Tamambo language

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This article is about the Malo language from Vanuatu. For other languages of the same name, see Malo language.
Native to Vanuatu
Region Malo Island, Espiritu Santo
Native speakers
4,000  (2001)[1]
Language codes
ISO 639-3 mla
This article contains IPA phonetic symbols. Without proper rendering support, you may see question marks, boxes, or other symbols instead of Unicode characters.

Tamambo, or Malo, is an Oceanic language spoken by 4,000 people on Malo and nearby islands in Vanuatu.



Front Back
High i u
Mid e o
Low a

/i u/ become [j w] respectively when unstressed and before another vowel. /o/ may also become [w] for some speakers.


Tamambo consonant phonemes[2]
Bilabial Alveolar Postalveolar Velar
plain labiovelarized
Nasal m n ŋ
Stop prenasalized ᵐb ᵐbʷ ⁿd ᶮɟ
plain t k
Fricative voiced β βʷ x
voiceless s
Trill r
Lateral l

The prenasalized postalveolar stop /ᶮɟ/ is often affricated and voiceless, i.e. [ᶮtʃ].

Younger speakers often realize /β/ as [f] initially and [v] medially, while /βʷ/ is often replaced by [w].

/x/ is usually realized as [x] initially, but some speakers use [h]. Medially, it may be pronounced as any of [x ɣ h ɦ ɡ].

Writing system[edit]

Few speakers of Tamambo are literate, and there is no standard orthography. Spelling conventions used include:

Phoneme Representation
/ᵐb/ B initially, mb medially.
/ᵐbʷ/ Bu or bw initially, mbu or mbw medially.
/x/ C or h.
/ⁿd/ D initially, nd medially.
/ᶮɟ/ J initially, nj medially.
/k/ K.
/l/ L.
/m/ M.
/mʷ/ Mu or mw.
/n/ N.
/ŋ/ Ng.
/r/ R.
/s/ S.
/t/ T.
/β/ V.
/βʷ/ Vu or w.


  1. ^ Tamambo at Ethnologue (17th ed., 2013)
  2. ^ Riehl & Jauncey (2005:256)


  • Jauncey, Dorothy G. (1997). A Grammar of Tamambo, the Language of Western Malo, Vanuatu. Ph.D. dissertation, Australian National University, Canberra. 
  • Jauncey, Dorothy G. (2002), "Tamambo", in Lynch, J., Ross, M. & Crowley, T., The Oceanic Languages, Richmond, Surrey: Curzon, pp. 608–625 
  • Riehl, Anastasia K.; Jauncey, Dorothy (2005). "Illustrations of the IPA: Tamambo". Journal of the International Phonetic Association 35 (2): 255–259. doi:10.1017/S0025100305002197.