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Languages of Vanuatu
"Official languages "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. According to "Ethnologue, English is spoken by 1,900 inhabitants (1995), and French by 6,300 inhabitants (1995). Both English and French remain second languages, while Bislama is a principal language for most inhabitants.

Indigenous languages[edit]

Vanuatu is home to more than a hundred indigenous languages: a recent count lists 138.[4] 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.[5]

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.


Below is a list of most of the indigenous languages of Vanuatu, which are still spoken or were until recently.[6] It provides links to corresponding "Ethnologue entries and to an "OLAC list of media resources on the language.[7]

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

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


  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. ^ François (2012:104).
  4. ^ See François et al. (2015).
  5. ^ 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).
  6. ^ This table lists 112 languages. See François et al. (2015:18-21) for a list of 138 items.
  7. ^ The bibliographical references that underlie this table can be found with each individual language entry.


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