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 languages.
The main oceanic languages
Where recent counts are missing, the number of language users is estimated.
- Melanesian languages
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.
- Micronesian languages
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 Tuvalu.
- 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.
- Polynesian languages
This language group comprises approximately 35 languages spoken in Polynesia, New Zealand, Easter Island and Hawaii. See COUNTRYAAH 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 south.
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.