Hoava language

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Native to Solomon Islands
Region Marovo Lagoon (Nggerasi Lagoon), New Georgia Island
Native speakers
460 (1999)[1]
Language codes
ISO 639-3 hoa
Glottolog hoav1238[2]

Hoava is an Oceanic language spoken by 1000–1500 people on New Georgia Island, Solomon Islands. Speakers of Hoava are multilingual and usually also speak Roviana, Marovo, SI Pijin, English.



Hoava is an Austronesian language that is spoken mostly on the island of New Georgia. New Georgia is a mountainous island, 85 kilometres long and 41 kilometres wide at its widest part, with a total area of 2,145 square kilometres, covered with dense rainforests (Davis 2003). The island of New Georgia was involved in WWII that was later named the New Georgia Campaign which lasted from June 20 to November 3.


Hoava is an Austronesian language that is spoken in 3 known locations: Western Province, New Georgia island, North Marovo lagoon, but mainly New Georgia island of the Solomon Islands. According to a 1986 census there are about 2,360 speakers of the language, but language is spoken by 460 people in latest census that was taken in 1999 suggesting a huge drop off in the number of speakers.



Hoava uses 16 consonants in its phoneme system, /p, t, b, d, s, β, m, n, r, l, dʒ, k, g, y, ŋ, h/.


Hoava uses 5 vowels: /i/,/ɛ/,/a/,/ɔ/,/u/. There is no phonemic distinction of vowel length, although vowels can be lengthened when stressed (Davis 2003). The vowels can be combined into pairs with the weight of two syllables (Davis 2003).

Syllable Structure[edit]

Hoava has an open syllable structure of (C)V. Two vowels occurring together are counted as two syllables, since they function as such for transitive marking rules (Davis 2003). For many Oceanic languages of the Austronesian family group it is common that words do not end in consonant..


Basic Word Order[edit]

In traditional typology Hoava is a VSO language. There are some modifications to this particular pattern for focusing and topicalization purposes (Davis 2003).


Reduplication is frequently used in Hoava as a method of word formation, to express intensification, and to form the progressive aspect of a verb (Davis 2003). Reduplication is used to create words denoting entities related to the referent of the source word, either as part of the entity, or having a resemblance to it, or being a metaphorical extension"(Davis 2003).

  • ’’bui’’, lost; ‘’bu-bui’’, forgot
  • ’’yasa’’, jump; ‘’yasa-yasa’’, jumping


Hoava has a decimal system of numbering”(Davis 2003).

  • ’’keke’’ one
  • ’’karua’’ two
  • ’’hike’’ three
  • ’’made’’ four
  • ’’lima’’ five
  • ’’onomo’’ six
  • ’’zuapa’’ seven
  • ’’vesu’’ eight
  • ’’sia’’ nine
  • ’’manege’’ ten


Indigenous Vocabulary[edit]

  • ’’hore’’ canoe
  • ’’leboto’’ bushknife
  • ’’igana’’ fish
  • ’’inebara’’ feast
  • ’’pirae’’ now
  • ’’tavete’’ make
  • ’’keke’’ one
  • ’’mae’’ come
  • ’’toka’’ follow
  • ’’puta’’ sleep
  • ’’gua’’ did
  • ’’heleana’’ river
  • ’’ko’’ be
  • ’’tala’’ “where
  • ’’la’’ go
  • ’’koburu’’ child
  • ’’ome’’ see



There are not many materials written in Hoava. The only material of outside world access is a guide to grammar by Karen Davis and a storybook. With it only beginning to fall out of use. There are translations of the bible and stories but not much else is known about surviving materials.


According to Ethnologue, Hoava has a 6b (Yellow) endangerment status. “Intergenerational transmission is in the process of being broken, but the childbearing generation can still use the language so it is possible that revitalization efforts could restore transmission of the language in the home”(Lewis 2013).Without intergenerational transfer, main outlet uses will soon be destroyed or fade away while other languages take its place. With the decrease of L1 speakers, the value of the language in the community will only drop, till it is no longer applicable to the community. Combined with the low amount of speakers, if no action is to take place, Hoava will fade to away into disuse.


  1. ^ Hoava at Ethnologue (18th ed., 2015)
  2. ^ Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin; Bank, Sebastian, eds. (2016). "Hoava". Glottolog 2.7. Jena: Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History. 

Further reading[edit]

  • Crystal, David. Language Death. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge UP, 2000. Print.
  • Davis, Karen. 2003. A Grammar of the Hoava Language, Western Solomons. Canberra, Australia: Pacific Linguistics, Research School of Pacific and Asian Studies, the Australian National University, Print.
  • Lewis, M. Paul, Gary F. Simons, and Charles D. Fennig (eds.). 2013. Ethnologue: Languages of the World, Seventeenth edition. Dallas, Texas: SIL International. Online version: http://www.ethnologue.com.