Teanu language

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Native toSolomon Islands
RegionVanikoro, Eastern Solomons
Native speakers
800 (2012)[1]
Language codes
ISO 639-3tkw
Coordinates: 11°39′S 166°54′E / 11.650°S 166.900°E / -11.650; 166.900

Teanu (or Puma, Buma) is the main language spoken on the island of Vanikoro, in the easternmost province of the Solomon Islands.


Map of Vanikoro I., showing the historical territories of the three tribes of Lovono, Tanema and Teanu.[2]

The language receives its name from Teanu, the island located northeast of the Vanikoro island group. The same language has also been known in the literature as Puma (or wrongly Buma), after the main village of Teanu island.[3]


Whereas Teanu used to be confined to the northeast part of the island group, during the 20th century it became the main language of the whole island group of Vanikoro, at the expense of the two other indigenous languages Lovono and Tanema.[3]

While the Melanesian population of Vanikoro now speaks Teanu, the southern coast of the island also has been colonised for a few centuries by a Polynesian population, who still keep strong ties with their homeland, the nearby island of Tikopia. Their main language is Tikopia, even though some speak Teanu as a second language.



Labial Alveolar Palatal Velar
Plosive voiceless p t k
prenasal ᵐbʷ ᵐb ⁿd ᶮɟ ᵑɡ
Nasal m n ɲ ŋ
Fricative v s
Lateral l
Trill r
Approximant w j

The labiodental fricative /v/ can be freely devoiced [f], especially word-initially.[4] By contrast, the phoneme /s/ is always heard voiceless.[5]


Teanu has 5 phonemic vowels, /i e a o u/.[3]

  Front Back
Close i u
Close-mid e o
Open a

Tryon (2002) proposed that vowel length may be contrastive, but more recent research has found this to be incorrect: the language only has five short vowels (François 2009:107).


Some information on Teanu, as well as on the two other languages of the island, can be found in François (2009).

Lexical information is found in the Teanu online dictionary (François 2020).



  • François, Alexandre (2009), "The languages of Vanikoro: Three lexicons and one grammar", in Evans, Bethwyn (ed.), Discovering history through language: Papers in honour of Malcolm Ross, Pacific Linguistics 605, Canberra: Australian National University, pp. 103–126
  • François, Alexandre (2021). Online Teanu–English dictionary, with equivalents in Lovono and Tanema. Electronic publication, open access. Paris: CNRS.
  • Tryon, Darrell (2002), "Buma", in Lynch, John; Ross, Malcolm; Crowley, Terry (eds.), The Oceanic Languages, Richmond, Surrey: Curzon, pp. 573–586

External links[edit]