- Languages of Vanuatu
Vanuatuhas three official languages, English, French, and Bislama, a creole languageevolved from English. Bislama is the first language of many urban ni-Vanuatu, that is, the residents of Port Vilaand Luganville. It is the most common second language elsewhere in the archipelago. It is similar to Tok Pisinof Papua New Guinea, and other nearby creoles.
In addition, however, there are over one hundred local languages spread over the archipelago. Vanuatu is considered to be the country with the highest density of languages per capita in the world, with an average of about 2,000 speakers for each indigenous languages; only
Papua New Guineacomes close. Some of these languages are very endangered, with only a handful of speakers, and indeed several have become extinct in recent times.
All of the unofficial languages of Vanuatu are in the
Austronesian languagefamily. Most of them are in the group of North and Central Vanuatu languages. The Melanesian languages of Tafeaprovince in the south are South Vanuatu languages. Many of the languages are named after the island they are spoken on, though some of the larger islands have several different languages. Espiritu Santoand Malakulaare the most linguistically diverse, with about two dozen languages each. Many of these languages are very little-studied.
There are three
Polynesian outlierlanguages, Emaeon the island of the same name, Mele-Fila on the southern part of Efate, and West Futunan on West Futunaand Aniwa. These are all Futunic languages.
Ethnologue's somewhat outdated statistics, the eight most commonly spoken local languages are: Raga (wrongly called Hano by Ethnologue; 7,000 speakers), Lenakel (6,500), Paama (6,000), Uripiv-Wala-Rano-Atchin(6,000), East Ambae (5,000), West Ambae(4,500), Apma (4,500), and South Efate(3,750). However, because none of these languages have a standard form, and generally diverse dialects, it is difficult to distinguish when these represent separate languages or merely dialects. This is compounded by the fact that many of the languages have not received adequate linguistic treatment. Uripiv-Wala-Rano-Atchin, whose name is composed of the names of several islands in Malampa Provincewith similar speech, is such a dialect continuumof languages similar to Uripiv.
Despite the low numbers for most of the indigenous languages, they are not considered especially vulnerable for extinction. [Daniel Nettle and Suzanne Romaine. "Vanishing Voices: The Extinction of the World's Languages". Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2000. Page 9.]
North Vanuatu languages"
East Santo languages
North East Santo languages
South East Santo languages
Malekula Interior languages
Malekula Central languages
Small Nambas languages
Northeast Vanuatu-Banks Islands languages
East Vanuatu languages
Malekula Coastal languages
West Santo languages
South Vanuatu languages"
****West Futunan or Futuna-Aniwa (Futuna and Aniwa in
Mele, southern Éfatéisland in Vanuatu)
* [http://coombs.anu.edu.au/SpecialProj/VAN/vanlangs.html An annotated bibliography of Vanuatu languages] , by John Lynch (last update January 1996; now outdated)
* [http://www.ethnologue.com/show_country.asp?name=VU Ethnologue report for Vanuatu, including maps]
* [http://alex.francois.free.fr/ A.François, a linguist involved in the documentation and preservation of northern Vanuatu languages]
* [http://www.massey.ac.nz/~wwpubafs/2003/masseynews/oct/oct20/stories/24-18-03.html A linguist active in preserving Vanuatu languages]
* [http://www.multilingual-matters.net/cilp/001/0047/cilp0010047.pdf The language situation in Vanuatu by Terry Crowley]
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