Five descriptions of languages of Vanuatu

Malcolm Ross Malcolm.Ross at ANU.EDU.AU
Sat Nov 4 12:28:12 UTC 2006

PACIFIC LINGUISTICS is happy to announce the publication of five  
descriptions of languages of Vanuatu:

By Terry Crowley  (edited by John Lynch):
Naman: a vanishing language of Malakula ( Vanuatu)

Nese: a diminishing speech variety of Northwest Malakula ( Vanuatu )

Tape: a declining language of Malakula ( Vanuatu )

The Avava language of Central Malakula ( Vanuatu )

By Ying Shing Anthony Chung:

A descriptive grammar of Merei ( Vanuatu )

Prices are in Australian dollars (one Australian dollar is currently
equivalent to about US$ 0.75).

Terry Crowley (edited by John Lynch)

Terry Crowley had been working on four monographs on Malakula  
languages at the time of his sudden and untimely death in January  
2005. He had been visiting the island of Malakula in Vanuatu since  
the end of 1999, and had undertaken studies of four languages spoken  
there: Naman, Tape and Nese, which are all moribund languages, and  
Avava, still actively spoken. One monograph, Naman: a vanishing  
language of Malakula ( Vanuatu), had been submitted to Pacific  
Linguistics a couple of weeks before Terry's death. The other three  
were in various stages of completion, and John Lynch was asked by the  
Board of Pacific Linguistics to prepare all four for publication,  
both as a memorial to Terry and because of the valuable data they  


Naman: a vanishing language of Malakula ( Vanuatu )

PL 576

Naman, the subject of this linguistic description, is a moribund  
language that is spoken on the island of Malakula in the Republic of  
Vanuatu . Vanuatu is located in the southwest Pacific to the west of  
Fiji and to the east of northern Queensland (Map 1). Before it gained  
its independence from joint colonial control by France and the United  
Kingdom in 1980, it was known in English as the New Hebrides and in  
French as les Nouvelles-Hébrides.

2006 ISBN 058835657
Prices: Australia AUD$64.90 (incl. GST) , Overseas AUD$59.00

Nese: a diminishing speech variety of Northwest Malakula ( Vanuatu )

PL 577

Nese (also meaning ‘what') is the name of the language variety that  
was traditionally spoken along the northwestern coast of Malakula,  
Vanuatu (see Map 1) in the area commonly referred to as Matanvat,  
from the modern village of Lerrongrrong in the north to Tontarrasak  
in the south, and inland for four or five kilometres. Its traditional  
southerly neighbour is Najit, spoken in the area of Tanmial, while to  
the northeast along the coast is the traditional area of the Naha  
(‘what') speech community, a variety of which is now spoken in the  
village of Vovo . A further variety—for which no name has yet been  
recorded—is associated with the Alovas area further to the east along  
the northern coast of Malakula. Finally, a variety known as Njav  
originates from the area inland from Tanmial to the east and south of  
Alovas, though its speakers have relocated to the small village of  
Tanmaliliv in the Espiegles Bay area.

These five communalects exhibit substantially differing degrees of  
linguistic viability. The Naha communalect of Vovo village is  
actively spoken, and based on the 1989 census figures, it possibly  
has around 170 speakers today. The communalect of Alovas reportedly  
has only about 15 speakers left, with the population of this village  
having shifted substantially to Naha , bringing the total population  
of Naha speakers today to about 225. Njav is reportedly still the  
daily language of the small village of Tanmaliliv . It had an  
estimated 10 speakers in 1989. Najit is moribund, though in this case  
the replacement language is the Espiegles Bay variety of what is  
referred to in the literature as the Malua Bay language.

Finally, Nese—the subject of the present study—is also moribund,  
being actively spoken only in the small hamlet known locally as  
Matanvat SDA (Seventh Day Adventist) by a single extended family  
consisting of two brothers and their wives, along with their children  
and their parents. There are speakers of Nese also to be found in the  
small villages of Lerrongrrong, Tontarr, Senbukhas and Tontarrasak,  
though the dominant language of these communities is now Bislama.  
Bislama has come to be the dominant language as a result of extensive  
settlement of the Matanvat area by people from other parts of  
Malakula. Of the entire Matanvat area population of about 400 today,  
only five families represent the original population of the area, and  
the total number of speakers of Nese is probably no more than 20.  
Children are no longer learning this speech variety, and most adults  
in the Matanvat area now seldom use it even when speaking with their  
own relatives with whom they share a knowledge of Nese.

2006 ISBN 058835665
Prices: Australia AUD$29.70 (incl. GST) , Overseas AUD$27.00


Tape: a declining language of Malakula ( Vanuatu )

PL 575

The Tape language was traditionally bordered to the west by the  
V'ënen Taut (or Big Nambas) language, which was spoken along the  
coast from just west of Anuatakh. This language occupies a large  
geographical area of northwestern Malakula, and in terms of the  
number of speakers, it is currently the second largest language of  
Malakula (Lynch & Crowley 2001:68). The neighbouring group to the  
northeast of Tape territory spoke the Tirakh language. During the  
colonial era, they moved down to the coast and their traditional  
homeland is now unoccupied.

Tape is a relocated language that is now spoken by only a handful of  
older people some distance away from their traditional homeland,  
which has been abandoned as a place of residence. The traditional  
territory of Tape speakers was an area of northwestern Malakula  
extending inland between the Lowisinwei River valley and across to  
the eastern bank of the Brenwei River to the south of a mountain  
called Pwitarvere.

Although Tape traditional territory include a stretch of coast from  
Anuatakh to Lowisinwei—which gave people living in this area access  
to salt which they could trade with the Tirakh people—Tape speakers  
oriented their lives primarily towards the bush. This is reflected in  
this study in the fact that speakers today were unable to offer more  
than an absolute minimum of terminology relating to sea life, even  
though they have lived in the coastal village of Tautu for about  
eighty years.

Tape was originally the name for the area shown on the map where the  
language which is the subject of this description was originally  
spoken. There was reportedly no distinct name for the language as  
such, which was referred to simply as vengesien Tape ‘the language of  
Tape'. However, speakers of the language today—and other people of  
Tape descent who do not speak the language—have come to use Tape as  
the name for the language as well.

2006 ISBN 058835673
Prices: Australia AUD$55.00 (incl. GST), Overseas AUD$50.00


The Avava language of Central Malakula (Vanuatu)

PL 574

Avava currently falls into the category described in Lynch and  
Crowley (2001:14–19) as being among the most poorly documented of all  
languages in Vanuatu . Published documentation of this language by a  
linguist is restricted to two fairly short wordlists in Tryon (1976).  
In addition to this recent data, there is also a very small amount of  
published data on the Umbbuul variety of this language that can be  
extracted from Deacon (1934:125), which derives from his  
anthropological fieldwork in the area in 1926. This data, however, is  
restricted to just a small number of kin terms for each variety, with  
no other vocabulary having been recorded.

Avava is the primary language today of four villages in central  
Malakula: Tisvel, Khatbol, Taremp and Tembimbi. In contrast to the  
Naman and Tape languages of Malakula that I have worked on  
previously, Avava is an actively spoken language which continues to  
be passed on to present-day generations of children in all of these  

2006 ISBN 058835649
Prices: Australia AUD$59.95 (incl. GST), Overseas AUD$54.50


A descriptive grammar of Merei ( Vanuatu )

Ying Shing Anthony CHUNG

PL 573 (Shorter Grammars)

The Merei language is spoken by about four hundred people in the  
villages of Angoru, Navele, Tombet and Vusvogo in the interior of  
Espiritu Santo Island , Vanuatu . Merei, like most other languages  
from the interior of Espiritu Santo , has not previously been  
described. Merei is an SVO language with many typical Oceanic  
features such as a split between alienable and inalienable possession  
and frequent verb serialisation. Morphological structure is  
relatively simple, but bi-morphemic nouns are common. The language is  
rigidly head-marking and prepositional.  This work is mainly based on  
language data collected by the author in Navele village in Espiritu  
Santo Island of Vanuatu, where he lived from May 1995 until March 1997.

2005 ISBN 0 5883 560 6 xi + 74 pp
Prices: Australia AUD$29.70 (incl. GST), Overseas AUD$27.00


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