Oceania (Language), The oceanic continent is home to 0.5% of the
Earth's population, but approximately a quarter of the world's
languages; most, however, are spoken by quite a few. In Melanesia,
Micronesia and Polynesia, as well as in New Zealand, native
languages are predominantly Austronesian, especially from the
Oceanic language group. In Papua New Guinea, in addition to
Austronesian languages, a very large number of Papuan languages
are spoken. The native languages of Australia are all attributed
to the Australian language family, see Aboriginal (language); it is
uncertain whether the extinct Tasmanian languages constituted a
language genus in their own right.
In recent times, Creole language and pidgin language occupy a
strong position. The same is true of French and especially English,
which are the official languages of many oceanic states and in
several places have become quite dominant.
Oceanic languages, East Austronesian language group, which
includes over 400 languages and is spoken by approximately 2.5
million on islands in the Pacific Ocean. The Oceanic languages are
divided into Melanesian languages, Micronesian languages and
Polynesian languages. The language areas are not sharply demarcated;
thus, in both Micronesia and Melanesia there are also Polynesian
The main oceanic languages
Where recent counts are missing, the number of language users is
This language group includes up to 400 languages spoken in
Papua New Guinea on the east coast of New Guinea, New Britain, New
Ireland and Bougainville; also in the Solomon Islands, Vanuatu, Fiji
and New Caledonia.
- Fijiis spoken in the Fiji Islands; standard fiji, which is
the official language, is spoken by approximately 340,000, while
vestfiji or nadroga are spoken by approximately 50,000.
- Tolaior kuanua is spoken in the eastern part of New Britain
as the first language of approximately 60,000 and as a second
language of a further approximately 20,000.
- Toabaitaor malu is spoken by approximately 12,500 (1999) in
the Solomon Islands.
- Motuis spoken by approximately 15,000 in and around Port
Moresby, the capital of Papua New Guinea. Developed from this is
the Creole language hiri motu, which is one of the country's
official languages and is spoken as a regional lingua franca
by approximately 250,000.
This language group comprises approximately 20 languages spoken
on islands of Micronesia.
- Ikiribati(also called Kiribati or Gilbertese) is spoken by
approximately 60,000 especially in Kiribati, but also by smaller
groups in Fiji, Nauru, Solomon Islands and Vanuatu as well as in
- Marshalleseis spoken by approximately 30,000 in the Marshall
Islands and Nauru.
- Chuukeseor Trukese are spoken by approximately 30,000
especially on Chuuk.
- Pohnpeiskis spoken by almost 30,000 (2001) on Pohnpei.
This language group comprises approximately 35 languages spoken
in Polynesia, New Zealand, Easter Island and Hawaii. See
for all countries in Oceania listed by population.
- Samoanis spoken by approximately 370,000 (1999) in Samoa,
where it is the official language, as well as in New Zealand and
the Fiji Islands.
- Tahitianis spoken by approximately 125,000 in French
Polynesia, especially in Tahiti, where it is the official
language, as well as in New Caledonia and New Zealand.
- Tongais spoken by approximately 110,000 in Tonga, where it
is the official language, in addition to New Zealand, the Fiji
Islands and Samoa, as well as the United States.
- Maoriis spoken by approximately 60,000 in New Zealand, where
it is the official language alongside English.
- Rarotongais spoken by approximately 45,000 in New Zealand,
the Cook Islands and French Polynesia.
- Pascuanor rapanui are spoken by approximately 3500 (2000)
especially on Easter Island.
- Hawaiianis only spoken by quite a few in Hawaii, where it is
the official language on an equal footing with English.
The Melanesian languages spoken in southwestern Oceania are
divided into a large number of subgroups; several of the languages
are as yet undescribed. Melanesian previously referred only to the
Austronesian languages in the area, but is now also used with
extended meaning about both these languages and the unrelated
Papuan languages etc.
De approximately 20 Micronesian languages are spoken in the
northwestern part of Oceania, while the approximately 35 Polynesian
languages are spoken in a triangular area stretching from Hawaii
north of the equator to Easter Island in the east and New Zealand in
The oceanic languages are characterized by simplicity in sound
system and syllable structure; thus Hawaiian has only 13 phonemes.
Of characteristic morphological features should be mentioned complex
pronominal systems. The numerical inflection of nouns includes not
only the singularis and pluralis, but also dualis (about two),
trialis (about three) and paucalis (about a few). Within the
inflection of verbs, the 1st person has plur. two forms, an
inclusive form in which both the speaker and the accused are
included, and an exclusive form that does not include the accused.
The oceanic languages have during the 1900-t. partly had to
give way to Creole language and pidgin language.
Wallis and Futuna
Wallis and Futuna, Pacific archipelago between Fiji and Samoa; a total of 250
km2, 15,300 residents (2004). The volcanic islands of Futuna and
Alofi (Îles de Hoorn) as well as Wallis (Uvea), located 225 km to the NE, form a
French overseas territory, divided into three kingdoms. The capital is Matu Utu
on Wallis. The Polynesian population lives off agriculture and fishing, but many
have emigrated to New Caledonia, where they, among other things. are miners.
Wallis was already inhabited for approximately 3000 years ago, but approximately 1500
AD immigrants from Tonga took power on the island. The people of Futuna and
Alofis are presumably immigrants from Samoa. Dutch sailors visited Futuna in
1616, while the British Samuel Wallis (1728-95) in 1767 as the first European to
reach the island, which got its name. Life on the islands was from the 1820's
influenced by visiting whalers and from the 1830's by Catholic missionaries from
France; in 1887 the islands became a French protectorate. During World War II,
Wallis was a US military base. Wallis and Futuna became a French overseas
territory in 1959. Over 50% of the population live in New Caledonia, where they
form a conservative element opposed to independence.
Niue, an island in the South Pacific 2200 km NE of New Zealand; 258 km2,
1800 residents (2001). The island is home to New Zealand, and many Niueans have
moved there; the population is declining. Niue is a raised coral island with
only limited opportunities for agriculture; main crop is coconuts. Real business
is very poorly developed and society is completely dependent on transfers from
New Zealand. The population lives in a number of small towns along the ring road
around the island; by far the most in the capital Alofi. Several initiatives to
create an economic development, including facilities for tourists, have been
hampered by the island's isolated location, small size and several times also by
the devastation of hurricanes. In 2004, Alofi was the subject of extensive
damage caused by Hurricane Heta. Since 1994, special legislation has enabled
Niue to become a so-called offshore banking center.
The first settlers came to Niue from Samoa or Eastern Polynesia more than
1000 years ago. In the 1500's. and later there have been immigrants
from Tonga. James Cook, who was the first European to visit the island in
1774, called it Savage Island under the impression of the residents'
appearance and hostile behavior. In 1854, Christianity was widespread throughout
the island, and in the 1860's it was haunted several times by ships in search of
labor. Niue became a British protectorate in 1900, which was transferred to New
Zealand as early as 1901. In 1974, Niue gained home rule under New Zealand.