panim examples
Panim Vowels
i i peek, screech, emu, sillymi, planti, lik listenloadingplaying


u u food, bootumbuna, yu listenloadingplaying


e ɛ met, epic, bedtupela, ken listenloadingplaying


o o onim, olgeta, tasol listenloadingplaying


your mouth
a æ apple, cat, saptasol, hap listenloadingplaying


my eye
ɔ ɔ / ɑ fall, dawn, draw listenloadingplaying


bilum (PNG woven bag)
Panim Diphthongs
ai pie, fire, finepaia, ais, taim listenloadingplaying


ei face, pay, vein listenloadingplaying


my tongue
ou goat, go, row listenloadingplaying


your neck
Panim Consonants
p p pet, inputplet, mipela listenloadingplaying


maternal grandfather
b b bed, habit, grabbuk, kikbal listenloadingplaying

bu (mia)

ɓ ɓ listenloadingplaying


t t tap, enter, pettasol, rot listenloadingplaying


d d dog, indent, imbeddaun, penda listenloadingplaying


ɗ ɗ listenloadingplaying


my nape
k k cat, encodepukpuk, kokonas listenloadingplaying


g g give, agreegaden, digim listenloadingplaying


ɠ ɠ listenloadingplaying


gw guava, guano listenloadingplaying


ʔ ʔ the pause in uh-oh, and in some dialects, mitten (mitt’n) listenloadingplaying


his saliva
m m map, import, trimmi, sumatin, werim listenloadingplaying


n n nag, endure, pinnus, ranim, raun listenloadingplaying


my mouth
ŋ ŋ ring, drink listenloadingplaying


my head
ɸ ɸ listenloadingplaying


your brain
β β listenloadingplaying


your belly
s s sack, insert, sipssusa, snek listenloadingplaying


z z dazzle, zenith, jazz listenloadingplaying


ʃ ʃ shaman, fish listenloadingplaying

em wiʃahel

those two gave you X
h h happy, inherithaus, huk listenloadingplaying


l l lamp, cloud, illlip, oltaim listenloadingplaying


w w water, awake, owwanem, wawan listenloadingplaying


j j yes, yetyang, yu listenloadingplaying



Pronouns, possession, and possessive pronouns:

Panim pronouns:

Panim distinguishes between singular (one entity), dual (two entities), and plural (three or more entities). It distinguishes between 1st person, 2nd person, and 3rd person in the singular, and between 1st person and 2nd/3rd person in the dual and plural.

Sg Dl Pl
1 ise ~ isi ile ige
2 ine ale age
3 ɓo ale age
ise taβiɠi I stand
ine taβaɠa you stand
ɓo (ai) taβin he/she stands
ile taβanan we two stand
ale taβahia you two stand
ale taβahia those two stand
ige taβanɓan we stand
age taβegia you all stand
age taβegia they stand

Panim alienable possessive pronouns:

These pronouns are used for alienable possession (meaning the possessive pronoun is or can be separated from the noun (cf. inalienable possession, as with body parts). Interestingly, while Panim pronouns distinguish between 1st and 2nd/3rd person in the plural and dual, the possessive pronouns distinguish between 1st/2nd and 3rd.

Sg Dl Pl
1 sisu lilu ɠiɠu
2 ninu lilu ɠiɠu
3 ɓuɓu alilu aɠiɠu
zɔl sisu my bilum
zɔl ninu your bilum
zɔl ɓuɓu his/her bilum
zɔl lilu we two’s bilum
zɔl lilu you two’s bilum
zɔl alilu those two’s bilum
zɔl ɠiɠu our bilum
zɔl ɠiɠu you all’s bilum
zɔl aɠiɠu their bilum

Panim inalienable possession:

Body parts, as well as some other nouns like ‘shadow,’ cannot be expressed without a possessive-- that is to say, one cannot say ‘the arm’ but must say ‘his arm, my arm, etc.’ Panim does not use the set of possessive pronouns for inalienable possession but rather changes the word itself. There are multiple patterns of inalienable possession that a noun might fall into, indicating that Panim might have a noun class system. Some nouns of the paradigms are shown below. There is only data for 1st, 2nd, and 3rd singular possession-- how Panim would translate phrases like ‘their brains,’ referring to a plurality of brains, each of which belongs to only one person (for obvious reasons), is unknown at this time.

1sg 2sg 3sg gloss
eɓeni eɓen eɓen arm
ɠiʔani ɠiʔan ɠiʔan armpit
ilofuni ilofu ilofu brain
ɓini ɓig ɓig bum
tuʔumi tuʔum tuʔu thigh
ɓelami ɓelam ɓela tongue
zogani zogan zoga blood
ɗuni ɗun ɗu nape
wavi wavin waug belly
hibeni hibin hibag chin/jaw
dahini dahin dahig ear
aimi ain aig tooth
zami zaim zaif leg
hilimani hilimanin hiliman vein
ahuni ahunin ahun shadow
zenumi zenimin zeni name
ulini ulinin ul heart

We would like to thank all the Panim language consultants for their cooperation and contributions. The research for this dictionary was made possible by the support and assistance of the National Geographic Enduring Voices Project, the Living Tongues Institute for Endangered Languages, and Swarthmore College. All content is under copyright by the authors. Words and recordings remain the intellectual property of the speakers and community. Any questions or comments concerning this project can be sent to talkingdictionary@swarthmore.edu.


Dempwolff, Otto. Beiträge zur Kenntnis der Sprachen von Deutsch-Neuguinea 1905.

Ray, Sidney H. The Languages of Northern Papua 1919.

Z'Graggen, Johannes A. A comparative word list of the Mabuso languages, Madang Province, Papua New Guinea 1980.

Z'Graggen, Johannes A. The Madang-Adelbert Range Sub-Phylum 1975.

how to cite:

Anderson, Gregory D.S. and K. David Harrison. 2014. Panim Talking Dictionary. Living Tongues Institute for Endangered Languages. http://www.talkingdictionary.org/panim