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Lehali language

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Native toVanuatu
Native speakers
200 (2010)[1]
Language codes
ISO 639-3tql
Lehali is classified as Vulnerable by the UNESCO Atlas of the World's Languages in Danger
A speaker of Lehali, recorded in Vanuatu.[2]

Lehali (previously known as Teqel) is an Oceanic language spoken by about 200 people, on the west coast of Ureparapara Island in Vanuatu.[1] It is distinct from Löyöp, the language spoken on the east coast of the same island.


The language is named after the village where it is spoken, natively referred to as Loli [lɔli]. The name Lehali does not have any etymological value, other than being a corruption of the native name.[citation needed]


Lehali phonemically contrasts 16 consonants and 10 vowels.[3]


Lehali consonants
Bilabial Alveolar Dorsal Labialized
Nasal m ⟨m⟩ n ⟨n⟩ ŋ ⟨n̄⟩ ŋʷ ⟨n̄w⟩
Stop voiceless p ⟨p⟩ t ⟨t⟩ k ⟨k⟩ ⟨q⟩
prenasalized ⁿd ⟨d⟩
Fricative β ⟨v⟩ s ⟨s⟩ ɣ ⟨g⟩ h ⟨h⟩
Approximant l ⟨l⟩ j ⟨y⟩ w ⟨w⟩


The 10 vowel phonemes are all short monophthongs /i ɪ ɛ æ ə a ɒ̝ ɔ ʊ u/:[4][3]

Lehali vowels
Front Central Back
Close i ⟨i⟩ u ⟨u⟩
Near-close ɪ ⟨ē⟩ ə ⟨ë⟩ ʊ ⟨ō⟩
Open-mid ɛ ⟨e⟩ ɔ ⟨o⟩
Near-open æ ⟨ä⟩ ɒ̝ ⟨ö⟩
Open a ⟨a⟩

Historical phonology[edit]

The ⟨y⟩ /j/ phoneme originates in a former trill *r: e.g. /-jɔ/ < POc *rua 'two'.[5] Lehali shares that particular sound change with its neighbors Löyöp, Volow, and Mwotlap.


The system of personal pronouns in Lehali contrasts clusivity, and distinguishes four numbers (singular, dual, trial, plural).[6]

Spatial reference in Lehali is based on a system of geocentric (absolute) directionals, which is in part typical of Oceanic languages, and yet innovative.[7]


  1. ^ a b List of Banks islands languages.
  2. ^ A rough translation can be found in the comments to the Youtube version of this video.
  3. ^ a b François (2021).
  4. ^ François 2011, p. 194.
  5. ^ François 2016, pp. 31, 46.
  6. ^ François 2016.
  7. ^ François 2015, pp. 175–176.


  • François, Alexandre (2011). "Social ecology and language history in the northern Vanuatu linkage: A tale of divergence and convergence" (PDF). Journal of Historical Linguistics. 1 (2): 175–246. doi:10.1075/jhl.1.2.03fra. hdl:1885/29283. S2CID 42217419..
  • —— (2012). "The dynamics of linguistic diversity: Egalitarian multilingualism and power imbalance among northern Vanuatu languages" (PDF). International Journal of the Sociology of Language. 2012 (214): 85–110. doi:10.1515/ijsl-2012-0022. S2CID 145208588.
  • —— (2015). "The ins and outs of up and down: Disentangling the nine geocentric space systems of Torres and Banks languages" (PDF). In Alexandre François; Sébastien Lacrampe; Michael Franjieh; Stefan Schnell (eds.). The languages of Vanuatu: Unity and diversity. Studies in the Languages of Island Melanesia. Canberra: Asia-Pacific Linguistics. pp. 137–195. hdl:1885/14819. ISBN 978-1-922185-23-5.
  • —— (2016). "The historical morphology of personal pronouns in northern Vanuatu" (PDF). In Pozdniakov, Konstantin (ed.). Comparatisme et reconstruction : tendances actuelles. Faits de Langues. Vol. 47. Bern: Peter Lang. pp. 25–60.
  • —— (2021). "Presentation of the Lehali language and audio archive". Pangloss Collection. Paris: CNRS. Retrieved 21 Feb 2022.

External links[edit]