|Native to||Federated States of Micronesia|
|unknown (3,000 cited 1987)|
Official language in
|Federated States of Micronesia|
Ulithian is the name of the language spoken on Ulithi atoll and neighboring islands. Ulithian is one of the 6 official languages of the Federated States of Micronesia. There are some 3,000 speakers, although only 700 of these live on Ulithi atoll.
In 2010, a Ulithian-English and English-Ulithian dictionary was published by Habele, a US-based charity. The authors' stated aim was to create a consistent and intuitive pattern of Roman alphabet spelling useful for both native Ulithian and native English speakers.
Ulithian is a language spoken in Micronesia. The specific islands that Ulithian is spoken in are Ulithi, Ngulu, Sorol, Fais Islands, Eastern Caroline Islands. There are also a few speakers that can be found in the United States.Ulithian has about 3039 speakers, 700 of which reside in Ulithi itself. Many of the other Pacific languages spoken in the surrounding islands are similar to Ulithian which makes it easier for others to understand. In a way, it is a universal language for the area. (THE ARMED FORCES RADIO STATION, 1945, p. 27). The people who live in and around Ulithi are classified as Micronesian. Their appearances greatly vary because of all the different people who passed through the area over time (THE ARMED FORCES RADIO STATION, 1945, p. 12). Ulithi has a strong democracy with a king by name voted by the people (THE ARMED FORCES RADIO STATION, 1945, p. 13). Because the Ulithian language is so widely recognized, it holds a good status in the islands. It is also one of the six official languages in the Federated States of Micronesia ("People and the," ).
Ulithian has 19 consonants which are /b, ch, d, f, g, h, k, l, l', m, mw, n, ng, p, r, s, t, w, y/.
Ulithian has 8 vowels which is a large amount for a Pacific language. They are /i/, /u/, /e/, /ə/, /ɔ/, /æ/, /ɐ/, /a/.
Full reduplication can be used in many ways. It can be used to show a stronger emotion, for example, ‘’sig’’ means jealous and ‘’sigsig’’ means short tempered or easily set off. It can also be used for similar things, for example ‘’bbech’’ means the color white, and ‘’bbechbbech’’ is glare or the reflection of the sun (Neil Mellen and Juan Uwel, 2005).
- ‘’mwaal’’- man
- ‘’fafel’’- woman
- ‘’hangi’’- eat
- ‘’maesoer’’- sleep
- ‘’bichikka’’- hot
- ‘’halloefong’’- cold
At one point in time, Spain, Germany, Japan, and the United States had control over the islands of Ulithi. Each one of these groups left behind words that have been evolved and are now used in the Ulithian language. Linguists have used these words to trace back what items each group introduced to Ulithi.
Spain has had an influence in Ulithi since the early 1500’s. They left behind things like foods, religious terms, and animals. Some examples of words from Spain are ‘’gato’’ which Ulithian changed to ‘’hatu’’which means cat and ‘’flores’’ which was changed to ‘’floras’’ which means flowers. For example, Spain introduced ‘’cajon’’, which was turned into ‘’kahol’’ which is a crate or box. (Walsh & Walsh, 1979, p. 155-156). Since Spain passed through Ulithi for such a long period of time, the words they left were used because they actually left behind those things. Foods like the potato and squash were brought by the Spanish, so Ulithian uses words based of the Spanish word for them. Spain was also Catholic, so Catholic terms were left behind (Walsh & Walsh, 1979, p. 154-155).
Japan occupied Ulithi during the time of World War I and left during or after World War II. Before the World Wars, Japan traded with Ulithi. Since the two countries were trade partners, they needed to know how to communicate. Every so often, young boys would learn the basics of Japanese and because of this, “it is not at all difficult today to find Ulithians who speak and write a bit of Japanese” (Walsh & Walsh, 1979, p. 155-156). An example of a word from Japan ‘’denwa’’ which Ulithian changed to ‘’dengwa’’ which means telephone. Japan had such a big impact that the word for battery, ‘’denchi’’, remained the same in Ulithian.
Germany did not occupy Ulithi for long, so they left the least influence and there are almost no words that were left behind and still used. One of the few words that got carried over is ‘’mark’’, a german coin which turned into ‘’mak’’, what Ulithians call the U.S. half dollar (Walsh & Walsh, 1979, p. 155).
In 1944, the U.S. task force arrived in Ulithi and there have been an abundance of English loan words since then. The most impact English is having on Ulithian is through the school systems. Words such as homework and campus which in Ulithian are ‘’homwork’’ and ‘’kampus’’ are very similar (Walsh & Walsh, 1979, p. 156-157).
There are some loan words that have become the official word in Ulithian, but others are used in place of another word. The Spanish word ‘’flores’’ which means flower was taken and used by Ulithian speakers as ‘’floras’’ (Walsh & Walsh, 1979, p. 155). According to the Ulithian-English Dictionary written by Neil Mellen and John Hancock, the general word for flowers is ‘’floraas’’ which is close to what is stated in the journal. While the word for flower was similar, the Spanish word for table, “mesa” was directly taken to use in Ulithian. The Ulithian-English Dictionary says that the translation of table is ‘’tiis’’ which is not at all the same as “mesa.” This is totally comparable to speaking pidgin in Hawaii. There are a lot of Japanese words that the majority of people, even if they do not speak Japanese, use such as ‘’shoyu’’ for soy sauce and ‘’bocha’’ for a bath.
As far as social media such as radio and television, there does not seem to be any in specifically Ulithian but there are some in other surrounding languages. Esikiel Lippwe states in a letter that radio and television stations are very important because they effectively educate and bring awareness to the people about things like health issues (Lippwe, 1986).
According to Ethnologue, Ulithian is ranked at a EGIDS level of 5 which means that the language is being used vigorously, but not as a main language. It is most likely being used more by the older generation. There is a possibility of the language dying out, but it is still in a good standing (Ethnologue).
- THE ARMED FORCES RADIO STATION. (1945). The "ulithi" encyclopedia. Ulithi, Western Carolines:
- Lippwe, E. (1986). Federated states of Micronesia. DR-NTU, Nanyang Technological University
- Library, Singapore, Retrieved from https://dr.ntu.edu.sg/bitstream/handle/10220/709/AMIC_1986_SEP22-26_25.pdf?sequence=1
- Mellen, N., & Hancock, J. (2010). Ulithian-English dictionary. Columbia, South Carolina: Habele.
- Mellen, N., & Uwel, J. (2005). Ulithian – English Dictionary. : .
- People and the language. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://ulithiadventurelodge.com/?page_id=57
- Walsh. J A., & Walsh, E. (1979). Anthropological Linguistics. Loan Words in Ulithian, 21(3),
- Ulithian at Ethnologue (17th ed., 2013)
- Nordhoff, Sebastian; Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin, eds. (2013). "Ulithian". Glottolog 2.2. Leipzig: Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology.
- "Charity Publishes Dictionary For Remote Micronesian Islanders " COM-FSM, May 10, 2010.
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