Dying tongues. There are quite a few of them in the Pacific. So what? Why should anyone care? Does it really matter if a little-known language spoken by a tiny group of people in some island country no one has heard about goes out of existence? Is that such a tragedy? For most of the world, it is not. A fact of life, they will say. But for the affected communities, it is much more than just that. Isn’t that reason enough for us to bother? … More WHY SAVE ENDANGERED LANGUAGES?
Over 200 languages from the Pacific region have officially been given endangered status by UNESCO. But Oceania is home to more than 1000 tongues. Does that mean that the rest of its languages are perfectly safe? That there is no need to worry they, too, may one day face the fate of extinction? In other words, are they endangered, or are they not? Well, that surely is the question. … More ENDANGERED, ENDANGERED NOT
According to the United Nations, every two weeks one spoken tongue dies out. Fourteen days… Poof! Fourteen days… Poof! Fourteen days… Poof! They vanish; one after another. But this doesn’t happen just like that. Before a language disappears from the face of the earth, it usually shows signs of endangerment; it “makes the list”, so to speak. … More MAKING THE ENDANGERED LIST
Kiribati, Tonga, Vanuatu, Tuvalu… Have you ever wondered how the islands of the Pacific got their names? And what do those names actually mean? Could Tokelau be known as Fiji, Niue as Palau, and Guam as Papua New Guinea? Shakespeare told us that a rose by any other name would smell as sweet. Would it, really? To answer these questions, I decided to do some research. … More WHAT’S IN A NAME?
You already know that the native tongues of Oceania, and let me remind you that there are over 1100 of them, belong to two big language families. Add to this the creoles spoken in Melanesia and Hawaii, and…well…you have a pretty sizeable brood. But have you ever tried to ascertain the exact degree of relatedness between those languages? Which of them are siblings or cousins, and which are just distant relatives? It’s time to find out. … More SIBLINGS, COUSINS, OR DISTANT RELATIVES: HOW SIMILAR ARE PACIFIC LANGUAGES?
In case you’re wondering: no, I won’t be writing about the language people use while pounding taro. Does such language even exist? Anyway, I’ll be writing about ʻōlelo paʻi ʻai, better known as Hawaiian Pidgin. Pounding-taro language is the literal translation of its Hawaiian name, which – you must admit – is quite fascinating. But then, Hawaiian Pidgin is fascinating. It is as fascinating and unique as the Aloha State itself. … More TALKING STORY ABOUT POUNDING-TARO LANGUAGE
Pidgin and creole languages. You have heard about them, right? While the names sound familiar to most people, only some know what exactly hides behind these terms. In the Pacific, pidgins and creoles are present mainly in Melanesia, where they function as lingua franca. But how were they brought into existence in such a remote part of the world? … More NOBODY’S AND SOMEBODY’S NATIVE LANGUAGE IN MELANESIA
They say that a picture is worth a thousand words. And they are probably right. Anything with colours, lines, dots, or arrows just stays in our heads better. Now, I would love to explain to you the relationships between Pacific languages using a nicely created tree diagram, but – truthfully – I suck at this. So instead of drawing a graph here, I’ll tell you a story about two big linguistic families. … More THE DESCENDANTS
You are not a Pacific Islander nor a person of Pacific descent. You are a foreigner (palagi, haole, ribelle, I-matang, kai valagi, etc.), who I presume likes studying languages and is interested in the beautiful islands of Oceania. I’m just taking a wild guess here, but – please tell me – am I even remotely close? I think I am – you are visiting this site, after all. … More WHY LEARN PACIFIC LANGUAGES? (FOR FOREIGNERS)
So you are a Pacific Islander or a person of Pacific descent. You speak English or French. Or both. Or maybe even Spanish, German, or Japanese. But you don’t really speak the language of your ancestors. You know a few words, you can form a sentence or two, but you are not fluent. Does this description sound familiar to you? Are you this person? If the answer is “yes”, read on. … More WHY LEARN PACIFIC LANGUAGES? (FOR PACIFIC ISLANDERS)