Paicî language

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Native toNew Caledonia
RegionEast coast between Poindimié and Ponérihouen and inland valleys
Native speakers
7,300 (2009 census)[1]
Language codes
ISO 639-3pri
Paicî is not endangered according to the classification system of the UNESCO Atlas of the World's Languages in Danger
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Paicî is the most widely spoken of the two dozen languages on the main island of New Caledonia. It is spoken in a band across the center of the island, in the communes of Poindimié, Ponérihouen, Koné and Poya.


Paicî has a rather simple inventory of consonants, compared to other languages of New Caledonia, but it has an unusually large number of nasal vowels. Paicî syllables are restricted to CV.[2]


  Bilabial Post-
Palatal Velar
plain labial
Nasal m ɲ ŋ
Plosive voiceless p c k
prenasalized ᵐb ᵐbʷ ⁿ̠d̠ ᶮɟ ᵑɡ
Tap ɾ̠
Approximant j w

The palatal stops could be considered affricates because they occur with a heavily fricated release. The lateral and tap do not occur word-initially, except in a few loanwords and the prefix /ɾɜ/ they.[2]

Because nasal stops are always followed by nasal vowels, but prenasalized stops are always followed by oral vowels, it might be argued that nasal and prenasalized stops are allophonic, which would reduce the Paicî consonant inventory to 13.


Paicî has a symmetrical system of ten oral vowels, all found both long and short without any significant difference in quality, and seven nasal vowels, some of which may also be long and short. Because sequences of two short vowels may carry two tones but long vowels are restricted to carrying one tone, they appear to be phonemically long vowels rather than sequences.[2]

Paicî vowel phonemes
Front Central Back
Oral Nasal Oral Nasal Oral Nasal
Close i ĩ ɨ ɨ̃ u ũ
Close-mid e ɛ̃ ɘ ɜ̃ o ɔ̃
Open-mid ɛ ɜ ɔ
Open a ɐ̃


Like its neighbour Cèmuhî, Paicî is one of the few Austronesian languages which have developed contrastive tone,[3] involving three registers: high, mid, low. Additionally, there are vowels with no inherent tone, whose tone is determined by their environment. Words commonly have the same tone on all vowels, so tone may belong to the word rather than the syllable.


  1. ^ Paicî at Ethnologue (18th ed., 2015) (subscription required)
  2. ^ a b c Gordon & Maddieson (1996).
  3. ^ Rivierre (1974).


  • Gordon, Matthew; Maddieson, Ian (Dec 1996). "The phonetics of Paici" (PDF). UCLA Working Papers in Phonetics. 93.
  • Rivierre, Jean-Claude (1974). "Tons et segments du discours en langue paicî (Nouvelle-Calédonie)". Bulletin de la Société de Linguistique de Paris. 69 (1): 325–340.
  • Rivierre, Jean-Claude. 1983. Dictionnaire paicî - français, suivi d'un lexique français - paicî. Paris : Société d'Etudes linguistiques et anthropologiques de France, 1983. 375p.

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