Languages of Vanuatu

Languages of Vanuatu
Official English, French, Bislama

Vanuatu has three official languages, English, French, and Bislama, a creole language derived from English. Bislama is the first language of many urban ni-Vanuatu, that is, the residents of Port Vila and Luganville. It is the most common second language elsewhere in the Vanuatu islands. It is similar to Tok Pisin of Papua New Guinea, and other nearby creoles.

In addition, there are over one hundred local languages spread over the archipelago. Vanuatu is the country with the highest density of languages per capita in the world: it currently shows an average of about 1760 speakers for each indigenous language, and went through a historical low of 565;[1] only Papua New Guinea comes close. Some of these languages are very endangered, with only a handful of speakers, and indeed several have become extinct in recent times. Generally however, despite the low numbers for most of the indigenous languages, they are not considered especially vulnerable for extinction.[2]

In recent years, the use of Bislama as a first language has considerably encroached on indigenous languages, whose use in the population has receded from 73.1 to 63.2 percent between 1999 and 2009.[3]

Out of the three official languages, Bislama is the most spoken in Vanuatu, followed by English, and lastly French.

English and French [ edit ]

From the times when Vanuatu used to be an English-French condominium, there is still an unofficial separation line between regions where English or French are taught at school. English is the first language of about 2% of the population,[4] up from about 1% in 1995.[5] Based on the number of sufficiently educated adults, about 62% of the population speaks English as a second language.[6] French is the first language of 0.6% of the population,[4] down from more than 3% if SIL's figures are comparable.[5] About 31% of the population can at least read and write simple sentences in French.[7]

The majority of the country's inhabitants (63.2% in 2009)[3] speak an indigenous language as their first language, with Bislama as a second language. As for English and French, they belong to a third circle, in spite of their official status.

Indigenous languages [ edit ]

Vanuatu is home to more than a hundred indigenous languages: a recent count lists 138.[8] Among them, three became extinct in recent decades. Many are named after the island they are spoken on, though some of the larger islands have several different languages. Espiritu Santo and Malakula are linguistically the most diverse, with about two dozen languages each.

Some language names refer to networks of dialects rather than unified languages. Uripiv, for example, is a dialect continuum spoken across several islands in Malampa Province. In such cases, the decision as to how many languages should be counted is notoriously difficult, and sometimes the object of controversy. The number of 112 listed below may differ from other counts proposed in the literature, depending partly on these difficulties.[9]

All indigenous languages of Vanuatu are Oceanic. Three are Polynesian languages of the Futunic group: Emae, Mele-Fila and Futuna-Aniwa. The remaining languages belong to various branches of the Southern Oceanic branch of Oceanic.

List [ edit ]

Below is a list of most of the indigenous languages of Vanuatu, which are still spoken or were until recently.[10] It provides links to corresponding Ethnologue entries and to an OLAC list of media resources on the language.[11]

Tip: Click on the column title to change the sort order.

Language Ethn. OLAC Other names Speakers % of the total population Region Family Notes
Akei tsr tsr Tasiriki 650 0.2404 Espiritu Santo NCV
Amblong alm alm 300 0.1109 Espiritu Santo NCV
Anejom̃ aty aty Aneityum 900 0.3328 Aneityum SV
Aore aor aor Extinct 0.0000 Espiritu Santo, Aore NCV
Apma app app 7,800 2.8846 Pentecost NCV
Araki akr akr 8 0.0030 Araki NCV Moribund
Aulua aul aul 750 0.2774 Malekula NCV
Avava tmb tmb Katbol 700 0.2589 Malekula NCV
Axamb ahb ahb Ahamb 750 0.2774 Malekula NCV
Baetora btr btr 1,330 0.4919 Maewo NCV
Baki bki bki Burumba, Paki 350 0.1294 Epi NCV
Bierebo bnk bnk Bonkovia-yevali 800 0.2959 Epi NCV
Bieria brj brj Bieri, Vovo, Wowo 70 0.0259 Epi NCV Endangered
Burmbar vrt vrt Banan Bay, Vartavo 900 0.3328 Malekula NCV
Butmas-Tur bnr bnr Ati 520 0.1923 Espiritu Santo NCV
Central Maewo mwo mwo 1,400 0.5177 Maewo NCV
Daakie ptv ptv Port-Vato 1,300 0.4808 Ambrym NCV
Daakaka bpa bpa Baiap, South Ambrym 1,200 0.4438 Ambrym NCV
Dixon Reef dix dix 50 0.0185 Malekula NCV Shifting
Dorig wwo wwo Wetamut 300 0.1109 Banks Islands (Gaua) NCV
Emae mmw mmw 400 0.1479 Shepherd Islands (Emae) Polynesian
Eton etn etn 500 0.1849 Efate NCV
Fortsenal frt frt Kiai 450 0.1664 Espiritu Santo NCV
Futuna-Aniwa fut fut West Futuna 1,500 0.5547 Futuna, Aniwa Polynesian
Hano lml lml Raga 6,500 2.4038 Pentecost NCV
Hiw hiw hiw Hiu 280 0.1035 Torres Islands (Hiw) NCV
Ifo iff iff Extinct 0.0000 Erromango SV
Kwamera tnk tnk 3,500 1.2944 Tanna SV
Koro krf krf 250 0.0925 Banks Islands (Gaua) NCV
Lamenu lmu lmu Lamen, Varmali 850 0.3143 Epi, Lamen NCV
Lakon lkn lkn Lakona; Vurē 800 0.2959 Banks Islands (Gaua) NCV
Lamap psw psw Port Sandwich 1,200 0.4438 Malekula NCV
Larevat lrv lrv Laravat 680 0.2515 Malekula NCV
Lehali tql tql 200 0.0740 Banks Islands (Ureparapara) NCV
Lelepa lpa lpa Havannah Harbour 400 0.1479 Lelepa, Efate NCV
Lemerig lrz lrz Sasar 2 0.0007 Banks Islands (Vanua Lava) NCV Moribund
Lenakel tnl tnl 11,500 4.2529 Tanna SV
Letemboi nms nms Small Nambas 800 0.2959 Malekula NCV
Lewo lww lww Varsu 2,200 0.8136 Epi NCV
Lonwolwol crc crc West Ambrym 1,200 0.4438 Ambrym NCV
Lorediakarkar lnn lnn 850 0.3143 Espiritu Santo NCV
Lo-Toga lht lht Loh, Toga 580 0.2145 Torres Islands (Lo, Toga, Tegua) NCV
Löyöp urr urr Lehalurup 240 0.0888 Banks Islands (Ureparapara) NCV
Mae mme mme Dirak 1,000 0.3698 Malekula NCV
Maii mmm mmm 180 0.0666 Epi NCV
Malfaxal mlx mlx Na’ahai 600 0.2219 Malekula NCV
Malua Bay mll mll Middle Nambas 500 0.1849 Malekula NCV
Maragus mrs mrs 15 0.0055 Malekula NCV
Maskelynes klv klv 1,100 0.4068 Malekula, Maskelynes Islands NCV
Mavea mkv mkv Mav̋ea, Mafea 34 0.0126 Mavea NCV
Mele-Fila mxe mxe Ifira-Mele 3,500 1.2944 Efate, Mele, Ifira Polynesian
Merei lmb lmb 400 0.1479 Espiritu Santo NCV
Morouas mrp mrp 150 0.0555 Espiritu Santo NCV
Mota mtt mtt 750 0.2774 Banks Islands (Mota) NCV
Mpotovoro mvt mvt 430 0.1590 Malekula NCV
Mwerlap mrm mrm Merlav 1,100 0.4068 Banks Islands (Merelava) NCV
Mwesen msn msn Mosina 10 0.0037 Banks Islands (Vanua Lava) NCV
Mwotlap mlv mlv Motlav 2,100 0.7766 Banks Islands (Motalava) NCV
Nahavaq sns sns South West Bay 700 0.2589 Malekula NCV
Nakanamanga llp llp 9,500 3.5133 Efate, Shepherd Islands (Nguna, Tongoa) NCV
Namakura nmk nmk Makura 3,750 1.3868 Efate, Shepherd Islands (Tongoa, Tongariki) NCV
Naman lzl lzl Litzlitz 15 0.0055 Malekula NCV
Narango nrg nrg 160 0.0592 Espiritu Santo NCV
Nasarian nvh nvh 5 0.0018 Malekula NCV
Navut nsw nsw 520 0.1923 Espiritu Santo NCV
Nese 160 0.0592 Malekula NCV
Neverver lgk lgk Lingarak 1,250 0.4623 Malekula NCV
Ninde mwi mwi Labo 1,100 0.4068 Malekula NCV
Nisvai Vetbon 140 0.0518 Malekula NCV Unesco
Nokuku nkk nkk 160 0.0592 Espiritu Santo NCV
North Tanna tnn tnn 5,000 1.8491 Tanna SV
North Ambrym mmg mmg 5,250 1.9416 Ambrym NCV
Northeast Ambae omb omb Lolovoli; Aoba 5,000 1.8491 Ambae NCV
Nume tgs tgs Tarasag 700 0.2589 Banks Islands (Gaua) NCV
Olrat olr olr 3 0.0011 Banks Islands (Gaua) NCV
Paama paa paa Paamese 6,000 2.2189 Paama NCV
Piamatsina ptr ptr 150 0.0555 Espiritu Santo NCV
Polonombauk plb plb 220 0.0814 Espiritu Santo NCV
Repanbitip rpn rpn 90 0.0333 Malekula NCV
Rerep pgk pgk Pangkumu, Tisman 380 0.1405 Malekula NCV
Roria rga rga Mores 75 0.0277 Espiritu Santo NCV
Saa sax sax Sa 2,500 0.9245 Pentecost NCV
Sakao sku sku Hog Harbour, N'kep 4,000 1.4793 Espiritu Santo, Sakao NCV
Shark Bay ssv ssv 450 0.1664 Espiritu Santo, Litaro NCV
Sie erg erg Se, Erromanga 1,900 0.7027 Erromango SV
Ske ske ske Seke 300 0.1109 Pentecost NCV
South Efate erk erk Erakor 6,000 2.2189 Efate NCV
Southeast Ambrym tvk tvk 3,700 1.3683 Ambrym NCV
Southwest Tanna nwi nwi 5,000 1.8491 Tanna SV
Sowa sww sww 0 0.0000 Pentecost NCV
Sungwadia mrb mrb Marino; North Maewo 500 0.1849 Maewo NCV
Tamambo mla mla Malo; Tamabo 4,000 1.4793 Malo NCV
Tambotalo tls tls 50 0.0185 Espiritu Santo NCV
Tangoa tgp tgp 800 0.2959 Tangoa NCV
Tasmate tmt tmt 150 0.0555 Espiritu Santo NCV
Tiale mnl mnl 400 0.1479 Espiritu Santo NCV
Tolomako tlm tlm 900 0.3328 Espiritu Santo NCV
Tutuba tmi tmi 500 0.1849 Espiritu Santo, Tutuba NCV
Unua onu onu Onua 520 0.1923 Malekula NCV
Ura uur uur 6 0.0022 Erromango SV
Uripiv-Wala-Rano-Atchin upv upv Uripiv 9,000 3.3284 Malekula NCV
Valpei vlp vlp 300 0.1109 Espiritu Santo NCV
Vao vao vao 1,900 0.7027 Vao, Malekula NCV
V’ënen Taut nmb nmb Big Nambas 3,350 1.2389 Malekula NCV
Vera’a vra vra Vatrata 500 0.1849 Banks Islands (Vanua Lava) NCV
Vinmavis vnm vnm Neve’ei 500 0.1849 Malekula NCV
Volow mlv mlv Valuwa 0 0.0000 Banks Islands (Mota Lava) NCV
Vunapu vnp vnp 380 0.1405 Espiritu Santo NCV
Vurës msn msn Vureas, Mosina 2,000 0.7396 Banks Islands (Vanua Lava) NCV
Wailapa wlr wlr 100 0.0370 Espiritu Santo NCV
West Ambae nnd nnd Duidui 8,700 3.2174 Ambae NCV
Whitesands tnp tnp 7,500 2.7736 Tanna SV
Wusi wsi wsi 300 0.1109 Espiritu Santo NCV

Notes [ edit ]

  1. ^ See François et al. (2015:8-9); and also Crowley (2000:50); François (2012:86).
  2. ^ Nettle, Daniel and Suzanne Romaine (2016). Vanishing Voices: The Extinction of the World's Languages. Oxford: Oxford University Press. p. 9. ISBN 0-19-515246-8.
  3. ^ a b François (2012:104).
  4. ^ a b
  5. ^ a b

    Note: the current Ethnologue figure for English first language speakers is sourced from the World Factbook.
  6. ^ David Crystal, The Cambridge Encyclopedia of the English Language, 2003

    David Crystal, English as a Global Language, 2003

    Note: Both books are by the same author and use the same source data. Either way, this is the reference Ethnologue uses. Note that Ethnologue arrives at a total figure by adding estimates for L1 and L2 speakers from different years, even though these figures are incomparable due to significant population growth in the intervening period.
  7. ^ Estimation des francophones dans le monde en 2015.

    Note: the figures don't quite seem to match, but this is Ethnologue's source.
  8. ^ See François et al. (2015).
  9. ^ Thus while Tryon (1976) lists 113 separate languages, Lynch & Crowley (2001), using different criteria, propose a lower figure of 88 languages, many of which are dialect continua. See the discussion in François et al. (2015:4-7).
  10. ^ This table lists 112 languages. See François et al. (2015:18-21) for a list of 138 items.
  11. ^ The bibliographical references that underlie this table can be found with each individual language entry.

References [ edit ]

External links [ edit ]

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