Mwotlap language

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Pronunciation [ŋ͡mʷɔtˈlap]
Native to Vanuatu
Region Mota Lava island, Banks Islands
Native speakers
2100 (2012)[1]
Language codes
ISO 639-3 mlv
Glottolog motl1237[2]

Mwotlap (pronounced [ŋ͡mʷɔtˈlap]; formerly known as Motlav) is an Oceanic language spoken by about 2,100 people in Vanuatu. The majority of speakers are found on the island of Motalava in the Banks Islands,[3] with smaller communities in the islands of Ra (or Aya) and Vanua Lava,[4] as well as migrant groups in the two main cities of the country, Santo and Port Vila.

Mwotlap was first described in 2001, by the linguist Alexandre François.

Volow, which used to be spoken on the same island, may be considered a dialect or a separate language.


Mwotlap contrasts 16 consonant phonemes.

Labiovelar Bilabial Alveolar
or Palatal
Velar Glottal
Voiceless Stop k͡pʷ t k
Prenasalized voiced stop ᵐb ⁿd
Fricative β ɣ h
Nasal ŋ͡mʷ m n ŋ
Lateral l
Approximant w j

[p] exists as the allophone of /β/ word-finally, as in the name of the language, /ŋ͡mʷɔtlaβ/ [ŋ͡mʷɔtˈlap].

Mwotlap has 7 phonemic vowels, which are all short monophthongs, with no diphthongs being present in the language.[5]

  Front Back
Close i u
Near-close ɪ ʊ
Open-mid ɛ ɔ
Open a

Stress always falls on the last syllable of a word.


  1. ^ François (2012):88).
  2. ^ Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin; Bank, Sebastian, eds. (2016). "Motlav". Glottolog 2.7. Jena: Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History. 
  3. ^ List of Banks islands languages; map of the 17 north Vanuatu languages.
  4. ^ François (2012):97).
  5. ^ François (2005a:445); François (2005b:116).


  • François, Alexandre (2006), "Serial verb constructions in Mwotlap", in Dixon, R.M.W.; Aikhenvald, Alexandra, Serial Verb Constructions: A cross-linguistic typology, Explorations in Linguistic Typology, Oxford: Oxford University Press, pp. 223–238 

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