About the Pom Dictionary by Claire Benham-Chandler & Emily Gasser

About The Pom Language

Pom is an Austronesian language spoken on Yapen Island in Cenderawasih Bay in Papua Province, Indonesia. It has around 2000 speakers (Simons & Fennig 2017). This wordlist was recorded by Emily Gasser with Pom speakers Yanselt Borotabui, Spenyei Awendu, Frengky Mantundoi, Frence Kapitaray, and Memase Kadwaru on the Unipa campus in Manokwari in June/July 2016.

Using this dictionary: The forms given as headwords are roots. Because verbs in Pom must always be conjugated to agree with their subject, these forms will never appear in isolation. Therefore the recordings of verbs will always be of conjugated forms, usually in the first person singular. For example, ra ‘go’ is pronounced in the recording as ira ‘I go’. Some adjectives are also recorded with subject agreement, usually the 3rd person singular, which in some cases is an infix, for example with hanai ‘good’, spoken as hinai ‘it is good’. Other morphology also occasionally appears in the recordings of various forms.

Phoneme Inventory


  bilabial alveolar palatal velar glottal
nasals m m n n   ŋ ng  
plosives voiceless p p t t   k k  
voiced b b d d      
fricatives β v s s     h h
affricates   d͡ʒ j      
trills   r r      
glides     j y w w  


  front central back
high i i   u u
high-mid e e   o o
low   a a  

Example words for each phoneme are given in the following table.

Pom orthography Sound English and Indonesian examples Pom examples
P p p spotpukul listenloadingplaying


T t t steamtulis listenloadingplaying


K k k skipkota listenloadingplaying


B b b buybawa listenloadingplaying


D d d dancedatang listenloadingplaying


M m m mothermama listenloadingplaying


N n n nonenoken listenloadingplaying


Ng ng ŋ singbingung listenloadingplaying


V v β listenloadingplaying


green, blue
S s s sevensini listenloadingplaying


H h h hellohabis listenloadingplaying


J j d͡ʒ jealousjeruk listenloadingplaying


R r r rumah listenloadingplaying


Y y j yellowyakin listenloadingplaying


W w w windwarna listenloadingplaying


A a a fatherbapak listenloadingplaying


E e e rainlembek listenloadingplaying


I i i deeppilih listenloadingplaying


he, she, it
O o o bonekotor listenloadingplaying


U u u rootmulut listenloadingplaying




Pom syllables are mostly CV(C). Codas, though allowed, are rarer than CV syllables. The sounds /b/, /d/, /h/, /j/, and /w/ have not been observed to appear as codas, although [j] and [w] can appear at the end of word-final diphthongs as allophones of /i/ and /u/ (see Phonology). Consonant clusters only appear word-internally and then are limited to homorganic nasal plus stop/affricate (/mb/, /mp/, /nd/, /nt/, /ŋk/, and one example of /ndʒ/). Examples can be heard in tamambuai ‘uncle’, runandaun ‘hair’, and ingkira ‘spider’.

Single vowel syllables V are observed at the beginning of words and as monosyllables. Vowels can occur in sequence, apparently quite freely ordered, and are generally pronounced as diphthongs or triphthongs.


The vowels /i/ and /u/ may alternate with the glides [j] and [w] respectively when preceded by a consonant and followed by another vowel. This change always occurs with /u/ → [w], but is not universal with /i/ → [j]. Examples of this change can be heard in andiaun ‘leaf’ and buong ‘fruit’.

Pom undergoes a phonological ‘crazy rule’ of VRK mutation, as described by Gasser (in prep.), in which root-initial /β/, /r/, and /k/ become [mb], [nd], and [ŋg] when preceded by a consonant. This can be seen in the verbal agreement system for non-singular forms.

    ‘to eat (intr.)’ ‘to dig’ ‘to go’ ‘to tie’
  prefix -ampi -vai -ra -karei
1sg /i-/ jampi iβai ira ikarei
1du.incl /tur-/ turampi tumbai tunda tuŋgarei
1pl.incl /tat-/ tatampi tambai tanda taŋgarei

Verbal Morphology

Verbs in Pom are conjugated to agree with their subject in person and number. The following verb paradigm is likely incomplete in that it doesn’t reflect the inclusive (me & you) vs. exclusive (me & someone else) distinction in the first person non-singular forms. The 1pl and 1dual forms given are inclusive.

  Singular Dual Plural
  am(pi) ‘eat (intr.)’
1 yau yampi turu turampi tatoru tarampi
‘I eat’ ‘we two eat’ ‘we eat’
2 au wampi muru murampi mintoru miarampi
‘you eat’ ‘you two eat’ ‘y’all eat’
3 i diampi huru hurampi tioru tirampi
‘he/she/it eats’ ‘they two eat’ ‘they eat’
  karei(pa) ‘tie (intr.)’
1 yau ikarei turu tunggareipa tatoru tanggareipa
‘I tie’ ‘we two tie’ ‘we tie’
2 au kurei muru munggareipa mintoru mianggareipa
‘you tie’ ‘you two tie’ ‘y’all tie’
3 i kirepa huru hunggareipa tioru tinggareipa
‘he/she/it ties’ ‘they two tie’ ‘they tie’

Further Research

Some further questions remain to be answered. Do the vowels /i/ and /u/ alternate to glides when they are the final vowel of a diphthong or triphthong? Is this process at all blocked or affected by the presence of a syllable coda? What, if anything, is the relationship between /s/ and /h/, both of which appear to be reflexes of historical *s? The morphology and syntax of Pom remain almost entirely undescribed.


We would like to thank all the Pom language consultants and CELD staff for their cooperation and contributions. All content is under copyright by the authors. Words and recordings remain the intellectual property of the speakers and community. This work was funded by NSF DEL grant #1153795, the Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History, and Swarthmore College. Any questions or comments concerning this project can be sent to egasser1@swarthmore.edu.


Gasser, Emily. In prep. VRK Mutation in SHWNG: Historical Development of a Phonological Crazy Rule.

Simons, Gary F. and Charles D. Fennig (eds.). 2017. Ethnologue: Languages of the World, Twentieth edition. Dallas, Texas: SIL International. Online version: www.ethnologue.com.

how to cite:

Gasser, Emily. 2016. Pom Talking Dictionary Living Tongues Institute for Endangered Languages. http://www.talkingdictionary.org/pom