Suvarna Garge (Editor)

Oceanic languages

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Proto-language  Proto-Oceanic
Glottolog  ocea1241
Oceanic languages httpsuploadwikimediaorgwikipediacommonsthu
Geographic distribution  Melanesia, Micronesia, Polynesia
Linguistic classification  Austronesian Malayo-Polynesian (MP) Nuclear MP (Central–Eastern) Oceanic
Subdivisions  Admiralty Islands–Yapese St Matthias Islands Western Oceanic Temotu Central–Eastern Oceanic

Oceanic languages

The approximately 450 Oceanic languages are a well-established family of Austronesian languages. The area occupied by speakers of these languages includes Polynesia, as well as much of Melanesia and Micronesia.


Though covering a vast area, Oceanic languages are spoken by only two million people. The largest individual Oceanic languages are Eastern Fijian with over 600,000 speakers, and Samoan with an estimated 400,000 speakers. The Kiribati (Gilbertese), Tongan, Tahitian, Māori, Western Fijian and Kuanua (Tolai) languages each have over 100,000 speakers.

The common ancestor which is reconstructed for this group of languages is called Proto-Oceanic (abbr. POc).


The Oceanic languages were first shown to be a language family by Sidney Herbert Ray in 1896 and, besides Malayo-Polynesian, they are the only established large branch of Austronesian languages. Grammatically, they have been strongly influenced by the Papuan languages of northern New Guinea, but they retain a remarkably large amount of Austronesian vocabulary.

Lynch, Ross, & Crowley (2002)

According to Lynch, Ross, & Crowley (2002), Oceanic languages often form linkages with each other. Linkages are formed when languages emerged historically from an earlier dialect continuum. The linguistic innovations shared by adjacent languages define a chain of intersecting subgroups (a linkage), for which no distinct proto-language can be reconstructed.

Lynch, Ross, & Crowley (2002) propose three primary groups of Oceanic languages:

  • Admiralties linkage: languages of Manus Island, its offshore islands, and small islands to the west.
  • Western Oceanic (WOc) linkage: languages of the north coast of Irian Jaya, Papua New Guinea (excluding the Admiralties) and the western Solomon Islands. West Oceanic is made up of three or four sub-linkages and families:
  • ? Sarmi–Jayapura linkage: maybe part of the North New Guinea linkage?
  • North New Guinea linkage: consists of languages of the north coast of New Guinea, east from Jayapura.
  • Meso-Melanesian linkage: consists of languages of the Bismarck Archipelago and Solomon Islands.
  • Papuan Tip linkage: consists of languages of the tip of the Papuan Peninsula.
  • Central–Eastern Oceanic (CEOc) linkage: nearly all languages of Oceania not included in the Admiralties and Western Oceanic. Central–Eastern consists of four or five subgroups:
  • Southeast Solomonic linkage: of the South East Solomon Islands.
  • (Utupua–Vanikoro linkage: later removed to Temotu languages).
  • Southern Oceanic linkage: consist of languages of New Caledonia and Vanuatu.
  • Central Oceanic linkage: consists of the Polynesian languages, and the languages of Fiji.
  • Micronesian linkage.
  • The "residues" (as they are called by Lynch, Ross, & Crowley), which do not fit into the three groups above, but are still classified as Oceanic are:

  • St. Matthias Islands linkage.
  • ? Yapese language: of the island of Yap. Perhaps part of the Admiralties?
  • Ross & Næss (2007) removed Utupua–Vanikoro, from Central–Eastern Oceanic, to a new primary branch of Oceanic:

  • Temotu linkage, named after the Temotu Province of the Solomon Islands.
  • Word order

    Word order in Oceanic languages is highly diverse, and is distributed in the following geographic regions (Lynch, Ross, & Crowley 2002:49).

  • SVO: Admiralty Islands, most of Markham Valley, Siasi Islands, most of New Britain, New Ireland, some parts of Bougainville Island, most parts of the southeast Solomon Islands, most parts of Vanuatu, some parts of New Caledonia, most of Micronesia
  • SOV: central and southeast Papua New Guinea, some parts of Markham Valley, Madang coast, Wewak coast, Sarmi coast, a few parts of Bougainville, some parts of New Britain
  • VSO: New Georgia, some parts of Santa Ysabel Island, much of Polynesia, Yap
  • VOS: Fijian language, Anejom language, Loyalty Islands, Kiribati, many parts of New Caledonia, Gela language
  • TVX (where T = topic, V = verb, X = arguments other than topic): much of Bougainville Island, Choiseul Island, some parts of Santa Ysabel Island
  • References

    Oceanic languages Wikipedia

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