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Mwerlap language

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Merelava, Merlav
Native toVanuatu
RegionMerelava, Gaua
Native speakers
ca. 1,100 (2012)[1]
Language codes
ISO 639-3mrm
Mwerlap is not endangered according to the classification system of the UNESCO Atlas of the World's Languages in Danger
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Mwerlap is an Oceanic language spoken in the south of the Banks Islands in Vanuatu.

Its 1,100 speakers live mostly in Merelava and Merig, but a fair proportion have also settled on the east coast of Gaua island.[2] Besides, a number of Mwerlap speakers live in the two cities of Vanuatu, Port Vila and Luganville.


The language is named after Mwerlap, the native name of Merelava island.


Mwerlap has 12 phonemic vowels. These include 9 monophthongs /i ɪ ɛ ʉ ɵ ɞ ʊ ɔ a/, and 3 diphthongs /ɛ͡a ɔ͡ɞ ʊ͡ɵ/.[3]

Mwerlap vowels
Front Central
Back Diphthongs
Close i ⟨i⟩ ʉ ⟨u⟩
Near-close ɪ ⟨ē⟩ ɵ ⟨ö⟩ ʊ ⟨ō⟩ ʊ͡ɵ ⟨ōö⟩
Open-mid ɛ ⟨e⟩ ɞ ⟨ë⟩ ɔ ⟨o⟩ ɔ͡ɞ ⟨oë⟩
Open a ⟨a⟩ ɛ͡a ⟨ea⟩


The system of personal pronouns in Mwerlap contrasts clusivity, and distinguishes three numbers (singular, dual, plural).[4]

Independent pronouns in Mwerlap[5]
Singular Dual Plural
1st inclusive no ~ në /nɔ/~/nœ/ dōrō /ⁿdʊrʊ/ gean /ɣɛ͡an/
exclusive kamar /kamar/ kemem /kɛmɛm/
2nd neak /nɛ͡ak/ kamrō /kamrʊ/ kemi /kɛmi/
3rd (ki)sean /(ki)sɛ͡an/ karar /karar/ kear /kɛ͡ar/

Spatial reference in Mwerlap is based on a system of geocentric (absolute) directionals, which is in part typical of Oceanic languages, and yet innovative.[6]


  1. ^ François 2012, p. 88.
  2. ^ François 2012, p. 97.
  3. ^ François 2005, pp. 445, 460.
  4. ^ François 2016, p. 51.
  5. ^ François 2016, p. 33-35.
  6. ^ François 2015, pp. 173–175.


  • François, Alexandre (2005). "Unraveling the history of the vowels of seventeen northern Vanuatu languages" (PDF). Oceanic Linguistics. 44 (2): 443–504. doi:10.1353/ol.2005.0034. S2CID 131668754.
  • —— (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.
  • —— (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.

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