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Group of about 800 languages spoken by indigenous peoples of New Guinea and parts of some neighbouring islands, including Alor, Bougainville, Halmahera, New Britain, New Ireland, and Timor. Spoken by some three to four million people, Papuan languages belong to several dozen families, the higher genetic relationships of which are still uncertain. This diversity, conjoined with the numerous Austronesian languages spoken on smaller parts of New Guinea and on adjacent islands, makes the region the most linguistically heterogeneous area of the world. The vast majority of Papuan languages have fewer than 100,000 speakers; Enga, spoken in the highlands of Papua New Guinea, is the most common of the Papuan languages and has some 200,000 speakers.
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