North Efate language

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North Efate
RegionEfate, Vanuatu
Native speakers
9,500 (2001)[1]
Language codes
ISO 639-3llp


North Efate, also known as Nakanamanga or Nguna, is an Oceanic language spoken on the northern area of Efate in Vanuatu, as well as on a number of islands off the northern coast. Efate Island is an island in the center of Vanuatu, where North Efate subsists of a region that encompasses the regions bordered by Tuktuk Point in the South and Samoan point in the north. The influx of missionaries was characteristic of a change in indigenous perspectives where much of the traditions were destroyed or altered. Vanuatu has some of the highest language densities in the world[3]. The population of speakers is recorded to be 9,500.[4]


Shefa Province, north Efate island, Nguna, Tongoa, and several smaller islands, southeast[5]


The consonant and vowels sounds of North Efate (Nguna)[6].

Consonant sounds
Labial Dental Velar
Stop plain p k
implosive ɓʷ
Fricative v s
Nasal plain m n ŋ
prenasal ᵑm
Liquid l r
Approximant w
Vowel sounds
Front Central Back
High i u
Mid e o
Low a

Subdialects of North Efate include[7]:

  • Buninga
  • Emau
  • Livara
  • Nguna
  • Paunangis
  • Sesake

Typology follows Subject Object Verb order as is observed in Nguna[8]

Verbs and Verb Classes[edit]

Verbs are prefixed with other stems that enable them to be differentiated at the morphological level[9]

Two types of Intransitive Verbs:

A Verbs: Actor Subject

U Verbs: Experiencer Subject

Auxiliary Verbs[edit]

Auxiliary verb accessorize main verbs in a pre-verbal complex


The word pi can introduce a predicate nominal or adjective

Ex: mai | pi |afsak

come | be | turtle

Translation: "Then she became a turtle", in this case the predicate nominal "turtle" is introduced by the "pi"

Ex: mai | pi | boring a

come | be | boring

Translation: "It got boring", in this case the adjective, boring, describing the situation is also introduced by the "pi"

This pi also serves as an designation for equative structures that discern the identity of two entities[9]

Ex: nmatu | nen | pi | nmatu | ni | nafet | ofisa

woman | that | be | woman | of | group | officer

Translation: "Those women are the wives of all the officers", where the women (subject) are also being ascribed the identity of wives (predicate)

Words like pi serve as existentials, where they serve a presentative function, announcing novel information into the conversation, while also notifying existence of its deignee


The word "pato" signifies the location of a subject

Ex: pato | Kwinsland | to | namtu | ga | kin | Jeanie

Translation: "He was in Queensland, his wife was Jeanie", note how the pato denotes the location of the subject in Queensland, like a general designation of place


This word is a conjunction that can serve to oppose separate clauses like the word "but" or establish a connection to them like the word "and".[9]

Ex: Spray | traem | wou | ki | me | malkio

Spray | try | tell | PREP | but | not want

Translation: "They tried to get me to use spray, but I didn't want to", notice how the meaning of the "me" is determined by the opposition generated by the last part "not want" which goes against the grain of the sentence effectively signifying the meaning of me as "but"

Ex: Tete | tae | me | tete | tap | tae | mau

Some | know | but | some | NEG | know

Translation: "Some know, but some don't know", again, we see how the "me" is separating the two clauses and signifying an opposition between them because of the negative

Ex: Nlaken| kai | sain | reki | army | nafkal | me | pa

Because| sign | for | army | fight | and | go

Translation: " Because I had signed with the army to fight and then I went". The adherence of the clauses effectively changes the meaning of the "me" in this sentence, since there are no lexical markers signifying opposition of what the clauses are trying to present. Thus me serves to conjoin both the clauses. From this, one can see that the meaning of "me" is largely driven by the context of the words around it .

Other Grammatical Details[edit]

Interrogative Intonation[edit]

Intonation plays a crucial role in defining a phrase as interrogative, in this case, a characteristic rise and subsequent fall is observed in the last word (often in English this is seen as a rise in the last word of an interrogative phrase) [9]


Tags accessorize a sentence to add data to the question, often accompanied by the proper intonation cues.[9]


Serving the purpose as "or", and goes to express that the opposite of the phrase or phenomena it follows could in fact be the reality

Ex: lakor | lek | na- map | ko

maybe | look | map | or

Translation: "You might have seen a map, or what?


Serving the purpose as "isn't it", and this word serves as a request a repeat of the information. Note, it can be used independently and carries meaning in and of itself. Often in conversation it used by a party seeking clarification on a certain point


The Efate word 'go' is analogous to the English 'and' in that it connects two clauses [9]

Ex: taos | apap | nigmam | go | mama | nigmam | pak | talmat.

follow | father | 1p.POS |and | mother |1p.POS | to | garden

Translation: We then followed our father and our mother to the garden


Na is a purposive word that indicates the purpose of an action[9]

Ex: totan | na | fam

sit | PURP | eat

Translation: You sit in order to eat


The order of clauses is SVO. A sentence consists most basically of a verb stem with a subject.[9]


  • Ray, Sidney H. (1887). "Sketch of Nguna Grammar". The Journal of the Anthropological Institute of Great Britain and Ireland. Royal Anthropological Institute of Great Britain and Ireland. 16: 409–418. doi:10.2307/2841882. JSTOR 2841882.
  • Schütz, Albert J. (1969). "Nguna Grammar". Oceanic Linguistics Special Publications.


  1. ^ North Efate at Ethnologue (18th ed., 2015)
  2. ^ Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin, eds. (2017). "North Efate". Glottolog 3.0. Jena, Germany: Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History.
  3. ^ Blench, Roger; Spriggs, Matthew (2012-10-12). Archaeology and Language III: Artefacts, Languages and Texts. Routledge. ISBN 9781134855865.
  4. ^ "Efate, North". Ethnologue. Retrieved 2018-11-13.
  5. ^ "Efate, North". Ethnologue. Retrieved 2018-11-13.
  6. ^ Schütz, Albert J. (1969). Nguna Grammar. Oceanic Linguistics Special Publications.
  7. ^ "Glottolog 3.3 - North Efate". Retrieved 2018-11-13. line feed character in |title= at position 16 (help)
  8. ^ "Efate, North". Ethnologue. Retrieved 2018-11-13.
  9. ^ a b c d e f g h Theiberger. "Efate Language" (PDF).