Big Nambas language

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Big Nambas
V'ənen Taut
Pronunciation[ˈð̼ənɛn tautʰ]
RegionNorthwest Malekula, Vanuatu
Native speakers
3,400 (2001)[1]
Latin script
Language codes
ISO 639-3nmb
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Big Nambas (native name V'ənen Taut) is a Malayo-Polynesian language spoken by about 1,800 people (as of 1983) in northwest Malekula, Vanuatu. Approximately nineteen villages in the Big Nambas region of the Malekula Interior use the language exclusively with no variation in dialect. It was studied in-depth over a period of about 10 years by missionary G. J. Fox, who published a grammar and dictionary in 1979.


The consonant phonemes of Big Nambas are as shown in the following table:

Bilabial Linguolabial Alveolar Velar
Nasal m n̼ / m̺ n
Plosive voiced ⁿd
voiceless p t̼ / p̺ t k
Fricative voiced β ð̼ / β̺ ɣ
voiceless s
Liquid rhotic r
lateral l

Big Nambas has a 5-vowel system with the following phonemes:

Front Central Back
Close i u
Mid e ə
Open a

Big Nambas has a complex syllable structure with a large amount of consonant clusters possible. Additionally, clusters of up to four vowels are permitted. Stress in Big Nambas is phonemic, but partly predictable. The consonants /t β r l n/ all exhibit phonemic gemination when two identical ones occur between syllables. Linguolabial consonants are often marked with an apostrophe in the orthography to distinguish them from their bilabial counterparts.


Big Nambas is a synthetic head-marking language.


  1. ^ Big Nambas at Ethnologue (18th ed., 2015)
  2. ^ Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin, eds. (2017). "Big Nambas". Glottolog 3.0. Jena, Germany: Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History.


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