Future tense usages in Trans-New Guinea languages: a functional-cognitive study

Author: Masahiko Nose (Shiga University)
Speaker: Masahiko Nose
Topic: Cognitive Anthropology and Language
The (SCOPUS / ISI) SOAS GLOCAL CALA 2022 General Session


This study tries to clarify the functions of future tense forms in the area of Papua New Guinea; particularly, the sample languages are Amele, Kobon, and Waskia. This study examined the three languages and checked future tense features in terms of functional and ethnological points.
Amele, Kobon and Waskia are a Trans-New Guinea language, and these three languages are spoken in Madang Province, Papua New Guinea. Trans-New Guinea languages tend to depend on verbal morphology and nevertheless, their grammars and lexicons are totally different each other.
This study tries to clarify the characteristics of future tense of the sample languages, and we examined how their future features are combined in verbal morphology and sought for their lexical origins. In (1)-(3), we show several examples of future tenses.
(1) Amele (Roberts 1989: 229); future tense in verb morphology
Uqa sab man-igi-an. “She will cook the food.”

(2) Kobon (Davies 1989: 167); future tense in verb morphology
Sido: wad lug-nab mego: u au-nab-in. “I will come when the sun has gone down.”

(3) Waskia (Ross and Paol 1978: 69); Irrealis Subject-tense-mood suffix
Nu misese urat biter-uko kobo. “He will certainly work today.”

Amele has a morphological future tense affix “-an” (irrealis), and Kobon has a future suffix “-nab” (which can be regarded as irrealis),  Waskia has Irrealis suffix “-uko”.
Taylor (2003: 149) described the tenses can be regarded as locating an event or state at some point or period in time prior to the moment of speaking (writing), and Taylor sees these grammatical functions as a prototype-based categorization.
Finally, this study claims that the sample languages have at least one future tense marker, and the future prototype in the Trans-New Guinea languages can be defined as verbal suffix and irrealis meaning. Future markings are generally grammaticalized to several lexical sources, such as “go, come, catch, want”, and so on. (cf. Bybee & Dahl 1989). However, in this study, the observed forms cannot be analyzed in terms of lexicon such as “go, come”.  Instead, their functions are based on irrealis, and their speakers interpret as not “location in time” view.


Bybee, J. and Ö. Dahl. 1989. The creation of tense and aspect system in the language of the World. Studies in Language 13: 51-103.

Davies, J. 1989. Kobon. London: Routledge.
Roberts, J. R. 1987. Amele. London: Croom Helm.
Taylor, J. R. (2003). Linguistic categorization. Oxford University Press.

Keywords: Future tense, Trans-New Guinea, morphology, prototype, Papua New Guinea