About The Ulwa Language

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Do you know languages are the cornerstone of our cultures? Well, language is something that represents our culture; it makes us different from each other. People worldwide use languages to communicate, learn and entertain themselves as well.

But have you ever wondered how many languages there are today? Out of which, how many are living and how many have died? Well, there are over 7000 living languages in the world. Only 54% of the living languages are in written form; some are endangered, while some are extinct. YES, languages can go extinct; one language dies every 14 days.

It’s a depressing and alarming statistic for both linguistics and speakers of endangered languages. Almost 26 languages go extinct yearly, and maybe more than half of the living languages disappear by 2100. However, the world is putting its effort into preserving the disappearing languages.

In this article, we will discuss one of those endangered languages that highly need preservation measures. It’s the Ulwa language; we will look at the facts of the language and discuss the steps to preserve the language. Let’s start!


Ulwa language, also known as Yaul, is the language of Papua New Guinea. It belongs to the Ramu language family. It is one of the indigenous languages of Papua New Guinea.

Ulwa community
Ulwa endangered language

Ulwa has less than 700 native speakers and around 1200 people speak it but are not fluent. The location description of the language includes four villages, i.e., Manu, Dimiri, Marut, and Yual, of the Angoram District from the East Sepik Province.

People from Yaul, Dimiri, and Maruat speak a similar version of Ulwa, while in Manu, people speak a different language. That’s why the Ulwa language has two dialects.

Apart from that, people from the Eastern region of Nicaragua speak Ulwa, the Misumalpan language. The Misumalpan language includes:

  • Miskitu
  • Matagalpa-Cacaopera is now extinct
  • The small Sumu language subgroups spoken by the community of Karawala in the South Atlantic Autonomous Region
  • Mayanga, spoken by the community of few people in the North Atlantic Autonomous Region of Nicaragua and people from the region of Rio Patuca in Honduras, say it as well.

The original territory of the Ulwa people is still shady. Today, the people from the village of Karawala only speak the Ulwa language. Around 400 fluent speakers talk about the language here. Out of them, few are children.


The Ulwa people of Nicaragua belong to the Panamahka, Sumu Mayagna, and the Ulwa family is mainly rooted in the Karawala community in the Rio Grande basin of Matagalpa. This indigenous community of unreached people was settled in 1853 in a small community with approximately 3500 indigenous people.

The Ulwa people are often confused with the people of Miskito. Still, they are two different district people. People are confused about these two districts because the people who were part of this community speak Miskito in their daily activities and duties. The indigenous language is only expressed in personal family meetings isolated by the Ulwa elders.


The dependence of the Ulwa language on the Miskito language has historical, social, and political reasons. The Miskito language is often used and is considered the prestigious and dominant language. It is used in formal communication as well as other contexts and areas.

On the other hand, the Ulwa language became the common language used only for casual and reduced contexts such as practicing in homes. The Miskitu language leads many Ulwa speakers to act passively towards their native language. The social pressure makes them doubt their own culture and language.

Due to this social pressure, ethnic claims in Nicaragua and the official recognition of coastal languages make the people change their attitude of devaluing their language. Today, a positive change in the value of language and culture occurs at the official level. It leads to a significant increase in the dignity of so many indigenous communities. The Ulwa people also claim to be part of this, and eventually, the value of language increases.

Ulwa language
Ulwa translation services


Well, the reason why Papua New Guinea has so many endangered languages is because of the excellent linguistic diversity in the country. But the question is why there is this much language diversity that it became the reason for language extinction and endangerment.

PNG is the most linguistically diversified country in the world. Here are a few main reasons why:

  1. The Papuan inhabited for over 40,000, and it’s enough time for a natural shift and diversification of language.
  2. Physical geography is also a significant cause of language diversity in PNG. The most negligible social interaction between the Papuans living in the mountains, tropical forests, rugged coastlines, islands, and swamplands caused diversification in their languages.
  3. The correlation between cultural diversity and social culture also causes linguistic diversity in PNG.


The endangerment of languages is at an alarming stage; every two weeks, a language disappears, which is very depressing and disappointing. People are shifting towards common languages, such as English, Spanish or German. The intergenerational gap is the primary reason language becomes endangered and gradually extinct.

The young generation shifted their language interests to the dominant languages. They devalue their native languages due to socio-cultural pressure. Unfortunately, the world requires dominant languages in every aspect of life whether it’s education, job, business, or whatsoever.

Apart from that, sometimes a language becomes endangered because there is no record available to understand and learn the language. The country can take some precautionary measures to save the endangered languages. They can ask linguistics and translators to access unreached people or native speakers of the language to make records.

They can get notes, audio recordings, or other additional recordings from the speakers. The current analysis is not enough. They need to study the language correctly to understand it better. Otherwise, they can represent the alternative language analysis after getting enough information from native speakers.

Moreover, they can do a lexicographic study to get sufficient information to understand the language reasonably. The government of PNG can preserve the Ulwa language by introducing the language course for the students.

Educate them about how to respect and value their languages and cultures; tell them about how to maintain the balance between their native languages and the world’s dominant languages. The schools need to introduce a proper version of the language in which property concept roots are evident.

Wrap Up

The Ulwa is an endangered language, so it is possible to save it. The above preventive measures can help save the language. Other than that, it would be best if you learned to respect the languages of others. All you have to do is explore the language, but at least research and read articles to learn about the languages. Maybe you become a reason to save a language one day, so why not?


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